DALLAS -- It's fitting that the night the Dallas Mavericks finally got their much-coveted and long-awaited championship rings, 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki sat out with a knee injury.
It's also appropriate that Minnesota Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea didn't play either in the Mavs' 105-90 loss Wednesday night.
Barea, a key member of the championship run, is the reason the Mavs waited until Wednesday to unveil the rings adorned with so much bling (14-karat white gold and 250 total diamonds) that you wonder why owner Mark Cuban even started that silly notion of doing something different than giving out rings.
The Mavs wanted the ring ceremony to coincide with Barea's visit back to American Airlines Center. But he is out for the fourth straight game with ankle and hamstring injuries.
It's been that type of season for the Mavs, who look nothing like the team that went on a glorious championship run, which included a sweep of Kobe Bryant and the hated Los Angeles Lakers before the shocking and oh-so-satisfying upset of the Miami Heat and the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the Finals.
Evidence that this is a new team and a new season was the buzz created courtside when former Laker and new, albeit reluctant, Mav Lamar Odom did an interview for the reality show he has with wife Khloe Kardashian before the game. And the whole Kardashian crew, sisters Kim and Kourtney, brother Rob, and mom Kris Jenner, was on hand.
The Mavs' championship band was actually broken up before the season when Cuban made the fiscally responsible decision to create cap room in hopes of building championship teams for years to come by possibly wooing superstar center Dwight Howard and guard Deron Williams in free agency next summer.
It was his version of an adage: Never make a permanent decision on a temporary situation.
After being offered only a one-year deal, Barea, just like center Tyson Chandler, who was a big a part of the championship run as anyone not named Nowitzki, was forced to do what was best for his bottom line and sign a four year, $19 million deal with the Timberwolves.
Chandler got $58 million over four years to take his talents to the Knicks.
In all, four of six free agents from the championship team got new homes before the season, including guards Caron Butler (Clippers) and DeShawn Stevenson (Nets).
Forward Peja Stojakovic retired. Only forward Brian Cardinal was re-signed.
"Things happen," Barea said before the game. "I'm a little disappointed it went that way. But to get to come here and get the ring with everybody and the fans, it will be nice.
"I'm excited to be here, excited to finally get that ring. I'm just going to enjoy tonight. I wish I was playing, but now I get to talk more and say hi to everybody."
That is what this season is like for the Mavs and their fans: an extended social hour.
This was the third championship ceremony for the Mavs, starting with the unveiling of the championship banner on opening night and the trip to the White House to celebrate with President Barack Obama.
You ever been to a party and not want to leave when the music stopped and the lights came on?
This season is just one giant after-party in the hotel lobby for the Mavs, and rightfully so. It took them 30 long years to finally win a title.
Add in the fact they won't get a legitimate chance to defend it because the band was broken up, party on is only the right thing to do.
Ro Parrish, the official deejay of the Mavericks, just needs to crank the music up and turn the lights back down.
The Mavs and their fans deserve this party all season long. .
A huge cheer rained down on Barea, who joined his former teammates on the court while the rest of Timberwolves stayed in their locker room.
The loudest applause came for Nowitzki, who asked "How does it look?" while flashing his gaudy ring to the crowd.
But guard Jason Terry, the heart and soul of the team, summed it best in saying no one should begrudge their extended championship after-party.
"This was once in a lifetime," Terry said before the game. "We are blessed and honored to do something that no other Mavs team has done for this city. We will always be a special part of history. We are going to soak it forever."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.