Mavericks Still Have Plenty To Learn

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.

Was Letting Chandler Walk The Right Move?

Tyson Chandler will be named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this afternoon. Remember him? You may have a faint recollection of the man who became the defensive anchor for the Dallas Mavericks last season as they won their first ever championship.

Much has happened in Mavs Land since that title was on and alas, Tyson Chandler eventually went on to free agency and fell to the New York Knicks. The Knicks are the team for which Chandler is winning the award for today, not the Mavericks. That’s an obvious fact, but also a painful reality for many who wanted Chandler to be a Maverick for life.

Chandler receiving the award today has thrown gasoline on the fiery debate of whether or not the Mavs should have brought the center back with a ‘do what it takes’ attitude, but it’s important to understand the reasoning and line of thinking the Mavericks used when making that decision.

With the Mavericks down 0-2 right now in the First Round of the playoffs to the Oklahoma City Thunder, panic clouds over the future of the franchise are settling over Dallas. Hindsight cries about how the Mavs should have re-signed the center are a half-panic, half-uninformed opinion. Taking the broad approach of looking beyond the current playoffs situation, the Mavericks made the decision to let Tyson Chandler walk away for reasons beyond today, tomorrow, and even a few years down the road.

If the Mavericks had signed Chandler to the four-year and $58 million contract that the Knicks offered him, the future of the franchise would have been locked-in without any room to maneuver, while also placing the Mavs into deep luxury tax territory. The new agreed upon CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) places a much harsher penalty on teams who pay luxury tax, so the Mavericks would have been committed to an aging, offensively limited player who handcuffed moves in the future and they would have been paying ungodly amounts of money in order to do it.

The Mavericks know what Tyson Chandler is capable of as a player and they never for a minute believed he wasn’t capable of winning the Defensive Player of the Year award, but they simply didn’t believe an investment of around $14 million a year for an older, injury-prone center was worth it.

Sure, Chandler could eventually prove that the Mavericks made the wrong decision, but that can only be done over time. What Chandler did this year or any awards he receives today are irrelevant as the Mavs’ front office always believed he was capable of this, just not long term. Before rushing to a judgment that is formed in an instant, monitor the next few years and watch what the Mavericks do with their additional financial flexibility, the kind of success they have, how productive Tyson Chandler is as he ages into his current contract, and how the Knicks fare with his albatross of a contract.

Only then can the decision of the Mavericks be fairly ruled upon.

Podcast: 2012 NBA Playoffs Preview

After nearly a year, the Hoops Addict Podcast is back on a regular basis. I’ve linked up with Mark Cheel with the intention of bringing back the Podcast on a weekly basis and we started with a preview of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

Mark and I break down why Atlanta can give Boston a scare, we debate if Utah’s frontcourt can muscle San Antonio out of the playoffs, we lament that the Clippers lack of a strong coach will result in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul not lasting as long as they should in the playoffs as well as the rest of the first round match-ups.

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Here’s the MP3 of the Podcast if you want to download it.

Mavs Continue To Search For Answers

There’s no way around it.

The last ten games, which have seen the Mavs go 2-8, have been absolutely abysmal. The Mavs’ execution, effort, and basic desire to play quality basketball weren’t at the level needed in order to compete for a championship. Whether it was due to injuries or contract uncertainty beyond this year, the Mavericks have simply lost too many games against teams they should easily handle nightly. You can analyze or go into the stats and dig around all you want to try and find why the Mavericks have underachieved so much after the All Star break, but the answer is simple: lack of effort.

The world is well aware what this roster can accomplish when locked in, but they haven’t been in a while. Mavs Guard Jason Terry acknowledged the problem last week.

“We’re not a team out there right now,” Terry admitted. “It shows, so until we become a team and play together on both ends of the court we’re not going to be very good.”

Terry, the most vocal during the Mavericks’ recent stretch, has the most to be emotional about with the Mavs’ front office not addressing his contract status until the trade deadline and offseason free agency play out in full. Business is business in the NBA, but you can’t help but feel for guys like Terry and Shawn Marion who could very possibly go from key pieces on an NBA champion to roster flotsam in a year’s time.

Still, the Mavericks needed to regroup at home after capping their ‘nine games in twelve nights’ disaster with losses to Phoenix, Sacramento, and Golden State in consecutive nights. One would think the best way for the defending champions to get back on the winning track is to catch the 9-31 Washington Wizards at the American Airlines Center, but it’s tough to tell the way the Mavericks have played lately.

The good news for the Mavericks was the return of big men Brandan Wright and Brendan Haywood would provide some depth and inside presence that was missing during the west coast trip of death. A near perfect first half by Dirk Nowitzki set the tone as the Uberman dropped 20 points in the first two frames.

Despite letting the Wizards get to the line 38 times, the combined efforts of Nowitzki (finished with 27 points), Jason Terry (24 points), and Roddy Beaubois (19 points) led the Mavs to a spirited 107-98 win that hopefully left much of the last few weeks in the rearview mirror.

But was it enough? Obviously the win is passable for one night, but is the energy from tonight against a low-end team in the league a sign of the Mavericks rolling or are there still poor, effortless performances left in this team’s character?

Which Mavericks team are we going to see for the rest of the year?

Maybe the passing of the trade deadline on Thursday will put some of the uncertainty to rest, but the reality for the Mavericks is that most of the change, if there is any, is due to take place this summer and fall. Nothing will be settled on this roster until then, so it’s up to the strength in the Kidd-Dirk-Carlisle locker room to hold together this foundation for at least another year.

For now, wins against teams like Washington are just a small step in the right direction for what will be a tough road to redeem this season.