I don't speak for Fish, for DB.com and certainly not for the Mavs. I don't speak as somebody blessed with the opportunity to cover the team from inside the AAC. No, here, I speak only as a Mavs fan who has held out hope longer than many: Today, I’m declaring the playoff dream dead.
Today I speak for the fans.
I’m not speaking to you as an reporter who spends time within the belly of the AAC listening to explanations on why everything will work out. I’ve listened to Mark Cuban detail why the Mavericks are in good shape and everything will work out. In fact, I’ve reported it.
Today, I don’t necessarily speak for Fish or the rest of the DB.com staff and certainly not for the Dallas Mavericks themselves.
I’ve held on to hope for longer than many, and I’ll gladly eat crow if I turn out to be wrong, but today, I’m declaring the playoff dream dead.
It’s a tough pill to swallow. With just 25 games left to play the Mavericks’ are five games out of the eighth seed in the West and have lost three straight games in heartbreaking fashion.
But it’s not just the precarious situation they find themselves in right now. Even some of the most memorable moments of the Mavericks’ season have been clouded by losses. That’s why they sit at 25-32 with no razors in sight. It may sound cliché, but this just hasn’t been the Mavericks’ season.
We’ve seen Darren Collision hit a miraculous 3-pointer to force overtime against perhaps the best team in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder. ... Only to see the Mavericks lose in overtime.
We’ve watched Vince Carter find the fountain of youth and essentially rebuild his image as a leader and defensive piece. But while he seemingly would fit in perfectly with the 2010 Mavericks team consisting of veterans working towards a title, Carter won’t reach that coveted plateau.
In the past week we have seen Dirk Nowitzki reestablish superstar status. And what does he have to show for it? Three losses.
My point is that the moments have been there. But they have been just that, moments. They are moments that will ultimately be forgotten in a disappointing season. Take last Tuesday’s game against the Bucks for example. In a game when Nowitzki eclipsed 20 rebounds, it was Elton Brand who got one of the most impressive and strong offensive rebounds and emphatically scored to tie the game with less than a minute left in the game. In past years, it would be a momentum-changing play, that might have fueled the Mavs to a victory and perhaps catapulted them to more wins after that. But less then six seconds after Brand’s impressive score, Monta Ellis had hit a jumper to give the Bucks another two-point lead.
And so has gone the Mavs’ season. The good has been there, but sometimes it feels like we have about five seconds to appreciate it.
So for the first time in what seems like an eternity, March approaches with Mavs fans having nothing to look forward to in April.
But with this new situation comes a new perspective.
I don’t have to tell you that every year 14 teams do not make the playoffs. There are still things to watch for. There are still things to hope for. There are even things to look forward to.
It has been over a decade since the last time the playoffs weren’t right around the corner for the Mavericks. But not is all gloom.
While it may be heartbreaking to watch Nowitzki put together amazing performances in losing efforts, let’s not forget what that means: The UberMan is far from done. Not that any of us believed he was washed up. But I think we were all secretly hoping for a little confirmation.
Dallas sports fans (any sports fans for that matter) know that it’s never too early to start thinking about next season -- even while keeping a focused eye on the season at hand.
The Mavs have choices to make. While we like to think expect Cuban and Company to always have some full-proof strategy ready to make everything right, there is still plenty of evaluating to do. It’s rarely one big decision that wins a championship. They are won by a number of smaller decisions that have been well-researched.
The Mavs have incredibly important decisions to make in their backcourt. Cuban has recently expressed his interest in possibly moving forward with the young backcourt of Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo. Both players are unquestionably talented and have shown that this season. But there have certainly been bumps in the roads for each.
Both players will make their money in this league. They are good enough to warrant it somewhere. If either player is a Maverick next season then he will likely be making more money than he is this year. That’s a possibility, but it’s a commitment. And neither has done enough so far to deserve or rule out that commitment from the Mavericks. The evaluation is on going and their performance from here on out will undoubtedly go a very long way in determining that.
The Mavericks’ also need to do their best to determine the ceiling of rookies like Bernard James and Jae Crowder. We expect them to only get better, but do they have the potential to be starters in the playoffs? It’s often said that the best way to win is to develop your own talent. If so, at this moment, these two players seem central to the Mavericks’ success.
Speaking of rookies, there will be another draft this June and the almost-silver lining of missing out on the playoffs is receiving a decent draft pick. I would never advocate tanking (there is a terrible risk/reward in the NBA), but this year’s lock for Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, was selected ninth overall in last year’s draft. If the season ended today, the Mavericks would have the 12th pick.
My point is that there is still a lot of legitimate talent in the top 15 picks. ... somewhere out there. The ratio of players picked after 16 that remain in the league for more than five years is right around 20 percent. For almost the entire decade the Mavs have been picking in the twenties.
There are legitimate reasons to scout some of the best collegiate players in the nation as potential Mavericks.
It won’t just be the front office that makes all these evaluations and determinations. All of us fans will want to do the same. And we should. It’s part of being a fan.
And we at DallasBasketball.com will be here to help. We’ll be making those determinations as well. knowing there are still reasons to watch and to discuss and to analyze. A lot of them.
But this year's dream is dead. It's time to start dreaming another dream.