They were left for dead just a few months ago. They were a team going nowhere; their leader was struggling to come back from an injury, and the players they got in the offseason simply weren’t living up to the hype.
It was time to give up – “Team Tank,” as one radio host who likes to get tased put it. Time to just pack it in and put all their hopes in some unproven college kid they’d get with a lottery pick.
Fortunately, the Dallas Mavericks weren’t listening to anyone but themselves.
And now, following a thrilling 109-102 overtime win agains the Clippers, the Mavericks are closer than they’ve been in a long while, just one game back of the Lakers for the final playoff spot with 11 games remaining.
And one win away from getting rid of those ugly beards they’ve sported for months, the ones they vowed not to shave off until they reached the .500 mark again.
Suddenly it doesn’t seem so unrealistic, does it?
The Mavericks a indeed alive and well, and they’ve suddenly made the times at the American Airlines Center fun again.
Heck, in a way, it’s a lot more fun than in other NBA buildings right now. Throughout most of the league, teams are just playing out the strings for the next three weeks while their fans wait for the real games to start. For the Mavs, the playoffs are now.
What makes it even more fun is how so many said the Mavs would have no chance of catching the Lakers because well, they were the Lakers, that unbeatable superteam of Kobe ,Nash and DHo.
Uh, has anyone been watching the Lakers this year? They’ve been a time bomb that’s managed to explode multiple times already. Now Kobe’s trying to get them to hang onto this playoff spot because, despite five rings, he still has an inferiority complex about needing to prove he’s better than Jordan and that he, not the big guy in the middle, is The Man on his team. Not that said big guy has been “all about team’ himself all year..
The Mavericks, on the other hand, are playing like a driven team and at the perfect time. Of course, part of that has to do with Rick Carlisle finally making some drastic changes to his lineup. And if the Mavs don’t get in, that my be a bigger What If the Dirk’s injuries – why Carlisle waited so long to replace the disappointing Chris Kaman and Darren Collison with Brandon Wright and Mike James.
But if they do make it ,it could be his finest coaching performance.
And if they do get into the postseason, what then? Can the Mavericks really expect to make any noise in the playoffs with the last seed in the tough Western Conference?
Well, they will be one of the hottest teams when the playoffs start, and that’s always a threat. And three upsets by 8 over 1 seeds in the last six years – one of which Mavs fans saw all too painfully – tells you a four-and-out from an 8 seed isn’t a sure thing anymore.
And you only have to look at basketball’s ice brethren for further inspiration. The current owners of the Stanley Cup won it with an 8 seed in the NHL playoffs.
Either way, win or lose, the Mavericks will come out of this season looking like a team that banded together and fought to the bitter end. That will be much more appealing to prospective free agents – and ticket buyers – than one that packed it in and put all it’s hopes on lottery ping pong balls.
When the Mavericks host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, it’s reported the team barber will be in attendance. If they’re smart, they’ll let him perform the group shave at center court following a Dallas win for everyone to celebrate with them.
And then they can get down to further business – making their critics look foolish for counting them out months ago.