The Dallas Mavericks and Pounding the Rock
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.