Calm, cool, collected. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
The Dallas Mavericks have said it before, and they'll say it until we stop asking them about it: they are a veteran team, and their only focus is winning the next game. They'll leave the fretting and overanalyzing to us, the media and fans. The players on this team are perhaps the closest any of them have ever been to winning a title, but you wouldn't know it based on how relaxed they appeared at practice Saturday. With all the hoopla that the sports world is making about the Heat, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and the unlikelihood of the Mavericks being in this position, it's easy to get swept up in the drama of it all.
You could tell that the players were tired of talking about the other team and their on-camera behavior. When asked whether or not James and Wade's supposed taunting of Dirk Nowitzki would serve as on-court motivation, Shawn Marion responded, "That's not a motivation. That's nothing. We got our own motivation." He was clearly irritated to be asked about it again. Tyson Chandler was asked if he felt the need to come to Dirk's defense, and he replied, "Right now, the focus is not on the antics that they do or anything that they do. The focus is on winning game 6. That's it. Anything else is just a story."
The REAL story, the one that the players want us to focus on, is that the Dallas Mavericks have been a consistently good team for the past eleven seasons, as their 50+ wins each year would indicate. They've worked hard day in and day out, every single game, to put themselves in the position they find themselves in this weekend. And amidst all the doubt and nay-saying, they've clawed their way to within one game of being the NBA Champions. Yes, the team they're facing happens to be the most-watched and most talked-about team of the season, and you can't ignore the quality of the Miami Heat squad. But the Mavericks stay out of their own heads, and keep reminding themselves, as Jason Kidd said, "It's just another game. You can't put more on it than just playing basketball."
Those of us who have followed faithfully through the highest of highs and the deepest of lows are placing all of our hopes and dreams on the line Sunday night. We will all be wringing our hands and pacing and yelling at the TV as we watch helplessly while our beloved team lays it all out on the court. We all kept level heads and refrained from getting too emotionally invested in this post-season, because let's face it, the past few have been less than stellar. But now, with the very thing we quietly wished for dangling right in front of our noses, it's hard not to start believing that this is our time. This is our team.
Marion, who has a tendency to be lighthearted during his interactions with the media, took on a very serious tone when asked what he thought about people questioning whether the Mavericks would ever find themselves so close to winning it all. His answer just about summed up the way we all feel about our team right now: "We know what we're capable of, and we know what's at stake here and we wouldn't be here if we didn't believe in ourselves." Mavs fans... start believing.