It’s been more than two years since the Dallas Mavericks won their only NBA championship in the franchise’s 33-year history.
It’s also been more than two years since the Mavs were serious contenders to win another NBA title.
After shuffling the deck in the 2011 and ’12 off-seasons — and again this past off-season when they added nine new players — no one is sure when the Mavs will become title contenders again. Even owner Mark Cuban said “we’ll see” when asked if the pieces are in place for the Mavs to contend for another championship.
“The pieces have got to get better, we’ve got to learn to play together well and we’ve got to stay healthy,” Cuban said. “If we do, anything’s possible.”
With only six players on this year’s roster who were with the squad last season, the Mavs appear to be a team in transition. But coach Rick Carlisle remains optimistic that the Mavs will be able to turn the corner again and get back into the championship picture, although getting his team healthy is his immediate concern.
“I’m worried about today and getting better today, and if we do that every single day we’ll get back to that level when we get back,” Carlisle said after Monday’s practice at American Airlines Center. “But right now we need to be healthy ... that’s the No. 1 thing.
“We’ve got one of our best big guys out [Brandan Wright]. I don’t know how long he’s going to be out, but if we do the right things we’ll get back there.”
A critical part of the Mavs’ hopeful return to the glory days, Wright has been out since Oct. 8 when he sustained a small non-displaced fracture on his left shoulder in practice.
Forward Shawn Marion denounced the theory that luck plays a large part in a team winning a championship.
“We didn’t get any breaks when we won it,” Marion said. “We took it.”
Whenever the Mavs are mentioned as title contenders again, they knew they first had to acquire a quality point guard.
They figure they have that in Jose Calderon, who signed a four-year, $29 million free-agent contract over the summer and has immediately raised the team’s basketball IQ at that position.
Also, when Devin Harris returns from off-season toe surgery, Carlisle believes the Mavs will be an even more potent squad.
“We’re more experienced this year with our starting point guard with Calderon, so we’ll be better,” Carlisle said. “And then once our injury situation gets shored up we’re going to have some really good options.
“It’s timing of getting into the offense, it’s making the right pass on time and on target. It’s a wide array of things.”
In addition to Calderon and Harris, the off-season acquisitions of guards Monta Ellis, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo, Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel, along with centers Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair improved the Mavs.
The major question remains whether they can become title contenders again before 11-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, 35, retires.
The Mavs believe Ellis has star power and will unite with Nowitzki and others and take them to the next level.
“They’re both guys who would be easy to play with any group,” Carlisle said. “Dirk is one of those guys that has a tremendous impact, a positive impact, on anybody he plays with.
“Those two guys together are going to be a very important part of our team this year for sure. So we want to develop as much chemistry as we can.”
Whether that chemistry gets the Mavs back into the championship conversation remains to be seen.