The Mavericks keep winning, year after year
By Kelly Dwyer
If you're a bit younger - or if you're in a bit of debt and decided to fake a runaway Prius crash and boinked your head - you might not remember how bad the Dallas Mavericks used to be.
Truly, embarrassingly, bad. The Mavs were kind of good in the mid-to-late 1980s and that was about it. Otherwise, you had an expansion team that was around for about two decades. Just about every year the team came through with a miserable season.
We're in 2010, however, and the Mavs' prism has twirled a bit. On Wednesday, they won their 50th game of the season, and that's the 10th time in a row they've done that. And that's a streak worth commending.
Especially when you consider what came before it.
In early 2000, when Mark Cuban's purchase of the Mavs became official, this franchise was just about the league's worst non-Clipper laughingstock. If you don't like me qualifying that with a Clipper reference, also understand the context back in those days included a couple of Clipper playoff appearances in the 1990s while the Mavericks stayed home.
And it wasn't just consistently sub-postseason play. The Mavs threatened the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' record for futility back in 1992-93, finishing with 11 wins. The team watched as Jimmy Jackson sat out most of that season in a contract dispute, though the miserable record allowed the Mavs to draft Jamal Mashburn. A miserable record in Mash's rookie year allowed them to draft Jason Kidd(notes). And a series of player-first, coach-second moves allowed for Quinn Buckner (trying to implement a version of the triangle offense, not bad) and Dick Motta (trying to take advantage of the tiny 22-foot 3-point line ahead of his time) to be shuffled aside because the brats were panicky.
Then Jim Cleamons was hired, right out of Phil Jackson's staff, and he tried a version of the triangle as well. Chortle all you want at attempting to implement a five-man offense with Jason Kidd on the team, but the Mavs also decided to trade Kidd for Michael Finley(notes) and Sam Cassell(notes) in Cleamons' first year, a move that should have locked-in Dallas' backcourt for a decade. Of course, the biggest reason behind the deal had to do with Kidd and Jim Jackson fighting over Toni Braxton's hand, but let's not get too far into that.
Cleamons got a half season, kind of, and a few weeks with the team before Ross Perot Jr. - the team's newish owner - decided to hire Don Nelson as personnel boss. Because Nellie loves office life. And Nellie gave Cleamons a month and a half with Cassell and Finley before launching a ridiculous nine-player trade, "landing" the Mavs Shawn Bradley, Robert Pack, Ed O'Bannon and Khalid Reeves for Jackson, Cassell, Chris Gatling (an All-Star that year), Eric Montross and George McCloud.
Because Nellie really liked Bradley. And he wanted to coach again.
So Nellie spent the next 10 months jerking the Mavs around, drafting Chris Antsey and declaring him a star in the making, undermining Cleamons at every turn before shrugging his shoulders and firing him in December of 1997. Cleamons' raw deal (man, I wish I had a link for that line. RIP, OnHoops.com) was one of the initial public forays into the world of (prick)ishness that we've come to associate with Don Nelson.
So Nellie built his team around Bradley, and the team was awful. Just terrible. And it was the latest in more lottery-bound Mav-ness. Of course, this time around, Nelson took a huge chance and traded for Dirk Nowitzki(notes) with his lottery pick. Then he traded a future pick (that turned into Shawn Marion(notes)) for Steve Nash(notes), who had to deal with more trade rumors than anyone else in the league back then, save for Mitch Richmond.
And the Mavs stunk the next year, the lockout year, mainly because Dirk was too young and Nash was hurt too badly. Achilles and back issues. And Nash (hurt, still) wasn't all that great in 1999-00, when the Mavericks missed the playoffs again. The last time they missed the playoffs. With Nash struggling, the new owner (Mark Cuban) actually announced a bit of a training-camp battle for the starting spot between the future two-time MVP and Howard Eisley.
If I can pat myself on the back, I seemed to be the only guy talking up how ridiculous that was, but it's something to remember when people credit Nellie and Cuban for finding Nash in the rubble. Of course, Nash got healthy that year, Eisley was Howard Eisley, the Mavs won 53 games, made it to the second round, Steve ended up on the Letterman show before the season was through, and the streak is still rolling. Dirk's still nailing jumpers.
It's a huge accomplishment, and I don't want to hear anything about championship failure. Basketball is a matchup sport, and the Mavs got bum breaks with matchups in 2006 and 2007. That's how it goes.
But to consider a decade's worth of 50-win teams? Especially coming after a decade that saw the Mavericks - quite literally (and pro-rated, for the lockout season) -- average half as many wins per season?
This is a huge deal. And the two men who were around for it all, Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban, deserve all the credit you can toss their way.
It's still a bit odd, growing up with what I grew up with, to consider the Dallas Mavericks one of the standard-bearers for NBA excellence. But it's a well-earned honor.
Now let's see what we can do about the playoffs, mmmkay?
I found this a good read and agree that Cuban and Nowitzki should be credited with most of the success that Dallas has had the last ten years. That franchise was worse than the Warriors during the 1990s and after Cuban took over, things turned around.
I think the current Dallas team could really be a championship caliber one if healthy and clicking together, but I've noticed that Caron Butler isn't finding his comfort there, at least performance on the court. They could still be a real contender this season and maybe next season
Talk about anything general in the NBA here.
Money Morrow wrote:Chum, that sig/cartoon is hilarious!!
Haha... true. We have a contender for sig of the year already...
btw, the Mavs haven't won anything, and nothing's sure once Kidd and Dirk retire (it won't take that long) in Big D, so I don't know why this article focuses on them more than... you know, the Lakers, Jazz or even Spurs, teams that have been successful for much longer than Dallas.
TMC wrote:btw, the Mavs haven't won anything, and nothing's sure once Kidd and Dirk retire (it won't take that long) in Big D, so I don't know why this article focuses on them more than... you know, the Lakers, Jazz or even Spurs, teams that have been successful for much longer than Dallas.
That's because the Mavs were horrible for a good ten years, while those other teams you mentioned were good pretty much every year for the last twenty years or more
They build a strong team team every year, but it just isn't strong enough against the heavier weights in the West. They had that NBA title locked, but they choked up and many questionable calls went D-Wade's way. I'm still waiting on the day Nowitzki finally shows up in the playoffs. He'll disappear in big series, ala the '07 Warriors and '06 Heat series.