The question, in general, was about Mavs ‘if’s. The answer sounded like something Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has been practicing all summer.
‘If cows were kittens,’ the coach deadpanned, utilizing one of his favorite chestnuts, ‘there’d be a milk shortage.’
Instead, as Mavs Media Day on Monday folds into the start of Mavs training camp on Tuesday, the hope is there is no shortage of milk … or success.
But Carlisle and company, in delivering their assorted versions of “State of the Union’’ addresses, concede that reaching such a level may take some time.
"We've got to move toward solving our health situation," Carlisle said when asked about the team’s 2015-16 goals. "That's going to be a real key for us to be as good as we can be.”
And how good can they be?
First they must put the devious DeAndre Jordan behind them. Everybody from the iconic Dirk Nowitzki to the self-labeled “consolation prize’’ Deron Williams spoke to that.
Said Dirk: "It's a player we didn't get. Every summer there's a player that was close or had us on their radar. You go for players and don't get them. It doesn't work out."
Dirk then rattled off the long list of “almosts’’ — or, befitting Carlisle’s farm metaphor, the list if “ifs.’’ Carmelo. LeBron. Dwight. Oh, and Deron, who skipped the chance to join his hometown Mavs three years ago but shows up now trying to rebuild himself.
“Rebuilding,’’ in a physical way, is also in the immediate future for Chandler Parsons, Wes Matthews and JaVale McGee, three potential starters all at different levels of rehab. Parsons (coming off a “hybrid-mirofracture’’ knee surgery) will not start camp healthy but hopes he can play in the regular-season opener. Carlisle says Matthews (recovering from a serious Achilles injury) won’t be ready near that soon. And McGee, a gifted center with a habit of washing out due to, well, zaniness, is also enduring recovery from a leg injury and will be slow to help.
"I'm always going to look for a positive on things like that,’’ Rick said of his roster’s assorted ups and downs. "I like every group (edition of the team) that comes in here, every year, even if you (media) don't like em that much.’'
That’s not fair, and the grinning Carlisle knew it. He’s going to have to use a sword and a shield with this team as even Deron (calf) isn’t 100-percent ready for Tuesday. For an organization that prides itself on true contention, this group has … well, some “ifs.’'
As Dirk said, the Mavs always take "pride in making the playoffs. That's got to be the goal .. Play the right way.''
The names can line up in a way that is sort of eye-catching. The 37-year-old Nowitzki wants to play two more years “at a high level.’’ Parsons said he’s excited about being a centerpiece of a team. Wes comes across as a “Basketball Soul’’ kinda guy intent on earning that seemingly bloated four years and $70 million. Put Deron in the middle of that, get center help from Zaza Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert and maybe JaVale, benefit from vets like Devin Harris and JJ Barea and kids like Jeremy Evans and Maurince Ndour and use the 20-man roster (every guy with some form of guaranteed money) to forge a 15-man group — after all, Carlisle said this can be the most competitive camp imaginable — and heck. Sure.
Some “ifs’’ can be imagined.
"I like the challenge of taking a bunch of new guys and melding them together," said Carlisle, who is in the final year of his contract and therefore registers as another “if.''
But Carlisle also registers as one of this franchise’s greatest positives. Nobody’s turning water into wine here, or cats into cows.
But, as DeAndre chief recruiter Parsons said, "I really like what this staff and what this organization has done to bounce back from the whole fiasco. But that’s in the past and we're moving forward."