Mavs First Impressions: An Unceremonious Loss

The Mavs have completed what coach Rick Carlisle calls 'a wonderful trilogy of experiences' as a result of their NBA title, the final chapter coming Wednesday with a championship ring celebration that was emotionally moving … and the precursor to a 'ceremonious' loss to Minny. The Mavs get their rings - and a ass-whoopin' - in First Impressions:

"This is an embarrassing loss,'' said Shawn Marion of the The Dallas Mavericks' 105-99 collapse at the AAC against upstart Minnesota. "We've all got to sit and look at ourselves. We should be pissed off. We shouldn't have lost this game. This is a game we should have come out and won regardless of the ceremony tonight.''

Really, I would strongly suggest they should've won because of the ring ceremony and the motivation that figured to come with it. It's a long and demanding season. A team needs an edge, a nudge, to get up and working.
How is being handed a $40,000 ring, hearing the delighted cheers of 20,000 adoring fans, and knowing that your spot in history is secure, not an edge to these guys?

Unfortunately for Dallas, the positive vibes didn't carry over to the actual game, mirroring what happened in the season-opener when the Mavs lost to Miami after raising the championship banner.

"This has been a wonderful trilogy of experiences - the banner, (visiting) the White House, and then the ring ceremony …'' Carlisle said before detailing Dallas' approach going forward. "But we've got to be able to go from that feel-good moment to getting ready to be a bunch of ass-kickers against this team coming in here, because these guys beat us pretty convincingly the last game.''

"This team'' is the Timberwolves and Carlisle proved prescient. Minnesota downed Dallas 99-82 back on New Year's Day with the T'Wolves scoring the final 15 points of the game. On Wednesday, the Mavs led by 14 before the half but Minnesota rattled off eight straight points before intermission and then manufactured a 13-4 run in the first five minutes of the third quarter.

"We lost some concentration,'' Carlisle said. "We were inconsistent. … Look, we didn't deserve to win.''

The result stands as one of notable blemishes on the Mavs' 11-8 record. Another is that 105-94 opening-day drubbing at the hands of the Heat. The loss to Miami, though, came with numerous justifications. No training camp, a vengeful Hear, a new Dallas roster, blahblah.

This celebration-night loss – albeit without sidelined Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter – isn't as easy to explain away.
The ceremony was crisp, so that wasn't a problem. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks Championship Rings, designed by Jostens with input from players Kidd, Nowitzki and Terry, are as large and as gaudy as they come. Each ring (reportedly worth $40,000 each) features 14 K white gold, 250 total diamonds and weighs 91.7 grams. The Mavs logo is on top and set against a custom blue stone encircled by 31 princess-cut diamonds, one for each year of the organization. The words "World Champions" are flanked by 10 round-cut diamonds, and each ring also features the player's name, diamonds that replicate the banner and the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and the team motto, "The Time is Now.''

Mavs owner Mark Cuban joined Carlisle as the pregame "emcees,'' both of them smartly detailed the contributions of players and staffers who'd earned the jewelry for contributions to the franchise's first-ever title.

We're producing our own's view of the celebration, but here's a start, the work of the Mavs crew, raw ...

Carlisle introduced Nowitzki by referring to him thusly: "10-time All-Star, 2007 league MVP, 2011 Finals MVP and one day soon we'll have a statue outside the AAC, without question, the greatest player in Mavericks history -- Dirk Nowitzki."

(That statue idea, readers, qualifies as news.)

And Nowitzki, wearing a light-colored three-piece suit, got the last word, with high praise for Cuban ("the best owner in sports'') and a question for the audience of more than 20,000: "How's it look?'' he asked, flashing the huge ring on his finger.

The ring, of course, looks ridiculously magnificent. The defending champs, however, keep "turning a corner'' only to find themselves faced with another corner. Ended Wednesday is the team's seven-game home winning streak and franchise-record 15 consecutive games holding foes under 100 points. Yes, Dirk was sidelined (watching the game, as did the retired Peja Stojakovic and injured ex-Mav J.J. Barea. But the Mavs offered few answers for T'Wolves like Kevin Love, who contributed 31 points and 10 rebounds just hours after signing his new four-year contract extension worth between $60 million and $62 million.
But Love wasn't alone. Ricky Rubio was good for 17 points and 12 assists and seven rebounds and four steals, and people like Wayne Ellington (16 points) and Nikola Pekovic (13 points) were also better than what the Mavs were throwing on the floor.

That fact is embodied by a completely disengaged Lamar Odom. Oh, Carlisle made a funny when somebody asked of LO is "engaged'' ("I think he's married,'' Rick said). But I didn't laugh. Odom scored five points on 2-of-14 shooting and noted, "I'm not myself yet."

But you know ... Dirk is out. It's Odom's turn. "Next Man Up'' and "Be Ready'' and all that, and as sweet and introspective and gifted a fella as Odom might be ... We're a quarter of the way into the season and I can argue that Odom IS himself yet. Because he's been this way -- this "disengaged'' way -- for 19 games now.

I'm not worried about the club in general. I am worried about how they handle unusual circumstances like ceremony games, but those are over now. (Or should be: Hey, when DeShawn and the Nets come to town, no ceremony, OK? Just toss his ring onto the Nets team bus as its pulling away from the AAC, please?) And I am worried that Odom somehow reacted to the ring ceremony is the exactly opposite manner I'd prefer. ... and that it created a drag for the team ... along with a bunch of other guys who played poorly, of course.
"I know everybody is making a big thing about the ring tonight,'' Marion said. "It's a great thing to receive the ring. But tonight, we still needed to win this game. We're trying to focus on what's at hand right now and the current season and focus on trying to take our baby steps to get to where we want to be. Tonight we just took a hop back.''

A "hop back,'' in the big picture, can be overcome. You just "hop forward'' next time, I guess. But seriously, Tony Cubes, no more pregame parties.

"I think we're all happy,'' Kidd said, "that we don't have any more ceremonies for our championship."

Greg Frederick is our Mavs Suite Night winner and got to witness the Ring Ceremony in person … Thanks to Signs Etc and Make It Graphic for making it happen! And stay tuned for future contests!

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