Growing up in Dallas has been both a blessing and a curse. We saw three Super Bowls in the nineties and a Stanley cup in ’99. We have three amazing stadiums with the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the American Airlines Center and Cowboys Stadium (the Death Star). But living here does have its vices. Our baseball team has one playoff win in franchise history and Pizza Hut Park is just up the toll road. Yes, we have to pay just to get to the stadium that houses our soccer team and I don’t know why the hell you would ever want to. However, there is one team that encompasses both our love and agony for sports: the bipolar Mavericks.
We’ve been through a lot with this team. We had years of obscurity under Dick Motta. We hold what is currently the second worst record in NBA history at 11-71, which we proudly achieved during the 1992-93 season and will probably be broken by this season’s Nets. We somehow survived the Nelson years and the turbulence of the Triple J’s. We brought in Dirk and Nash just to loose the latter for a giant, overpaid baby. Now, the Mavericks stand at a crossroads of win now or never at all. I know it’s a bit of a deadline to put on Cuban’s boys but don’t get your hopes up from this season.
Two things the Mavericks have always been terrible at are trades and development. Right now, Jason Kidd is the only player that was drafted in the first round and remains on the team after multiple seasons. The Mavericks have tagged prospective players into trades for years now. Brandon Bass, Josh Howard, Maurice Ager, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Josh Powell, Devin Harris are just a few young players this team has brought in through the draft, trade, or D-League that we saw bud into promising players before disappearing to various teams. In fact, the Mavericks have had three first round draft picks from 2000 to 2008 and none of them are on the team anymore. Etan Thomas was selected 12th overall by the Mavericks in what would prove to be a very shallow draft in 2000. Howard was selected 29th in the very deep draft of 2003. Ager was selected 28th in the 2006 draft. Marquis Daniels was a walk-on in 2003 and now plays for the Celtics. However, in that same span of time, the Mavs were involved in seven trades involving their draft picks. This is one reason the Mavs sit at the second oldest team in the NBA. Winning franchises have proven that they continue winning by bringing in players to carry the torch from the more seasoned veterans. This effect builds an early winning tradition that can then be passed on. Magic Johnson came in when Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a vet. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have helped the Spurs stay successful after David Robinson. The Mavericks have not won big and have not made any moves to make sure that they do later down the road.
As far as trades, this season’s can be considered one of the best. Bringing in Caron Butler has put another scoring threat on the floor and Brendan Haywood gives them some leverage in how they decide to deal with Erick Dampier’s expiring contract. However, it’s April and after a 13-game winning streak, the Mavs are just now seeing their weaknesses. Caron’s temper has flared on several occasions. The guard is in a shooting slump and his frustration has come out on the court. Dirk as well hit a slump in late March and is looking tired. Haywood has been very inconsistent lately in both his scoring and rebounding. The defense has looked terrible as well. They have only held four teams to under 100 points since February. One was New Jersey. One was a loss against Orlando and another was against a tired Denver team coming off of a back-to-back and without their head coach.
Now the Mavericks are looking at going into what will be one of the most lopsided Western Conference playoffs. It has upsets written all over it with the Nuggets possibly going into the first round without head coach George Karl. The Lakers’ lack of depth is showing and Utah’s record against the upper echelon teams is horrendous (we have already discussed all of this in previous posts). Meanwhile, since January first, the Mavericks only have five wins against teams from the West that will be playing in the Playoffs. The Mavs have been shooting a measly 43 percent against the top eight in the West on the season. There have been multiple times where must-wins have turned into sloppy losses as the Mavs have looked more and more defeated and sluggish. Last week, against Orlando, the Mavs were out of the game since the second quarter when they closed the gap on the Magic’s lead before letting it slip away again before the half. On Saturday, it was the Thunder’s game the entire 48 minutes.
The frustration has been building for years against these Mavericks. Team Hate has shown its evil face multiple times and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. This team has not planned for the future and sought a very immediate solution in this season’s trade. When free agency begins this summer, where will we see the Mavericks? History shows that they will not make the appropriate decisions to build for the future. Dirk and Kidd will be declining in their respective games, as the 2003 draftees will begin to earn veteran status. This growth in younger, more talented teams will eventually overshadow the Dallas Mavericks as the fan base will only have memories of the 2006 and 2007 seasons to reminisce and grow even more disgusted with. They sit at the No. 2 in the West right now but far from that in reality. Their weaknesses have become apparent and any team set to face them in the West will know what to exploit come postseason. Hopefully the inopportune slumping of both Denver and LA will help these Mavs but it is inevitable that whoever wins the West will have a challenge with the powerhouses of the East.
The season isn’t over and there is still a lot that can happen. The Mavericks have had some good stretches and their remaining games are by no means unwinnable. Wins against San Antonio and Portland would prove a lot. Team Hate is a terrible thing and I hate when we have to pull it out. As long as the augmented women and rich husbands line the rows of the AAC, we will continue the hate tradition against the “fans” but hopefully not against the team. With some good play down the stretch and some good decisions this summer, we will be singing a more optimistic tune. Until then, heed warning. The Kobe Beef does not offer a soft shoulder.