How We Found The 4-Step Cure for 'MavVirus'
Admit it, it took a little while to sink in.
Maybe the full weight of this glorious realization is still settling over you. For some of us over here at DallasBasketball, to an extent, it still hasn't. The Dallas Mavericks are World Champions. Don't be alarmed if that still sounds weird. This is normal. If you're honest, you'll admit you have been sick and you have probably been so for a while, until this glorious Spring/Summer trophy run happened.
The condition you were suffering from was known to suck the life out of even the most optimistic of Mavs supporters and produce symptoms of doubt, disillusionment, and an almost psychotic belief that, despite the best of circumstances, something would soon go horribly wrong for our most beloved NBA franchise.
For some, this sickness felt like a feeling of inevitability, while for others it developed into a full on ‘hater' form. Either way, by now you already know the sinister sickness I am referring to: MavVirus. For the better part of the last five years, even diehard Mavs Nation has suffered from this debilitating disease. ... an illness so severe that it caused Mavs fans to invent reasons for failure. ... to turn to The Dark Side.
The masterful and magical Maverick playoff run of 2011 has eradicated that once epidemic scourge and healed our broken sports hearts. To understand how, we must first analyze the four ‘strains' of this disease to understand how this year's playoffs exactly cured all facets of this condition.
Like many serious medical conditions, MavVirus had a slow, insidious onset, born of years of unique and heartbreaking playoff failures. As a true virus, it spread slowly at first, infecting Mavs nation individual-by-individual until nearly everyone harbored some form of the disease. Also, like most viruses, there was no easy cure. In medicine, antibiotics are useless against viral infections. In MavVirus, no matter how many 50-win seasons the team rung up, we were still sick, and we would not be cured until each and every strain of MavVirus was eradicated from our system.
There were four strains of MavVirus that ravaged Mavs Nation, each more virulent and deadly than the one before it. Thanks to the nerds in the DB.com Lab, we have now classified each strain of MavVirus and the symptoms they produced in your head:
Strain A: "The Mavs are chokers," "They're the One-and-Done Boys" (a Ben Rogers creation on the 'Ben-&-Skin' show).
Strain B: "The Mavs can't beat the league's Elite" (The 2006 series vs. the Spurs was an aberration).
Strain C: "The Mavs can't beat young, athletic teams with nothing to lose."
Strain D (and the most dangerous): "The 2006 Finals collapse will handicap this team forever," aka, "Dirk Nowitzki can't be the best player on a championship team."
At one time or another, many of us suffered from one or more of these strains. Not to worry. The UberMan will see you now. His prescription: the 2011 playoffs. A round-by-round look at how each strain of MavVirus was finally, and completely, destroyed.
Round 1: No longer One-and-Done Boys, and the cure for that tight sensation in your throat.
There was a reason the Mavs were the ‘team everyone wanted to play.' They were the higher seed, but still the underdog in the minds of many. Too much had gone wrong for the Mavs since Jan 1 when Caron went down. We had experienced unbelievable heartbreak in 2007 against the Warriors, and first-round flops in 2008 against the Hornets and 2010 against the Spurs. Despite being the favored team in almost all of those series, the Mavs were the ones sent home early.
After enduring the nauseating 23-point comeback loss from the Blazers that tied the series 2-2, I (like most of you) thought we were looking at the same ol' Mavs. Had the Mavs lost that series, Rick Carlisle likely would have been dangling by a thread and the roster as constructed around Dirk would have been under blow-it-up consideration. MavVirus would have been pandemic! We would try to survive, nursing our symptoms but not really curing the underlying disease.
We were wrong.
As it turns out, this was the turning point.
To borrow Fish's terminology, "Deferential Dirk" became "Demanding Dirk" and carried the Mavs to two straight wins to capture the series. In the process, we were cured of the "Choking One-and-Done" strain of MavVirus. Suddenly, the One-and-Done Boys weren't and the choke (lets call it what it was) of Game 4 turned out to be just the purge the Mavs needed to get that sickness out of their system. They wouldn't cough up a lead in that fashion to lose another game the rest of the way.
MavVirus Strain cured against Portland. On to the next round and the next strain.
Round 2: The Trouncing of the League Royalty
Despite that we knew the Mavs could escape the first round, we were still faced with the little voice in the back of our heads that instilled doubt about the Mavs ability to beat the league's elite in the playoffs. In 2006, the Mavs made it to the finals by squeaking by one very good Spurs team, beating a Suns team without Amar'e Stoudemire and avoiding the Lakers. In the history of the franchise, they had never beaten the regal Purple and Gold in the playoffs, and had even struggled for the better part of the last decade to do it in the regular season.
The Mavs were once-again the underdogs, and perhaps rightfully so. The Lakers were the back-to-back defending champs, they had "the game's best closer" (even though stats have long shown Dirk to shoot for a higher percentage at winning time than the Drama Queen), and they had size that had trampled most other teams. However, these Mavs were built exactly to counter that size advantage and we all know how this one ended.
For four glorious games, the Mavericks systematically dismantled the mighty Lakers with precision passing, alert team defense, a steady diet of UberManic brilliance, and deadly accuracy from the arc. Not only did the Mavericks prove that they belonged on the same court as the league's elite, they turned the tables and Shocked the World by proving that the champs didn't belong on their court. (Yes, that's a 2007 Warriors series reference). The Mavs could beat the league's elite when it mattered most, trounce them to such a degree that they embarrassed themselves (Artest, Odom and Bynum all got tossed for dirty hits in the series) and send their Hall-of-Fame coach into retirement not with a bang, but a whimper. Strain B of MavVirus was cured, but the most deadly strains remained.
