The Failure of the Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are going to win the 2007 NBA Championship.
Those are words that were never written, words that will never fall in the space of this column, words that will never be written by anyone, ever. It’s funny to read them now, preposterous even. It’s funny. Rewind to October and those words would have made their writer seem like Nostra-freakin-damus. They would have flown pretty good, sounded pretty true. Those words would have made sense in October.
Funny how the time between predictions and truth can make one or both seem ridiculous. Rewind to October. Mavericks. Warriors. Swept by. Preposterous. Words like those would dare not even be uttered, not after the ’06 Finals saw the Mavs minutes away from taking an 3-0 lead over Miami, not after they came so close to winning it all. Not after that.
It’s funny how something as seemingly unrelenting as memory can become such a selective process, like making the term ‘memory card’ into a bad metaphor, applicable nonetheless. Just shuffle the deck around enough and you get the hand looking like you want it. Dallas never went up 3-0 in the Finals last year. They choked. They lost. Upon pondering Dirk Nowitzki’s merit, upon re-contemplating Avery Johnson’s coaching experience, upon questioning the Mavs’ toughness, that’s when it hits you, that’s when you see clearly the gaping difference between predictions and truth. And it’s for reasons like that, those words were never written.
Contemplating. Like rubber bullets bouncing around my noggin fifty different reasons pop off and echo like mad. I pick one. Random. It’s good. I keep going. One by one I keep coming up with everything I don’t want to find. One by one reasons for the Mavs taking the ‘chip surface. It makes sense. Dirk is damn near unguardable. Terry and Stackhouse are clutch. Josh Howard and Devin Harris only get better. Avery only gets wiser. Miami did get a lot of calls in that series. They came ‘thisclose’ and they can only get better. But something doesn’t feel right.
It’s hard, for me specifically, to deny how good the Mavericks are, or more accurately, how good they were. I live in San Antonio. Enough said. When you spend an entire summer coming to grips with just how good Dallas is, it’s not easy to deny it once shit gets official. If all you paid attention to was the six games in June, you missed the good stuff. In the western-semis, against the Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks were the best basketball team on planet earth. They may never be that good again.
One. Two. Three weeks go by, consecutively nearing the start of the regular season, and every time I think about doing it. About putting digits to keyboard, putting down those words, saying the Mavs would win it all, stamping my name on it proudly, and declaring, “this is the way shit’s gonna go down.” But I never did. Lucky.
I tried telling myself it was bias at first. I didn’t like Dirk. Die hard Spurs fan growing up. Maybe objectivity hadn’t quite sunk into me yet. No, it wasn’t that. I couldn’t quite figure it now, couldn’t quite put my finger down on why, but I knew they wouldn’t win. Something just didn’t feel right.
Six games. In six games the Dallas Mavericks went down to the Golden State Warriors in an inglorious heap of burning inadequacy. Dead. Dead at the end. Dead from the start. A flying Dutchman six games dead.
Bingo. It hits. Now I remember. I remember Dirk needed a bunch of phantom calls win game seven in San Antonio. I remember he choked against the Mavs. They all did. I remember how they couldn’t stop Dwyane Wade. I remember that Wade got more calls than Dirk because he was more aggressive. Because he wanted it more. Because he was – is – better. I remember now.
All it took was the Warriors to remind me. The Warriors were faster, more athletic, tougher, and quite honestly just as deep and talented as the Mavs. There was no magic. No secret plays that Don Nelson had the scripts to. ESPN and TNT would like you to believe otherwise, but basketball isn’t a goddamn fairytale. There is no pixie-dust strategy. Golden State didn’t know anything about the Mavs or Dirk Nowitzki that some third rate assistant who watches film on any other team didn’t know. The Warriors beat the Mavs for this reason more than any other: they wanted it more.
The Warriors stole the confidence from the Mavericks and never gave it back. In the span of six games we saw a team with more heart, more desire, and more intensity, dismantle the team that we thought, for 82 games and 67 wins, was the best team on planet earth. In a span of six games we were remind that 67 games were the aberration, not the norm. In the span of six games we were reminded of what has plagued the Mavericks for the last few years – weakness.
I can’t quite find a way to spin it. Can’t quite find a way to put into words without sounding like some trite machismo spewing idiot with a keyboard and public platform, but in the simplest most uncomplicated terms I can conjure – the Dallas Mavericks are weak.
From top to bottom, the Mavs don’t have what it takes. And that includes Mr. Mark Cuban, a man who covers inadequacies and failures with brash words and brasher actions, impatiently ever failing to put a winning team together, ever reluctant to admit the shortcomings of his ‘star’ player. I’ll leave Avery out of it for now and give him a pass on account that I don’t believe any of his players can prove they possess a backbone, heart, or soul to speak of. Can’t inspire dead folks, now can you?
And then there’s little Dirk Nowitzki. Barbie Doll. Great for posing when you’re untouched, unmolested, but once you get taken out of the plastic to get used for anything useful you fall apart. I won’t ever be able to figure this guy. He’s got no excuse because we know what he’s capable of. He’s kicked ass all over the league. Unguardable. Bested the best of defenders and won game seven in San Antonio looking like an unstoppable, commanding, fearless, basketball superman. For that game he was everything we thought he could be. No excuse. No excuse for the miserable performance he put on in the first round – none. Maybe I would even have some sympathy for him if I thought he just wasn’t capable. God didn’t put it in him like that, not his fault. But that isn’t true. He’s got it in him.
That’s the real problem. That’s why the word ‘failure’ is plastered high and wide on the title space of this piece. Because the Mavericks have it in them, or at least, maybe they did once. They’re failures not just because of what they did or didn’t do against Golden State, but just as much because of what they did last season against San Antonio in the western-semis. They have it them. And when you have what it takes in you, and you fail to summon it when you need it the most, there’s nothing left to call you but failure. I would say they could get better, but they already got better. Western-semis. Best basketball team in the world. They may never be that good again.
We’re in the future. Cool, ain’t it.
I’m hunched over a keyboard and staring hard at a blinking cursor all too sure of the name I won’t be putting down. The Dallas Mavericks won’t be winning the championship for the 07-08 campaign. Put me down on record for that one early. I’ll pause when I do it, and think about May for half a second before moving on. I’ll chuckle as I type the name of some other team and predict them to win it all.
I won’t disregard Dallas because they lost to the Warriors. Or because they lost to Miami. But because they beat San Antonio. Because the Mavs have it them. Or at least, they did. They peaked. They failed. It’s over.
Funny, isn’t it?
The Mavericks aren’t laughing.