The Failures of DFW Sports: Dallas Mavericks

10 11 2012

Co-writer: Trevor Rathbun

It is disappointing that I am watching this Dallas Mavericks 2012-2013 regular season game as the Mavs finish up running through Portland in their home debut Monday Night. It is odd that I am disappointed in a team that is currently 4-1 and has one of the most potent offenses in the league so far.

This is such a young group in Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder that is sprinkled with veterans in Chris Kaman, Vince Carter, Elton Brand, and Shawn Marion. Mark my words – once Dirk gets back, the mid-range and three-point land are going to be high field goal percentages for this team. Dirk only makes his teammates better.

But this isn’t the team it was supposed to be. No. Don’t let this early surprising success fool you into believing this was Mark Cuban’s plan all along.

This was “supposed” to be Deron Williams and Dirk’s team.

However, as this site has reminded you, things didn’t work out that way, and ultimately, the organization failed in free agency. The Deron Williams decision, according to him, was clinched whenever Cuban didn’t show up to their free agent meeting. Apparently, he picked filming his reality TV show instead of giving it his all toward luring a superstar cornerstone for a franchise’s future. The Mavericks’ future.

Even though Cuban is often discussed as one of the best businessmen in America, he actually hasn’t been that successful in drafting quality players or bringing in free agents. From Maurice Ager to Raef LaFrentz to Dominique Jones (so far) to Antoine Walker, more times than not, Cuban’s “projects” have failed to live up to expectations.

The Deron Williams failure embodies many of the Mavs failures – excluding the 2011 championship run. That needs to be made clear here. The year that Rick Carlisle implemented all of his pieces the correct way, Dirk Nowitzki decided to become a clutch monster and his supporting cast played their roles to the best of their ability (try to tell me Peja Stojakovic scoring 21 points in the playoffs was the plan all along) should be considered the exception and a breath-of-fresh-air for DFW sports fanhood.

Looking at the rest of this team’s playoff outings, there is a recurring theme in all the failures: coming up short.

Mark Cuban bought this franchise in January 2000. At the time of his take over as owner, Don Nelson was the coach, and there was the “Big Three” consisting of Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. This team seemed to be on the brink of breaking through the Western Conference.

In 2003, Dallas went to the Western Conference Finals and take Game 1, only to lose to the Spurs 4-2. Two games short of going to the NBA Finals. They allowed a worn down Steve Kerr to shoot his Spurs to a Game 6 closeout victory in which they outscored the Mavs 34-9 in the fourth quarter. If you have made it as far as the Western Conference Finals, there is no excuse for allowing your opponent to roll over you this severely.

Dallas let Dirk’s favorite and one of DFW’s favorite stars, Steve Nash, walk out the door to Phoenix the next offseason since Cuban thought his point guard would soon be on the downhill as an NBA player. He allowed the identity of his team to fade away instead of bringing back the leader of the group. (This will sound familiar in seven years.) Well, all Nash did was go on to win two MVPs.

Two years later, the Mavs ran through the Spurs and Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns, earning a run at the NBA title for the first time in franchise history. All they had to do was take down Dwayne Wade and Shaq’s Miami Heat. (That’s literally all they had.)

The Mavericks won the first two games by double-digits, with Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Devin Harris, and DeSagana Diop starting along side the Big German. Mark Cuban began planning the celebration parade through downtown Dallas, as a championship seemed inevitable. Everything seemed to be falling into place for DFW.

Think again. This assumption would prove fatal, as Wade took control and pushed his team to win the next four games, also winning Finals Most Valuable Player as well. Once again, the Mavs were two games away from greatness, but found a way to fade away when their entire season was on the line.

The 2007 season was possibly one of, if not, the biggest failure in Dallas Mavericks history. The Mavericks were ranked number one in the Western Conference, winning a league high 67 games. Not one team can say they had a better regular season than the Mavs that year.

The lowly Golden State Warriors were ranked eighth. Yes, they went on a hot streak to clinch that last playoff spot, but let’s not forget they won 25 less games than the Mavs. They almost had a losing record while the Mavs were on the brink of an all-time record.

