If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a big Dallas sports fan. I’ve spent 13 years of my life growing up in Dallas, and have always been there to support and argue for my teams. Could this be the year a Dallas team wins a title? I think so. The Rangers were close, how about the Mavericks? The 23-5 Mavericks have been on cruise control this season knocking off team after team, and may have their most talented roster to date.
Growing up in Dallas, I have been accustomed to the Cowboys controlling the media spotlight with the Rangers and Mavericks playing second fiddle. Recently, Dallas sports have undergone a significant power shift. The Rangers were American League Champions this year, and the Mavericks may well be on their way to become Western Conference champions. The Cowboys…not so much (cut to Jerry Jones shaking his head). The Dallas Mavericks have come back from the league’s doormat in the 1990s to one of the most successful sports franchise in the past decade. (Thank you, Mark Cuban).
However, when it comes to the Mavericks, a great regular season comes as no surprise to me, because lets face it, I have been spoiled over the years. I am not a NBA fan who is simply satisfied by making the playoffs every year (more than half the league does anyway). The Dallas Mavericks have accomplished the remarkable feat of making the playoffs ten straight seasons with at least 50 plus wins each year. The only downfall: no titles to show for it. Maybe after the first two or three playoff seasons, I might be satisfied… but 10 IN A ROW? At this point, I need to see rings (Yes, I’m spoiled).
I remember vividly where I was when the 67-win Mavericks suffered their monumental upset to Golden State in 2007 and dropped four games in a row the previous season to the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. Subsequently the same years, I saw the Cowboys also make two quick first round playoff exits. These years were quite possibly the biggest letdowns in Dallas professional sports. So you can understand why I might be skeptical of a great Mavericks regular season.
With all this said, I’m forced to admit that this 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks team could be the best Mavericks team EVER! This accolade is still pending, but I have an unusually good feeling about this NBA season. With Miami showing signs of weakness, the Lakers getting blown out by Milwaukee, and Boston aging another year, this may just be the Mavericks year.
Ever since Don Nelson became the coach of the Mavericks in the late 90’s, Dallas’ defense was a joke. Insert Popovich-protégé Avery Johnson and Dallas’ defense had gone from allowing 100.8 PPG (in 2003) to 92.8 PPG (in 2006). After two of the most disappointing playoff exits in NBA history, Dallas got tired of Avery’s squeaky voice and sought a new leader for this veteran team. In 2008, Dallas hired former Pacers and Pistons coach Rick Carlisle to propel this team back to the NBA Finals.
Then last year, Dallas found something it had been missing since it’s inception in 1980… a strong defensive center. Last February, the Mavericks acquired center Brendan Haywood (along with Caron Butler and Deshawn Stevenson) for a banged up Josh Howard and aging Drew Gooden. This past offseason, Dallas then sent Erick Dampier’s corpse to Charlotte for the rebounding-and-block machine Tyson Chandler. (Quick side note: Dampier was immediately waived by Charlotte only to fail workouts with Miami and Houston. He eventually signed with Miami after the Heat lost their 97th big man to injury. Desperate sign? I think so.)
Adding two physical, interior 7-footers may not guarantee a title but it will at least improve Dallas’ chances against the Lakers for the Western Conference crown. Let’s be honest, you can’t win titles if you don’t have size (and LOTS of it). When you can rotate Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum at the forward and center spots, it is only logical that opposing players would struggle in the paint. So if you are going to knock the Lakers off the pedestal, you are going to have to slow down their big men. Insert Haywood, Chandler, and Nowitzki and you just may have a chance. Why else would Boston have added a 38-yr old Shaq, and an injury-prone Jermaine O’Neal?
Mark my words: The 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks can eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game playoff series. Still don’t believe me? Some quick stats on the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks:
Offense: Top 7 in rebounds, Top 3 in FG%, Top 5 in assists
Defense: Top 6 in Def PPG, Top 3 in Def FG%, and a Top 5 winning point differential.
As I mentioned, Dallas is 5th in the NBA in Assists/per game and it shows. Dirk Nowitzki is averaging his lowest shot total in nine years, Jason Kidd’s lowest shot total of his career, and nearly every other Maverick has seen their shots decrease in 2010. As mentioned in Bill Simmons “The Book of Basketball” (recommended read), a NBA team must adopt “the secret” (sacrificing stats for wins) in order to succeed in the NBA. Dallas is doing just that. Dallas has four players averaging double-figures in points, with seven players averaging better than 7.4 PPG.
But like every team, you can share the ball all you want but in the end, somebody has to pay the check. Dirk Nowitzki is more than happy to oblige. Arguably the best European-born NBA player ever, the Big German is having arguably one of the most efficient seasons of his brilliant career. His consistent 25 pts and 8 rebounds per game might seem human, but the key stat here is Dirk’s shooting percentages. 28 games into this NBA season, Dirk is shooting a career high 55% from the field (not to mention 40% from three, and 88% free throw shooting). This may come as no shock to some, but we all know Dirk is a six-footer stuck in a seven footer’s body. He doesn’t post up often, he doesn’t drive often. In fact he takes some of the toughest shots in the NBA (link). According to 82games.com, Dirk shots have been jumpers 87% of the time. Still believe he plays like a seven footer? In a league where shooting 50% is considered MVP- worthy, 55% is just inhuman. It is tough to compare this jaw-dropping statistic, but any time a jump shooter can hit 55% of his shots, (and stands 84 inches tall), that makes him nearly un-guardable.
Dallas isn’t just beating up on the weaker teams either. In this short season, Dallas has already beaten the likes of Miami (twice), Boston, San Antonio, Orlando, Utah (twice), Denver, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. Just the other night, Dallas completed the season sweep of the Miami Heat, while in the process ending the Heat’s 12-game winning streak. The Dallas “Streak-Killer” Mavericks strike again! In addition to snapping Miami’s streak, Dallas has ended New Orleans season-starting win streak of eight, Utah’s seven-game win streak, and San Antonio and Boston’s five game winning streaks.
No matter how hot a team may be, when they face Dallas, they better bring it! This Mavericks team will force you to play a tough, physical game. Yes, I mentioned tough and physical in the same sentence as the Dallas Mavericks. I WANT MY MAVS BACK! Ok, maybe not, I guess I’ll settle for a defensive-minded team (now I know how Spurs fans felt all these years.) Dallas is holding their opponents to an astounding 93.7 PPG this season (99.3 PPG in 2009) and are a whopping 18-0 when scoring 100 points or more. In fact, the Mavericks have lost all five of their games by a TOTAL of 23 points (losing by an average of only 4.6 pts if you care keeping score). Additionally, the Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of having won 16 of their past 17 games, and are showing no signs of fatigue. The D is back in Dallas! Wish I could say the same about my Cowboys.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: This is the best Dallas Mavericks team EVER!