Getting older is such a strange process. Nothing is different, then one day you find yourself annoyed with the damned kids at the metro station and their noise making. You find you need to eat differently. You watch crime procedurals and enjoy them. You do grocery shopping before you need groceries. You need back surgery after a ruptured disc because you took a charge in a basketball game like an idiot. That last one might be just me.
Andy and I talk a great deal during the day, mainly about basketball. As we experience and consider the long drawn out process of Dirk Nowitzki's final act, it's become clear to us that our expectations as basketball fans are changing. Not just because Dirk's grown older, but because what we want and expect out of sports is different too.
I spent much of the late 2000s as a grumpy fan, unhappy that Dirk would never get his due. The 2011 title run is hard to put into words to anyone who wasn't along for the ride. We got to experience greatness for a brief moment and none of us will ever look at basketball or these Mavericks in the same way again.
And I think that's a big part of the problem. Our expectations have been so thoroughly outpaced by reality, mainly due to a nearly unprecedented historical run of 50-win seasons. Here we are, just removed from losing to those damned Spurs. How do you feel about the season? Did you enjoy the Monta experience? Are you angry that we lost in the first round? Are you happy Dallas made the Spurs fight for every win? Did you have fun?
I started and ended this season in a frustrating and sometimes sad place, personally. My day job has slowly become something I quietly dread. My wonderful dog battled brain cancer for the entire season before she finally succumbed a few weeks ago. I live in a terribly expensive city and wonder what the hell I'm working towards more often than I'd like to admit. So that last question -- "Did you have fun?" -- matters to me as I reflect upon the previous six months.
The Monta Ellis experience was nothing short of amazing. He's limited, he's small, he won't defend. But he's also relentless and fearless. After a year of watching O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison wither in pressure situations, a year of Ellis was electric.
Jose Calderon's shot is beautiful. Having full confidence that a deep three always had a chance was an exciting feeling to have as a fan. I won't love his contract later, but he was so good this year and I'm glad we had him.
Brandan Wright gave us oops upon oops. Devin Harris became the X-factor for an offense that needed him. Shawn Marion was asked to do too much and left it all out on the floor. Vince Carter played like a man possessed at age 37 and gave us one of the best playoff memories we have with his game winner over the Spurs.
They shouldn't have all worked. The team on paper looked really bad (and they were, at defense, but who cares now?). They made it all work anyway. Rainbow threes, ridiculous ally oops, old school dunks, and short armed threes (high five Matrix)...they were all present and accounted for.
We went so long without really seeing Dirk, too. He won the title at the peak of his power in 2011, then came back a different player. Out of shape due to the lockout then battle worn due to too many games in a short period of time on an old body. It felt as if the player we knew might be gone. But Dirk came back to us and for another 80-plus games we got to see the Berlin Tall do ridiculous things on a basketball court. At this point I relish every game, because this will all be over before we know it.
Somewhere along the path to greatness, it's become far more about the end goal than the journey.
I used to watch basketball hoping that Dirk would hoist a championship trophy. Now I watch because I love seeing players change and grow, because talking basketball with my friends is interesting, and because watching nearly superhuman athletes do incredible things with a bright orange ball is a great deal of fun. There's community in supporting a basketball team and there's poetry in watching a well played basketball game.
I can say without reservation that this season was a great deal of fun. This year of my life has been hard, too hard at times. But basketball gave me something to turn to and someone to root for.
So with that, I say thank you and good bye to the 2013-2014 Mavericks. We didn't end up where we wanted to go, but I think we ended up where we needed to be. Mavs Fan For Life.