Remember this team? Remember Jason Kidd playing quarterback for the team that drafted him and having the foresight to make unexpected passes and lobs? Remember J.J. Barea and his ability to dribble through defenses as if he was weaving on a semi-circle loom? Remember Jason Terry coming in off the bench only to look like a starter who is ready to dribble to his right and pull up to make a 3-pointer when the ball arrives in his hand? Remember the emotion and defensive presence of Tyson Chandler who provided the last key piece that this team needed in order to truly become elite? Remember Dirk Nowitzki putting together one of the best playoff runs ever seen on a basketball court? Remember that feeling when a team built around winning for 11 straight years finally achieved greatness when they became world champions?
That is all gone.
After making it to the top, owner Mark Cuban had a tough decision to make: should he commit to many of his champions by signing them to long-term contracts or should he roll the dice by letting them go and creating salary cap space? Obviously, if you watched this team play last season, it was apparent which direction he went in.
So, they got through the 2011-2012 season, barely squeezing into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed with the hopes of another championship run.
But something was missing. What was missing were pieces that championship teams possess. Simple as that. Instead of attempting to find the right guys that fit into Rick Carlisle’s successful system – or bring back the players that proved their worth and wanted to stay in Dallas – Mavericks management went out and found (old) players that would accept short-term contracts, proving their insignificant worth to the team. The only thing that mattered was cap space for the upcoming summer.
All of this led to a 36-30 season in which they were eventually swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
This is all that needs to be said about last season. Why? It was a bridge year. It was a season that didn’t matter to anyone apart of the Mavericks organization. The entire city of DFW was waiting patiently and faithfully to see Mark Cuban reel in the big fish he promised Dirk when No. 41 took a pay-cut in his contract. Dirk put his absolute trust in Cuban to make use of the cash he was simply giving him to use for the team.
Part of that money was supposed to be given to Deron Williams to come back home. With the insertion of Williams, the Mavericks would shoot right back up to the upper tier of the West as other pieces would consequently fall their way. They would be the next big thing to discuss in the sports media world as Cuban would only bolster his reputability as a connoisseur in the world of business and sports management.
Since D-Will narrowed his choices down to either the Mavs or the Brooklyn Nets, the pressure was on these two teams. The two organizations shared the same basket which couldn’t hold all of both of their eggs. His decision would alter the direction each team would be headed for the next year of basketball and beyond.
Well, he chose Brooklyn. He valued the extra year and $25 million more that the Nets could offer along with playing alongside All-Star guard Joe Johnson. In fact, Williams was actually close to choosing Dallas before Johnson trade swayed him in the other direction. (Just don’t think too much about this Mavs nation. It’s over.) This duo will soon become the most dynamic starting backcourt in the league – ahead of even Russell Westbrook and practically starting two-guard James Harden. Complimenting each other is vital in becoming a quality backcourt combo, and spot-up shooting Johnson will finally not feel obligated to be the orchestrator of his offense as D-Will will happily accept this role.
There is no point in discussing how Cuban was filming his television show “Shark Tank” and Dirk was at Wimbledon watching some tennis instead of attending the team’s sit-down meeting with Williams. That doesn’t matter. The two meetings on Monday was more of a formality than anything since the ever-so-talked-about point guard knew what each franchise could offer him; he understood his options.
So, now we are at the point where every Mavs fans goes out of their way to tweet at Mark Cuban or complain to their friends about how he shouldn’t have gambled with what worked. He shouldn’t have played with cap space. He should have made the smart decision.
Even sports journalist Israel Gutierrez seems to agree.
As Gutierrez pointed out on “The Sports Reporters,” the “safer” approach to the 2011 offseason would have been to “bring back the family.” Yet, has Cuban ever been about the “safe” way? He has become who he is today by making dicey decisions and bold moves, eventually turning himself into a multi-millionaire. Deciding to risk everything he had built in Dallas by aiming for a splash this summer was a distinct choice by Cuban that went along with every other step he had taken up to this point in his profession. But finally, Cuban’s way caught up to him.
Instead of making a splash, he is sinking. Fast.
Not only did the Mavs miss out on D-Will, they have now said goodbye to their two Jasons as they both sting for their own reasons.
After having one of his most inefficient seasons, many suspected the Mavs would let JET go. His time in town was appreciated and he would most likely have his number lifted up to the rafters later on but his time was up, according to management’s supposed intentions. To put it simply, “business is business.” The Boston Celtics jumped on the opportunity to bring in this sharpshooter, and with Ray Allen’s departure from Boston to South Beach, Terry will now become Allen’s comparable replacement.
Even though this exit might have been more expected than the other, this isn’t good for Dirk. These two established a system in the Big D where they played off each other’s strengths and ran the pick-and-pop two-man game in countless waning moments of close games. Again. And again. Before Terry was with the Mavs, Dirk had an even craftier guard running this exact scheme with him night in and night out. It’s a part of Dirk’s gameplay, and he hasn’t played a season without it.
