(SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks will visit the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night as both teams kick off the 2013-14 NBA season, albeit with several new pieces.
The Hawks were the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference last season under the stewardship of Larry Drew. General Manager Danny Ferry canned Drew and brought in longtime Gregg Popovich disciple Mike Budenholzer to coach the squad.
Also gone was Hawks staple Josh Smith, a longtime fixture in NBA trade talks. Ferry decided to let Smith and his massive talent and versatility, along with his maddening decision-making, bolt to the Detroit Pistons.
To replace Smith, Ferry brought in Paul Millsap, the hard-working, underrated forward formerly of the Utah Jazz. The other big move for the Hawks was matching the Milwaukee Bucks' offer sheet on point guard Jeff Teague, who really emerged as a solid young player last season.
Al Horford is still the team's best player although he's still out of position playing center. NBA veteran Elton Brand was brought in to be the primary big man replacement.
One thing that will challenge the Hawks early in the season is the absence of Lou Williams. The multi-talented Williams is still recovering from surgery to repair his torn ACL and his timetable for return is unknown.
These two squads are familiar with each other. The Hawks closed their preseason versus Dallas one week ago with the Mavs winning in Dallas 98-89.
"It's probably not what either one of us wanted," said Budenholzer. "For our guys who actually got to play, that group was great. The fact that it was against Dallas, maybe I guess could be a positive in a way."
The Mavericks also sport quite a few new faces. Gone are Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman. Replacing them in the starting lineup will be Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert.
Ellis is the biggest fish in the free-agent frenzy, although both the Mavericks and Hawks had oodles of cap space this offseason. Both wanted Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
Both were disappointed.
Ellis' production, not just in Milwaukee last season, but throughout his career, is not questioned. There have been selfishness issues, but Ellis is actually a pretty solid distributor, especially among shooting guards.
Dirk Nowitzki is back and healthy, at least for the start of the campaign. He missed time with a knee injury at the outset of last season, never reclaimed his scoring touch and the Mavs missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
It appeared to wear on head coach Rick Carlisle, although most of his venom appeared directed at Mayo. Ellis and Dalembert might not help his already dwindling head of hair.
"The difference between being where you want to be and not is sometimes fractional," explained Carlisle. "We've just got to stay the course and keep working. I believe in these guys. I mean, we've got enough experience, and we've just got to put it together and do the little things well."
The Hawks won two of their last three in Dallas, but the Mavs have taken four of the last six in the series.