Warriors: Kick Mavericks While They're Down. Please?
(originally written 3/10/12)
Not even Mark Cuban himself could rival my unwavering support of the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA Finals nine months ago. LeBron James' "Decision" to go to Miami was not only cowardly, IMHO, but executed without a hint of class or appreciation for the city/franchise that supported his ascension to worldwide fame. It turned me against him, which effectively turned me against the Heat (even though I have nothing against Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade other than the unconventional spelling of the latter's name.)
If that weren't enough, then the three Heat stars had to start dancing and predicting multiple championships before fans even knew which one was Bosh and which one was James. Even if I could have forgiven all of that, there was no forgiving their mocking the ill (and still victorious) Dirk Nowitzki during the Finals. A Miami Championship would have been nothing short of blasphemous. It simply could...not...happen.
A team assembled as it was posessing as little class as it appeared to did not deserve to win it all. What a horrible precedent it'd set in this copycat of an NBA in which half the players would start wearing mascara if Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant started doing it.
So, just as I pulled strongly for Golden State to upset Dallas in the 2007 Playoffs five years ago, I pulled very strongly for Dallas to upset the Heat in the 2011 Finals. Every Jason Terry jumper, every increasingly tough Nowitzki fadeaway, every Tyson Chandler dunk generated genuine jubilation. They ultimately did pull off the upset; it was THE HAPPIEST I'd ever been to see a non-Bay Area team win a game...until September, when the last-place O's knocked Boston out of playoff contention on the season's last day. But I'm not here to talk about the past.
The Dallas team coming into Oracle Arena tonight is not the same one which hoisted the O'Brien trophy last June. Cuban and co. made the risky decisions to allow several key players, including Chandler and J.J. Barea, to walk, replacing them with the likes of Vince Carter (not known for his competitive fire) and Lamar Odom, whose heart hasn't seemed in it since being traded out of L.A. Some people overrate team chemistry, but as this season progresses it's clear tinkering so heavily with the '11 Mavs' winning formula wasn't the right move.
Dallas has had problems from the start—Nowitzki wasn't healthy to open the season and the Mavs began 0-3. They clawed back to a high of 20-11 in late February, but is 3-8 since and in disarray. Odom left the team for personal reasons just a bit longer than what was felt necessary--not that he was helping the team much on the court. Terry was recently benched in favor of a nobody during crunch time, and said nobody missed two big shots.
The Mavericks will be staggering to Oakland fresh off a brutal loss 90 miles north, in which the 12-win Kings controlled them almost from tip-off (leading commentator Bill Walton to opine, "Can you make TRADES during time-outs?" after exasperated coach Rick Carlisle called three in close succession).
The Warriors can't pity the Mavericks—this is a make-or-break stretch for 15-21 Golden State, who recently returned home from an encouraging 3-3 road trip only to get blown out by Memphis. They're four games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference...yet with four teams to leapfrog.
A positive step: coach Mark Jackson has finally realized that starting The Relunker only to sit him for the final 35-40 minutes in favor of Epke Udoh is doing nothing for the former's confidence, or the team. Udoh, a shot-blocking force who is actually able and willing to score as well, will start from this point on. They'll be facing a struggling team finishing a back-to-back on the road, wearing the same uniforms as last year's champions but resembling them in no other way.
Time to kick off a nice, long winning streak by kicking the Dallas Mavericks while they're down...