Call it the blues. Heck, call it what it really is – moaning the Dallas Mavericks blues. Even charismatic coach Eddie Franklin of the New York Knickerbockers might not be enough to bail the Mavs out of the hole they have dug for themselves, losing in the first round of the playoffs for the second season in a row.
The last time I can remember Dallas playing like it really wanted to win a playoff series goes back two years when the Mavs defeated the Phoenix Suns four games to two. Having just come off a tough series with the Spurs, Phoenix trimmed Dallas 121 to 118 in game 1 and Dallas evened the series 105 to 98 in game 2. Game 3 was a 95 to 88 win for the Mavs. Phoenix evened the series lead with a 106-86 blowout and the birds of discontent were beginning to grow restless in Big D. But, the Mavs took the next two games 117 to 101 and 102 to 93 to go into the NBA title series against the Miami Heat.
We all remember that series well. Dallas won the first two games and seemed to be a lock. However, Miami stormed back to take four straight for its first ever NBA championship. Avery Johnson was named NBA Coach of the Year and everyone expected Dallas to be back the next season.
The Mavs experienced the best regular season in franchise history, 67 wins and only 15 losses in 2006-07. Dallas stormed into the post-season as the No. 1 seed. Lining up against the lowly No. 8 Golden Warriors, the Mavs lost three of the first four games and confidence began to wane all over the “Metromess.” A game 5 victory gave the fans a glimmer of hope that was quickly dashed as the Warriors slaughtered the boys in blue 111 to 86.
This season the Mavs struggled all year. A mid-season trade sent point guard Devin Harris and a bundle of other players to New Jersey for aging point guard Jason Kidd, who was supposed to deliver a win-now attitude. Instead the Mavs got tired legs and a pretty good player who did not make those around him better.
Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and other members of the Mavs did not progress under the direction of Kidd at the point. Instead, Howard and Stackhouse seemed to step back a little, especially Howard in the series loss to the New Orleans Hornets.
It seems that the Mavs just never wanted to win it all this season. Avery Johnson seemed to be in perpetual disbelief at the way the Mavs went through the motions – game after game.
What is owner Mark Cuban to do? Maybe he will fire Johnson. Could be he will trade some of the players like Jason Terry or Josh Howard. Who knows? The Mavs definitely need reliable perimeter shooting. They also need young legs to run the court. That is the game that has gotten away – fast break points don’t come as often as they used to or should.
Frustration is being shown all over the court. Kidd was ejected in game 4 because of a very flagrant foul. In the final game Stackhouse was shown the way to the showers after two technical fouls. And Coach Johnson looked ready to explode or pull his hair out, maybe both.
The Mavs could use a few new horses to add to the old stable. Dirk Nowitzki is great, but he needs a top notch scorer to help carry the load. In today’s NBA one guy can’t carry the load all by himself. Kidd probably has some good years left, but the Mavs need to bring in someone to play some quality time at the point and become the heir apparent. Jose Barea needs to be given the chance to bring his game to the level needed.
Brandon Bass, in his second season out of LSU, showed some moxy against the Hornets and deserves the time to bring his game up to the elite level.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in the system right now is that Johnson preaches defense, something the players either can’t or won’t do. Defensive stops for this team are as rare as UFO sightings in Cleburne. Sometime it happens, most of the time – not.
The Mavs definitely need a spark. Maybe Coach Franklin is available.
Don’t remember her? Try renting the movie “Eddie” and you’ll see what Hollywood could do with the Mavericks’ cast of characters.
Jim is a sports writer for the WNI newsgroup. Write him at email@example.com.