Mavericks Buzz Building
The time is here. Three days from now the Mavericks will take to a basketball floor for the first time since their elimination by the Spurs in Game 7. And while there is always a certain sense of anticipation that comes with the opening of training camp, and the knowledge that four weeks later you’ll be seeing real games (hey, NFL and MLB, take note), you get the sense that there is more excitement around the Mavericks than there’s been in quite some time.
You know how long it’s been? You really have to go back to the summer of 2006 after the Mavericks had lost in the NBA Finals to Miami. Yes, there was depression not just because of the loss, but how the Mavericks lost. But there was also the realization that this was an excellent team that was going to be excellent again, and a championship contender. Of course no one banked on 67 regular season wins, just as no one banked on that stunning first round exit to Golden State. Yet there was a palpable buzz surrounding that team.
But as time marched on, and even though the Mavericks were in the process of winning 50+ games a season and fans continued to flock to the American Airlines Center to the tune of, now, 514 straight sellouts (the longest streak in pro sports), the pre-season buzz just wasn’t as noticeable. Of course it could have been there after the 2011 championship season, had the NBA not locked out its players and the Mavericks didn’t proceed to make a decision that Mark Cuban now admits was a bad one (you know the one about allowing Tyson Chandler to leave). The bottom line is that the Mavericks had their loyalists, but it didn’t go much beyond that.
But now that the new season is upon us, the buzz is back. It’s back in a big way. Perhaps the buzz is helped by the fact that the Rangers have just experienced, perhaps, their worst season since the franchise re-located from Washington DC in 1972. Perhaps it’s helped by fans not really believing that the Cowboys are prepared to break away from the 8-8 train they’ve been riding the last three years (and four years with no post season games at all). Yet when you really look at it, it’s the Mavericks who have created their own buzz.
It started in early March when Rick Carlisle said the Mavericks had 21 Super Bowls to play in order to reach the playoffs. You could argue that of those 21 games, there might have been fewer than five that didn’t go to the wire. The Mavericks needed to win 13 of those games in order to make the playoffs. The excitement and tension then was ratcheted up in that playoff series with the Spurs, in which the Mavericks took the eventual champs to seven games and the three games in Dallas were especially electric, decided by a total of six points.
Take that to the off-season, where Mavericks fans, in the past, often times had hopes built up only to see them crushed. First, they rectified the big mistake of three years ago by re-acquiring Tyson Chandler from the Knicks. Then they won a battle of restricted free agent poker with the Rockets to secure Chandler Parsons, strengthening themselves while weakening a rival. Indeed Parsons is the first accomplished player aged 25 or younger the Mavericks have had since Josh Howard was playing at a near All-Star level eight years ago. They brought in veteran point guards Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton to complement Devin Harris, and perhaps to even play with him in some configurations. They brought in a veteran shooter in Richard Jefferson. They brought in a raw talent in Al-Farouq Aminu, whose rebounding ability should help one of the poorest rebounding teams in the league last year. And they brought in a young big man in Greg Smith, whom the Rockets had toiling in the D-League for much of last year, but when he played two seasons ago was an effective back up big man.
Of course much of this wouldn’t have been possible without Dirk Nowitzki sacrificing significant dollars to allow the Mavericks to make several of these moves (especially Parsons). It is that sense of sacrifice and dedication to the team (not to mention his extraordinary talent) that has made Dirk as beloved a sports figure as has ever played in DFW.
You take all of this, and then add the quote from Rick Carlisle from the news conference on Tuesday when he said, “We think this team can be special,” and the buzz continues to grow. Carlisle is not a gusher. He has been around this block long enough to know that there’s a difference between good and special. Winning championships allows you to understand that. So the excitement IS noticeable. Now it’s time to actually see just how exciting it’s going to be.