Christian Wood scored 16 straight points.
That provided everything that season openers often do not. These first games frequently dawdle and distract, they tease and they mock. They laugh at season previews and they pretend that the iMPoRtAnT qUeStioNs proclaimed all offseason weren’t actually relevant at all.
And yet what was Wednesday’s 107-105 defeat to the Phoenix Suns but an oversized flashing query upon everything we’ve asked since Wood was traded to the Mavericks? He played fantastic, finishing with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, hitting more 3s (4-of-7) than free throws (3-of-10). It was the main theme we expected early this season laid out into one 48-minute, bite-sized consumption.
Wood shimmied after one of his 3s and shrugged after another heat check went in. When he was substituted with 6:41 left in the fourth quarter and didn’t return until 2:19 remained on the clock, it prioritized every question we’ve been asking. Will he close games for this team? Should he? When will this coaching staff trust him? Will he earn that? Should they even have such high standards for him? Are they right? Is there an actual chance he’s the most talented teammate that Luka Doncic has ever had? Is he a potential All-Star miscast as a Sixth Man candidate? Perhaps most importantly, what is this player actually? What could or should he be? What will he be in Dallas this season?
All that, more than anything else, is this season’s initial theme. It’s the most meaningful question to be answered. Perhaps it’s answered quickly, or not at all. But there’s no other way to begin talking about this season’s first game than with Wood. Almost everything around him has some level of permanence and comprehension. And then there’s this one enigma of a player who holds answers within him that may well dictate this franchise’s future.
Dallas did lose on Wednesday. This very real and disappointing defeat isn’t meant to be glossed over. It’s just that I don’t believe any season opening result really means that much, not by itself, not until we have more context with which to view it in.
“We just can’t pick up where we left off, it’s impossible,” Jason Kidd said before the game. “This is a different team (with) different challenges, and this team will be different.”