Weekend Mavs Apollo 13 Donuts

Posted Jul 28, 2012
chuck perry

It’s about that time of year where people start grading teams’ offseasons. What are the Mavs? Winners? Losers? Successes? Failures? The truth is rarely that black and white. An exploration of the Mavs’ offseason through the lens of Apollo 13. ... and inside Donuts!

DONUT 1: The story of Apollo 13 ...

The year is 1970 and America has fulfilled Kennedy’s dream of landing a man on the moon on July 20th 1969 when Neil Armstrong took one small step. Nine months later, Apollo 13 took off on a clear April day at 13:13 pm bound for the moon. However, three days into the mission, some 173,000 nautical miles from earth, an oxygen tank exploded during a routine procedure and crippled the spacecraft carrying James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise. The moon, the ultimate objective and the goal many had worked tirelessly towards for multiple years was lost, and from that standpoint, the mission was a failure.

However that’s not the whole story.
What followed was a series of ingenious ad hoc improvisations that saved the three astronauts aboard from certain death, returning them safely to earth. From that standpoint, the mission stands an enduring story of the success of human ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of failure.

In the years since, it has been dubbed “a successful-failure,” by commander Lovell and Flight Director Gene Kranz as NASA’s “finest hour,” for returning the astronauts safely to earth.

DONUT 2: What the hell does this have to do with the Mavericks? ...

The year is 2012 and the Dallas Mavericks have fulfilled the dream of many and finally captured the franchise’s first title. However, basketball didn’t end in the summer of 2011 and the new CBA created a new reality for teams at the same time Mark Cuban finally had the opportunity to acquire superstar talent via free-agency. Thus, a well-reasoned -- if still-worthy-of-debate -- plan for the betterment of the franchise was put into motion to acquire a superstar in the summer of 2012. It had been 8 seasons since superstar Steve Nash left and after 8 seasons in Dallas, Jason Terry was on his way out the door so Dallas could pursue a superstar who wore the number 8 on his jersey.

DONUT 3: Mavericks’ offseason grade ...

We know what happened next: Brooklyn began burning through cash like some newly-rich trying to impress their new neighbors (which they are) and ultimately made off with Dallas’ prime target. From a goal-fulfillment standpoint, the Mavericks mission was a failure.

Such is the logic currently employed by Chris Broussard when he declared the Mavericks ‘losers’ this offseason. Technically, he’s right; the Mavericks did fail in their objective to land Deron Williams.

However, that’s not the whole story.

DONUT 4: The Mavericks are failures ...

Such black-and-white analysis does not allow the possibility for a nuanced discussion of success and failure. Further, failure of Plan A, by itself, does not make the Mavericks “losers,” this offseason. Yes, Dallas is a failure because they did not land their “big fish.” All who were sacrificed in the pursuit of Deron Williams magnifies this failure: Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, JJB and Jason Terry.

Returning to Apollo 13, a superstar acquisition was the Mavericks’ moon shot. So far, that has not happened and, so far, like the 13th Apollo mission, this offseason was a failure.

DONUT 5: But that’s not the whole story ...

Just like the series of ingenious improvisations that rescued Apollo 13 from complete disaster, Mark and Donnie seemed to have performed a few minor hoop miracles of their own to save this offseason.

Unconvinced? Skeptical?

DONUT 6: The goal of each offseason ...
It’s a simple question, but it seems in our despair over the failed acquisition of Deron Williams we’ve forgotten the simple objective of each NBA offseason: to make your team better.

DONUT 7: The Slingshot – Acquiring OJ Mayo ...

Standard operating procedure for a deep-space abortion calls for directly turning around and coming home. On Apollo 13, the only engine capable of such a maneuver was damaged by the explosion and mission controllers had to improvise. Instead of coming directly home, the astronauts were sent out of their way on a “slingshot” trajectory around the moon, using the moon’s gravity to send them home.

Similarly, the Mavericks, in acquiring OJ Mayo went a bit out of their Plan Powder way in giving out a two-year deal to the young guard. However, in doing so, they may have given themselves a greater shot at success. As I will detail in depth later this week, Mayo has a chance to be more than just JET’s replacement (results are not there yet), but brings a number of skills to the table that Terry no longer had. His numbers as a starter are enticing, and he’s penciled in as the starter here.

DONUT 8: A square peg in a round hole – Mahinmi for 2 players ...

On the way back to earth, Apollo 13 astronauts used the Lunar Module as a lifeboat to survive in after the command module was crippled. Doing so pushed the LM far beyond its designed capability. Soon, it became clear that the air filters that turned astronauts’ expired CO2 back into oxygen in the LM would run out before the astronauts made it home. To prevent the astronauts from suffocating to death, engineers on the ground fit a square peg into a round hole by using supplies available – hoses, duct tape etc – to create an air filter that would last the astronauts until splashdown.

With the loss of Williams, Kidd and Terry, the Dallas backcourt was devoid of proven talent. To solve this problem, the Mavericks flipped a piece that was not vital, Ian Mahinmi, for one piece that is and two pieces total, Darren Collison and Dantay Jones. Dallas now has a PG who can create and attack off the dribble, something Kidd could no longer do. And, hey, there a SG for depth who can provide stout defense against the elite wings in the league.

DONUT 9: Waiting on splashdown - the Brand Bid ...

A normal re-entry time for an Apollo Command Module to pass through the Earth’s atmosphere is three minutes. During Apollo 13’s re-entry, that time came and passed as the world nervously waited to learn of the astronauts’ fate.

A similar (ok that’s a stretch) anxiety gripped Mavs nation as we awaited the fate of the Mavericks’ Amnesty bid on Elton Brand . Though he’s not the semi-dominant low post presence that he used to be, he will be more than an upgrade over the departed Lamar Odom. His arrival creates a heady big man rotation with Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman.

An exclusive look inside DB headquarters while we waited for the results of the Brand bid:

DONUT 10: Some help from friends – Kaman and the Draft ...

Just like Apollo 13 needed the aid of countless folks on the ground, the Mavs could not have had the offseason they have without the aid of many. To wit, Kaman, a Dirk buddy, signing on to give Dallas a dimension they’ve never had at center.
The Mavs also got some potential help on draft night, from the folks in Cleveland, in turning the 17th pick into Cunningham, Crowder and James.

DONUT 11: Follow Fish and Chuck and the Mavs Twitterverse! ...

DONUT 12: A “successful failure” ...

Though they failed to land Williams, have the Mavericks gotten better this offseason? A strong argument can be made to that end. With all their moves, Dallas is now a far younger team, more dynamic in the backcourt, stouter against the pick-and-roll and stronger inside. Further, they employ players who can score, making Dallas that much harder to defend, now surround Dirk. ... and maybe they're not even done.

As much as anything, including Delonte's deal, the roster is now stocked with talent on attractive contracts that can be easily dumped or packaged into a trade for that ever-elusive superstar.

In that sense, this offseason is indeed a success.


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