The Dallas Mavericks and Pounding the Rock

by

If there is a narrative to be found outside of LeBron James from these NBA Finals, it’s in the value of enduring.

A year ago the same Dallas Mavericks, give or take a Tyson Chandler, were the upset, not the upstarts; bounced by the San Antonio Spurs with a lack of surprise unbecoming of a no. 2 seed. On the night of his elimination, it was Dirk Nowitzki slouched back in his chair, microphone in hand, facing the accusations of being too old, too limited, to defensively inept, and far too soft.

For Spurs fans, and the brain trust of Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, there is relevance and reverence to be found in the Dallas Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship.

Successful as they are, these Dallas Mavericks are hardly a blueprint for building a championship team, if only because one would presumably want a little more staying power than can be supplied by a team past their 30s. Mark Cuban has not provided a clinic the league can follow in building a team in the way Sam Presti appears to be doing in Oklahoma City.

No. This is a lesson on how not to waste a championship team. Especially a championship team that, by all accounts, was not suppose to be one.

After last season, it would have been simple to blow it all up and start anew. Hell, some people even called for it. But in an era where every failed championship dream is immediately grounds for ripping the foundations up, the Mavericks suddenly are the beacon for pounding the rock. It’s an easy philosophy to adhere to when you’re winning championships every other year.

Next season the Mavericks will likely enter the playoffs as they did this one: a team on the fringes of the championship elite with an outside shot of winning if everything goes their way. That’s not a disrespectful statement about what should be a much respected team. It’s simply a reflection of what it takes to actually win an NBA title.

It’s also where the Spurs could be with a few tweaks to personnel and approach, combined with a hell of a lot of luck.

I know, I know. The Spurs, in their current form, are done. The obituaries plastered across the internet weeks ago said as much, and as we all know the internet is rarely ever wrong. The Spurs in these playoffs were too old, too limited, too defensively inept, and far too soft.

Sound familiar? Some have questioned Popovich’s insistence in not making sweeping changes. Like Cuban, he sees enough value in the success the team had to not overreact to the disappointment it suffered. And the very few but very vocal corner of the internet calling for Pop’s head are of the same ilk that wanted Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle ousted for keeping Jason Terry in the fourth quarters last year.

The Spurs could execute this offseason through next postseason as flawlessly as could be expected, and the odds are still not with them winning an NBA title (20-to-1 in fact). Because Tim Duncan is a superstar past his prime whose lost step removes him from the impact he once made, Manu Ginobili never makes it through a season healthy anymore, and the team lacks the star power necessary to win in today’s NBA.

But Jason Kidd combined enough intelligence with functional athleticism to provide a steadying hand on the game’s biggest stage, while learning a three-point stroke and redefining his game. Tyson Chandler bucked his career long trend and actually made it through a season intact. And every opponent proved to be too old (Los Angeles Lakers), too young (Oklahoma City Thunder), or too new (Miami Heat). Perfect timing.

Should Kidd and Shawn Marion fall off completely next season, Tyson Chandler return to his injured ways, and Jason Terry shoot the team out of every fourth quarter, I doubt Dallas Mavericks fans would regret this season and management’s decision to keep this core together. Even if it sets back the next rebuilding phase a couple of years.

For the Spurs, which is more likely to happen over the next three years: the Spurs rebuilding another dynasty from scratch, or Manu Ginobili and company lasting through a regular season unscathed? Slim over none is always the better option.

This is not to say that if everything breaks perfectly the Spurs could hope to contend for another championship. But it is a reminder that these opportunities, though rare, do present themselves. And it would be a shame to not be in a position to capitalize while overreacting to disappointment.

  • ChrisJ

    The only thing I took from this series is that the Spurs properly evaluated Mahinmi. His Finals experience: 3 games, 27 minutes, 13 fouls, 9 points, 5 rebs. At 7 feet tall, don’t you get 2 rebounds a game just by sticking your arms out? Let’s finally put to rest on 48MOH that Ian was the athletic big that would have made a difference this season.

