Even veteran teams never stop learning lessons.
In what I am deeming as divine action rather than a simple coincidence, the pilot episode of FX’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’ appeared on my DVR the night before the Dallas Mavericks would see their season come to a crashing end by losing Game Four against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Allow me to explain.
In the first scene of that pilot episode, Sons of Anarchy main characters Jax Teller and Clay Morrow are in a discussion on how to “clean up” an accident that took place in the town their Motorcycle Club essentially runs. During that chat, the following interaction takes place:
Teller: “It ain’t easy being king.”
Morrow: “You remember that.”
During the 2012 NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks found out exactly how difficult it is to be “king.” After going through everything they had throughout their careers, long-in-the-tooth NBA veterans Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion had supposedly finally seen it all by winning their first championship last season.
Apparently, there was still one more lesson the basketball Gods had in store for them: “It ain’t easy being king.”
That wasn’t quite how the organization pictured it. Though it shouldn’t be used as a complete scapegoat for the season, the biggest cloud of negativity hanging over this disastrous year was caused by everything Lamar Odom did, or didn’t do, during his time in Dallas. Though no Mavericks still on the roster from 2011 had any experience in defending a championship, Odom did. Twice. He had experienced both successfully and unsuccessfully defending a championship and was supposed to be a source for the Mavericks to go to in order to know if they were on the right track throughout the season, all while utilizing his unique skill-set.
Instead, the Odom experiment went about as poorly as it could. Amongst the many things that took a negative turn this season, the failure of the Odom experiment was an absolute catastrophe.
Needless to say, the season didn’t exactly go how the Dallas Mavericks had hoped. A massive roster shake up is one thing, but dealing with it during a year in which a championship is to be defended slowly became unacceptable for most Mavs watchers. It’s easy to overreact now, but hold out judgment on the decision to jettison players from the championship team. Time and what the Mavericks’ front office does with the additional salary cap room will ultimately tell us if it was the right or wrong call. Still, winning is expected in Dallas now and things turned sour for the fans as it became more and more clear that 2012 wouldn’t end that way.
That was the case for Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle as well.
“As great as the championship run was, there always comes a time when you have to look forward,” Carlisle said. “That’s where things are at now.”
Expectations are built when championships are won. Though it can be debated whether or not Carlisle, Nowitzki, and the rest were given a fair shake to mount their defense, a team must face the music upon failing to meet those newfound expectations. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder made sure to promptly haul through Maverick expectations like I used to speed through the middle school parking lot next to my high school (before the speed bumps). As is the case when the Nowitzki-era Mavericks fall short in the postseason, there is now a ton of second guessing and additional questions that need answering.
Will Deron Williams sign with the Mavericks, as essentially promised by the Mavs when dismissing much of the 2011 roster? What is going to happen with Terry and Kidd? Will the amnesty be utilized? If it is, will it be used on Marion, Brendan Haywood, or another? Will Rick Carlisle be back? What is ‘Plan B’ and ‘Plan C’ if Williams opts for another NBA route?
There aren’t answers to any of those questions right now, but there soon will be as the playoffs end and the offseason progresses. One thing the Mavs won’t have to worry about, however, is repeating. That burden will fall on someone else, perhaps even on the same Thunder who kicked the Mavs so easily to the curb. Then it will be their turn to learn the lesson the Mavericks now know.
It’s not so easy living large the top.