Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Dallas Mavericks: Bridesmaids waiting for their ring

Stop me if you have heard, or seen, this scenario before: a very good-looking female has the unfortunate luck of being the least attractive of her friends.

Years go by, and she watches her friends get married, while she is forced to pretend that her friends’ happiness isn’t at least a little disheartening.

Sound familiar? It’s the plot of probably 100 chick-flicks.

Well, this year, the story of “the bridesmaid” has entered the NBA playoffs. I introduce to you the Dallas Mavericks.

Skipping the players on the team, the franchise as a whole represents being good, but never the best. It has averaged 56 wins a season over the past 11, and has finished with no fewer than 50 in that time span. Simply put, Dallas has been a model of consistency since the start of the new millennium.

Unfortunately for Dallas, being consistent doesn’t always lead to titles. The Mavericks only trip to the finals was in 2006, and they blew a two-games-to-nothing lead over Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat and lost in six games. The next season, it looked like another run to the finals was inevitable, but the Mavericks wasted their 67-win season by becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round since it was changed to a seven-game series in 2002.

Being a Dallas fan had to be devastating – to know that you are great, but never the best.

It isn’t just the franchise by itself that suffers this fate; the team is littered with players that have had their careers follow the same path.

Dirk Nowitzki is obviously the most notable in Dallas, because his sad story IS Dallas’. Since 2000, he has averaged no fewer than 20 ppg or seven rpg and hasn’t played less than 73 games in a season. He won the MVP award in 2006 and is a sure thing for the Hall of Fame.

Yet, just like every fan that has followed the team, he has watched his team play second fiddle to others.

This year’s team features a cast of players who have managed to do the same thing in cities around the country.

Shawn Marion was a star on the Phoenix Suns for years when they had the best offense in the NBA, but never even made it to the NBA Finals.

Peja Stojakovic was nailing threes for the Sacramento Kings when they battled the Lakers in the 2001 Western Conference Finals. That year, everyone knew the winner would easily beat the Eastern Conference champion.

Speaking of the Eastern Conference champion, Jason Kidd’s New Jersey Nets went on to represent the east the next two seasons – but got swept by the Lakers in 2002, and could only win two against San Antonio the next season.

Those four players are the foundation of a team that is sick of being so close, but never being able to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

All of a sudden, Nowitzki is being touted as the leagues biggest matchup problem, as if it were something new, and Kidd is D-ing up on guys like Kobe Bryant like he was 26 again.

With a bench of other veterans like Jason Terry, DeShawn Stenvenson and Tyson Chandler, Dallas couldn’t put an inexperienced group of five players on the court if they tried.

More importantly, the team is hard to root against. With all of these players in the twilight of their careers, this could very well be their last shot at a ring, and it’s hard to say the names mentioned don’t deserve a ring before they exit.

Will they actually win the title? There is certainly no guarantee. If they do get by the youngsters they are playing in Oklahoma City, they will still have to beat either the best interior defense in the NBA in the Bulls, or the Heatles with all of their star power.

If they do go down, it certainly won’t be from a lack of effort. These old guys might as well be getting their AARP cards and know that hurting for the next three weeks will be better than trying to do the same thing when they are even older.

This is their opportunity. If they blow it,  it’s no one’s fault but their own

They have watched all of their friends say, “I do,” and now it’s their turn to walk down the aisle.

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