April 17, 2013

Mavericks were flawed from the beginning

Dallas was done before the season even got started.

Owner Mark Cuban said it took him just seven games to figure out that this was not going to be an ordinary season for the Dallas Mavericks.

My question to Cuban is: What took you so long?

The Mavericks have been flawed from the beginning. Too many new faces, not enough rim protectors, too many defensive holes, not enough players who can take over games.

And that’s not to mention that superstar Dirk Nowitzki missed 29 games because of injuries.

It all adds up to what the Mavericks ended up with: A place in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Mavs couldn’t get out of their own way half the time. Prosperity was limited, and so were extended winning streaks.

Mental breakdowns were plentiful, and so were the number of losses against sub-par teams. Collectively, the way the Mavs played this season, they should be given a trophy just for ending the season with a .500 record (41-41).

“There are some things that we should have been aware of that honestly I thought we could change,” Cuban said. “There were things that we thought we knew the shortcomings, that we thought we could fix, and we weren’t able to.

“I won’t go into details beyond that.”

The details were obvious. Especially after they lost the seventh game of the season, 101-97 in overtime, at the Charlotte Hornets.

The Mavs weren’t as good as they needed to be on the offensive end of the floor. And their defensive and rebounding skills were a total disaster.

“I didn’t look at us and say, ‘That’s a defensive juggernaut right there,’” Cuban said. “I just think we weren’t as smart as we needed to be on either side of the ball.

“But I knew we were going to have to score rather than depend on our defense, because we had a lot of great scoring weapons.”

Don’t blame coach Rick Carlisle for this lost season. He only coached the players that were on his plate.

Carlisle only had one losing season — the 2006-07 campaign with the Indiana Pacers — in his previous 11 seasons as a coach. That’s also the only season he missed the playoffs.

Until now.

“It’s been a different kind of experience for me,” Carlisle said of the 2012-13 season. “I’ve worked to keep the right attitude about it the whole time, so I’ve enjoyed it.

“I’m disappointed [it ended Wednesday]. You look at our record, in the big picture, we have gotten better and we’re still getting better.”

But for the Mavs to get back to where they’re accustomed to being — in the playoffs — they’ve got to get another superstar to be the lead superstar. The superstar they’ve got now, Nowitzki, wouldn’t mind being No. 2 on the totem pole.

The Mavs have the salary-cap space to add a prime-time player to their roster. But whether the prime-time player comes — see Deron Williams circa 2012 — is another story.

“You’re not going to make a financial commitment just to make a financial commitment and say, ‘Look what we did,’” Cuban said. “If there’s nobody there to sign that helps us, we won’t sign anybody.

“We’ll tell everybody exactly why we did what we did and deal with the consequences. But we think there will be at least some guys there that we think can help us in one way or another, and we’ll see who they are and we’ll see what we can do.”

In the meantime, Cuban was in a jovial mood before Wednesday’s regular-season finale against the New Orleans Hornets.

“Tonight, I’ll send my Dear John letter to this season and won’t look back,” Cuban said. “I’ll start dating somebody new.

“This season, I’ll get over it. It’ll go in the record books with a big old black swan next to it, hopefully, and then move on.”

I second that emotion.

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