I think many Dallas fans forgot about the fits that Golden State gave Dallas during the regular season, beating them 107-104, 117-100 and 111-82. To add to the intrigue of the series, the coach of the Golden State Warriors was Don Nelson, the former coach of the Mavericks, who was replaced by Avery Johnson in 2006. No one else knew the development of Dirk better.

The first game of the series signaled trouble. The Mavs lost on their home floor 97-85. In Game 2 they rebounded and won 112-99, looking like the elite team they were supposed to be.

When the series moved to Golden State is when things got ugly. Very ugly.

Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson, Monte Ellis, Al Harrington and Matt Barnes pushed the series to 3-1 by running all over the Mavericks. It was so bad that Avery Johnson actually changed his starting lineup and the way his team played in an attempt to play the Warriors’ style. The eight seed’s style. It was beyond depressing to see the way such an elite team crumbled before a town’s very own eyes after being so close to a championship the year before. They gave fans a taste of being so close followed by being so far away.

The team that had the highest win percentage in the regular season got run out, shot out and simply played out of the gym in that series. It was like the Warriors didn’t miss any three-pointer they took. The Golden State crowd broke out “We Believe” shirts and you started getting the eerie feeling in your stomach that things were going to be bad for the Mavs.

Eventually, the once dominant Mavericks, featuring the league MVP in Dirk Nowitzki, lost in 6 games. They were the joke of one of the most amazing upsets in NBA history.

In 2008, Jason Kidd, who started his professional career with the Mavs, was traded to Dallas for Devin Harris and other players. This was a much-needed change of pace (even if it was a slower one) due to Harris plateauing as a point guard.

Along with the veteran point guard coming in was new coach Rick Carlisle, who had most recently coached the Indiana Pacers. The Mavericks lost in the early rounds of the playoffs the next two years. Nothing new here.

However, in 2010, the Dallas Mavericks began the season with newly acquired defensive big man Tyson Chandler as well as having Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, Deshawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinimi, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd, Corey Brewer, Brian Cardinal, and Roddy Beaubois.

By going 57-25 in the regular season, the Mavs finished second in the Western Conference, matching them up with Portland. The Blazers had Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez. The most dramatic event in the series happened when Brandon Roy came in during the fourth quarter in game 4 and scored 18 points, propelling Portland to a major come-from-behind win. At this point, most of the DFW media felt a bit of déjà vu creeping up in their spine.

However, the Mavs would eventually win in six games. The Mavs passed through the next two rounds, easily sweeping Kobe and the Lakers 4-0, and dismantling the young Oklahoma City Thunder squad in five games. In the Finals, The Mavericks won 4-2, winning the last three games, including the clincher at Miami. It was the sweetest revenge for the Mavs because the 2010 Miami Heat featured the super squad with Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. (Reminder: this is the exception.)

The following season, when most defending champions actually defend their championship, the Mavs began the year by a beat down from the Miami Heat. The championship hangover was evident as Jason Terry wore his gold shoes.

The force of the Mavs defense, Tyson Chandler, was let go even though he wanted to be in Dallas. He was picked up by the New York Knicks in free agency, eventually winning Defensive Player of the Year. The hard-working Dirk even admitted to not playing basketball at all the past summer. This softer group of Mavs made it through the shortened season and into the first round, where the eventual Western Conference Champions Oklahoma City Thunder swept them. (I don’t think Lamar Odom deserves to be discussed at this point. We don’t need to rehash that fiasco.)

Now both on the Knicks, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler recently said that they think the 2011 championship squad could have repeated as champions. But because Cuban was drooling over the idea of D-Will in Dallas, this can only be considered a “what if.”

He allowed everything that made DFW proud of the Mavericks to simply walk away.

No more Chandler. No more Barea. No more Butler. No more Terry. No more Kidd.

As you watch the Mavs play throughout this season, you will have to squint at the jerseys to try and find an identity for this team. With new players and a new system, the team known as the 2011 NBA Champions is a thing of the past.

Excluding the championship year, the Mavericks are known for their many disappointments and failures. Although they are not a constant disaster such as the Cowboy or a choke-job team such as the Rangers (come back tomorrow to hear more about that…), their early exits and playoff nightmares continue the rest of the failures that the Dallas sports franchises have suffered through this past decade.

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