Friday, April 1, 2011


I haven’t posted here in almost two years, but the drubbing by the Lakers last night is enough to get a guy thinking.

I should say up front I haven't read anything beyond the espn daily dime for the day, so hopefully I'm not just repeating what everyone else is saying.

My wife and I went to our favorite pizza place to watch the game last night, and fortunately the place closed at 12:30ET so we had to leave before the game got too ugly.  We were dreading it going in, and now it's hard to even care.  The Mavs' play has seriously lagged lately, and some of the Dallas media folks (Mike Fisher and Mark Followill) were analyzing on a podcast the other day who the Mavericks should be more worried about in the first round.  I don't think the Lakers are worried whether they can take Portland or New Orleans.

But what's worse is what I saw last night, and not just the score: Lakers laughing after big plays, Kobe going into overdrive and breaking up a Mavericks fast-break.  And then there's Matt Barnes. He was on the Warriors when they embarrassed Dallas a couple of years back, and last night after Terry almost got in a fight with Steve Blake (?!), Barnes was walking around Terry taunting him.  And what was he saying?  According to Terry, “same thing he's been saying since he played for Golden State, which is a bunch of nothing.” There’s no way I believe Terry on that point.

They're already in our heads, and the playoffs haven't even started.  They're already paving ground to beat us mentally in the second round, if we even make it there.  We could have only lost by 5 last night, and I'd be just as convinced.  Barring a miracle, this team is done.

But were we ever not done?

I’m thinking of the ends of movies where the plot twist hits, and they show you scenes from earlier in the story that you suddenly realize you misunderstood. This is where my mind is going with the Mavericks right now. I'm sure people have outlined all this before, but it’s never hit me quite the way it’s hitting me today.

Flash back to 2003, when the Mavericks beat the Sacramento Kings in game 7 of the second round to go to the Western Conference Finals. (By the way, that was an insanely entertaining playoff series.) Dirk injured his knee in game 3 of those WCF, and the Mavericks lost in 6 after giving the Spurs a run for their money; the Spurs went on to win the title that year. You had to wonder, what if Dirk had been healthy?

But look at it another way: What if Chris Webber hadn't blown out his knee in game 2 of the Sacramento series. Would Dallas have won?

Then look at 2006. Dallas beats the Spurs in 7 games in the second round, then Phoenix in 6 in the WCF. We lose to Miami by 6 in the Finals, partly due to two of the most atrociously-officiated games I’ve ever seen, and partly because we fell apart mentally.

But look at it another way: What if Duncan was completely healthy for San Antonio? (He put up big numbers in those playoffs, but it was a well-known fact he suffered much of that season from plantar fasciitis.) Don’t we think a little extra mobility for Duncan might have swayed game seven in overtime on the road? And what if Amare Stoudemire hadn’t been out for the year for Phoenix? Would we have beaten *either* of those teams?

So what’s left?

Of course, *maybe* we would have won all those playoff series even without the injuries (minor or major) to key players on the other teams.

But consider this: if Webber stays healthy and we lose to the Kings, and if Duncan is healthy and we lose to the Spurs, here's the Mavericks’ playoff history in ten straight 50-win seasons with Dirk:

2001: lost 2nd round
2002: lost 2nd round
2003: lost 2nd round
2004: lost 1st round
2005: lost 2nd round
2006: lost 2nd round
2007: lost 1st round
2008: lost 1st round
2009: lost 2nd round
2010: lost 1st round

The tally: in ten years we have *never* gotten past the second round without the other team's best big man being injured. Our actual record in playoff games over that span: 49–57.

The point of the NBA is entertainment, and the Mavericks have not let me down from that perspective, whether in the regular season or the playoffs. Also, Dirk’s numbers have been stellar in the playoff (as I’ve argued over and over), and that includes the last couple of years. What’s more, we’ve legitimately won plenty of playoff series along the way, so it’s not like a McGrady–type curse or anything.

No, it’s much more mundane. Once we have to compete against the best, we’re just not that good, and it’s looking more and more like we never have been.


Ryan B said...

Scott, I'm not sure if I agree that we would have lost those series against the Kings/Spurs had Weber/Duncan been healthy, but you touch on something I've felt ever since that 2006 season. Since that year, I have failed to really get excited about the Mavericks' chances of winning a title. Even though I know we'll win 50 games every year, there is never a year where I think we'll be good enough to beat Lakers in the playoffs (though we've never had the chance to prove that). But I think the reason is more related to a realization that makes me less excited about the NBA than about the Mavericks in general. I don't like the NBA very much, and thus don't get excited about the Mavs as much, because it seems the NBA is dominated by a few good players. Think about it: in the last 12 years, there has only been 3 champions not named the Spurs or Lakers. It seems like we're always going from year to year, rotating in new players that are supposedly supposed to make the difference, but in reality, if you don't have Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan, you're not going to win. Dirk is not one of those type of players, and frankly, there are not that many players like that in the NBA. Teamwork doesn't seem to matter as much as in other sports, so there is no way to gain an advantage there if you don't have a super-star player. Maybe it's just the nature of a game that only has 5 players on the court at a time, but it's something that I don't like about the NBA. Of course, a good test case this year is the Miami Heat with their collection of talent, so we'll see. On paper, they should win. I will still watch the Mavs in the playoffs and pull for them to win, but it's been a long time since I had perennial hopes that "this year is the year." I'll be excited if the win, but have zero expectation that they will.

Justin Burton said...

This post is completely hilarious now, right?

Anonymous said...

Yeah I bet you guys feel pretty retarded now!