The Dallas Mavericks are in trouble. Last night they went toe-to-toe with the 5-0 L.A. Lakers...until the fourth quarter that is, when as has become quite typical this season they were unable to score and unable to prevent L.A. from scoring, lost the lead and then lost the game. In previous seasons, the fact that the Mavs lost a close game to a really good Lakers team this early in the season would be nothing to get that worked up about. This is not previous seasons. The Mavs are now 2-5 for the year, and 0-3 at home and the last time they started 0-3 at home it was 1993, Quinn Buckner was coaching, and the Mavs went on to win 13 games that year. Now obviously this year's Mavs are not the 1993 Mavs, but it's the fact that we can even make any comparision in statistics that's so troubling. As I noted the day after their opening-season loss to Houston, nobody is really expecting these Mavericks to tear up the Western Conferance en route to an appearance in the Western Conferance finals or an NBA championship, but a playoff appearance was considered likely. Well, it's less than two weeks later and some of us are starting to wonder if even that relatively low bar (for us) is possible.
Rebuilding talk is in the air. Even local sports radio talk show host Norm Hitzges, who I consider one not inclined to knee-jerking or panic, is saying that a significant decision on the future of this team is only months away. The problem is that there appears to be so little hope for what we have now. Although we were told during the off-season that a new coach and a full training camp for Jason Kidd would make a difference, they clearly have not to this point. But suppose the Mavs right the ship, and play to their potential? What does that mean? The make the playoffs as one of the low seeds, and are shown the exit by any one of the numerous better teams in the West? And if so, is there any expectation that we'll see a better performance next year? Certainly not...not with Jason Kidd's age and expiring contract leading to him almost certainly not being here next year, not with Dirk, Dampier, Terry and Stackhouse another year older and slower. It's time to admit that this particular set of players have no hope of reaching the Finals, and simply making the playoffs with little hope of advancing and little hope of improvement next year is unacceptable. It's truly saddening to have to say this, but we are witnessing the end of an era for the Dallas Mavericks. The glorious run that began with Mark Cuban's purchase of the team was terminated by the Heat in 2006; the only thing we've had to keep us going since then was the hope that this team could return to the Finals, but even that hope is now in vain.
I'm sure there are quite a few fans out there who think the Jason Kidd trade is to blame for much of this mess. I'll be the first to admit that the trade hasn't worked out as I hoped it would. I had thought that acquiring Kidd would reinvigorate the team, that Kidd would make everyone around him better and drive the Mavs to another Finals appearance. That simply hasn't been the case. There are simply too many deficits on this team for Kidd to make a real difference; no true center, an under-performing forward in Josh Howard, inconsistent play from stalwarts like Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse (the only bright spot being Gerald Green, who was utterly fearless last night.) I don't think the Kidd trade was a mistake, because clearly something was needed to shock this club into life and no one can honestly believe that this team, piloted by Devin Harris, would be substantially better at this point. But as it turns out the trade only extended our hope that the inevitable could be delayed; in reality, the Mavericks downfall continues apace.