Reflections on a Rival: The Dallas Mavericks
I was sitting on a couch in “the SoCos,” a housing complex at Vassar College, with my friends Erik and Eric, neither of whom are big basketball fans. They seemed a bit startled by the levels of my emotion: Make no mistake, I’ve always been an excitable guy but in this instance I seemed unexpectedly invested. In fact, I was not merely invested, I was downright prescient. Every time I said we needed a big shot, one seemed to pass through the net. Every time I mumbled something about not fouling, a foul quickly followed.
There I sat as my exuberance became frustration and my frustration became helplessness. There I sat as I watched the San Antonio Spurs lose to the Dallas Mavericks in overtime of game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Semi-Finals.
For me, the Mavericks have never been like other rivals, even before they really were our rivals. For years they felt more like a kid brother. Growing up in Austin, the two cities I traveled to most often to see professional sports were San Antonio and Dallas. I was never a Mavs fan but I’ve rooted for them on more than a few occasions. Everybody roots for their little brother while quietly reminding themselves that they can still take him in one-on-one. While the Mavs were under the leadership of Don Nelson, this was fundamentally my attitude. Although Nellie put together an offensive freak show, I have never been threatened by teams that forget there are two ends of the floor. But, like all little brothers, one day the Mavs grew up.
Even as our division opponent blossomed into a true “rival,” a familial sense still hung in the air. Michael Finley now donned the silver and black. Avery Johnson stalked the opposing sidelines. As the two franchises became increasingly competitive they became increasingly intertwined as well.
In a lot of ways that familial sense has passed. Finley’s contributions are far more peripheral than they once were. Avery is no longer their coach. And, after the Harris-Kidd trade, it seemed inevitable that the Mavs would slide to the back of the playoff pack. Although I should be happy that we have one less obstacle on our path to another championship, something about the current state of the Mavs leaves me ambivalent. Our kid brother threw the last punch and we never got a chance to get back in the ring with him. We have beaten the Mavs in 4 out of our last 5 meetings but regular season victories can only make up for so much.
The game starts at 8:30 eastern/7:30 Central. Go Spurs.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: No Game Is an Island: The Long and Winding Road.