Times Are Changing, Ready or Not

May 3, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd (2) fires up his team before game three in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the American Airlines Center. The Thunder defeated the Mavericks 95-79. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

I never let myself seriously think Deron would sign with Dallas. I was excited, hopeful. The Mavericks had a compelling case, and as much as I got behind it thinking it might just be enough, I had this sinking feeling that it was all too good to be true. In the end, never underestimate the money. Never underestimate the familiarity of a team. I knew the strong possibility of Deron Williams signing, but I just could never accept as it as really happening. When he chose Brooklyn, it wasn't the complete disaster many people saw it as. It was the inevitable.

What I never expected, though, was complete lack of a backup plan. The Mavericks lost out on the Deron sweepstakes, just barely. As many people kept repeating, it was not the end of the world. There were plenty other free agents which could be acquired cheaper. All the Mavericks had to do was find the right mix of players to put out on the court with Dirk, and it would work out. That's what happened in 2011 -- the core was the same, but the Mavericks finally figured out the right mix of supporting players.

But then, it's reported Nash is off to LA. Dragic is resigning with Phoenix. Any offer to Lin would be matched. Brandon Roy, a dude who doesn't even have knees, spurned the Mavericks to go to Minnesota. Even Jason Kidd thought better of his commitment to the Mavericks and bailed. Missing out on Deron was a big blow, but it was not crippling. All these other misses is what has accumulated to be the kill shot. Even if Donnie wanted to spend money now, whose left to spend it on? Brian Scalabrine?

See, you have to understand where I'm coming from. I don't expect people to keep up with who I am, so here's my brief story. I'm just 18, still a month away from starting college. My sports awareness manifested itself around 2007, as I hit seventh grade. Living in Dallas, my awkward middle school self naturally became a Mavericks guy, as well as a Rangers and Cowboys fan (the Stars didn't have the same appeal, though I'm working on that).

What does this all matter? I've been through a wide array of sports situations. Allow me to briefly depart from the Mavericks, here. I promise it will be a quick trip. As a Cowboys fan, one of my earliest memories is the Tony Romo botched snap in the playoffs in 2007. There were some up and down years, ranging from a 13-3 Division Title to 6-10 campaign, featuring the Jason Garrett take-over. But even when they lost ten games, the Cowboys picked up good players from the draft, kept some core pieces, and this is a good enough team with enough exciting young players that it's easy to be optimistic headed into the next season. They've got talent, and so why wouldn't this be the year that it all clicks?

When I first started watching the Rangers, they were pretty terrible. They were also incredibly young, and as I read online and listened to the radio, I learned that the Texas minor league prospects were considered some of the best in the league. Sure enough, one by one, these huge prospects began to reach the major leagues and produce for my team. Back-to-back World Series appearances and one of the best records in baseball this season, and how can you not be proud to be a Ranger fan?

If you don't follow either of those teams or sports and just skimmed through all that, here's my point: I've never had a reason to be anything but optimistic and hyped for an oncoming season. Each following season always had promise to be better than the last.

I'm afraid that's gonna change coming up here when the NBA starts back up at the end of the year.

That's saying something. The first games I ever really remember watching was the 2008 series against the Hornets, the year they thought about being good until remembering who they were. Pretty dismal failure right after the Jason Kidd trade had occurred mid-season. The next couple years, the Mavericks did not exactly fill it up with overwhelming playoff success. We all know and will never forget what happened in 2011, and we all know and would like to forget what happened here in 2012, both regular and post season.

But at least in all those years, the Mavericks reached the playoffs in everyone of them. Once you're in, nobody knows what's going to happen. Maybe Jason Kidd will get hot and drain three after three against the Blazers. Maybe an old Euro player will go 6/6 on three pointers in a clinching Game 4 against the defending champs. Some little Puerto Rican point guard who doesn't even look like an NBA player could move into the starting lineup and shred the Miami Heat defense. Have the right mix at the right time, all tied together with one of the best players to ever grace the game with his presence, and anything could happen.

Anything could happen...if you make the playoffs. It's only July, and I don't see how it happens for the Dallas Mavericks this year. Nobody does.

I don't know how to handle this. I could take an optimistic approach, look forwards a couple of years, and tell you how using cap space and developing young players the Mavericks can reload around Dirk for one more run. A nice scathing column about how Cuban and Donnie have no clue what they're doing would probably get a lot of comments from people venting about the same thing. There's plenty of different viewpoints I could take on this mess of an offseason.

But all I keep telling myself is that there has to be some way for Mavericks to scrap together a team, squeak their way to fifty wins, and at least steal a seventh or eight seed. I'm not so delusional that I expect them to make a run all the way to the Finals again, but I just can't see the Mavericks missing the playoffs, because I haven't ever seen the Mavericks miss the playoffs.

I'm excited for the new season, because I love Dallas basketball. I'm excited to watch the young kids we have on the roster, who should finally get consistent roles on this team when winning games becomes less of a priority. I think Roddy could finally figure it out, I'm real interested in seeing what Cunningham can bring to the table, and it will be intriguing to see if Wright can take a step forwards after a breakout 2012 year. And of course, it will be an honor to watch Dirk play for the Mavericks another year.

But it's not going to be a pretty season. To anyone out there who isn't sure how they can bear watching Dallas struggle through this season, I'm with you. I'm sure there will be times where all that can be done is to grit your teeth and bear through it. I don't know how, and I wish I never had to learn. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

The Mavericks will get through this. They've established a winning mentality for this team, in this city, at this stadium. They will rebound and make things right, without a doubt in my mind. I don't know how long that is going to be, though. Let's pray it's sooner rather than later.

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