The constant back-and-forth nature of the Mavericks season has similarly affected our reaction to the team.
Lose to Cleveland by 33?
This team is history and has no heart!
Beat the Clippers by 30?
Back on track! Team just needed a wake-up call!
Lose to Memphis by 11?
They can't beat good teams! They're one-and-done.
Lose to the Suns after blowing a fourth quarter lead?
BURN THIS TEAM TO THE GROUND. LAUNCH MONTA INTO THE SUN.
Beat San Antonio with Monta scoring 38?
Monta's back! He was just hurt! We'll hit our stride right before the playoffs.
Lose to the Indiana Pacers?
This team sucks.
It's really hard to stay level-headed when the Mavericks themselves haven't stayed level-headed. The facts are the facts: since the All-Star break the Mavericks have been a mediocre team. You can go by the numbers, or you can just judge them with your own eyes.
But how good or bad are they really? The sad fact is we might never truly know. Consider the teams ahead of Dallas in the standings:
Golden State. Houston. Memphis. Portland. Los Angeles Clippers. San Antonio. What do all of those teams have in common, besides being good at basketball? Their main cores have been together for at least two years and for some, even longer. It's hard to be consistent when the players are changing so much, year after year.
No matter how hard teams try, it's really hard to overhaul a roster in today's NBA and become title-worthy that same NBA year. Think about the LeBron James-led Miami Heat -- it took that squad a full year to really come together and play up to their potential ... and that was with three of the best 15 players in the league at the time. Winning is hard! It takes time, good players, good coaching and a little chemistry. That Heat team making it to the Finals in 2011 was way more impressive than most give that team credit for.
Now consider the Mavs, blowing up the roster year after year, trying to replicate the Heat's success with considerably less talented players. The Mavs have had 53 different players on their roster since 2011-2012 (a welcome hat tip to the Sturminator). FIFTY THREE. How in the world is that going to equal any sort of deep playoff success when the Warriors, Spurs and Trail Blazers are all getting better with the same core and adding tweaks year after year?
This isn't an indictment on the way the Mavs have operated since the title. There's nothing wrong with the moves they've made generally and they're all ones they had to make. You aren't winning a title with Darren Collison as your point guard just as much as you aren't winning one with Jose Calderon or Jameer Nelson. The Mavs are rebuilding on the fly and they've managed to acquire a ton of talented players without ever blowing it up to the degree of landing at the top of the lottery. There's something novel and admirable about that approach. But it creates an uphill battle to sustain tangible success.
For this Mavs team, look at all the changes: they rehauled the roster over the summer, replacing three of the five starting spots. They made a mid-season trade that blew up their bench and added a new starting PG. They've had handful of games missed from several key rotation members, including Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler. That isn't their fault, but even with a fully healthy season, there probably wasn't enough time for us to truly understand how good (or how bad) these Mavericks would be. It just doesn't work that fast. It takes time.
Sure, we have some substantial numbers: Rondo and Ellis have played 870 minutes together, more than enough to break down what's working and what's not. Rondo and Ellis probably won't work in the long run and we didn't even need to see Rondo in a Dallas uniform to make that prediction.
Even with the data, a half a season and no training camp is an awfully short amount of time to grade a big acquisition. Remember how long it took for the Jason Kidd trade to finally kick in? Remember how much better Caron Butler looked in after a full training camp? Unfortunately these Mavericks were doomed before they even really started. They were never going to have enough time -- this season.
Maybe Rick Carlisle is brilliant enough to pull the most out of a talented roster for a winning playoff series, but regardless, another summer overhaul looms. Now is the time for Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson to pick a core group of four to five players and stick with it. Will Rondo and Monta be in that group? I doubt it. That's the unfortunate reality of professional sports -- it's a results-oriented business in an environment that best gets results after players spend a few years with one another. We may never know if a Rondo or Monta backcourt could have gotten better with another year together. We may never know how good this Mavs team really could have been, because I doubt we see this Mavs team again come October of next year.
It'll be another overhaul. Let's just hope this is the last considerable one we see this decade.