Monday, February 27, 2012

The Dallas Mavericks: Past to Future

A fan's perspective.

Left to Right: Dirk Nowitzki, Don Nelson, Steve Nash
I am a fan of the Dallas Mavericks. I don’t bleed colors. I bleed Dirk Nowitzki. To me and to probably many others who have followed the team over the years, he is the consummate Maverick. In one of the most blatant public displays of thievery since gas prices were 99 cents to the gallon, the Dallas Mavericks swapped draft picks with the Milwaukee Bucks to land the 1998 9th overall draft pick along with Pat Garrity (who was later traded to the Phoenix Suns for a backup point guard by the name of Steve Nash) for the overall 6th pick Robert Traylor. “Tractor” Traylor would end up being one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, battling for playing time (and his BMI) after his inaugural season. Dirk struggled initially to adapt to the bigger stronger power forwards in the NBA earning the name “irk” (for playing no D) but in 2000 the basketball gods (no heresy intended) sent the Mavericks an offering in the form of a young, rambunctious, jack-of-all-trades billionaire owner.

To say that Mark Cuban reformed the Dallas Mavericks franchise would be a radical understatement. He created a comfortable environment for players to grow and develop. Interpretation: he dropped a few Benjamins. Players were put in five star hotels, meals were catered before and after practices, a new 747 was purchased for team travel and coaches were hired until there was a 1:1 player to coach ratio. Cuban was an open book (and an open wallet) and Maverick fans were all drinking nectar from the cup of the new owner’s ambrosia. Fans had fought through the futility of the early ‘90s, withstood the failure of “The Three Js” (Jim Jackson, Jamal Mashburn and Jason Kidd) in the mid ‘90s, and at the dawn of the new millennium the city of Dallas had reason to hope that its team could become legitimate contenders in the West.

And contend we did…in the regular season. Dallas made perennial appearances to the playoffs from the 2000-01 to 2003-2004 seasons only to fall to the likes of the Sacramento Kings and the San Antonio Spurs. In 2005, we retooled the lineup adding Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris but lost Steve Nash to free agency. And then came the player who would put us over the top. Eric(ka) Dampier - the presence we had always lacked in the middle (yes, always, Shawn Bradley’s best performance was in Space Jam). He was the final piece in a puzzle that seemed to require too many pieces. So in 2006, the Dallas Mavericks made the NBA finals. In 2006, the Democrats took control of the Senate. In 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. In 2006, a large earthquake in Indonesia left 1.5 million homeless. In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks broke my heart.

But time moves forward and in the 2006-07 season the Dallas Mavericks ended the regular season with the best record in the NBA only to (insert euphemism for fail). In 2007, Dirk is still labeled as “soft” and a “choker”, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aarons batting record, Hillary Clinton ran for President, and there were probably a lot more earthquakes. You get the idea.

I’m going to fast-forward to June 2011 because I’m getting depressed. All questions about Dirk are answered and his legacy established at the expense of the NBA superteam: the Miami Heat. The Mavericks are finally NBA champions for the first time. Jubilation. Redemption. Dirk becomes the definition of every good-natured cliché Jalen Rose has used on air. The world acknowledges what every real Maverick fan already knew; Dirk is one of the greatest of all time. He has no shoe to sell you. He is tone deaf and cannot sing “We are the Champions” worth a lick, but he posts stats that rival NBA legends and is one of the most clutch players…EVER. I was able to experience the final win with two of my closest friends and two of the most hard-core Mavs fans I know. In 2011, Osama Bin Laden was killed.

"Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion"

Now that we’re over 6 months removed from the 2011 playoffs I must apologize. I told my wife that if the Mavericks beat the Heat last year that I would be satisfied and I wouldn’t care about the NBA for the next 5 years. I lied. One is never enough. I want more. This year, the Mavs shook up their entire championship lineup. We lost Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea to free agency but picked up bargains in Vince Carter, Delonte West, and Lamar Odom (I really wrestled with whether or not I should include him). Cuban obviously made a decision (very wise in my opinion) to save money and space for this summer when Deron Williams and Dwight Howard will be unrestricted free agents. Deron is a Dallas native. Dallas is on D12s short list of places he would like to play. Why would he want to go to the Lakers…to be the butt end of a Shaq/Kobe comparison? No chance. If Dwight does not get traded to New Jersey (who can only offer Brook Lopez) before the trade deadline, mark my words: the Dallas Mavericks will sign BOTH Deron Williams (a super Dallas homer) and D12 and we will become a dynasty. Dallas fans, let us all salivate at that thought. 3D will have a whole new meaning.

Left to Right: D12, D41, D8



"Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!"
-Rudy Tomjanovich

I'm very jealous of you guys for having Cuban as an owner. I think any fan would want him owning their team and using money wisely and genuinely caring about the team more than your average fan. If only he would buy the Mets...

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