By Cody Weems
It’s no secret that Texas is a football state. However, all three of the state’s NBA teams are looking to make Texas a force to reckon with in the basketball landscape. The three division foes are set to battle it out for a spot atop the Southwestern Division of the Western Conference.
The ageless Spurs are favored by many to repeat as division champions, but the biggest question mark the team faces is whether or not players can stay healthy for an entire season.
Guard Manu Ginobili, who missed significant time last season with a broken hand, was already sidelined for the first two games due to a back injury.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has said he intends to limit the playing time of 36-year-old Tim Duncan, but as he told ESPN’s Andrew McNeill, Duncan has an ability to make the most of his minutes.
“It’s just a credit to his professionalism, his character, his understanding of the human body and that there are only so many steps and years you have,” Popovich said. “He’s taken the best advantage he possibly can to extend that as long as he can.”
San Antonio made a statement in their second game of the season by defeating Oklahoma City, the defending Western Conference champions.
While the road to the NBA Finals may run through San Antonio, Dallas is looking to bounce back after a disappointing season. Last year, the defending champs sneaked into the playoffs only to be swept in the first round by the Thunder.
The Mavericks are more than capable of competing for a championship but are forced to start the year without Dirk Nowitzki. The 11-time All-Star underwent arthroscopic knee surgery prior to the start of the season and isn’t expected to return for at least six weeks.
Nowitzki told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that it’s up to his teammates to step up in his absence.
“The boys need to find a way to win some games, sometimes with defense, win some ugly games,” Nowitzki said, “but definitely find a way to win some games and play some decent basketball until I come back.”
The addition of O.J. Mayo has given new life to the Mavericks offense. Mayo signed with Dallas in the offseason and has impressed through the first few games, which includes a 30-point performance in a huge 126-99 win against Charlotte.
The Mavericks have looked solid on the young season and should be a complete package once Nowitzki returns.
The third Texas team is one that many overlook, but the Houston Rockets are hoping to get noticed with their play this year.
After signing guard Jeremy Lin in the offseason, Houston traded for Sixth Man of the Year James Harden from Oklahoma City.
Also involved in the trade was Cole Aldrich, who said in a recent interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that Harden brings leadership as well as talent to Houston.
“James led us in Oklahoma City, too,” Aldrich said. “You’d be out of position, and he’d be vocal to get you in the right spot.”
Houston has plenty of talent, but a lack of experience may prove harmful to them as the season winds down.
While all eyes in Texas may be locked on the gridiron for the next few months, all three of the state’s NBA teams are sure to draw attention as the playoffs near.