Mavs First Impressions: The Banner Video
The Dallas Mavericks raised their 2010-11 NBA Championship banner on Sunday. In doing so over the course of a joyous and tearful pregame ceremony that lasted just under 31 minutes, the franchise erased 31 years of futility and heartbreak.
Over the course of the ensuing 48 game minutes in the Christmas Day season-opener at the AAC, however, some realities regarding this new and late-arriving season set in.
"I'm encouraged,'' said Dwyane Wade after the Heat's 105-94 demolition of Dallas. "It's different from last year and we're little more together and more comfortable. This is step one and we did a good job today.''
Snarkily-speaking, it's worth noting that this Mavs' celebration of their first-ever title was infinitely more dignified than the Miami Heat's preseason celebration from a year ago of "one, two … seven'' titles anticipated. In fact, the Miami players couldn't stand to watch the festivities, opting to march off the floor before the pregame lights were dimmed.
But paint LeBron James and Wade and company as mercenaries and villains as we so often do in this space, on display Sunday once the ball was tipped were all the reasons Miami was favored to dominate Dallas in last year's Finals and all the reasons Miami is again the favorite in this lockout-abbreviated season.
"It was a good business professional win for us,'' Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We understand this is going to be a wild journey for everybody with all the condensed games coming one after another. … It's not about last year's storyline; it's not about anything else other than trying to establish our season on the right note.''
Every note was right for Miami, starting with James, so beleaguered last year for his lack of clutch play against the Mavs in the Finals. LeBron led the Heat with 37 points and also contributed 10 rebounds and six assists. Wade scored 26, with eight rebounds and six assists. Those two joined Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony in the Miami starting lineup – a mirror of the Miami fivesome we last saw when Dallas beat the Heat 4-2 in the Finals last June.
That group played at a determinedly fast pace (rushing to a 28-6 edge in fast-break points early), manhandling Dallas inside (an 18-0 first-quarter edge in the paint) and by the third quarter owning a 35-point lead that caused the Mavs to begin looking toward Monday night, when they will host Denver on the second night of a back-to-back.
That's the sort of challenge that will require depth in Dallas, and maybe it will come despite the departures of Tyson Chandler (to the Knicks), J.J. Barea (to Minnesota), DeShawn Stevenson (to New Jersey), Peja Stojakovic (retired) and Caron Butler (to the Clippers).
The Dallas newcomers will have to wait for another night to be truly impactful. Vince Carter started at the 2 but was ineffective and wasn't allowed to begin the second half. Lamar Odom struggled from the floor (1-of-6 and a total of four points) and struggled with the officials, earning an ejection with 5:06 to play in the third quarter. It marks the second straight game from which Odom has been booted, following his ejection from a Mavs-Lakers meeting in the playoffs while a member of the Lakers.
And incumbents also played poorly, including Brendan Haywood – Chandler's backup from a year ago now elevated into the starting center role – who was stunningly ineffective.
Dallas did attempt to answer Miami's waves of premier talent with the scoring of Jason Terry (23 points) and Dirk Nowitzki (21). But a Mavs franchise that was stripped via free agency of six members of last year's title team finds itself retooling on the fly, at this point not completely able to rely on the cohesiveness and precision that was a hallmark of the champs of a year ago.
This outing, predicted Dallas coach Carlisle, would be more about "play-making than play-calling." In other words, with the absence of the usual month-long training camp (along with Dallas' personnel changes), this is an NBA time for individual brilliance to dominated.
And Miami's individual brilliance dominated.
The Dallas loss bucks a number of statistical trends: The Mavs had won 18 of 31 season-openers and 19 of 31 home-openers before Sunday's meeting with a team it had downed 14 straight times in the regular season.
But what happened for 31 years and what happened 14 straight times and what happened just five months ago in the NBA Finals is history now.
Flags fly forever in sports, and the glorious white banner measuring 16 feet x 13 feet will forevermore hang from the AAC rafters.
"You guys have been with us through everything and made it through a lot of disappointments with me over my 13 years," Nowitzki told the fans during the pregame ceremony, which featured an appearance by commissioner David Stern, tributes from Carlisle to the departed players, and the Larry O'Brien Trophy. "This is a very special day. We waited a very long time for this."
It was special. But there is a difference between being a "champion'' and being a "defending champion.'' After the 31 years were over and after the 31 minutes were over, the Dallas Mavericks discovered that difference.
Still, that is a short-term concern. That ceremony lasts forever. That championship lasts forever. That flag lasts forever.
Enjoy the ceremony the way it was seen live on ABC:
Beautiful. Now, wait until you see the DB.com Video View of the event ... stay tuned!
Happy Holidays, Merry Championship, and keep coming back for more in-depth coverage as we are working on Mavs Quoteboard, Your All-Access Pass, tons of DB.com Video and on this back-to-back weekend, Monday Morning Mavs Donuts and "The Scout'' with NBA scout Kyle Leath advancing the Monday visit from the Nuggets. Get all the inside stuff for just pennies a day, and a free 7-day trial. Go Mavs and Go Premium!