Since that's all the rage now, may as well chip in.
Just like everyone else, I was sick in the stomach by the end of the game. I couldn't eat lunch afterwards - a not so calculated decision since I wasn't able to eat for another six hours after that, only compounded by having eaten breakfast at seven in the morning.
But anyway, by the last minute (and even before that, when the Spurs countered any moves the Mavs made, just like they'd done all series), I was resigned to the fact it was over. Another season lived through, another playoffs exit. Time to wait til November - but did I really want to? That thought had never existed in my mind until this particular series loss.
It's difficult to say - it seems like each year, there's always been something to look forward to next season, or something to take (little) consolation from. During the Nellie years, there was always the thought that the team would keep moving up as they earned more playoff experience - Dirk was only in his mid-twenties at the time, and he had experienced guns in Nash and Finley and a revolving door of talented support players, the team was an offense machine and had scraped together enough D to ensure they could outscore even the best offense-defense teams. Even after a horrifically disappointing 2003-2004 season, there was solace in having a franchise player in his prime, 26 years of age and with talent surrounding him. Looking at what happened in 06 - the Mavs were two games and some dodgy officiating away from that championship - on paper, they absolutely had the ability to come back and win properly in 07. Even after that upset, the lack of turnover on a 67-win team, assisted by a lack of real improvement from any other team outside of Boston meant the Mavs still were contenders in 07-08: tipped by most to finish 1st-3rd in a pack with San Antonio and Phoenix. The reasons after that were less obvious and more a matter of subjectivity and objectivity; the implementation of a better-fit up-tempo offense in 08.
After the series loss to the Nuggets last year, the causes for optimism was an interesting case. Clearly, the team wasn't good enough - mostly defensively, something either Wes or possibly TTMG lambasted, and somehow, the mood was more positive because of that. This was a team that for all intents and purposes, had done as much as they could without the intervention of a particular luck (Carmelo's game-winning three says hi). Talk was inspired of the Mavs moving up in the draft, using Josh Howard as a trade piece, to get someone for the future. Possibly Rubio - of course, Roddy B was the best possible consolation prize. The sign-and-trade for Shawn Marion, giving up little in return - hope-giver. Of course, everyone knew even back then, that Marion wasn't the same guy. But that's what sports fans do: they try and convince themselves that the moves their team makes ARE going to improve the team.
Which of course brings us to this coming off-season, and surely everything looks worse off than they were last season. More insecurities. This team was better than the 09 version, for sure, and instead of transferring that increased talent to a deeper trek in the playoffs, they saw their "best road team in the league" tag abandon them when they needed it the most, losing all three in San Antonio just like they had lost all three in Denver, all three in New Orleans, all three in Golden State and all three in Miami. Technically, this team never really got integrated - Bill Simmons is reasonably correct to assert that replacing 40% of one's crunch-time five in February is never palatable. A full season of this starting five (providing Haywood stays) and Roddy B in the rotation, playing at the end of games could mean this team is much more acclimated to the idea of high-intensity playoffs basketball this time next year.
But of course you never rely on that hope - especially when your franchise man in on the wrong side of 30 and your starting point guard, your linchpin, is closer to 40 than 30, and you don't know how much he has left. You don't want to wait all season just for a chance to see if this same team, this team which once again got bounced out early, has changed their skin. You want to get out there and fill that "maybe" hole, fill it with the guy you know will bring things home.
Which leads to the summer of 2010 and LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amare and Boozer. Those are the big six fish -inserts fart joke here-. The DAMP chip article at DB.com caused a ton of fervent uproar across the Mavs interweb but in practice, it's hard to see such an asset resulting in anything more than a mid-level guy. If we're assuming the Mavs resign Haywood, that probably takes Bosh ("not all that enthused by playing in my home city"), Amare ("I might stop playing D once I get paid") and Boozer ("I can't rebound or block shots like a forward should") off the table.
Wade, JJ and LeBron have been discussed here since the elimination, but I think we've all come to the conclusion that the chances of getting one of them is almost none, and it'd cost a combination of 2012 and 2014 first rounders, Roddy B and Caron Butler.
And the the other thing, since I hear all this pizzazz about Dirk "considering his options". Obviously he wants his ring and he'd probably be willing to take that big paycut. Except where does he go? I suppose he could go to Chicago, but they might be eyeing Wade, LeBron or Bosh first and foremost to put with Noah and Rose. New York? Something tells me they're all about LeBron, and why would Dirk downgrade his supporting cast anyway? I think Dirk's staying with what he's got - I don't know if he's quite John Stockton loyal, but he's definitely no Karl Malone. The Mavs could explore trade options with him (Portland?) but I don't think Donnie or Mark would explore that avenue unless things come to a serious head.
I could see some other desperation, knee-jerk moves coming up in the offseason if none of those big-name FAs pan out (something which appears 99.8% likely). Ray Allen could be available at the MLE to work as an off-the-ball guy as the best pure shooter since Nash (hopefully, at least, considering his age), knocking down whatever Kidd gets him and whenever a team tries to double Dirk, while also shunting one of Butler or Marion to the bench to either bring instant offense or a perimeter guardian. They could trade Jason Terry for a bowling ball or two - obviously Dirk's a golfer. Even so, with 2 years at +10M left on his contract for a combo guard with a streaky shot and limited defensive ability, I don't think many would take that, unless they like the 2012 FA class. They could work out something crazy with the DUST chip, like sending him in a package to Milwaukee for Redd+a mid-first rounder. Okay - that's not all the smart for the Bucks, unless they really like cap space, even if they do want to build around Jennings and Bogut, but just throwing it out there.
I don't think there's much to deconstruct of the current roster. Terry is what he is - a streaky scorer off the bench who doesn't find his spots like he used to, is becoming increasingly exploited on D and hasn't shown up in the playoffs for two seasons. He'll be eternally remembered as the guy who put up John Starks numbers in Game 6 of the FInals. There's a solid probabilty that Butler isn't even the 06 or 07 Josh Howard: he's a feast-or-famine scorer who doesn't consistently put up the 16 points on 12 shots per night you need paired up with Dirk. In regards to Rick Carlisle, I still have a sliver of faith in him. Outside of his rotations, he's a fine coach in terms of making adjustments and running plays. If he lives up to what he says about Roddy and lets him play during the preseason (and throughout the season) at point to work on running the offense and defending the pick-and-roll, I don't see a better option. Jeff Van Gundy? Doug Collins? Lol.
Which leads back to what I was meant to say (before going off on a massive tangent). We all have reasons why we pick the teams we root for. And you always aim for and hope they win that championship. I haven't experienced that since I was a kid, when the Stars won that Stanley Cup, and even then, I was too young to experience the real euphoria I'd feel if it happened now. And even with every gut-crushing defeat, there's always a reason to return the next season to support that team, cos that's sports fandom. Well, maybe if Donald Sterling or Chris Cohan bought the team...