DONUT 1: Is that a barber’s chair? ...
For the fourth time since March 28th, the Dallas Mavericks took the court with a chance to write the eulogy for the saga of the .500 beards. In the previous three instances, this had seemed like much more of a motivator to the opponent than the Mavs, as Dallas lost by an average of 18.7 points.
The beards were stubborn, getting unruly and refusing to be shorn.
Visiting New Orleans, where the Hornets were playing their last home game as the Hornets before becoming the Pelicans, the beards gave up their fight as the Mavs dominated early, leading by as many as 16 points in the first quarter and 27 in the second, eradicating the sting of the Hornets in New Orleans … forever … by a final of 107-89.
DONUT 2: Farewell …
On 12/12/12 the Mavs lost to the Boston Celtics and fell to a record of 11-11. On Dec. 14th they lost again, to Toronto, and had failed to return to .500 since.
Shortly after the New Year, the beard pact was formed with sights set on a return to .500.
Exactly four months after .500 was lost, it was returned on April 14th.
The calendar had seen one year replace another, beards had devoured the faces of Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman … and the Mavs found a moment of joy in this desert of a season that has been so often without.
As Dirk ran from the court, quickly grabbed an electric razor, found a mirror, and sheared away the garden of whiskers seeking to bury his face and neck as cameras looked on … a faint smile broke through.
"I might get a kiss tonight,'' a freshly-shorn Dirk said moments later. "My wife stopped kissing me sometime in February.'
No, this isn’t a championship. It isn’t a testament to grand rewards that can be attained through constant vigilance and dedication. It isn’t watching Dirk leap the scorer’s table as he sought out the privacy of the locker room to hide the overwhelming emotions of a championship earned.
But … that doesn’t make it nothing.
Sometimes, joy must be plucked from the storm … regardless of how you feel of the season as a whole, watching Dirk mow away the beard was a moment of happiness worth the smile it brought.
We enjoyed seeing it.
DONUT 3: For History …
Dirk entered the game 10 points away from reaching 25,000 for his career.
With 6:44 remaining in the second quarter, Dirk faced up to Robin Lopez, jab-stepped, and then rose up for the smooth jumper … giving Nowitzki 11 points for the game and lifting him to yet another tangible pedestal of greatness, as he became the 17th player in NBA history to reach the 25,000 point mark.
"That’s an unbelievable accomplishment, obviously,” he said. “When I first got in this league, not knowing if I could make it here, that was a tough first year for me. In and out of the lineup. Not strong enough to play with the big boys. ... The rest is history.''
Dirk finished the game with 19 points, six rebounds, 7-of-14 field goals, two blocks and was only needed for 26:32.
DONUT 4: The Pantheon of Greatness …
As he reached the milestone of 25,000 points, Dirk joined another elite group as well, becoming only the ninth player in the history of the league to total at least 25,000 points and 9,000 rebounds in his career.
The other names on that list: Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Elvin Hayes, Kevin Garnett, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"I think I worked hard for 15 years in this league,'' Dirk said, "and it paid off.''
One other note on Dirk reaching 25,000 points: it seemed oddly fitting to have come on while shooting from the “Nola” logo printed on the court … as the next man up on the all-time scoring list (a feat that should occur early next season) for Dirk to pass is Jerry West … a.k.a. “The Logo.”
DONUT 5: Marion is still good …
Marion finished with a game-high 21 points, hitting 10-of-18 field goals to go with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.
Over the last five games, Marion is averaging: 20.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, and a 59.7 field-goal percentage.
There will be financial factors that come into play next season, when Marion is slated to earn $9.3 million, but forgive us if we find ourselves truly hoping ‘Trix is able to finish his career as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
DONUT 6: The Invisible …
O.J. Mayo finished with eight points, 3-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers, four assists, two rebounds, one steal and one turnover in 34:37.
We’ll get into the idea of Mayo’s progression as a player in Dallas with much more depth in the very near future, but it’s hard not to notice the prolonged stretches of near irrelevance on the court for him. So much so, that despite the fact that he only finished with eight points, there were times in this game where it felt like Mayo was making more of an impact that he had in recent games (excluding his 20-point outburst against Denver … since the All-Star break Mayo has reached 20 points twice, he’s failed to reach double digits nine times).
Over the last 10 games, Mayo is averaging: 9.2 points, 4.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 34.6 and 33.3 field-goal and 3-point percentages and 2.1 turnovers.
