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There is a way to watch Fan Jam today (all info here; best part: the 2 p.m. scrimmage.) It's similar to how to watch the preseason schedule in general. Yes, you are revved up ... maybe more than some of the players actually are.
But coaches and players take advantage of the preseason in completely different ways and for completely different reasons than they do the regular season. So it only makes sense for fans to process and use it in different ways as well. The preseason is a necessary step in preparation for NBA teams. Every fan wants to be prepared for tip-off as well, so might as well use the October action to learn a few things and partially answer a few questions instead of just staring at the roster and guessing. (Though if you're going to stare at the Mavs roster, you ought to do it with the help of David Lord, here.)
“We want to have a competitive game,'' coach Rick Carlisle says of today's event. "We want to make it meaningful and we want it to be entertaining for our fans.”
Here are three Mavs things to watch out for throughout the preseason, starting with Fan Jam at the AAC:
Everyone seems to understand this was supposed to be the biggest unknown for the Mavericks. ... at least until Tuesday, when we got a look at who was wearing the Whites and who was wearing the Blues. But competition remains key, so with the other four starters locked in, the Mavericks enter the season with a “three-headed monster” of veteran point guards in Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton.
The consensus at the moment is that Nelson will be the starter. I’ve been in favor of this move since the construction of the roster mainly because Nelson is the best three-point shooter of the group. This will allow him to play alongside Monta Ellis and play off-ball for stretches. As we saw last year, Ellis will never start at point guard, but he will have the ball in his hands more than any one point guard throughout the course of a game so the point guards need to be flexible to this. A reliable three-point shot is the easiest way to adjust to this, something that made Jose Calderon very effective alongside Ellis.
That being said, Rick Carlisle has his job because he understands things most of us do not. Nelson will likely start with the Whites today, and same with the first preseason game against the Rockets on October 7th, but if anyone else starts any of the seven games — outside of injury reasons — it means that Carlisle is at least considering another option for when the games start to count.
The roster also lacks a true, ideally-sized shooting guard, (Ellis is probably more of a combo guard) which means that there will be plenty of time when two point guards share the court in crucial moments. The versatility of Ellis and Harris would seem to allow this to work, but if it looks shaky out there with a couple of guards that want to do all the dribbling then it could mean trouble. Combinations of Harris, Ellis, Felton and Nelson will need to learn to play together. If that doesn’t seem to be fitting throughout the preseason it might mean the roster building hasn’t quite finished. This rotation could work out great or the Mavericks might end up in the market for a pure off-ball shooter along the lines of an Anthony Morrow or Wayne Ellington. Today, and the preseason, is when we’ll start to see signs.
Fan Jam is an up-close-and-personal event. If you're used to watching on TV, or sitting in row ZZZ ... well, this will be more intimate. You will see coaches laugh (you don't see much of that during games). You will see players tinker (during the regular season, you want the tinkering to be finalized). You will see interaction ... and you will see body language.
It’s easy to get carried away in interpreting an athlete’s body language. That being said, it’s the preseason and Raymond Felton is a player to watch here, a guinea pig, if you will.
I think we all plan on giving Felton the benefit of the doubt and expect he can be a key part of the Mavericks’ success going forward. However, he does come with some baggage; legal trouble, attitude issues, being out of shape, declined performance. Carlisle is known for turning around careers (are you sick of "Fallen Angel'' talk yet?), but he’s also known for having little patience for players unwilling to buy into the Mavericks’ environment and his coaching staff’s demands.
Carlisle will bench or call out any player who doesn’t commit himself to the system. Felton is the only player on the roster whose history suggests he is a candidate for such behavior. He has said all the right things so far and we’ve discussed on DB.com why Felton could be a great asset in Dallas, but nothing really matters until he steps on a court with a referee and an opponent.
Felton’s baggage means he will have to treat this preseason like a young player would; he’s got to prove he is someone the Mavericks can depend on. If he isn’t giving maximum effort, is making lazy plays or turnovers, or slacking on defense, don’t expect Carlisle to chalk it up as “just the preseason.” If it’s going badly in the preseason history shows it’s unlikely to improve over the months.
Despite rumors of off-court problems between the two, Felton and Tyson Chandler actually have excellent chemistry in the pick-and-roll as Felton is good at keeping his dribble all the way to the basket. That will all depend on Felton doing everything expected of him to get significant playing time.
All three of these players are extremely versatile and will offer a lot to the Mavericks over the course of the season. Unfortunately for them, with Ellis, Parsons and Nowitzki being the three most important cogs in the Mavericks’ rotation, Crowder, RJ and Aminu will have to fight over playing time.
In reality, Carlisle will give all of them chances over the course of the season and there will be stretches where each of them are getting more minutes than the others. But the Mavericks open against the San Antonio Spurs and the preseason will determine who is the first one off the bench to start the season. Who will be given the biggest role when the games start to matter?
Jefferson provides shooting and a ton of experience.
Aminu provides defense.
But Carlisle said on media day that he wants to “see these guys compete” before he makes any statements about the rotation.
He’s already seen Crowder compete. That’s what Crowder does. His biggest advantage is hustle and energy. He can come in and rebound, defend and keep plays alive with effort.
These three players might be the most fun part of preseason. They will all get plenty of minutes to display their skill sets and prove their value. They are all legitimate weapons; today at Fan Jam and then over the next couple weeks we’ll find out which one is the first out of the Dallas Mavericks holster.