The Dallas Mavericks went from the top of the basketball world to first-round fodder in just one season.
It’s very rare in sports to see a championship team fall off the map so hard and so fast, but the Mavericks certainly found a way to “accomplish” that task.
The team is now heading home for the summer after being swept in this years playoffs by a younger, faster and more athletic basketball team in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I’m not terribly surprised. I had the Thunder taking out the champs in 6 or 7 games. I assumed that this would be a competitive series that had the potential to go the distance.
Boy was I wrong. After 4 games of blown defense, blown leads and blown opportunities, the Dallas Mavericks are now officially the first team booted from the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed watching the Cinderella story that unfolded for Dallas in 2011 that led to an eventual first championship for the franchise, I must say that I’m a little disheartened to see their early exit this go-around.
Everyone loves an underdog. I certainly do. I was never much of a Mavericks fan up until their big playoff run last season. There was just something about the way they handled their opposition after not being the favourites in any of their series that had me jumping on the bandwagon. I respected their dedication to winning and the perseverance shown by a group of guys who knew that their window for winning a title was slowly closing shut.
All of that seems so long ago now doesn’t it?
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was unable to keep pieces during the offseason that were an important part of that championship nucleus. J.J Barea is now running wild with the Timberwolves, Caron Butler is a part of “Lob City”, Tyson Chandler is winning Defensive Player of the Year awards in the Big Apple and DeShawn Stevenson is down the road in Brooklyn.
Now just imagine if all of those guys had remained with the Dallas Mavericks. Do you believe the Mavericks would be eliminated from the postseason right now? Do you believe they would have finished with the #7 seed and a matchup with the upstart Thunder?
Of course not. If those players all returned to help Dallas defend their title in 2012, we wouldn’t be talking about the team being booted from the playoffs now. The Mavs would be a legitimate NBA championship contender and would still be competing.
That’s not the reality of the situation though. It’s nice to ponder as to what would have happened if Cuban were able to keep them, but that doesn’t really matter anymore.
Instead of Barea, Chandler, Butler and Stevenson, Mavericks fans got Vince Carter, Lamar Odom and Delonte West.
The Lamar Odom experiment was a complete disaster. His heart was always in Los Angeles. It was obvious from day 1 that the Mavericks were never going to get the best out of him. He didn’t even finish the season with the team. That’s unfortunate as he may have made quite the difference in the first round against Oklahoma City. Vince Carter showed flashes of brilliance here and there, but he was nothing more than a short-term solution at shooting guard. He was never going to turn back the clock on his career and become a 20+ points a night scorer again. Delonte West was also a nice addition, but he was never going to be able to replace the production Dallas got from J.J Barea last season.
They were all doomed from the very beginning.
This wasn’t the same team anymore. Those who remained from last season were entering the final stages of their careers. Guards Jason Terry (age 34) and Jason Kidd (age 39) were beginning to show their age. In this era of basketball, guards are quicker on their feet and more agile than years past. It would have been foolish to expect Terry and Kidd to keep up with them and maintain that kind of pace on the court.
Dirk Nowitzki (age 33) will always be the heart and soul of this franchise, but there was only so much he could do on his own. There is only so much weight you can put on a mans shoulders before he starts showing the wear and tear because of it.
This roster was designed to get Dallas into the playoffs, but nothing more. They are where they should be at the moment.
So what happens next? Clearly this team can’t go another season with this group of guys. They have run their course.
Nostalgia can only take you so far in this league. If my name wasn’t Dirk Nowitzki, I wouldn’t feel safe at all right now. Guys like Terry, Kidd and Shawn Marion have given a lot to the Mavericks organization and helped them win a championship, but I don’t expect to see any of them in uniform for the team next season and rightfully so.
The Mavericks need to get younger and more athletic. The 2 Jason’s and “the Matrix” are neither of those things at this point and time.
If I was running the Dallas Mavericks, I would make it a top priority this offseason to land my point guard of the future in free agency. I would do everything it takes to wine and dine one man and one man only in order to bring him back…home.
The Dallas Mavericks need Deron Williams.
Williams grew up in the state of Texas and would be a perfect fit for this team. Signing Williams would be the ultimate coup for this franchise and would keep them in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference for years to come. He’s right up there with the Rondo’s, Paul’s and Roses of the league as far as elite point guards go.
You put Deron Williams alongside a guy like Dirk Nowitzki and you have yourself something special. Not only would Williams drastically improve this roster, but his signing would also show the rest of the league that Dallas is serious about improving and winning basketball games. It would be a great landing spot for the young free-agents of the NBA to come and play with those 2 stars.
Dallas needs youth. Dallas needs athletes. Their matchup with the Thunder proved that age and experience doesn’t mean a hell of a lot if you can’t keep up with your opposition on the court to begin with.
This team is going to have to clean house and give itself a drastic makeover this summer. We may not even recognize this team once the 2012-13 season begins.
The Mavericks had their moment in the sun, but now its time to start looking towards the future.
Let the rebuilding begin!
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports