As a Mavericks fan, I’m one who really loves the Xs and Os, thinking about why things do and don’t work within the offense and defense, and looking how Dallas gets from where they are to where they want to be. As a NBA fan though, I’m somewhat addicted to the narrative arc of players, teams, and the league as a whole.
Last year, right around this time, I wrote a column called “This is the sweet spot”. It was during that incredible home stand when Dallas was still in the playoff hunt and obviously before the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
Where we are, right now, is one of the best parts about being a fan during the life cycle of a team. The Mavericks are fun and good enough to be entertaining. They also aren’t weighed down by expectations yet. And, thankfully, neither are we as fans. It’s such a great feeling to enjoy what’s happening with this team—our team—and not worry about what is to come.
It’s almost a year later and despite a bit of a struggle in the second half of the 2018-19 season, this year has been a blast beyond my wildest expectations. I thought they might be a .500 team and while they still could be, the ceiling on this specific team is impossible to determine.
Of course, that’s mainly because of historic superstar sophomore Luka Doncic. As Jared Dubin of Five Thirty Eight notes in his brilliant column:
[T]hough the sample size is small so far, the argument could be made that Dončić is well on his way to the best age-20 season of all time. And by several measurements, he absolutely is.
Doncic, and by extension the Mavericks, are one of the NBA darlings at this point in the year. That Luka is part of MVP discussions though 12-15 games is incredible. Every basketball adjacent television show, radio program, or podcast mentions Doncic in the same breath as Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and James Harden.
This is incredible and, frankly, it feels great as a fan (doubly so if you were “in” on Doncic before the NBA Draft). Last year, the Mavericks were an early season novelty because of the things Doncic did as a rookie. This year, they’re becoming a legitimate part of the conversation about NBA playoff teams.
The discussion, fervor and tone surronding both the Mavericks and Doncic will temper and shift at some point. With some talking heads, it already has, just because some people stake a claim on being contrarians. Eventually, Luka Doncic and the Mavericks will become, if not villains, than something approaching that.
For now, though, the shine is still on. The Dallas Mavericks are appointment television and most of the NBA casuals aren’t even on board yet. There will be time for expectations later and expectations take some of the joy out of fandom. This should be an incredibly fun year, so instead of staking hopes on any particular finish for the team or award for Doncic, I’m going to recommend taking this journey one game at a time.