The Jazz watched with interest Tuesday night as the Dallas Mavericks won their season opener 99-91 against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Wait, aren’t these supposed to be the pushover Mavs and without Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman? And against those Lakers, to boot?
The Jazz got a quick lesson, just by observing, in what playing in the Western Conference will be like this season.
The Jazz, however, have a few tricks up their sleeves as well: Utah debuts Wednesday night a new, up-tempo offense, three new players and a second unit that no team in the preseason was able to contend with.
The biggest storyline for the Mavericks on Wednesday is the absence of Nowitzki, who is not with the team following October knee surgery.
"It’s going to be different," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "I’m not focused on Dallas as far as who’s there and who’s not there. I’m just focused on my team and going out there and doing what we’re supposed to do."
Kaman is listed as doubtful with a right calf strain.
Lots of questions are expected to be answered when the Jazz take the floor tonight, including coach Tyrone Corbin’s distribution of minutes. The Jazz roster is an enticing blend of veterans and youth, but with up to 11 players deserving of major minutes.
"Minutes is something that I don’t think we’re worried too much about," guard Gordon Hayward said. "We’re worried more about wins and how we play when we’re out on the court, we have a lot of depth on this team, a lot of talent. When we’re in there we gotta do our job, because we know we got someone in there that can come in and pick up right where we left off."
Hayward is among six players to average double-figure scoring for the Jazz in the preseason, a group that was led by Enes Kanter’s 13.1 points per gdame.
The Mavs trailed the Lakers at the end of the first quarter Tuesday, but turned it on behind a second unit that Jefferson said reminded him of the Jazz’s bench.
"Their bench came in and picked them up and got them back in the game when they were down early."
At point guard, the Mavs are breaking in a first-year starter, Darren Collison, after veteran Jason Kidd signed with the Knicks in the offseason.
Collison caught the eye of Jazz guard Randy Foye.
"I thought that Darren Collison did a great job of running the team," Foye said. "When you watched him before, he would be moving too fast. But I thought that he slowed down and I think he really took his game to the next level."
Six Mavericks’ players scored in double figures Tuesday, including 14 points from fourth-year center Brandan Wright, starting place of Kaman.
"When you’re missing your star player in Dirk," Jazz point guard Mo Williams said, "and even Chris Kaman didn’t play, another offensive threat they have, you’re going to have to have guys step up and prove themselves. You saw guys step up for them."
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