New-look Mavs return home to face Hornets
Dallas fans are about to get their first look at the Mavericks' revamped squad -- well, all of it except the 7-foot-3 grand prize of last week's blockbuster trade -- when All-Star Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets come to town on Wednesday night.
Kristaps Porzingis, acquired by Dallas along with Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee from the New York Knicks, isn't expected to suit up for the remainder of the season, Mavs owner Mark Cuban has said. The 3-point-shooting big man continues to recover from last year's devastating ACL injury.
Mavs fans are going to have to wait until next season to see Porzingis team up with his former European league counterpart, NBA Rookie of the Year front-runner Luka Doncic. Still, Dallas' roster will look quite a bit different to the home fans with Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and 2017 first-round pick Dennis Smith Jr. shipped out.
While Porzingis watches, the former Knicks players have had three-day crash course to prepare for the Hornets, at least an Eastern Conference team they're familiar with. Dallas hasn't played since winning 111-98 at Cleveland on Saturday. All three newcomers will be active for the game and are expected to be thrust right into the action.
"All three of these guys are professionals," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters following practice on Tuesday. "They're ready to play. ... They're all very smart, high basketball IQ guys. They've picked up everything offensively and defensively. We're fortunate to have had this break. It's time to get out there and play a game."
With the new mix of players, Carlisle told his club Monday to be ready for a variety of lineups as the Mavs try to ramp up for a second-half playoff push.
"Going forward, we're going to be very flexible," Carlisle said. "We could change multiple positions game to game. We're going to have a complete lineup flexibility going forward. We can start a different team every night. You're going to see different things going on."
What Dallas likely will see from the Hornets is a motivated team looking for a measure of revenge. For one, Charlotte blew a 20-point lead at home Tuesday night and lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, 117-115, to fall a game under .500.
And then there was the Mavs' Jan. 2 trip to Charlotte, a 122-84 thrashing applied by the visitors for one of just Dallas six road wins on the season.
The Hornets, who reportedly are attempting to acquire Memphis center Marc Gasol before the trade deadline, are looking to finish out the first half strong before serving as hosts of All-Star weekend.
The Tuesday night collapse dimmed the enthusiasm a bit.
"We put ourselves in great position ... (but Los Angeles) got hot," Hornets coach James Borrego said after the disappointing loss. "(The Clippers) made some tough threes. We had some wide open three, we just didn't knock them down. Give the Clippers credit."
On a positive note for the Hornets, center Cody Zeller made his return after a 16-game absence caused by a fractured right hand. He had six points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 6, 2019