  • Rob

    It does take health and “luck” to win a championship.  Of course talent is the key ingredient.  The main difference between the Mavs of last year and this….they got the talent to cover all basis without blowing up the team and luck in that they were healthy (except for Butler) to endure the process.

    Does Tim Duncan have one more year to be as good once as he ever was during a playoff run?

  • Blanchard48moh

    I think in the comparisons, Tim Duncan has to be Jason Kid, Manu Ginobili as Dirk, and Parker providing what Jason Terry did the last few games.

  • DorieStreet

    Amen, ChrisJ, Amen. But we didn’t need the Finals to see why the Spurs gave up on Mahinmi–look at his stats for the regular season. 6-8 games -out of 56 played (no starts) of decent stats–but those games are against league scrubs (GSW, TOR, CLE) or blowout loss to MEM. HIs game will not improve-ever.

  • DorieStreet

    No.  To even have Duncan approach his career averages–or to be more realistic—have him play on the level of  the 2007-08 & 2008-09 seasons–he would have to be held out of 1/3 of next campaign’s games.
    That’s 27 contests. The blueprint for that would be for him to miss all of the 2nd game of all of the  back-to-back pairings, plus skipping 10 addition games in the schedule up to the allstar break.
    I would not rule out a similar scaling back of games for Manu Ginobili also.

  • Bob

    That would be risking team chemistry and continuity for something that hasn’t shown any benefit. Alot of the Spurs starters played fewer minutes this season but it meant nothing in the playoffs. In fact it can be detrimental if guys can’t adjust to heavier minutes in the playoffs. But I do think if the Spurs can improve by choosing to go back to defensive fundamentals over offensive gimmicks. They should start playing their better defenders more minutes. With good ball movement and player movement and the big 3 there should be enough offense.

  • DorieStreet

    Playing better defenders–how about EVERYONE playing better defense. We rely too much on that help rotation D instead of intial one-on-one contesting; that leads to a less than stellar effort IMO. I really don’t see where the top 5 squads in the league on defense have personnel than are head & shoulder over the Spurs. (Yeah–Bonner, Parker). But offense is ability–defense is attitude: a want-to to body-up, hand-in-face, anticipate passes to steal, postion and fight for rebounds, get back down court, etc.
    We didn’t run out of gas so against MEM –it was too many mental errors, physical mistakes, and missed opportunites on the offense–missed shots and lack of ball movement for better shots.

  • Slart

    I really, really hope that the Spurs can somehow manage to sign Marc Gasol. With him, and drastic improvements to Tiago’s and George’s games, I think that puts them in the very elite of the league… assuming that everyone can stay healthy.

  • Lvmainman

    Mavericks and the last 3 champions before that have proved

    1) Fielding a champion is expensive, the last 4 champions have been in the top 5 in team payroll over $75 milion, 7 players making $7 million a year for the Mavericks – 8 if you include Stojakovic buyout
    2) You need an MVP candidate
    3) You need veteran moxie, Mavericks had 9 guys 30 or older
    4) One blossoming youngster, Rondo, Bynum, Barea

    Mavs added Chandler for Dampier, Stojakovic for peanuts

    Spurs won’t spend money, so options are limited.

    They need to get elder free agents to want to join the Spurs for cheap. Grant Hill would be the best option – same age as Kidd, could be a defensive wing defender – ala Marion, in the Bowen mode with enough offense to keep the defense honest and allow Pop to bench Jefferson.

    Then the Spurs have to hope for a miracle via amnesty, like with the Finley signing. Maybe a Rashard Lewis or Brandon Roy becomes available to join the Spurs.

    Or maybe a team will gift players in a trade, I saw mentioned like a Stephen Jackson/Tyrus Thomas for Jefferson/buyout McDyess.

    But, Spurs chances look dim for a championship without 3 or 4 major moves.

  • DorieStreet

    Anybody with me in getting the Ryan Richards experiment starting now–here in SA? Portland put Jermaine O’Neal out there for 11 minutes a game straight out of high school back in the late 90′s.
    As I stated in a post on another 48MOH blog–how much will he improve playing overseas 1-2 more seasons. Let’s see how he fares against the league ASAP in a Spurs uniform.

