58-24 (Tom), 62-20 (Gil), 59-23 (Justin Ozuna)
Last Year’s Record
Devin Harris enters 2007-2008 with a lot of money in the bank and just having had his ass kicked by a fat cripple (Baron Davis in last yearâ€˜s playoffs). Trust someone who knows: this is no worse way to enter into any extended work assignment. This has to be doubly true for one where your team has been exposed but everyone still hates your owner and coach enough to continue kicking you in the balls until you fall over weeping. Harris is sort of like Vern Fleming with greater foot speed, which underlines the problem that this Dallas squad seems like it was built for the express purposes of exploiting the weaknesses of the 1995 Houston Rockets.
Still, they’ll play some defense, and win some ball games. But a full year is a long time to wait before you get any return satisfaction from last year’s early exit, and nothing about this team seems mentally tough enough to make it that far with that much psychic weight pressing against them. I’d have to check the final roster photos to be certain, but I believe the addition of Eddie Jones may have made this team the league’s least handsome.
Justin Ozuna’s Commentary
Following the Mavs first round meltdown to the eighth seeded Golden State Warriors in last year’s NBA playoffs, owner Mark Cuban decided to take matters into his own hands. No, he didn’t go out and pursue Minnesota’s disgruntled low-post scoring big man Kevin Garnett. Cuban instead went after former Australian Amateur Ballroom and Latin champion Kym Johnson, and got her. Winning a championship on Dancing with the Stars might prove to be a little less difficult than watching a huge head (Baron Davis) score from every angle of the court and a futile fauxhawk (Matt Barnes) nabbing every rebound Dennis Rodman left the generation behind him.
Hoping to put a little Samba into their championship aspirations this year, the Mavs organization collectively decided that the Texas Two Step was only good enough to finish with the best record in the league, nothing more. Now it’s up to the Lil’ General to rally his troops and get them to the next level.
This year the Mavs will try to overcome their psychological fiasco with the same core group of players that they had when they faced a Golden State team — coached by Mavs former coach Don Nelson — that exploited every weakness that a team with the best record in the league could ever possess. The roster alterations were cosmetic to say the least, as the Mavs added veteran swingman and former All-Star Eddie Jones, Trenton Hassell, and Brandon Bass. It’s also important to note that Erick Dampier ordered a shinier head wax in an effort to dominate the paint on defense and throw softer hook shots into the glass on offense. To be competitive, Sagana Diop is now so dark that nobody can see him. That should bode well for the Mavericks weakness in the middle.
Barring an unusual blockbuster trade involving a superstar with the first name Kobe, last name “eighty one”, the Mavs have made the decision to challenge themselves from within. The good news is that Dallas has already experienced the worst of two situations: losing to an inferior team after being ahead in the NBA Finals two years ago, and losing to an eighth seed in the first round of the playoffs this past year. The other good news is that Dr. Phil is from Texas and probably gives hometown rates.
For the Mavs to be successful, the team needs to see growth from a young Devin Harris. He needs to be able to manage the game and be a lot more effective with dribble penetration to the basket. The Mavericks offense hasn’t had anyone who can legitimately create opportunities for Dirk since the days of Steve Nash and that’s necessary if they’re goal is to stretch their prominent regular season record into the summer. Nowitzki didn’t come into the league with instructions on how to stop him, but Nellie provided the blueprint to reducing Dirk’s skill to above average. Of course, I’m sure Dirk wouldn’t mind if Josh Howard decided to take the next step and become an All-Star either. I’m sure he’d also be an advocate of Dampier and Diop providing significantly more than 2.2 points per game and the Capri-Suns they hand out to the players afterwards.
A lot is expected of the Lil’ General this year. Just look at how restless Cuban is getting; cutting off his sleeves and dancing on t.v., riding the metal bleachers alongside the Wrigley faithful, and heading a mixed martial arts league (HDnet Fights) to counter the Ultimate Fighting Championship. However, if there was anyone on this planet to get over the hump, it would certainly be the locally iconic caricature named Avery Johnson.
Rejoinder From Gil
Contra Tom, the Memphis Grizzlies are the least handsome.
Gratuitous Comics Connection
Dallas was one of the five most important places for comics fandom in the 1970s, and was a mainstay location for early comics cons.
Gratuitous Pharma Connection
The Partnerships with CROs conference was held in Dallas a few years ago. Sam Ricchezza and I took the opportunity to see a Mavs game while we were there.
The Bottom Line
I don’t know how this team will get over the disaster of the last two playoffs. Folding in the finals was bad enough, but getting run out by your former coach after you posted a 67-win season? It’s enough to make your owner lose his mind and take up ballroom dance. –GR