As a lifelong Dallas Mavericks fan, any fear of dying without witnessing “the one” was dismissed after Dirk and company were able to upset The Big Three in 2011.
Life since that miracle season has not been easy. 2012 ended with a first-round sweeping by the Thunder, and the team failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001.
Much of this was due to Mark Cuban’s grand scheme to play moneyball and make room for runs at Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and just about any other high-dollar free agent the past two summers, some of it was due to health and a small part was just bad luck.
This season will be different, though.
While I’m a little confused as to why now is the time Cuban decides to stop hoarding cash for a top player, I’ll admit that the free agent signings made sense and the Mavs will be a very fun team to watch this season.
The big signing in question is Monta Ellis at the 2-spot. Most of the questions surrounding him are not positive.
Will he learn to work within Carlisle’s system? Why did they replace O.J. Mayo with another streaky shooter with no defensive game? How much of a green light will he get and how many bad shots will that result in? The list goes on and on.
What some may fail to realize, though, is while “Monta Ball” may be frustrating to watch, having a dynamic guard that can put numbers on the board (not matter how many shots it takes), may be what this team needs right now.Ellis just willed a bad Milwaukee team to a playoff spot averaging 19 points and 6 assists per game. Having slightly more competent players like Dirk, Marion, Carter and the newly signed Jose Calderon may bring his play-making ability up to a new level.
Speaking of Calderon, that may have been the move I most agreed with this off-season.
Is he an elite point guard? No. But is he more than capable to get the job done? An emphatic yes. While he may not be the quickest guy on the floor or toughest backcourt defender, Calderon can move the ball well and will be a great distributor for the Mavs. This alone will be a big sigh of relief when you consider how Darren Collison worked out for us last year.
Most analysts are already bringing up the Nash-Nowitzki comparison to how Calderon will play with Dirk, and for good reason. Watching the high screen plays Carlisle will no doubt draw up for them should be interesting. And, to further quote Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry as Mark Travis did in our website’s team preview, when Claderon shoots “it’s a beautiful thing,” so he can also provide another solid scoring option if needed.
Last but certainly not least is The Big German and the many scenarios playing out for him this season and beyond. While I don’t think this was the team he envisioned riding off into the sunset of his career with, I think he’ll make the most of it.
On paper, it’s a vast improvement from the last two seasons and he’ll finally have big man Samuel Dalembert to provide some of the same defensive presence in the paint Tyson Chandler provided during the 2011 championship run.
While some are claiming this year will be a return to form for Dirk, I’m not holding my breath. We’ve asked a lot of him during his 16-year career in Dallas. I’d love to see vintage Nowitzki going for 23 and 8 a night, but I know this is the time in his career when he’ll start to slow down and defer some of the load to other players.
What interests me most is his decision on where he’ll play next season.
While Cuban and most Mavs fans believe Dirk will be a Maverick for life, I believe all bets are off on a player staying with one team his entire career in this day and age after watching Paul Pierce get traded to the Nets.
Ideally, he takes less money a la Tim Duncan to make room for whatever missing piece the team discovers it needs at the end of this season. But after all he’s done for Dallas, I wouldn’t be mad if he wanted more money.
So where does this put the Mavs come April? I think it’s a safe bet to say this team is a 6-8 seed barring a breakthrough for Ellis or Dirk finding the fountain of youth.
Signing good bench guys like Devin Harris (good to see him back in a Dallas jersey), DeJuan Blair, the heat check that is Wayne Ellington and re-signing Brandon Wright for two more years will give the Mavs some much needed depth.
They also have emerging talent in Jae Crowder, Shane Larkin (whenever he finally gets to play), Ricky Ledo and Gal Mekel to keep an eye on this season.
Win or lose, this season, as I said before, should be more entertaining to watch. After a middle-of-the-road pre-season that saw not much action from the starters, I’m ready for the opening night match-up with Atlanta tomorrow to get a good look at how the puzzle comes together.
– Orlando Flores Jr.