  • Colin Rigney

    “sign Marc Gasol”

    That’s not happening.

  • Colin Rigney

    “meant nothing in the playoffs”

    Let’s not forget that Ginobili played with a BROKEN ARM.  That is only a slice of the puzzle in our series against the Grizzlies, but that game 1 loss was a killer for us. 

  • Colin Rigney

    Easier said than done, but without another “big” complement such as a “Haywood” we’ll be looking at another disappointing season.  Assuming we don’t get a FA big who can play tomorrow, Splitter HAS to play more….and better.  Oh yeah, and no more Bonner (10 min/game at most)

  • Colin Rigney

    Uhh, no.  He only played when Haywood got injured.  Carlisle was planning on sitting his ass if Haywood had been healthy.  

    “At 7 feet tall, don’t you get 2 rebounds a game just by sticking your arms out”…and yes you can.  Just look at the other 27 teams 3rd big, they all average about 2 rpg. 

  • Colin Rigney

    Agreed.  Good post.  

  • DorieStreet

    After spending most of their first 15 years of existence in the NBA lowerclass (except for the 3 year run grabbing the last spot in the western conference playoffs), the Memphis Grizzlies breaks out in a big way by defeating the # 1 playoff spot Spurs; then taking the Thunder to 7 games in the wc semis—–and you think they will let go their starting center to San Antonio–or any other team?
    No one has to run 10 teams’ rosters vs the Spurs in the ESPN’s “trade machine” game, or spout every player under MLE, LLE, sign & trades, or draft day swaps to give an opinion—-but let’s not abandon our B-NBA-FI: Basic NBA Fan Intelligence===translation===Marc Gasol not being in Memphis —-No How, No Way.
    Now one of his backups – Hamed Haddafi – might be possible for the Spurs, if they choose to go that way. Team him wigth Splitter and we have two raw 7-footers to work on and develop for the post-Duncan era.

     

  • DorieStreet

    “but that game 1 loss was a killer for us.”
    This team bounced back before from a game 1 loss to gain back the HCA with  a road win (or two). But the Spurs failed in 3 tries to get it.

    AND -the Ginobili injury:
    What was the thinking in sitting 4 of the 5 starters for the 81st game of the season, then play them in the 82nd game? Why not play the 81st game and sit out the 82nd game?

  • TD BestEVER

    I agree that the Spurs should bring RR over right away….. Hell I wanted him here last year when he was still 18.  He needs to add weight/strength.  And we can see from Splitter that that will only happen if he is stateside working out with bigger players……Also We need to trade our draft picks for a proven post player under 25 years of age……. you can add a pick to sweeten a deal.  Instead of trying to rely totally on this draft your own talent for a title thing……. It doesn’t work anymore, there are too many talented teams in the NBA……….

  • TD BestEVER

    Spurs won’t spend money, so options are limited. +10000 That has been our problem all along…… Way too damn cheap……. if money is that big of an issue than drop the Silver bullets or whoever our WNBA team is and then spend a little extra $

  • Bob

    Popovich has said they have a slim margin because of their inability to spend. He uses this to point a figure at injuries or the players effort. He also has to point the finger at himself. He has to be at the top of his game. He can’t forget to call timeouts or not coach defense or have a weak rotation. On offense he can’t just rely on drive and kick with a “spread” 4. They ball needs to move around and push the tempo.

    Another huge point is he has to be willing to make adjustments especially in the playoffs. He can’t keep using the same game plan if it’s not working. I think that’s the huge difference between Carlisle a year ago and now. His in game and game to game adjustments have gotten better. The Carlisle from last year would probably have kept playing Stojakovic till they lost to the Heat. Just like Popovich playing Bonner till the Spurs lost to the Grizzlies. You can’t just insist players play better. You’ve also got to be willing to make adjustments.

  • Colin Rigney

    Agreed.  I wasn’t trying to say that we haven’t bounced back before.  However, the Spurs didn’t lose those game 1′s when sitting an All-Star due to injury.  If the playoffs had been the regular season, Ginobili would have sat out every game.