As we get close to the one month marker since the sudden halt of the 2019-2020 season, it’s beginning to seem like a lifetime ago when the Mavs beat the Nuggets on March 11th behind a career night from Boban Marjanovic. While that game in particular was a hoot with everyone’s favorite lovable big man going off, there was a ton of noise going on outside the game with the league shutting down that night for the foreseeable future thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winds are slowly but surely starting to blow in the direction that we might have seen the last NBA basketball of the 2019-2020 season. The CBA has struggled to restart over in China after a months-long stoppage and that just isn’t a good sign for sports in the United States and Canada when cases of this deadly virus are still doing nothing but going up each and every day.
If this is the unfortunate end of the 2019-2020 season for the Mavericks and the rest of the NBA, here are some winners and losers from this shocking development that seemed impossible less than one month ago.
Winner: Luka Doncic
I was a bit nervous about what the final fifteen regular season games and the playoffs might have looked like for Luka Doncic. Obviously he was having an fringe-MVP-caliber season in just his sophomore year, but injuries and fatigue were once again starting to mount in the back half of the season for the 21-year-old.
Doncic had missed two games since the All-Star Break for Dallas, but there had been seemingly countless times in February and March where Luka would come up lame on his obviously still sore ankle or shake his hand/wrist that he had been wearing a brace on for the last few weeks. In the 10 games that he had appeared in since heading to Chicago for the All-Star festivities, Luka’s splits are very underwhelming:
|Points per game
|Rebounds per game
|Assists per game
|Pre-ASB (44 games)
|Post-ASB (10 games)
Of course the raw counting stats of 28 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists per game are outstanding, but he is getting those points in a much less efficient way. The shooting percentages going down just means a lack of energy in the legs to me. It’s hard to see a scenario where Luka just magically got an energy kick right before the playoffs unless he sat out a decent chunk of the 15 games remaining on the Mavericks’ regular season schedule. If the season is cancelled, I think Luka may have been spared some harsh criticism from a disappointing, tired playoff performance against someone like the Clippers in the first round.
If this was it for the 2019-2020 season, we’ll only remember the good times for Luka as his stat line and endless amazing highlights will be the things that stand out when we look back weeks, months or years down the road.
Loser: Rick Carlisle
As the team’s coach since 2008, the 60-year-old Carlisle was just a month away from coaching his first playoff basketball in four years when they league shut down last month. Not a lot of coaches in today’s NBA get a chance to keep their job if there is a four year gap between playoff appearances. The Mavericks front office/ownership have a deep connection to Carlisle as he is of course the only coach in franchise history to lead their team to a title. Now almost nine years removed from that title, also the last time the franchise has won a playoff series, Carlisle was ready for his opportunity to show off his coaching genius on the brightest stage again.
While the Mavericks seemed destined to be playing on the road to start their series with whatever playoff opponent they drew, it is always a safe bet that the coaching of Carlisle will be enough to swing a game or two in Dallas’ favor whether they’re the underdog or favorite. The opportunity to flex those coaching muscles in the postseason once again might have to wait another calendar year.
Winner: Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell
Both of these key role players on the Mavericks went down with season-ending injuries relatively recently. Powell, of course, suffered a devastating Achilles injury at the end of January and Brunson hurt his shoulder on a controversial play in Atlanta in February. Powell quickly had surgery and began his long road to recovery but Brunson tried different routes of rehab in the weeks following his injury before finally settling for season-ending surgery after the season was suspended in mid-March.
Obviously they’re not winners in this scenario for suffering terrible injuries, but they’re benefiting from this unexpected stoppage in that their amount of games missed is being minimized. They won’t have to helplessly watch from the sidelines as the Mavericks battle down the stretch of the regular season and playoffs. Both of these guys are among the most mature, hard working players on the team and they of course deserve to be on the floor when the team is playing its first postseason basketball since the spring of 2016.
Hopefully this odd situation doesn’t slow down their rehab progress as they’re forced to stay home whenever possible. Powell had cautiously stated before that he planned to be back around, if not shortly after, the start of the 2020-2021 regular season, which would be around nine months after his injury. Brunson’s shoulder surgery in March would hopefully allow him to return if next season began as regularly scheduled in October, but definitely wouldn’t allow him to play if this season miraculously continued well into summer.
Ultimately, everyone’s a loser if the 2019-2020 NBA season is finished before most teams had played 70 regular season games. It’s obviously an unprecedented circumstance and everyone is just guessing if they make some sort of proclamation that play will resume in a few months. Sometimes guesses end up being right, but I’d be greatly surprised if the next legitimate NBA basketball we see isn’t under the moniker of the 2020-2021 season. It stinks, but there are simply bigger fish to fry around the world at this time.
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