By Mike Fisher | 105.3 The Fan,
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 23:  Shelvin Mack #8 of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles the ball against Vince Carter #25 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on October 23, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Shelvin Mack dribbles the ball against Vince Carter at American Airlines Center on October 23, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Coach Rick Carlisle says next week’s regular-season opener is ‘light years away’ and that revealing too much now might bring ‘oddball karma’ upon his Mavs. So much of the talk of a ‘dress rehearsal’ in this 98-88 preseason home win over the Hawks was just talk – even as Dirk Nowitzki registered his first fourth-quarter minutes of the preseason.

The Hawks certainly didn’t play along with the “dress rehearsal” concept, as they lined up without all five of their starters (Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll). This meant Mavs fans got to see old friend Elton Brand in the starting lineup, and got to see Jared Cunningham do more in 27 minutes (scoring 14 points) than he did during his entire rookie season last year in Dallas.

The Dallas Mavericks also got a look at Dennis Schroder, the German point guard who was on the Mavs’ draft wish list. Schroder landed at 14 to Atlanta, Dallas getting another point guard, the injured Shane Larkin, at 15. Schroder led the Hawks with a game-high 21 points.

“Schroder is a terrific prospect and he played a really strong game,” Carlisle said. “They had half of their team out tonight, and most of their better players. The thing that was concerning was early on they carried the action. They were playing better than we were. We adjusted when we got on their heels, but the goal has got to be to come out better, be more aggressive and be the ones carrying the action.”

The chance to achieve that goal in a serious manner comes on Oct. 30, when these two teams meet again. The Mavs host Atlanta at the AAC next Wednesday.

Some of Dallas’ offense seems on the right track. Against the Hawks, the Mavericks got 17 points from Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis had 15 points and five assists. Dallas got 12 points and seven boards from Shawn Marion and 12 points from Vince Carter. Jose Calderon and Jae Crowder each finished with 10 points.

Is that good, Coach?

“I think we can do better,” he said.

The truth is, these are exhibition games, glorified practice games, “friendlies,” if you will. And while youngsters like Cunningham and Schroder have no justification for approaching the preseason that way, Dirk and company are, even with a decent preseason record of 4-3, simply trying to ramp up to a target.

That’s true even though Dirk was in the game for six minutes in the final quarter — his first fourth-quarter minutes of the preseason. It’s a glimpse of what’s on the horizon, less than “light years away” … but there are rehearsals coming that are even more important than this or one more (Friday night) “friendly.”

“Fortunately, Holger (Geschwindner) is coming (today),” Dirk said of his German-based mentor’s arrival in Dallas for tutoring. “Unfortunately, that means there’s going to be some late nights in here. … He might give me a night off here and there. I might be too old to go back in the gym every night. But we’ll find a good rhythm.’’

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