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Looking in to the Mavericks' Future

Last night against the Kings was, as we all know, a night of firsts. First time the Mavs had allowed that little in the first half (23!). The first time the Kings franchise had scored that little. The first time I felt those little butterflies in my stomach when a girl looked at me.

It was also the first time that a Maverick has been the game high-scorer this season (Jason Terry’s 21).

I know you’re asking yourself, what does that have to do with the price of bread?

Nothing. That has nothing to do with the price of bread. You, sir, have very peculiar ideas about world food markets.

It is super interesting though. But is this extreme evidence of offensive versatility really unqualified good news?

It’s not like there’s a light in which what the Mavs have been doing of late isn’t impressive. To call the last 5 butt-kickings, with the exception of the Celtics game, is like calling Braveheart a movie with a lot of light horseplay.

Heck, if anyone can find a five-game stretch in the last ten Mavs seasons in which the bad guys have averaged 78 points a game, that person will receive a shiny nickel. .

But, let’s also face it. The Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, and Eric-Gordon-less Hornets are gifts that Santa brings to good teams that need to get off the Shnide. And even if you add the underachieving Celtics and Bucks to the pile, the Mavs last five opponents have gone 18-42 this season.

Moreover, Dirk still hasn’t found his shot, LO has slowly started contributing more and more, but he still hasn’t scored much, the Mavs have still rarely shot over 50%, and the specifics of the bench contributions change each day. Some days it’s Vince Carter, some it’s Delonte, some it’s Mahimni, and while I’m not complaining, you and I know that bench player contributions come and go, and that’s why they’re bench players.

Stars consistently carry the load, and that’s what makes them stars. And the Delonte Wests of the world score 12 points one game (against New Orleans and Boston for example) and 0 points the next (against Toronto and Sacrament), and that’s what makes them Delonte Wests, love them though we do. The Mavs have NOT been getting lucky. Neither, in my opinion, have they found a thoroughly sustainable path to victory until the big guys gets going, Terry after him, and the Game Plan is firmly in place.

Look, ignore the Spurs game as a blip and feel great about the last 9 or so. I do. Yes, If all things were equal, if this were a normal season, and you saw that the Mavs had lost to the Heat, the Nuggets, OKC, San Antonio and Minnesota, and beat New Orleans, Detroit, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and Sacramento (and OKC), you would uh…well, you wouldn’t feel great.

But this is not a normal season. No offseason. New players. Really, they lost the first three games while they were figuring out what’s what, and then won 8 of 10, playing stifling defense while doing it. It ain’t nobody’s fault that the first three opponents were great teams and, of the next ten, one could charitably be called "struggling" and six could charitably called "just like, incredibly terrible NBA teams". That’s scheduling.

So it’s nobody’s fault that they only have one good win, because they’ve only played two good teams since the first OKC game. They could have had a second quality one, too, save for a crazy Durant shot, and then the team with the second best record in the NBA would be 10-3 with two losses to the Mavericks. That would look pretty sexy, eh? Maybe go on the business card? Maybe be brought up at the Quarterly Meeting?

It’s still true, though, that thanks to the schedule., we don’t know a lot about this team, even now. We know their hustling defense—which is going crazy with steals—can cause chaos for bad teams. We know that basically everyone on the team is capable of 10-12 points, basically every night. We even know that Dirk’s points per game is at a historic low largely because he hasn’t had to play too many minutes of late and because he (unlike certain other superstars, whose names rhyme with Lobe Mryant, who somehow manage 5 fga before tipoff) generally likes to wait until he’s needed to make his presence felt. He has not been needed. Hooray. That doesn’t mean he looks right, though.

So when will we know about our Mavs?

Fear not, gentle traveler.

The Mavs play the Lakers on Monday. They have the Clippers on Wednesday and a surprisingly buoyant Jazz team on Friday. After that , there’s a bunch of winnable games (New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota, Phoenix again, Indiana, Cleveland , Minnesota again) punctuated by another against the Spurs, another against OKC and another against Denver.

Just as importantly, in that span, they will have exactly one back to back, and it’s Pacers (Feb 3rd) to Cavs (Feb 4th). It’s the perfect time to get in sync, plenty of rest (by this season’s standards, anyway), winnable games and some challenges.

From February 11th to Feb 22nd, the Mavs will play the Blazers (7-5), the Clippers ( 6-3), the Nuggets (8-4) , the 76ers ( 9-3), the Knicks (6-6), the Celtics (4-7), and the Lakers again ( 9-5). Thankfully, none are back to backs. But that is a beatdown of a stretch, despite the struggles of the Celtics and Knicks.

And THAT will be a great time to see what these Mavs are made of. You and I have been telling each other, wait, wait. It’s a work in progress, wait. While we’ve been doing that, and while that’s remained true, the Mavs have ripped off some seriously epic beatdowns. They’ve climbed the standings. They’ve even pleased John Hollinger, who’s really into meaningless blowouts.

Wait no more. The time is coming when you will know your team much better. Indeed, it is here.

Get excited.