Long preseason trips abroad ... are they actually, conclusively bad for NBA teams?
We researched the past 20 years in search of answers
The Dallas Mavericks, not quite a month removed from what is believed to be the longest preseason trip in NBA history, awoke Friday with a record of 6-2.
The Mavericks have only ever started two seasons faster, going 14-0 in 2002-03 and 7-1 in 2004-05.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who joined the Mavericks in Abu Dhabi for the first week of that trip, are 5-2 entering Friday's play.
The Wolves also have the privilege of telling anyone who will listen that they inflicted the first defeat of the season on both 5-2 Boston and the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who are 8-1.
So it would appear, based on the very small sample sizes available less than three weeks in to the 2023-24 NBA season, that last month's overseas travel exertions did not deplete Dallas or Minnesota too severely.
"We loved our experience in Abu Dhabi — both on and off the court," Wolves coach Chris Finch told me this week. "It heightened our preseason focus and enriched our bonding opportunities."
The Mavericks, of course, were abroad for almost a week longer than the Wolves because they stopped in Spain on the way back to North Texas for a Luka Dončić homecoming game at Real Madrid. Dallas returned from its nearly two-week excursion with both Dončić (calf) and Kyrie Irving (groin and foot) sidelined by injuries but managed to bounce back from all that to win six of its first seven games.
I joined the Mavericks for the Madrid portion of their travels. While away with them, remembering how Golden State’s trip to Japan was routinely cited as a contributing factor to the Warriors’ uncharacteristic 0-8 start on the road last season, I had the idea to try to do some research on long-haul preseason trips in the NBA to see if they do have the adverse impact that is widely assumed in advance.
For assistance I recruited the ever-helpful Iztok Franko — Dallas' second-favorite Slovenian and a relentless chronicler of numerous Mavericks trends and tendencies for D Magazine. Professor Franko has compiled the wonderful charts below that track two decades' worth of overseas trips that featured at least two games and how the teams that took them fared when they got back.