Success Happens Here (via lee★fly)
I started casually watching the Mavericks after the lockout in 1998; I have a vague memory of part of introductory press conference with Nash and Dirk and that utterly fantastic blond hair (don't judge us children, had you been a guy in the late 90's/early 2000's you would have made the blond mistake at least once). The next memory that stands out is Calvin Booth hitting an awkward game winner to put the Mavs over the Jazz in the first round of the 2001 playoffs, the first such franchise trip to the playoffs in 13 years. Dallas has made the playoffs every year since (12 straight) and in that time we've been able to watch some truly fantastic basketball.
The first few years included the "Big 3" of Nash, Dirk, and Finley (Finley played an astonishing 42.1 mpg and all 172 games in the '99-'00 and '00-'01 seasons) with brief appearances by Nick Van Exel (oh those free throws), Raef LaFrentz, and even a season of Antawn Jamison. Those were exciting teams during a powerhouse of Western conference talent. Does anyone remember the 83 point half against Sacramento in the semi finals in 2003?
While letting Nash walk in 2004 was a painful fan experience on many levels (Hi Erick Dampier!), those next few seasons were exciting, as the Mavericks were a unique blend of veteran savvy and youthful talent. Though Devin Harris and Josh Howard struggled after leaving Dallas, those two were truly a joy to watch their first few years with the team. At the time of his signing, the Jason Terry Experiment was terrifying, at least to me, but he became an all time fan favorite. Though the 2006 team might be remembered for the finals loss against the Heat, the Spurs-Mavericks conference finals was among the best series I've ever seen.
The 2007 team was a juggernaut without a fifth gear and some horrible playoff luck, the 2008 and 2009 teams were solid but mostly forgettable when considering the teams recent success. 2008 was notable for the acquisition of Jason Kidd and departure of Avery Johnson, 2009 for the frustrating playoff losses against the Denver Nuggets. The 2010 team was a bit of a transition year, but one that ended on a hopeful note. The offseason saw Jason Kidd sign a contract extention and the team picked up Shawn Marion to a multi-year deal. Before the trade deadline the team also picked up Butler, Stevenson, and Haywood. The 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks started the year flipping Dampier for Chandler and the rest is well visited history. Last year was a let down to some extent but we must have some perspective; the pieces were there, rather father time, some bad luck, and Lamar Odom forgetting how to play basketball all happened at once.
So where do we go from here? What are our expectations as fans? Personally, I'm delighted they put together a watchable team. I had mixed feelings on the draft (I like Crowder and Bernard James much more than I do Jared Cunningham). With Williams signing in New Jersey, Kidd backing out of a handshake agreement to sign with the Knicks, and management letting Terry walk was... upsetting to say the least. Like many of you I believe in spreading the good news and Dirk to the uninitiated and to see him and Shawn Marion left with so little to work with, I was actually considering not buying NBA League Pass.
Donnie Nelson rebounded and put together a team capable of... well just about anything. Mayo, Collison, Kaman, Crowder, Brand... its certainly going to be different. I certainly don't think its a championship caliber team. But I also don't think the team is going to fall outside the top 8 in the Western conference unless they get bit by the injury bug or if the players have no chemistry. After last season's debacle with Odom, I have a feeling training camp has had an emphasis on chemistry and teamwork. It's what lead the team to the title in 2011 (well teamwork, Tyson being an all-world defender, and Dirk being a basketball god).
So how will I measure success this year? A competitive team that plays hard and has some exciting games. I'd love to see them make the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year as well, but with a challenging Western Conference, nothing is given. I want to see Dirk continue to thrive and I look forward to him showing how good he is with yet another cast of teammates. I want to see growth from Jae Crowder, Bernard James, and Cunningham if he can ever get on the floor. It will be a successful season in my book if I can look back at the year and say I enjoyed watching the team play.
Where do you stand? What do you want to see out of the team? How will you measure success this season?