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After another devastating loss, the Dallas Mavericks are now closer to being last in the Western Conference than to being the last seed in the playoffs. Is it time to push the eject button?
Mark Cuban woke up this morning finding his team at 20-28, and a full six games behind Houston for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. Worst yet, the arrow once again points decisively down. After a four game winning streak last month gave us a glimmer of hope with a little less than a month left prior to the All Star Break, our Mavs have lost five of eight, including three of their last four. Chances are it gets worse, not better.
Punctuating the latest disappointment in a season full of them was Monday night's demolishing at the hands of former rival/current answer to Pedro Martinez's infamous "who's your daddy" question, the Oklahoma City Thunder. One game is just one game, but I can't shake the feeling that that night perfectly delineated the gulf in talent and circumstance between Dallas and a legitimate contender like OKC. Dallas isn't right there. They are far, far away.
So another game lost. Another chance at narrowing the playoff gap gone. Another major dent in our emotional fan-armor. The time is fast approaching when we might just have to face the fact that this season simply isn't going to work out the way we thought/hoped. This needs to change the discussion on a few things.
For example, on Samuel Dalembert, who put up 35-12 last night and not coincidentally is being shopped extra hard now by Milwaukee: I think two or three weeks ago that's a great trade, but how much sense does it make now? Dalembert turns 32 in May, is expiring, and may not be good enough to turn this whole thing around. Getting him is a buyers move, not a sellers move, and with each passing day it gets harder to put Dallas in the former category. The same would be true of Calderon if he hadn't already been traded, and again, if those moves were going to happen they would have ideally happened a long time ago.
If and when the front office decides the season is lost, there can be no excuse for not selling off at least a few of the many expiring pieces on the team. Elton Brand cannot be traded because he was claimed via amnesty, but Chris Kaman, Rodrigue Beaubois, Brandan Wright, Dahntay Jones could all be shipped out, as well as a cheap contract like Vince Carter, or a restricted free agent like starter Darren Collison, if the right deal presented itself. Even if we're talking about second round draft picks(not for Collison, of course), I'm fine with that. Consider the case of Chase(Budinger): acquired with a second round pick by Houston, three non-All star years later traded for the 18th pick.
It is conceivable that the only reason a lot of those guys haven't been traded already is because Cuban, Nelson and co. want to keep as many bullets in the gun for "the big fish" trade; the blockbuster that brings Dallas a superstar or potential superstar, putting them right back in next year's contender group. The names most commonly discussed include Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Smith. With the possible exception of Gasol, I think that kind of trade scenario occurring in-season is pretty unlikely. Very unlikely, actually.
In my view, the most likely way Dallas makes the big trade is by getting a high pick and trading it for the big fish in the offseason. It might not be the best example, but the first one that comes to mind is when the Clippers traded Tyson Chandler for then-22 year old Elton Brand. Of course, this would require Dallas to keep losing, thus giving them a better shot at a draft pick and a better trade chip for the aforementioned big fish. I won't say the dreaded "T word", but trading Kaman and/or others should help keep the losses coming. Sorry if this makes you a bit queasy.
All the arguments that say Dallas should stay in the fight are evaporating. I know I've seen and heard put out there the idea that, should Dallas wish to lure a big time free agent, a winning record and/or playoff appearance would be needed, to show that theoretical player the team was worth joining. Well, at this point, it's becoming unlikely that Dallas can attain any kind of impressive record. Instead, you're getting to the point where any "positive" steps as it relates to the team's win column are in fact negative ones, as you are simply hopping on what Mike Fisher calls "The Treadmill of Mediocrity".
Being a 38-42 win team serves no purpose. None. Those who know me know I try to stay away from absolutes, but I submit to you that if Dallas ends their year with a win total in that range, it will represent a massive failure in the management of their current and potential future assets. To go a little further, I would say that even being a 35, 34, 33 win team is pretty lousy. If Dallas gets to a stage where it knows they just flat out aren't making the postseason, I hope it becomes the Jared Cunningham show, the Bernard James show, whatever. Lose, even knowing that losses don't directly translate to better picks, and that this draft may not be a great one. Lose, because there won't be a benefit to the alternative, unless you think PR trumps all. Hurting Dirk's feelings is a risk worth taking(and unlike 95% of athletes out there I think Dirk is smart enough to understand and not have his feelings hurt). Hurting the fans feelings is a risk worth taking.
I understand that the idea of trying to lose is upsetting. That the idea of relying on making a miraculous trade is disconcerting. That the idea of relying on Donnie drafting somebody great is terrifying. Like it or not, though, this team is headed toward the cliff, going fast, and unless they can slam on the brakes soon and start a long win streak, they're going over the edge eventually. I can only hope the team is ready for it. Are you?