The 2012-13 season has come to a close for the Dallas Mavericks, and it ends with them even at 41 wins and 41 losses. For the first time in a dozen years, there will be no post-season for Dallas. It will be an unwelcome change for those who have spent time within the organization, and now they await a long offseason that may bring quite a few more changes.
For many Mavs fans(the biggest being the team's owner), this season will be considered a bitter disappointment. Still, it's important to remember: there's a reason this is unfamiliar territory for Dallas, and it's because we've had the pleasure of watching one of the most consistently successful franchises in professional sports. For the generation that has known nothing but playoff appearances, you will believe me when I say there was a time called "the 90's." It was so much worse than this.
Understandably, there has been anger and frustration expressed here, and elsewhere. For a team to go from NBA champions to out of the playoffs in 24 months, you won't be blamed for your dismay at what's happened, and what the future might hold. Organizational decisions, from the loss of Tyson Chandler to the near-total absence of recent quality draft picks, are open to scrutiny, and if you wish to call into question the team's ability(or competency) to rebound, that is your right.
All I know for certain is that it has been an incredible ride the last decade and change. And it didn't happen completely by accident. For all the prodigious skill of Dirk Nowitzki, a superstar alone is not a recipe for continued playoff appearances(just ask Kevin Garnett). It took a bit more than that. It took a few right moves, and a few lucky ones, and a stubborn, jealous determination from an owner who spent whatever it took to win. Call me foolish, but I'll be telling myself that as we enter the second summer of uncertainty, looking for the man who might take the baton from Dirk.
Anyway, if you place value on such things, Dallas ended this season on a good note, beating the Pelicans(better get my practice in on saying that) comfortably. New Orleans was without both their prized rookies, Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, as well as noted Mav-killer Greivis Vasquez. Al Farouq Aminu would try his best to pick up the slack, recording 16 points and 20 rebounds, while Eric Gordon struggled terribly with his outside shot. It's funny in games like this when Dallas plays a team so much worse, yet there are so many players on that team I'd really like to have.
For Dallas, free agent to be Darren Collison made one last pitch to get paid with one of his best games of the year, a 25 point effort on 10-15 shooting with zero turnovers. Speaking of zero turnovers, Dallas went the entire first half with that number, yet somehow only scored 47 points.
Both teams started the game in sloppy fashion, with Dallas missing shots and the Hornets making bad passes. At game number 82 you wonder how much gas these guys could possibly have left in the tank, and the fatigue showed with a slow-paced affair that saw a lot of wide open, uncontested shots missed.
In the second, Darren Collison would start to get it going, with eight points coming on blindingly quick forays to the hoop for layups. Gradually, the lead would be built to nine, and this would be the cushion separating the teams for nearly the entire game. Dallas would flirt with breaking the game open in the third, but the Hornets kept it from becoming embarrassing by controlling the offensive glass. They would finish the night would 25 offensive rebounds, and 58-37 advantage on the glass overall.
The third period would be highlighted by a terrific buzzer-beating fadeaway from Dirk Nowitzki, providing the last great moment of the season, as he spun and faded for an unblockable jumper over the helpless Luis Admundson. Dirk finished with a solid line of 16 points on 15 shots, with 9 boards, 4 assists and 0 turnovers. He ends the season with his lowest point-per-game average since he was a 20-year old rookie.
The fourth quarter belonged to Collison, who scored 10 of his 25, including eight in a row, and helped build the Dallas lead briefly to as large as 20, though New Orleans would keep their starters in to make the final score more respectable. Dallas veterans Vince Carter and Shawn Marion exited to loud ovations, while Dirk waited for them on the bench, his night done early.
O.J. Mayo, in the followup game to his bench-worthy performance against Memphis, scored 5 points on 6 shots, with 3 turnovers and as many assists. With Collison padding his numbers tonight, does anyone else think we might look back on these two in a few weeks time and wonder "wait, which guy lost his starting job again?" Collison is going to finish the year with a better PER, a better true shooting percentage, better offensive rating, and more win shares...yet it's likely that Mayo will be the one getting the bigger payday. I don't really mean to pile on O.J. as much as point out a possible inconsistency in our perception of Collison, who, if he has played his last game as a Mav, should be remembered for games like this, when he could really take over with his speed and aggression.
So, this is the way the season ends. Not with a bang, like last year's barrage of crushing defeats to Oklahoma City, but with a whimper.
And now comes the exciting, scary, hopeful, totally nerve-wracking part. The offseason.