1) What was the best part of the season?
Alan: Dirk coming back and looking about like Dirk again? There was always the fear, especially when he looked hobbled initially, that he might never fully recover. Any hope we might have for this team getting better soon starts with Dirk, which might sound funny since he'll be 35 next season, but he showed that he was still good enough to take over games(see below).
Kirk: I'd have to go with those back to back wins over the Clippers and the Bulls. I'm still not sure how they won the Clipper game in over time, as they had all the same problems they'd had all year. Instead the Clippers went stupid for about 30 minutes and Dallas took advantage. Following that up with Dirk and company rallying back from down 12 with just four minutes left in the final period against the Bulls was tremendous. I used to do a lot of yelling at the TV, but now with writing I end up taking a lot of notes. For parts of both these games I forgot all that and just enjoyed the pure madness that is basketball. What a fun couple of games.
Hal: I think my favorite part of the season was the very beginning, when we were 4-1, and I felt like my preseason prediction that the team would be a 6-7th seed and a decent team looked totally justified. Everyone looked in sync, smart, and Mayo was hot as lava. All that WITHOUT Dirk. God, that was nice. It was really all just downhill from there.
Josh: Sadly, it was probably after the very first game. After a summer of doubts and many predicting that the Mavs weren't a playoff game before the season tipped off, a what was then considered a huge upset of the Lakers felt nice. The Lakers were supposed to challenge Jordan's Bulls and at least be the top team out west. Even with Dirk, it seemed like a longshot to knock off the Lakers. Without? Sheer lunacy. But somehow the Mavs did it and with it came the hope that Dallas would be able to steady the ship until Dirk would be back to steer it safely. If we only knew...
Andy: The best I felt was the minute word started trickling in that Dirk was in the layup line for the first time, completely unexpectedly. The best game of the season was the OT win against the Clippers-Hope was still and sort of suddenly alive, O.J. Mayo did something amazing to one-up the great Chris Paul, Carlisle had his most intuitive lineup and gameplan---No Kaman, time split between Wright and Brand, 20 shots for Dirk, 15 or Mayo and less than 10 for everyone else-and the Mavs beat basically the only contender they beat all season, besides that weird Memphis game. I mean really, that should have been the lineup and gameplan every game after Dirk came back. But, the best PART of the season is the fact that it is now over.
Tim: I was lucky enough to be in attendance when Dirk's return was announced -- he was expected back soon, but no one knew it was going to be that day until minutes before the game. The Mavericks proceeded to get blown out in the worst way possible, but Dirk just about made up for it.
2) What was the worst part of the season?
Alan: That just after I had given up on the Mavs' postseason hopes early, they pulled me back in, Pacino-style. OK, so that's not really the worst thing, but it ended up making that Laker loss so much more painful than I thought an April loss could have been. I was better off being coldly detached!
Kirk: That terrible stretch before and after Christmas when Dallas lost 10 of 11. The schedule was brutal (Miami twice, San Antonio twice, Oklahoma City, etc) and Dirk was trying to work his way back into form. The Mavericks lost a number of close games that stretch as Carlisle insisted on closing with a small ball line up that could not defend to save their lives. It was then that I lost hope for the playoffs. I almost believed last month, but too many early defeats made getting to the end of season alive too tall an order.
Hal: I'm with Kirk on the 10 for 11 stretch. That was when it really sank in how bad The Mavs were. It turned out that they were better than that stretch indicated for all the reasons Kirk's mentioned, but I had hope up to that point. To that point, I figured that Mayo was just going cold instead of regressing to the mean, that Collison really had a great point guard buried deep down and he only wasn't coming out because Carlisle was giving him no room to breathe. But no, neither was true, and The Mavs just plain old weren't good. That was hard to stomach.
Josh: The loss to the Clippers in early January. After a blowout loss to the Spurs during Dirk's return, it appeared the Mavs hit rock bottom. We tried to convince ourselves that the team was getting better, taking the Heat to OT. But then there was three losses in a row, one to the Hornets and the next two being fourth quarter collapses to the Jazz and Clippers. The loss to the Clips dropped the Mavs to 13-23, a hole that was too deep for the team to recover.
Andy: The worst moment for me was probably that Lakers loss, late in the season, which really sealed their fate. The Phoenix loss sucked, since Phoenix is terrible, they'd have made it to .500 and could be heading towards a winning record, not that that matters. The Indiana no-show was embarrassing, especially for me who had been talking about how the entire East outside the Heat and Knicks is terrible. But the worst part is that it happened I'll get to in the next question.
Tim: The "will they or won't they" playoff hunt at the end of the season. Kudos to the Mavericks for getting back into the hunt, but it added so much stress to a long shot. Some of the Mavs games, especially those lost in frustrating, even heart-breaking fashion, became a chore at the end of the year, because they HAD to win if they wanted to make the playoffs and it just wouldn't be right if they didn't. In the end, the Mavericks fell several games short and we were able to enjoy those last few games without the overbearing pressure of what consequences a loss would have.
(Editor's note: This is a four-part series, so keep checking back to Mavs Moneyball for more thoughts. Next week, we'll address the biggest misconception and the biggest surprise of the season. Also, follow @mavsmoneyball on twitter!)