A champion is still a champion until someone takes the title from them. People seem to be forgetting that about the Dallas Mavericks. Sure, they haven’t gotten off to the best start this season, going 19-11, but so what, it’s the NBA.
So how you ask, is Dallas still the favorite? They’re older, slower, and minus Chandler, Barea, and Stevenson. All of which were key players to their run last year. To compensate, they added Delonte West, Vince Carter, and Lamar Odom. West is mostly known for his ‘character issues,’ Carter is old, and Lamar Odom is still crying about being traded from L.A. It’s certainly fair to question, if these guys can be as good as the role players from a season ago.
Slow starts are certainly not uncommon with defending champs. It happens in all sports, and especially in the NBA. The Mavericks know they’re good enough, that as long as they make the playoffs, they have a chance. So given everything, here’s why the Mavericks are still the team to beat:
(1) The Mavericks are resting their veterans. Rick Carlisle is one of the smartest coaches in the NBA. He knows he has to pace his players, especially in this shortened season. The Mavericks have no chance if Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, and Shawn Marion don’t have fresh legs in late April. It’s clear the Mavs are playing it safe, with Kidd and Nowitzki already sitting out a combined 14 games this season.
(2) All they have to do is make the Playoffs. If the Mavericks get in, which they will, they have a chance. In a 7 game series, they can beat anyone in the league, no exceptions. Obviously there are teams that are deeper, younger, and more talented, unfortunately for them, they don’t have the heart of the Dallas Mavericks. By winning it all a year ago, the Mavs gained supreme confidence, and there is no team that can rattle them.
(3) It’s the last run for this Group. Let’s face it, Jason Kidd is probably in his last NBA season. Vince Carter and Delonte West probably won’t be back. Dirk is aging, and Shawn Marion is past his prime. Overall, there are a lot of guys on the team that won’t be back in Dallas, or in the NBA at all, next season. While this doesn’t bode well for the future of the Mavericks, it doesn’t hurt them this season. The players aren’t stupid, they know this is their last run together, and some know it’s their last shot at a ring all together. This motivation alone, gives the Mavs an edge over most teams.
(4) They have Dirk Nowitzki. People are forgetting just how good Dirk was in the Playoffs last season. Without a doubt, he was the best player in the league. Dirk knows his window is closing, and that he has a realistic shot to win another ring this season. You know when it comes down to it, late in the game in May, Dirk will be the man again.
Bottom Line: If the new players find their roles, and the veterans stay fresh, Dallas will put themselves in a position to be successful. Even with the slow start this season, the Mavericks sit in the fourth spot in the West. The Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, and Lakers, figure to be the stiffest competition, but there isn’t a one, who can’t be taken down. If they win enough games to get decent first and second round matchups, Dallas is easily back into the Conference Finals, and from there, anything can happen. Just remember…
“To Be the Man, You Gotta Beat the Man.” – Ric Flair
Follow Andrew Fisher on Twitter @the_realfish