They have also been in business together for eight years while creating countless hardships and triumphs. To put it simply – they are best friends. Having that partner in crime has helped Dirk up to this point in his career since Terry took on this role right after Nash – the man formerly known as his best friend – skipped town. There is more that will be missed than what he brought off the bench.
J-Kidd might be 39 but he sure holds a special place with the Mavs. Coming back to Dallas in his elder basketball years, he instilled a valuable demeanor unlike any other. Similar to Terry, it would be good for Dirk to have a familar face to go to war with him yet again. These two have similar humble personalities and as a result, have grown close in the 4 1/2 years they have played together.
It came down to two teams for Kidd: The Mavs or the New York Knicks. They each offered him practically the same contract. All reports were leaning toward Kidd coming back to finish his career with the team that he wants to stay with once he retires.
How does this look?
Then, out of nowhere, he decided to go to the Big Apple instead of staying in the Big D. After coming extremely close to signing with the Mavs (isn’t that becoming a prevalent theme), he did some deep contemplating while working on his golf swing. In the end, it came down to the fact that Kidd felt he had a better chance of doing big things in the latter part of his career with the Knicks than with his now former team. He looked at the rosters and simply gave the Mavs a slap to the cheek (though a polite one) in saying that they weren’t good enough for his last few years in the NBA.
Dirk even understands the Mavs dire situation.
“When we talked, [Dirk] said to go to New York,” Kidd said.
Even though this proves yet again Dirk’s genuine nature and care for his teammates even if that means losing them, this is a slap to the Mavs other cheek. Dirk couldn’t even muster up enough confidence in the only team he has ever played for to try and sway Kidd back to Dallas. When this devoted man’s faith has gone away, it is evident that Dallas has gone to a grave state.
Oh yeah, the Mavs also were going to try and convince Steve Nash to come back and play some basketball with his pal Dirk… that failed. He will be evolving Andrew Bynum into an even better center and taking a lot of pressure off Kobe Bryant’s shoulders. There’s no point in harping on the Mavs’ backup plan since it was quickly dashed before they could even consider it a viable option.
Now the Mavs must attempt to salvage their dignity and attempt to put together a respectable team for the next NBA season. They want to be successful – right?
It appears that would be partially incorrect. With the apparent players that have caught their interest (Ummm, yeah, Ramon Sessions and Anthony Randolph are clearly high-quality pieces…) and the length they want to offer them, the Mavs are about to expand and enlarge their bridge. Bridge season version 2.0 will soon be coming to an NBA season near you. They are going to have another year in which they will simply await for that big-time free agent to walk into town. Next season, James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are the three main names that stand out from the rest of the free agents, and Cuban has his eyes set on signing one of these All-Stars to a lucrative contract for years to come.
However, why would these three players want to come to Dallas? If the Mavs end up with an even worse season than this last one and end their streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances, what becomes the enticing part of playing for the Mavericks? (Having no state income tax can only go so far.) The biggest ploy for Williams to come home was the fact that he would have been coming home to a winning franchise from the past decade in its entirety. Since Cuban has taken this risky route and won’t give in until a major – and I mean major – player commits to his team, he is hurting the Mavs chances of being successful until (or simply if) this happens.
And here’s where it gets personal: this is unfair to Dirk. Using Tyson Chandler’s words, “I feel sorry for Dirk.” He has given everything to this organization. Literally. He came over to America from Germany to play for the Mavericks and has devoted his entire life to playing the absolute best possible basketball so his team can be their absolute best. He never has put himself before the team and even put the Mavs before a major paycheck during an era of professional sports when most negotiations are solely about the big payday. This level of commitment from a superstar is a foreign concept to most fan bases and only a dream to many franchises’ owners.
As Dirk begins to head down the latter part of his career, he doesn’t want to go through many struggling seasons. He even said himself that he’s too old to rebuild. He’s right. (Also, he has been spoiled with only being a part of winning teams every year he has been in the NBA, so he knows no other way.) Cuban now will throw yet another wasted year at Dirk as the owner becomes irrationally hopeful that they can ultimately land something special even though he has something special right in front of him that will be gone before he knows it.
So here we are. It has only been 13 months since the Mavericks reached the top of the NBA world and became the reigning champs for 12 months. What about now? Their future has become the unknown. Their identify has become the undetectable. The plans for next season are in uncharted territory as free agent after free agent takes their talents to anywhere but Dallas. So far, the players that are somewhat tempted to play for the Mavs only show interest because they know they can get significant minutes with the team’s depleted roster. That is the sign of a struggling NBA franchise.
The Mavs now will play possum. They will play possum as the the rest of the top teams in the West continue to improve their squads. They will play possum in hopes of yet another breakthrough summer of free agency. They will play possum as Dirk wonders where all his teammates went once training camp beings. They will play possum as the thought of Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea providing the ideal spark can only be that – a thought.
When will the possum wake up from this grueling state of nature? Once Mark Cuban realizes Deron Williams and Dwight Howard are not going to be joining his team.
Ignite the Site!