Is this Mayo simply playing within the flow of the game? Sliding into a new role? Improving as a decision maker?
Is this a new-and-improved Mayo, or the continued marginalization of him?
We’ll have our complete thoughts -- and thoughts from the inside of Mavs HQ -- coming soon.
DONUT 7: Quick Nugget …
Just a glimpse into the kinds of things you will see in our upcoming Mayo story:
Going into Sunday’s game, Dallas had 15 different 5-man units that had played at least 50 minutes together. Mayo was a part of all of them … except the single most successful unit.
Mike James, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, Dirk and Elton Brand had played 52 minutes together and were a plus-29.4 per 48 minutes.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban is in part talking about guard play when he says, “I’m proud of the effort, I’m just not always proud of the basketball IQ. When you see dumb plays, sometimes they look like lack-of-effort plays when they’re just dumb. … We definitely need more basketball IQ.''
Want to find a BBIQ point guard in the NBA Draft? We've got exclusive thoughts on the Mavs' rankings of the top three prospects - Burke, Carter-Williams and Smart -- here.
DONUT 8: Speaking of farewells …
On the lighter side, Hugo the Hornet (the Hornets’ mascot) had a small ceremony at the game to bid him farewell as it is set to buzz up into the ether and disappear into the realm of mascots gone by.
If there is any justice, Perry the Pelican (our fittingly silly guess as to the name of next year’s mascot) will have some kind grave-side words to share on Hugo’s passing.
DONUT 9: Lucky 23 …
Brandan Wright continued his strong play as of late, and continued to do his best to push up the dollar value of the contract he will sign this summer.
Wright finished with 16 points, four rebounds and one block in just over 23 minutes. (Oh, and three stitches, courtesy of an accidental elbow by New Orleans' Al-Farouq Aminu.)
In games that Wright has played at least 23 minutes this season, the Mavs are now 16-5.
In a sense, this can be a misleading fact. While this is a testament to the impact Wright as been able to make when granted minutes, it may also be a nod to the job Rick Carlisle has done with choosing his spots.
While it may drive some crazy to see how well Wright plays at times and then watch as he struggles to find minutes at others, there is a method to this madness. While we won’t say we’ve always agreed with the lack of minutes given to Wright (at times), it’s hard to deny that Carlisle has done his best to put Wright in a position to succeed … and the results would imply that this approach has worked.
DONUT 10: Mavsellaneous …
*The Mavs have had 25 assists as a team 30 times this season, including 27 against the Hornets Sunday night. Their record in those games: 25-5.
*Big thanks to Frisco Party Station and
Red Rock Bar & Grill! They help make DB.com what it is ... thanks, guys!
*Follow the Mavs on Twitter: Mike Fisher and
Michael Dugat keep you up-to-the-minute informed on all things Mavs!
*Dallas tied their season low with only eight free-throw attempts.
*Vince Carter finished with 16 points, 5-of-10 field goals, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
With those 16 points, Carter now needs only three points to tie Clyde Drexler, four to pass him, for the 27th spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next up, Elgin Baylor … though, if that happens, it wouldn’t come until next season is well underway.
DONUT 11: Mark Cuban's Mea Culpa ...
Mark Cuban stubbornly insists his apology isn't an apology. Maybe that's because after 12 straight Mavs playoff seasons, he's unpracticed in the art of the mea cupla. But the realities are undeniable, as is Cuban's position.
"If someone's got a shot to take, take it at me,' he says. 'My job is to make sure we put everybody in position to succeed and we obviously didn't. It's on me.''
The full story of Mark Cuban's Mea Culpa is here.
DONUT 12: The Final Word …
We’re not trying to argue that seeing the beards come off can act as redemption for a season lost, nor are we attempting to glorify reaching .500 as a monumental accomplishment.
But, we also won’t discard a moment as inconsequential or irrelevant that clearly meant something to the players, and brought us a small oasis of joy. You couldn’t watch
Dirk Nowitzki’s reaction after the game -- his own razor in hand -- and say this didn’t mean anything. It may not mean as much as some of the hoped-for alternatives, but that doesn’t make it meaningless.
You cannot watch the make to push Dirk past 25,000 and not cherish it, either. So watch it. Cherish it.
So, we’ll take this brief respite from the wealth of disappointments this season has been. Perhaps, in a sense, that is sad … but, once you’re here, you’ll take what you can get.