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On the Murky Future

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              In 2006, it wasn’t exactly like we all felt we missed our chance, I think. It’s that we felt it was missed for us, that it would have been ours under any normal circumstances. That's what made it so hard.

             That’s also part of what made 2011 so memorable for me. After ’07, and ’08, after the Pau Gasol trade, and to a lesser degree after the Big Three appeared in Boston, I never really thought we’d get another chance. It obviously made it sweeter that it came against the Heat, but it would have been sweet anyway.

         There’s no illusion, of course, that one championship is all we wanted, or want, from the Dirk era—-the greatest basketball player in Dallas history, one of the top three or so sports players in Dallas history. Given, however, how likely it seemed that it would be zero championships, the one was greeted by all of us with a kind of ravenous sense of completion. It felt like we could breathe again.

         So why does it again feel like we’re being cheated?

         The Mavs always seem to be the odd ones out. Of the three teams consistently great in the 00s (the Spurs, Lakers, and Mavs), the Mavs were the only ones not to win a championship. They were, until this year, the only one who couldn't buy respect among the pundits. Now it seems very likely that they’ll be the only ones who may not get a proper chance to repeat.

          If the question is, is it possible that the entire NBA season could be locked out, the answer is of course. Maybe even probably. For whatever reason we seem to be at a point in American history where no one wants to give anyone anything, and the big difference between the NBA negotiations and the debt ceiling deal is that what happens if there is no NBA deal is that basketball doesn’t get played. To you and me, maybe this seems as bad, but not to the owners. Maybe not to the players.

          All indications are that David Stern and the owners are expecting the lack of a steady paycheck to eventually force the players to let them restructure the entire NBA. The difference between this lockout and the last lockout, however, is at least two things. One is financial planning, which has become a staple of NBA life. Less players living paycheck to paycheck means less need to come to the bargaining table. The other is foreign leagues.

          It’s not that so many NBA players ARE going to play in Europe. It’s that they can if they want and that those leagues aren’t nearly the inferior product they were some years ago. In 2008, Josh Childress was offered a 5 year, 33 million dollar deal from Atlanta and a 3 year, 20 million dollar deal from the Greek club Olympiacos. And he’s Josh Childress.

          Options, if nothing else, mean a lack of desperation, and it sounds as if the owners will need desperation to get the players to swallow half of what they want. As my colleague tomkanti pointed out a little lower on this page, 2012-2013 is unknown territory, which could be good or bad but won’t be the same. We all know this team is old, but it’s not so old. Nobody should be too much worse next year than they were this. Two years from now, though? After not playing NBA basketball for a year? With so many contracts in flux to boot?

          In an ideal situation, the Mavs would get to start next season, or at least half of next season with Dirk, Marion, Kidd, Terry, Tyson Chandler and maybe even Caron Butler. They would get the chance to see what happens with Rudy Fernandez and where Roddy B could deliver on some of his potential. In reality, they might not get any of that.

          I don’t think it’s wrong to feel cheated by that—if that’s what really happens. The future, however, is always going to be uncertain and was always going to be uncertain. I think I can stand the idea of just one glorious championship. I think I can remember enough about life before 2011 to stay grateful.

         On the other hand, there’s not a thing in the world that can stop a diehard fan from staying hopeful, no matter what.