Early Monday afternoon, Luka Doncic posted on Instagram a photo of his car stereo, digitally stamped, “Dallas, Texas.”
Soon after, Doncic posted a video of himself in the Mavericks’ practice facility, along with assistant coaches Jamahl Mosley and Darrell Armstrong, further evidence that Doncic indeed has returned from his native Ljubljana, Slovenia.
A more official step toward resumption of the 2019-20 season will occur Tuesday, when players, coaches and staff members around the league begin what the NBA is calling Phase 2 of its return from its coronavirus-caused hiatus.
Phase 2 consists of a continuation of Phase 1, which is voluntary individual player workouts with coaches, and the start of mandatory coronavirus testing for every player and staff member who intends to enter the 22-team bubble two weeks from now in Orlando.
In the Mavericks’ case, Phase 2 and the resumption of the season will occur without on-court help from veteran swingman Courtney Lee, who as first reported by The New York Times recently suffered a left calf injury that required season-ending surgery.
The Mavericks franchise, however, wants Lee to be in the Orlando bubble as a respected locker room presence and one of Doncic’s mentors.
Starting Tuesday, players and staff members will be tested every other day and lasting throughout their teams’ stay in Orlando, which for the two teams that make the NBA Finals will last well into October.
Tuesday also is key in two other respects. It starts the eight-day transaction window for all 30 NBA teams. It also will mark Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle’s first appearance in the team’s practice facility since the hiatus began in March, and it will be his first opportunity to work individually with Mavericks players in three months.
Until Tuesday, the six coaches who have been allowed to work with players are Mosley, Armstrong, Mike Weinar, Stephen Silas, God Shammgod and Peter Patton. Starting with Phase 2, which lasts through June 30, up to 10 coaches can work in the facility — although the maximum number of players allowed in the gym at the same time remains four.
Workouts remain voluntary. If a player wants to work out at the facility, as was the case Sunday with Kristaps Porzingis and Monday with Doncic, he has to schedule a time with a specific coach or coaches.
The next key date comes Wednesday. That is the last day players can opt out of taking part in the NBA’s resumption of play in Orlando. So far there have been no reports of Mavericks opting out, but ESPN reported that Washington’s Davis Bertans and Portland’s Trevor Ariza have opted out for personal reasons.
A Mavericks source said the franchise is canvasing the landscape looking for potential help, but as of now Dallas doesn’t have an available roster spot. It’s expected that the NBA will allow each team to bring up to 17 players to Orlando, but the Mavericks already have 17 players with guaranteed contracts, including two-way players Antonius Cleveland and Josh Reaves.
If a Maverick opted not to go to Orlando, that player would forfeit a portion of his salary, and as of Monday Mavericks officials weren’t expecting that to happen.
If a spot opened, one possibility would be Ryan Broekhoff, who was waived by the Mavericks on Feb. 11 to make room for the signing of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after Kidd-Gilchrist was waived by Charlotte, but, again, a source said Monday that he doesn’t expect that to happen.
After Phase 2 ends June 30, Phase 3 is from July 1 until teams leave for Orlando in staggered time slots from July 7-9. Phase 3 will consist of mandatory workouts for up to eight players at a time at the practice facility.
Phase 4 will be training camp within the bubble in Orlando, but upon arrival in Orlando all players and staff members must remain in their hotel rooms for at least 36 hours and test negative for the coronavirus twice during that timeframe before they can take part in practices.
The resumption of the season is scheduled to begin on July 30, with the 22 teams playing eight regular-season games apiece to determine playoff seedings in the Western and Eastern Conferences. Potential play-in tournaments for the No. 8 seeds would take place Aug. 15-16 and playoffs would start Aug. 17.