We've spent four days crunching numbers, attending practices, interviewing players and coaches and…
DONUT 1: The playoff race …
The Dallas Mavericks took Sunday off ...
And it was the most productive playoff-race day they've experienced in quite some time.
On Sunday morning, Dallas was ninth in the Western Conference standings. A sliver behind No. 8 Memphis -- percentage-points stuff -- and behind No. 7 Phoenix, too. ... but ninth, nevertheless.
And 24 hours later? The fellas head into practice at the AAC knowing that Memphis lost in Portland and that Phoenix got embarrassed by the lowly Lakers.
So Dallas is in seventh.
One more Sunday result of note: Golden State lost to the Knicks. So -- rather improbably -- that means the Mavs can wake up Wednesday morning and find themselves within a half-game of the sixth-place Warriors ... because it's Warriors-at-Mavs at the AAC on Tuesday.
(By the way, that game will be carried on TXA21 and I'll be a part of the pregame coverage from the floor of the AAC at 7 p.m.)
The Mavs are 44-30, same as the Suns. The Grizzlies are 43-30. The Warriors are 45-28 and 1.5 games up on Dallas and ... vulnerable?
We'll know more when we all wake up Wednesday morning.
DONUT 2: The Mavs-Kings Quoteboard...
"We're struggling in some areas,'' coach Rick Carlisle said after Saturday's 103-100 win over the Kings -- the "struggling area'' once again being the sacrifice of a big early lead. "With eight games left, what I would tell you, we're 74 games into this. There's been so much of this that, unfortunately, it's been part of our DNA and I just feel like we're going to snap out of it – and I know that we have to. I'm a very positive thinker on this and we're going to do better on this."
McKinneyDentist.com presents the Mavs Quoteboard, and you can dive in here.
DONUT 3: In Case You Missed It …
The Mavs' loss to the Clippers on Thursday -- another "heartbreaker,'' as Dirk termed it -- kept the Mavs bobbing along in the "Playoffs To Make The Playoffs.'' What Dallas had done to that point is "trade shots'' in terms of the standings. The Mavs were 3-3 after that one, are 4-3 after Saturday, and with Golden State coming to town on Tuesday ... well, you see where I'm going here on what was once a promising eight-game homestand.
"It's very frustrating,'' Vince Carter said, "but we fought like hell to give ourselves a chance to win in the end (against the Clippers) and that's all you can ask for."
Actually, though, with nine games to play, time is running out. And we're daring to ask for more. ... starting catching those Sunday night breaks and continuing with attaining a winning record over the course of this eight-game homestand ... not too much to ask, I don't think.
DONUT 4: The Closers …
Too often for my tastes, the Mavs are one-dimensional to close games because Carlisle opts to rely on Vince and B-Wright as final-fivesome closers.
Why does Dallas seem to get too few stops down the stretch?
Maybe because the team's best defensive player (Marion) is sitting in favor of Vince. Maybe because the team's best defensive center is sitting in favor of B-Wright.
Vince's numbers say he is an offensive weapon off the bench and Wright is undoubtedly a unique spark as well. And of course, matchups with the opponent come into play, too.
But this is a team able to manufacture offense almost at will from so many other spots. And Marion is hardly an offensive clog. I'd like to make the argument that when Carter and Wright close games, Dallas is one-dimensional and less likely to get stops.
But that if Marion replaced Vince, Dallas' would be superior defensively without sacrificing too much on offense ...and that Dalembert getting late minutes in for B-Wright would be an offensive sacrifice made up for by his ability to rim-protect (or even guard Cousins one-on-one, as he did Saturday).
DONUT 5: Active Dalembert …
I think Marion-for-Vince is an easy call. What to do at center is more difficult ... but Dalembert, too his credit, seems to be providing his version of an answer.
In the last six games, Dalembert is averaging nine points and 10.5 rebounds.
Said Rick: "He's been doing a lot of really good things. Maybe it took a while for him to get things, I'm not really sure. But teammates have been behind him for most of the year in a big way. ... I think he really realized how important he is to our whole thing. He's doing great."
Doesn't that all add up to someone who -- assuming he's energized and all that -- should be on the floor when Dallas needs an end-game stop?
DONUT 6: Wishful money? …
Local media (and some fans) have long speculated that Dirk would this summer "sign for the minimum.''
DallasBasketball.com has been at the fore arguing against this illogical notion; Nowitzki is a peach, but he's not Mother Teresa. Nowitzki is the fourth corner on The Triangle of Trust, but don't Cuban, Donnie and Rick get paid their market value? Cuban is pals with Dirk, but shouldn't there be a middle ground between "sacrifice and get paid less'' and "pride in being paid well''?
And now, confirmation of our position from Dirk himself.
"Ben & Skin'' on 105.3 The Fan asked The Uberman about the idea of re-signing with Dallas this summer on the cheap.
"As far as me playing for the minimum,' Dirk said, 'I'm not sure about all that."
