DONUT 1: We've won the regular season a couple times,'' Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says. "And that hasn't done us any good. So I'm not so worried about that."
San Antonio and Boston are attempting to run away with the regular-season titles. It is the sincere hopes of the teams that might not finish first in the East and West - you know, like your Mavs - that Cuban is right in not worrying.
Indeed, the Mavericks offer evidence that there is not necessarily a correlation with being a No. 1 team in the regular season and being a No. 1 team in the postseason. The 2006-2007 Mavs won 67 games – tied for the third best regular season in NBA history – and then became the only No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed when they flopped in the first round against upstart Golden State.
DONUT 2: The Mavs are not as alone in this department as some think.
There is plenty of proof in the previous decade that regular-season success is not an automatic springboard to a championship. … and that proof begins in 2000-01, with the Philadelphia 76ers, who did it all in the regular season – No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the league MVP in Allen Iverson, Iverson as the scoring champ, Coach of the Year in Larry Brown, Sixth Man of the Year in Aaron McKie, and Defensive Player of the Year in Dikembe Mutombo and then a Game 1 victory in the Finals over the Lakers …
Who then swept the next four games to eliminate the Sixers.
DONUT 3: It happens with notable frequency, really … top seeds (or higher seeds) bowing out to better teams. Philly didn't quite make it that year. The next season it was the Sacramento Kings with a franchise-best 61 games in the regular season and a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference but no title. Two years later, Minnesota was in the West finals and had home-court edge due to its higher seed but lost to the Lakers. season, Conference Finals. The 2003-2004 Indiana Pacers (61-21) had the most wins in the league in with a franchise-best 61. But no title. And of course, LeBron James' Cavaliers never quite won that title, either, despite the 2008-09 Cleveland team having the best record in the league.
DONUT 4: So fast-forward to this year.
The Celtics entered the weekend with a 21-3 record at home. The Spurs entered with a home record of 24-2 – with 17 straight victories at the Alamo. That would seem to indicate that with home-court advantage in the playoffs, assuming they retain their No. 1 seeds, they will be the toughest outs possible.
DONUT 5: Here's the question:
Should the likes of the Lakers and Heat (seen by many as the eventual top dogs in the West and East respectively – or the likes of the Mavericks and Magic (perennial contenders who haven't quite made it beyond the lip of the cup) try to accelerate their regular-season winning percentage? Should the batch of No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the conferences make it a priority in the second half of the regular season to try to overtake the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences?
Clearly, this isn't a question that puts into debate whether Dallas should sell the farm in the pursuit of somebody like Carmelo Anthony, who yesterday engaged Denver Post writer Benjamin Hochman in the following conversation:
I Asked: Are the options strictly New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Denver?
Melo said, "Yeah. But I really can't say it's just those, because I don't really know (what could happen)."
Now, that's not exactly 'Melo saying Dallas. It's more like Hochman saying Dallas and 'Melo not saying "no.''
But it's a something. And we've made it clear all along: 'Melo to the Mavs is a real -- if long-shot possibility, with all the tools in place to make it happen if the other parties want to play along.
UPDATE: Let me take a stab at clarification. In one sentence, after the respected Denver writer includes Denver as a landing spot (and doesn't include Dallas), 'Melo essentially says "yea'' .. "but no.'' My belief is that has Ben said to Anthony, "Is it narrowed down to Denver, NY, Chicago, NY, Dallas and Houston?'', Anthony would've given the same answer.
DONUT 6: So anyway, you obviously make THAT push. But I'm talking more about pushing the team that's already here, pushing minutes, intensifying long stretches. I'm asking this question, as it regards Dallas, as if the Mavs have some control over this. I'm working on the assumption that when all is said and done in the West, Dallas will remain a top-tier team with some level of control over whether it needs to make a push, make a trade, ask more of stars by playing them more minutes, and the like, in an effort to overtake a competitor.
I'm not quite willing to face a reality that says otherwise. So bear with me.
By the way, we'll grapple with some of these issues and more today at noon, Bacsik and Fish and Mark Followill on the DB.com Mavs Podcast right here!
DONUT 7: The Mavs have, over the course of their 50-wins-or-more-a-year decade, gone back and forth on the subject of the important of the regular season. (Heck, if you compare last night's first half against Blake Griffin and the Clippers to last night's second half, if appears the Mavs even go back and forth over the span of three hours.) Former coach Avery Johnson kept the pedal to the metal in many ways, and in retrospect some criticism came in the form of accusations of "burnout.''
DONUT 8: As Dallas GM Donnie Nelson tells us now, "There is no right way to do it. If you find yourself in first place, you tell yourself it's important to be there and important to stay there. If you find yourself in third place, that becomes important. At some point, you really just want to make sure you are in the tournament, healthy and playing well when the playoffs start.''
DONUT 9: Pop's habit of keeping Tim Duncan's minutes down in San Antonio is a subject of some debate among Mavs lovers (which means they are also Spurs haters). Is Pop controlling Timmy's minutes because he is so masterfully keeping gas in the tank for the playoffs? Or is this Timmy's limit at this time? How much does playing only 27 minutes in a mid-December game really translate to being able to go for 40 in a game in mid-May?
Pop has earned the right to be lauded for whatever he does, I guess.
DONUT 10: Orlando GM Otis Smith was recently quizzed on the team's website.
Asked a fan, "Do you feel the mid-season trade has made us legitimate title contenders? And after watching us play them, do you think we have
what it takes to get past the Celtics and Heat in the East?''
"I think the trades had to be made to keep us in title contention or I wouldn't have made them,'' said Smith of the Magic's recent changes … before getting to the point for any team is as good as Orlando is at 29-14 … but still finds itself in fourth place in the East. "How do we stack up against the Celtics or any other team in our league? Probably better than most. They are a very good team, very well-coached team. So are we. We're going to beat each other brains out. What it comes down to in the postseason is a seven-game series.
"Then,'' Smith concluded, "it's a chess match."
DONUT 11: It's an important strategic battle during this regular season, too, of course. But ultimately, all the winner gets is a sash. Not a crown.
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