Andy and I spend at least part of every day talking about something. It ranges from politics, to education, to science fiction, to fantasy basketball. We actually don't talk a ton of real basketball, believe it or not. But Friday, we started talking Mavericks, expectations, and happiness. Below is an edited version of our emails.
Kirk: Is Dallas under the radar? Out performing expectations? Do we care at all either way?
Andy: I guess it's a sign of how the mighty have fallen, but what I want from the Mavs this season is mostly for them to frustrate lazy, all-or-nothing column writers. To me, if they keep beating the teams they're beating, I'll be perfectly happy. They're not winning a championship. They may not win a playoff series. But I like what I see right now and it's a team that could be competitive again, at least for a playoff run, as early as next year if they make the right moves in the off-season. The formula is, beat the Hawks and Bucks of the world, occasionally beat Grizzly-Wolves type teams and go ahead and lose to the Thunders out there. I don't mind.
Kirk: It's really interesting, to me at least, how little publicity this maverick team is getting. I know it's very early in the season and being either average or above average is not a sexy story. I'd say the team is performing around the higher end of our expectations. National pundits either assumed they'd be worse or assumed other teams would be better. I know fans get upset when a team with a player as good as Dirk isn't covered, but I couldn't really be happier and I'm generally very negative about the team. Your formula makes the most sense to me: identify teams who are within your tier (meaning, teams of similar talent and expectations), and make it a goal to beat them. That Dallas has lost to Houston and OKC is frustrating, but not surprising. That they've beat the Hawks, Lakers and Grizzlies is satisfying. There's still a ton of room to improve too, which is never a feeling I had last season.
Andy: Yeah, everybody had the Wiz and the Pelicans and so on leapfrogging the Mavs just because they wanted to, because their attention span for the Mavs had run out, and they were ready. Which is what creates reality. To me, when I saw the Mavs throwing away their ridiculous "never improve in the offseason strategy unless it's the absolutely perfect move" strategy, to pick up a couple of flawed but very solid guys like Calderon and Ellis, I couldn't have been happier. Who cares if they're flawed? They're not Collison and Mayo flawed. So, you have some pieces which is way better than the last two years and you have some holes, but because these weren't one year deals you have some time to fix the holes. I am in. Two-year plan, baby. Let's do it.
Kirk: It's easy to get infatuated with talent. Anthony Davis is worldview changing. Bradley Beal is an amazing talent. But they are still so young, and veteran know how trumps talent more often than not in the NBA. To assume a team is going to improve based a singular player improving just doesn't jive with reality. The Spurs have "held on" (see: kicked the crap out of everyone) for so long because they have a talented, experienced base to rely on and insert and develop pieces as they find them. The Maverick front office often can appear to be a bit too smug for my tastes, but moves like Ellis and Calderon patch holes. Nothing was ever going to be perfect and there's a lot to be said about simply enjoying basketball. That the Mavericks are on a downward slope (over the last 3 years) isn't really an argument, but as long as the team isn't a disaster (and last year's team felt like a disaster, but that may have just been Mike James), I think I'll be okay.
Now if I could get the front office to handle drafts a little better, I might actually be optimistic.
Andy: It's true. When I watch Anthony Davis I find myself turning against Obamacare. He's the thing though: There's going to be some rough patches. That defense is real bad. But there's a lot of mumbo jumbo from smart people about how to build teams that try to costume the fact that you can't actually control it. You go for free agent money, you end up like Dallas. You tank as hard as you can, maybe you end up with Andrea Bargnani. The only thing you can do in basketball is forget superstars, fill as many holes as you possibly can so if you somehow get lucky enough to get that talent you're ready to roll. This is what the Mavs are in a position to do. They got a point guard, they got scoring, if they can get a big man, some young wing defenders and a little MORE scoring, they are good to go.
Kirk: But even if they don't, do we care? If this team finishes with 45 wins, but doesnt make the playoffs, are we upset? I don't know if I would be, because thus far I haven't been frustrated. O.J. Mayo simply could not put it together in close games for Dallas. Monta Ellis is sure to cause me to freak out at some point, but at least he's going to go down swinging. I think that's all we can ask for, given the salary constraints and the lack of draft pick assets (meaning, we can't trade a first rounder until we finally send the one we owe OKC, which might not happen until the protection comes off in 2018). The Mavericks just keep on humming along. Now that I'm over my lofty expectations in 2011 and 2012, it's a strangely freeing experience to just enjoy basketball.
Andy: That's the way to go. Watch your team, hope they win. Mavs 2013-2014: Relax.