DB.com's prediction stands: Dirk will re-up with the Mavs for at least two more seasons. He will do so only after the dollars and cents of other moves are calculated. But those moves will take into mathematical account what it fair to Nowitzki, too.
Feel free to speculate that the number will be $9 mil or $10 mil or $12 mil or whatever. But it's only speculation ... but it will be much nearer that range that the insulting "mininum'' range.
DONUT 7: The Help …
This is a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately'' racket, no doubt. It's been, what, 32 months since the Dallas Mavericks gave us an NBA title.
And what have they done for us lately?
There is the argument that what they've never done is provide Dirk help. And it's a reasonable argument, especially as we see a variety of "superteams'' come together in recent years.
But open your mind to this, if you will:
11X50. Remember? One of the longest streaks of sustained success in NBA history, starting in 2000 under the freshly-baked ownership of Mark Cuban and his rather unusual decision to retain the Nelsons. ... And that culminates in a 2011 NBA title ... With a 2006 NBA Finals appearance tucked in ...
And as Dirk (along with ownership) is a rare constant in those "three eras'' of Mavs basketball, if you will, that means Dallas "loaded or reloaded'' three times over the course of a decade and remained atop the NBA in doing so.
Was all that really done by Dirk alone? With not enough effort from his bosses and not enough talent from his co-workers?
Objectively, all that success (and really, the misfortune of sharing the division and conference with the even-more-consistently-good Spurs) would seem to serve as incontrovertible proof that the Mavs have assembled winning talent.
And more, it would seem to serve as an endorsement of the idea that Cuban & Co. can do it again.
D-Lord quickly went back and counted the Dirk Supporting Cast members using All-Star appearances as evidence of their talent.
Finley (2), Nash (8), Juwan Howard (1), Walker (3), Jamison (2), Josh Howard (1), Stackhouse (2), Harris (1), Kidd (10), Marion (4), Chandler (1), Peja (3), Carter (8).
As David writes, "All of them thumb their noses at critics saying there's been no All-Star-caliber talent other than Dirk on this team.''
Cuban himself can boast of his basketball-business acumen. (And he does!) Or he can wink and point to the NBA Championship banner in the rafters.
Fans who support the notion that this management team -- accomplished enough to keep Dirk atop a pile of talent that brought Dallas 11X50, two NBA Finals appearance and finally, a title, can respond by typing, as they do on DB.com Boards, "Don't Care. Won Championship.''
And all of us can be open to the idea that while this is assuredly a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately'' business, and while we are growing impatient as the "Treadmill of Mediocrity'' threatens, the Triangle of Trust does have a few skins on the wall.
DONUT 8: The ink is black, the page is white ...
Speaking of Mark Cuban, he steers us to this: Rich White Kids and Poor Black Kids Get Coached Differently. Is That a Problem?
DONUT 9: D-Lord on college athletes as employees …
David Lord writes:
While this doesn't directly impact the Mavs, I believe it has the potential to lead to a massive change in the entire structure of college athletics.
In a case that's flown under the radar and hardly noticed, the NLRB has ruled in a landmark decision that college athletes are employees, with all the rights that go with it. In particular, they are allowed to unionize, which was the immediate issue.
My opinionated take: The impact here extends far beyond the right to unionize. With the NLRB rejecting the idea that the NCAA's designation of "college-athlete" is some sort of special non-employee category, the NCAA dictatorship (or illegal monopoly, or cartel, or slave labor system) is in major danger of being altered from the outside. And ultimately, the players themselves are going to have a seat at the table.
Given the money that schools reap from their athletic programs, what sort of power can the players wield with the ability to bargain as a group for benefits, and to strike?
Because this is an administrative ruling, with such massive implications, there's a virtual certainty this is headed to the courts before it's set in stone. But, just like the Curt Flood case 40 years ago or so, now it's only a matter of time before the huge business of college athletics sees dramatic alteration in favor of player rights and compensation. And even though it doesn't directly change the NBA and other pro leagues, it changes the landscape for the path that's traveled to get there by the vast majority of NBA players, and the Law of Unexpected Consequences will come into play.
Ya never know what changes will ensue.
D-Lord leads this spirited Premium discussion with more on what this all means to the Mavs - and to sports in general - here.
DONUT 10: Thanks to our partners! …
Please give a call or a click to my friends and partners at Estilo Gaucho (DFW's finest Brazilian dining experience), LS Wealth Strategies (so smart, hands-on and carrying they're even guiding my kids through the financial jungle) and Red Rock Bar & Grill (our hangout neat Frankfort and the Tollway).
They help make our Mavs coverage possible! Thanks, y'all!
DONUT 11: Quotable ...
"I mean, we lose leads. That's what we do." - Dirk.
DONUT 12: The Final Word …
While I've obviously studied in great depth the very competitive West and its standings, I haven't spent much time perusing the East standings. So I can only assume that congratulations are in order for the Sixers as their rare win likely puts them right back into the East playoff picture.