The Dallas Mavericks have hit an all-time low, technically speaking. Friday night they fell to the Portland Trailblazers 105 – 95, marking the first time in franchise history that a Mavericks team has ever opened a season 0-5. That is a pretty cold, hard fact for a franchise that was arguably the worst in all of sports throughout the 1990’s, until a certain German guy showed up and saved the team. This Mavericks team, however, is thankfully not as bad as some of those dreadful incarnations of the 90’s, one of which nearly matched the all-time record for losses in a season, winning only 11 games. It will get better than that. As to how much better is up in the air at this point.
Friday night’s loss to Portland could not have been a more perfect summation of the Mavs season to this point. Wildly inconsistent play on both ends of the court, falling behind big only to make up the gap, and in the end being just not quite good enough to take down their opponent. The fact that Dirk Nowitzki missed the entire second half with the lingering problem of a sore achilles obviously did not help the cause (we can only pray that this is not a serious and lingering issue that causes Dirk to go out a shell of himself like Kobe did). Yet somehow, in spite of it all, including a 42 point TORCHING from Damien Lillard, the Mavs found a way to keep it close until the end. The offense and defense looked much better at times, and at the same time looked just as bad as it has in the previous games at other times. It is honestly baffling how this team can simultaneously look like a team that has no business winning 20 games, and like a team that could still fight for the 8th seed. It’s uncanny, I’ve never seen anything like it. Mathews continued to be just horrendous on offense, and the starting unit once again looked incomparably bad on both ends when on the floor together.
The Mavericks best stretches of play continued coincide with any variation of Anderson, Powell, Barnes, Mejri, Curry, Barea, or Williams being on the court together. That group fights, and fights, and freaking FIGHTS. They aren’t the most talented group, but man they just don’t give up. The two big Mavericks runs, in the 3rd and 4th quarters respectively, came with 5 of those 8 on the court at a time. It’s time for Carlisle to go all in on giving these young guys as much playing time as possible and letting them develop together and learn how to win. The playoffs are looking less and less likely by the day, so why not let the young guys get some burn. I’m not saying tank, that is competitively immoral. What I am saying is to give the youngsters the majority of the playing time, and if they get us there, cool, and if not, then it wasn’t meant to be. When they were are the court against Portland they scrambled like crazy on defense, actually made cuts and set good screens on offense, moved without the ball, and just flat out hustled and did everything they could to get a win. That is the kind of experience that is going to make them better and help the franchise in the long run, not getting spot minutes on a veteran team going nowhere fast.
Think about this: Do you really want the Mavericks to make the playoffs this year? I mean really think about it before you answer. What is the point? What are the benefits other than maintaining pride and making sure Dirk doesn’t go out in “Kobe fashion”? The answer is nothing. There is no reason for this team to make the playoffs right now. Rick need not take years off his life by attempting to drag a hastily assembled roster into the playoffs once again. The Mavericks front office cannot continue to compromise the future of the franchise for the sake of being a first round appetizer for a top 3 seed year in and year out. For the first time in 5 years, the Mavericks actually have some solid young pieces to build around, and a legitimate all star caliber player in Harrison Barnes. The next step is to finally get that one big time payer, that elusive superstar, to add to the already existing collection of young players. And the only way that is going to happen is through the draft. No more big fish hunting summers in free agency. No more mid-season, blockbuster trades that don’t pan out. It’s finally time to do this thing right, if the opportunity presents itself, and there is a really nice looking draft class developing for this upcoming June.
Now I am not one to overreact, and I know that just Wednesday night I was preaching hope and silver linings, and I still am; just not for any kind of playoff push this season. That is looking more and more like a pipe dream with each passing game. So the hope is in the development of the young players. It is in the hope that Dallas finally gets a high pick, and that Mark Cuban get the hell out of Donnie’s way and let him do his job for once come draft time. And it is in the hope that the Mavericks at long last have a future, and something to work towards and grow into. Hang onto the hope MFFL’s, we will get through this together. We have indeed seen darker days.
Written by: Blake Combs