The Dallas Mavericks remain a team in transition. The organization is still looking for their first playoff series win since the 2011 Finals and last season found themselves in an unfamiliar lottery spot after missing the postseason for just the second time since Mark Cuban purchased the team. The lottery yielded the ninth overall pick which Dallas used to draft point guard Dennis Smith Jr. Veteran Dirk Nowitzki remains the face of the franchise after re-upping in the offseason but another Dallas stalwart will play a major role in returning the team to prominence.
Head athletic trainer Casey Smith joined Dallas in the summer of 2004 and has led a medical staff that has routinely finished in the top 10 for fewest games lost to injury. Smith’s success has made him a trusted member of the Mavs’ behind the scene team with the former Suns assistant routinely involved in free agent pitches and other player transactions. Smith and his team, including associate head athletic trainer Dione Calhoun and Director of Athletic Performance Jeremy Holsopple, have kept the Mavericks as the third healthiest teams in the NBA over the past five years despite rosters often filled with veterans. Last year was a bit of a down year with players like Nowitzki, JJ Barea, Deron Williams, and Andrew Bogut all missing over 15 games.
Nowitzki’s early season Achilles injury set the tone for the 2016-17 with the team as Dallas started the year 9-21 with the former MVP missing a total of 26 games. Keeping Dirk healthy during his 20th season in the NBA will once again be a primary focus of the staff. Smith and company will also need to carefully manage the health of their younger players who have suffered injuries in their past. Smith Jr. and Nerlens Noel have both endured torn ACLs and Seth Curry has a metal rod in his leg from a previous fracture. Concerns about Curry’s health have already surfaced as he remains out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his opposite leg.
The Mavs will enter the season with playoff aspirations and sustained health would strengthen their atypical long odds. Smith and his medical staff have routinely shown there are capable of producing such numbers and are positioned to help ease Dallas’ rebuilding process.