I am a skeptic. Part of this is probably an unfortunate genetic disposition, but, in honesty, most of my skepticism comes from deeply ingrained trust issues rooted in years of frustrated fandom. When I was young and naïve, I was easily excited and eternally hopeful when it came to my Dallas based sports organizations. I remember thinking things like, “Wow, this Chan Ho Park signing is going to be HUGE for the Rangers!” and “With Eddie George in our backfield, the Cowboys are going to be tough to stop on the ground!” Slowly disappointment chipped away at my childhood sense of wonderment. It came in the form of a botched hold in a playoff game against Seattle, a demoralizing first round defeat at the hands of the Baron Davis lead Warriors, and a little known infielder named David Freese. It seemed like even when we made it to the top and beat the preordained Big Three of Miami, our joy was short lived, as our beloved roster of champions seemed to evaporate in front of our eyes, leaving us to wonder what could have been. I was one of the fans who got caught up in “what was,” but no more. Something has me believing in the “what is” and that something is the beautiful roster of outcasts Mark Cuban has assembled in Dallas.
Now my optimism in this team is a very recent development as we took our fair share of lumps in free agency. It hurt missing out on Dwight, but I expected that. I just don’t think we had what he was looking for (ie an exciting, young roster with the chance to win now but no immediate pressure). What really hit hard was the constant string of misses that ensued. Like being turned down by not one, but two centers with huge question marks who combined for zero total minutes the season before. Or watching the Warriors snatch Andre Iguodala right from under our nose after somehow convincing the Jazz to eat all their garbage contracts. I didn’t know much about Jose Calderon, but I didn’t like his contract and I thought Monta Ellis was exactly the type of player the Mavericks needed to AVOID signing. These guys were not the consolation prizes I was looking for. I started to notice a trend in the additions Dallas was making, a trend that terrified me at first. We were signing players nobody else wanted.
We were collecting misfits and castoffs, damaged goods. I panicked because I felt like the organization had panicked (and they very well may have), but then the off-season came to a close and it looked like the Mavericks had at least formed a serviceable NBA roster. That’s when I began to research these new faces. I read shooting chart breakdowns, scouts’ evaluations, background stories, anything I could get my hands on. I learned about how Jose Calderon had quietly been one of the NBA’s most efficient offensive facilitators while serving in the basketball wastelands of Toronto and Detroit. I discovered that Monta Ellis, despite rumors, is a well above average passer whose main discretion seems to be poor shot selection (a fixable flaw as far as flaws go). I read about DeJuan Blair’s lack of ACLs (not hyperbole, the man literally had both removed), Wayne Ellington’s streaky shooting, Devin Harris’ surprisingly positive defensive analytics, and how even when Samuel Dalembert is at his worst he’s an upgrade over Chris Kaman.
In sports, as in life, there are no more moving tales than those of the redemption and triumph. This team could potentially do just enough to make a run at something special. I know it sounds dramatic, but this team will write it’s own narrative. That narrative could be tragic. This team has a laundry list of potential problems (incredibly suspect defense, lack of young talent) and is really one or two injuries away from falling apart. I could focus on this, but I don’t want to. The season is young and I want to believe in this team, so I’m going to until they prove me otherwise. They have a coach in Rick Carlisle who always seems to get the most out of his players and a roster of players who seem poised to try to get the most out of themselves.
Reality could set in at any moment. Truth is that this team probably won’t win a championship, but if I remember correctly nobody was picking the 2011 Mavs to take home the trophy either. You have your right to remain skeptical; logic says we’ll be mediocre at best. But sports aren’t based on logic, they’re based on people and if anything people are the most unpredictable element in the known universe. I believe in the Mavericks because I think they’re hungry. I believe in the Mavericks because I think they’re out to prove people wrong. But mostly I believe in the Mavericks because I’m a fan, and really isn’t that what being a fan is all about?