Before moving on, here is a fun fact to prove how much Strain B has been completely destroyed: Dirk has never lost a single playoff game to Kobe Bryant. Let that settle…
…Okay, let's continue.
Western Conference Finals: Putting the Up-and-Comers Back Where They Belong
"WE WANT DALLAS" (dum, dum, dum-dum-dum) "WE WANT DALLAS," chanted the OKC faithful filling the Thunder gym in Game 7 of their tilt with the Grizz. Thunder fans knew our pain. They were familiar with "Mavs cant beat young athletic teams" strain of MavVirus.
This one stings. When your team loses to a team it probably should beat, it's a particularly bitter pill to swallow. Mavericks' fans of 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 will remember especially painful beginnings to their summers by losing to the Warriors and Hornets, respectively, in consecutive seasons. After the 2006 Finals loss, we watched a focused, perhaps angry, Mavericks team ride roughshod over the rest of the league to the tune of 67 wins. That was the year of redemption we thought. We were wrong. We bore witness to the Mavs becoming the first top seed to lose to an 8 seed in a best-of-seven series in NBA playoff history. Instead of healing, our sports hearts where broken again in embarrassing fashion.
The next season, the Mavs made a blockbuster trade but again lost to the young Hornets from New Orleans. It was settled: the Mavericks couldn't beat young, athletic teams with nothing to lose.
In the 2011 Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks would have to face down this familiar reputation in the form of its strongest incarnation yet. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the young Thunder threatened to show the Mavs just how strong this strain of MavVirus really was. The situation was aligning just as it had in the past: the Mavericks were riding high and would enter as the favorites to a younger, more athletic team playing already playing past its expectations.
After Dirk was historically great in Game 1, the young Thunder bounced back and stole Game 2 on the Mavs home court. MavVirus once again reared its ugly head.
Once again, Dr. UberMan will see you now.
Displaying the same focus and calm seen after drubbing the champs a round before, the Dirk-led Mavs captured Game 3 in OKC before mounting a near-miraculous comeback in Game 4 to take commanding control of the series. (Sidebar: was this season's Mavericks team particularly sensitive to showmanship by opposing team's stars kicking them when they were down? Perhaps it's only coincidence, but after KD's ‘championship belt' celebration and Wade's Eff-You Three and celebration with LeBron the Mavs mounted two once-in-a-generation fourth quarter comebacks in the same playoffs. Oh well, something to ponder).
Once the series returned to Dallas for Game 5, it was clear, this Mavericks team had finally built up immunity to this strain of MavVirus. This team was too focused, too skilled, too poised, to let a young, athletic up-and-comer steal a series the Mavericks should have won from the start. The Thunder were sent back to the kiddie table and this strain of MavVirus was cured.
Also worth noting during this playoff run, the Mavs cured their own issues with young, athletic teams while the Spurs fell victim to it, as they fell to the 8-seed after posting the best record in the West. It just keeps getting sweeter.
The Finals: The Ultimate Exorcism
We wanted Miami. For the Mavs to completely Avenge '06 ... for full Redemption ... there would be no more appropriate team that they could play. To be cured forever of the most virulent strain of MavVirus, the Mavericks would have to prove that the Finals loss in 2006 would not forever hang like an albatross around the neck of the franchise. The stage was set, and storylines abounded. Beyond the Mavs shot at redemption, this series was a bit of a referendum on the model for building championship teams.
All season long, Miami had struggled to beat smart veteran teams that moved the ball with precision and could control the paint against Miami's weaker front line. Miami's vaunted defense was built on speed and freak athleticism. With these, they could load up on the strong side and use their speed to rotate in time if the offense passed around to the weak side of the court. However, smart, quick passing and accurate outside shooting could beat this defense. There were two teams that fit this bill: the Celtics and the Mavericks. Once the Celtics were forced to play with a One-Armed Rondo and an already depleted roster, it became clear that the Heat needed only beat Chicago to advance to the Finals.
However, we were also scared. Miami in the Finals represented a very dark place in the Mavs' history. Furthermore, the Heat had just added the best player on the planet and another star in Chris Bosh. The Decision-Model Heat was scary, like the mutant alien team from Space Jam scary (and that was before the UberMan snapped a tendon and caught a sinus infection). This series would either be a rehearsal of the cruelest heartbreak in Mavericks history or the Ultimate Exorcism.
It turned out to be the latter. In fact, it was the Ultimate Exorcism because of how beautifully symmetrical this series turned out to be when compared to the 2006 series. In both series, the team with home-court advantage controlled the early part of the series and threatened to run away with a championship. Then, the team with the upper hand forgot just how hard it is to win a championship, celebrated prematurely, and lost their grip on a series that seemed to be theirs. In both series, the team that won Game 1 would return to their home court to lose the series in Game 6. In both series, the star of the losing team in game 1 would be awarded MVP and be universally lauded for putting his team on his back and carrying them to basketball immortality.
The great philosopher Aristotle once said, "The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry." If that is true then the moment when the Big Soft German held aloft the championship trophy, surrounded by his One-and-Done Mates, was nothing short of sublime. In that moment, our MavVirus was cured forever.
One by one, each strain had been eradicated. In place of lurking doubt, Mavs Nation was left with the championship euphoria of a team, and a star, that had come full circle.
As for MavVirus, Dr. Dirk had the prescription all along. So if you still cant believe it, take two of these Wit Chew, and call me in the morning.
(The author, Chuck Perry, truly is a third-year medical student and working at a hospital in Austin. He has a Bachelors in Philosophy, minors in Business and Medical Humanities, and no more MavVirus. See him on Twitter here. Catch the Fish on Twitter here.