DALLAS -- What the Dallas Mavericks are about to experience over the next 12 days is basketball's answer to the torture test.
Starting with Tuesday's game at American Airlines Center against the New Jersey Nets, the Mavs will play nine games in 12 days in seven different cities. That includes three sets of back-to-backs, no practice, and a back-to-back-to-back.
In other words, only the strong will survive this challenge.
"It's a great opportunity because none of us have ever gone through this before,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "It could be pure emerging in basketball.
"There won't be any practices, other than a few shoot arounds. This is the kind of challenge that a veteran team should really wrap their heads around because it's just playing ball, and it's going to come down to our defense, our rebounding and how well we take care of the ball.''
It also may come down to how well Jason Kidd holds up. Kidd, who turns 39 next month, may be asked to sit one or two of the nine games so he can be fresh for the season's stretch run.
"We'll evalute that as we go along, but at this point we've got to go day to day,'' Carlisle said. "Trying to look at the whole thing and figure out if and when the guy's going to sit out several days or weeks from now is not that constructive to me.
"But we're going to continue to watch his minutes real close.''
Kidd, who is averaging 28.3 minutes per game, said he will carefully monitor what he does during this upcoming 12-day span.
"You've just make sure you get lots of rest,'' Kidd said. "Maybe the one thing that helps is coming off a (five-day All-Star) break, so we do have a little rest.''
After Tuesday's game against the Nets, the Mavs play Wednesday in Memphis, Friday in New Orleans and then host Utah on Saturday. From there, the Mavs play at Oklahoma City next Monday, then host New York on Mar. 6, before having road games Mar. 8-10 at Phoenix, Sacramento and Golden State.
Having the back-to-back-to-back portion of this rugged schedule is brutal at best, because it comes at the tail end of the nine-game excursion. Carlisle sees this as a positive.
"If you're going to jump into the water you might as well jump in the deep end,'' Carlisle said. "That way you're not going to hit your head in the bottom.
"What difference does it make, really? The good thing about that stretch at the end, the proximity of the cities is decent.''
Maybe, but it's still three games in three days of a long journey where players tend to get more tired and start mailing in games.
"We'll be coming off of a day off headed into that stretch, and the desert air (in Phoenix) is healthy,'' Carlisle said. "(But) we've got tough games coming up well before that.''
Like other Mavs players, forward Dirk Nowitzki is not exactly thrilled about playing nine games in 12 days.
"I mean, nine games in 12 days is really unheard of, but we've got to get through it and we're going to need everybody to play well,'' Nowitzki said. "It is brutal, the whole season has been brutal.
"It's the NBA's fault, it's the player's association fault. They knew this was coming for two years and we didn't do anything about it, but now every team's got to deal with it and we've got to make the best out of it.''
Carlisle believes the Mavs will have to lean on their defense to help pull them through this 12-day stretch.
"We've established ourselves to this point as a top five defensive team and we've got to carry that into this stretch,'' Carlisle said. "Why not make the challenge as challenging as you can.''
Nowitzki acknowledged that this is where the Mavs' veteran experience should kick in and win a game or two during these next nine games.
"We've got to win some of those games with our experience,'' Nowitzki said. "I think some of those nights the jumper is not going to fall, and we've got to stay solid defensively, rebound and play a smart floor game.''
At 21-13, the Mavs are currently entrenched as a solid team in the Western Conference. After the next nine games, they'll find out just how solid they really are.
"I love the challenge, I love the opportunity, it's unprecedented and (if) you can't get into a challenge like this, you shouldn't be in this,'' Carlisle said. "We'll find out what we're made of.''
-- Dwain Price
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