NBA fans looking to see Dirk Nowitzki and the "real" Dallas Mavericks tonight as they open the preseason against the New Orleans Pelicans 7 p.m., radio only on 103.3 ESPN, discussed here all day and night with your free membership to DB.com Boards, game at CenturyLink Center in Bossier City) will be in for a disappointment.
But Mavs fans who wanted a "youth injection" here will get their Saturday night way.
I'm not anticipating that first-teamers will be part of this meeting with the Anthony Davis-led Pels. Indeed, ESPN reports that most of those fellas are staying behind. So Dirk's a long-distance observer (maybe via NBA live streaming, if this link works) alongside his new "Protector" pal Andrew Bogut, and Wesley Matthews' plan to "Make You A Believer" might have to wait, and the concept of newcomer Harrison Barnes as a go-through creator remains mostly a work in progress.
Meanwhile, starting point guard Deron Williams, backup center Salah Mejri and vet combo guard Devin Harris are limited by offseason surgeries.
So who can do what for a Mavs team trying to eventually be superior to last year's 42-game winner as it opens against a Pels team that last season was nothing short of dismal?
Tonight will be about two groups of "kids" on two plateaus.
Plateau One: Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell, Quincy Acy and Seth Curry.
These guys are on your basketball team. That group should generate some electricity, from Powell's 15 pounds of added bulk (along with his hops) ...
Plateau Two: Coach Rick Carlisle said the very first day of practice in camp this week was devoted to things other that scoring, and that's good for rookie second-round center AJ Hammons as well as young free-agent signees Dorian Finney-Smith and Jameel Warney.
Expect Hammons to make this team, but if he ever plays, it will because he has a rim-protecting knack. Finney-Smith was a Swiss Army knife defender in college, where Warney was a dominant rebounder.
When camp stared, the odds on who'd be the 14th and 15th guy's on this final roster looked like this:
*Guard Jonathan Gibson was going to be the 14th guy.
*Finney-Smith, Warney and Nicholas Brussino have the inside track in competing for the 15th spot.
Kyle Collingsworth (who I believe already has overseas offers in his pocket), C.J. Williams (a potentially good fit in Frisco with the D-League Texas Legends) and Keith Hornsby (almost certainly Frisco-bound) are the longshots.
Tonight, mostly, isn't about Dirk and company; it's about the 14th- and 15th-guy race and who might be able to sprint nearer the inside track.