My fellow MFFLs, the state of the Dallas Mavericks is uncertain. Each night, the Mavericks give their all on the court. Unfortunately, that has yet to yield wins. In fact, this is the worst start for the team since the 1997-98 season. Nevertheless, because of this, the future hold a glimmer of hope.
As we approach the end of the Dirk Nowitzki era, the team is in decline. It’s unlikely that Dirk will go out on top of the mountain in Dallas, but will thrill fans for one more years on a team mired near the bottom of the Conference before his usefulness and his industry is finally distinguished and retired. While this may not be the outcome fans desire for their German hero, his efforts over the past 20 years paved the way for new energy and for the next generation of Mavs, some of whom are already here.
Dallas’ pillar for the future is already making a name for himself. Dennis Smith Jr. was greeted with fanfare last summer when he was selected ninth overall. His performance in Las Vegas wowed crowds with a dazzling array of fresh, technically advanced know-how and his rookie campaign in the NBA produces more of the same. What’s more, he’s growing and learning new skills. Smith is already developing a pro body and exhibiting the signs of a heady playmaker. As he gains experience, the team will make strides forward.
If Smith is the pillar of the future, then Harrison Barnes is the bedrock of the present. Since joining the team, Barnes is called upon nightly to be an industrious player and veritable Swiss Army knife. A former champion, he leads the offense and helps anchor the defense all while doing whatever is tasked to him. It’s not always pretty but that’s to be expected. His development into the team’s go-to player is not even two seasons old. Still, his good nights outweigh the bad.
Then there’s the diamond in the rough. Yogi Ferrell was plucked from obscurity as the Mavericks suffered a malady of injuries to their guards last season. The four-year college player was virtually unknown, and his previous run in the league was only a few games with the Brooklyn Nets. In Dallas, however, lightning struck. Yogimania was born. Since that time, the second year player has seen his rotation position solidify into that of a respected contributor. Whether as a starter or off the bench, he has proven his worth to his coach and teammates, showing that hard work and opportunity go hand in hand.
There are others, too. Maxi Kleber, from Nowitzki’s hometown, surprised many by breaking into the starting lineup. Kyle Collinsworth plays reliable defense when his name is called, but his future with the team is uncertain. In the G League, a formidable roster, overflowing with talent, headed by Johnathan Motley, awaits the call to the pros.
Of course, there are also the veterans whose futures are uncertain. Wesley Matthews, the dogged veteran, is the emotional soul of the locker room. J.J. Barea, the once and always champion, is arguably the best player facilitating the offense. In addition, Devin Harris, to whom the team’s loyalty knows no end, plays with renewed energy and joy.
These players are not forgotten. Their uncertain future, however, clouds the path forward for the team. The Mavericks respect and care about them, yet fans despise their skill. They keep games close. They notch wins. Winning is good. Winning is the purpose of any campaign. Winning is an axiom. However, to these enemies of the state, winning is terrorism. Winnings now sullies the chance of future winning, or so some fans claim. The future flies in the face of the present.
The franchise walks this line, goals dichotomously opposed. No one involved likes to lose. They play to win regardless of the future, living instead for the now. That’s the ambiance in the locker room this season, anyway. Yet, despite their efforts, the wins aren’t forthcoming. Perhaps this is planned, however. The war on clean tanking has been won and the Mavericks are victors. We will honestly never know the truth, but the speculation will persist.
For now, we know that the team sits near the bottom of the league. Winning is morale boosting but draft killing. Do the Mavericks send Nowitzki, the greatest player in franchise history, off with a bang or with knowledge that Dallas’ next great era is on the near horizon?
To say that the state of the Mavericks is strong is inaccurate. However, that’s not to say the franchise is weak. Although it has experienced its share of turmoil this season and last, the team feels as though it’s in a good place. The wins might not be there now, but the Mavericks have the building blocks of a new core and the stability of one of the better coaching staffs in the league.
When Dallas looks forward, it can see a glimmer of light. However, only the Mavericks can seize that glimmer and flood their future with a thousand points of light.
As long as the Mavs have confidence in their values, faith in Rick Carlisle, and trust in Mark Cuban, they will not fail.
The players will thrive.
The fans will prosper.
And the franchise will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free.