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Coping Mechanisms and the Next Step

Start with this: Say out loud, thank god the Mavericks won a title. We waited so long. We’ll always have that. Dirk will never be Charles Barkley or Dan Marino, and it was the perfect playoff run long after we stopped being able to really hope. It was so great, and we’ll never forget it.

Try this: You know what that Brooklyn Nets team reminds me of? An improved version of the ’09-’10 Charlotte Bobcats who went 44-38, and lost in the first round. Joe Johnson is Stephen Jackson (actually he scores a little bit less than S-Jax did that year, though SLIGHTLY more efficiently), G-Wall is---well, a significantly worse G-Wall (he went for 18-10) and if you take the half of G-Wall he left in the past and add it to the production of guys like Boris Diaw at his absolute best (11-5-4), Ray Felton at his best (12-6), Tyson Chandler, a decent year from Ty Thomas—like the Nets have, 5 guys who scored 11+--and it’s not SO SO different from Williams, Johnson, Wallace, Lopez.

Deron Williams? Great talent, an almost elite scorer, an elite passer, but if he’s such a game-changer how come Utah only came close once? How did he get traded to Brooklyn in the first place? How come the Nets were so bad last year? He should be a good defender, he has a reputation for being one, but the statistics aren’t all there—and though his career 9.2 assists is great, his turnovers per game have ranged from 3.5-4 over the last three years, leading the NBA in that category last year. And it isn’t particularly close, only twelve other guys have more than 2.8. 5.3 TO per 48, last year, 2.2 AST/TO rate.

Okay, so that isn’t a 100% balanced portrayal of the truth. But it helps. Helps me, anyway.

Whatever. Here we are, dismantled championship team, nobody but Dirk who can score, nobody but Shawn Marion who can play defense---what should we do?

Look at it this way: The Mavericks did indeed dismantle a championship team, but though they were bad last year they not only really didn’t have to be—what if Lamar Odom had panned out? What if Roddy had turned into something?

They somehow still had a good defense, though I have no idea how. They still made the playoffs. And if they were swept, they still made three out of four games very competitive against a team that eventually made the Spurs look like rookies.

Dirk, as many have said, was merely superman last year, not ultra-superman. But do you believe, after watching Tim Duncan do what he did last year at 36 (highest PER among unrestricted free agents this year), that Dirk is really done? Or maybe it was the long playoff run, added to play for team Germany, added to NO offseason, added to a super-compressed season. I would bet on him having a huge bounceback year. Would you bet against it?

Did you know that Roddy B has never had a training camp? Broken foot two years ago, no training camp last year—if anything could unlock the talent that’s obviously there, couldn’t it be that? What about Brandan Wright, with a year of consistent play under his belt? Couldn’t he be a bigger contributor next year?

Nobody loves trading Tyler Zeller for three draft picks from the area of picks that essentially never pan out, but for a team that needs to get younger, it is kind of nice to start the year with three potential players, all of whom are defensive minded, tough and athletic. At the very least, our summer league team should kick butt, n’est pas?

In reality, I do think Deron Williams is a little overblown by the fact that he was this summer’s only FA. Great player, but would you really put him on the same level as Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum or Chris Paul? There’s a reason we all kind of forgot about the Utah trade to the Nets, and we’ll never forget the Hornets trade to the Clips that has nothing to do with the whole Lakers thing—Deron has shot 41% and 44% over the last two years, and there’s other stuff. He’s great. But he’s not that great.

The two FAs I most expect to end up as Mavericks are Steve Nash and Brandon Roy. Nash gives you most of what Deron gives you. He isn’t the scorer, but he’s a much deadlier shooter, and he’s a better passer. What he isn’t, is a cornerstone for a future franchise—he’s a player for now. And is that really so bad? I don’t know about Brandon Roy, I don’t see any reason that the German blood treatment would help a guy with no cartilage, but who knows.

If they re-sign Delonte, as they’d like to, if the Mavericks can get somebody, or somebodies to approximate Terry’s offensive production, they’ll be better than last year. If Dirk has a bounceback year, if Wright or Roddy or Wright AND Roddy take strides forward, they’ll be better than last year. If any of the rookies turn out they’ll be even better. If they replace Jason Kidd with Steve Nash, they’ll be better still. And again, though they were swept in the first round last year, they did make it pretty tough, 75% of the time, for the team that looked, for a while, like it was going to run through the NBA.

It’s not Deron Williams, but it’s a start.