The Triangle Of Trust - In Trying Times
The Dallas Mavericks are preparing for a month without Dirk Nowitzki. Or, Dirk is preparing to put his faith in Mavs doctors and trainers who recommend to him that he nurse his way through the knee injury. Or ... well, nobody involved knows quite what they will do except that tonight in a preseason game against Houston, The UberMan plans to plan, the team plans to monitor his situation, and thousands of us who will be in the gym plan to keep one constant eyeball on that balky knee.
Hey, we knew even after the 2011 club won the world title that everything wouldn't always go smoothly ... that free-agent swings might not result in home runs ... that "Plan Powder'' would require patience.
But now The UberMan is in limbo. And therefore, so is his team.
So now, as the Mavs' title becomes a distant memory to some ... and as the unbridled respect for the architects of that title, Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle, begins to lessen ... well, it's not as easy for everybody to love each other.
Somebody on the radio just this week insisted that it's time for Cuban to sell the Mavs. Just around the corner will be a public cry for Dirk to demand a trade. (Or, because the present bump in the road is injury-related, maybe the public cry will morph into a sympathetic plea for Dirk to retire.) Carlisle is entrenched at part of the Triangle of Trust, but the perception of that can all change with a three-game losing streak, at which point someone will wonder whether Carlisle's message is being lost on these fellas.
So I find it educational to remind us every once in a while of the bond that is at the core of this franchise. ... to note that when the bullets are flying, the people who run this franchise have each other's backs.
"When (Cuban) first bought the team, I think that was like 12 years ago now, he was our No. 1 fan,'' Dirk says, answering a question about his unique relationship with the owner. "He was at every practice, every game, he flew with us everywhere on the plane ... So we spent a lot of time around him at the beginning and we just really got to know him. Just a great guy, he helped me numerous of times off the floor as well when I was struggling, just talking to him or helping me out. ... Just stuff off the floor that I went through in my life or certain things I don't really want to talk about. But he was always there. When I needed a friend to talk to or help from, he was always there. That was good to know. He always backed me, he believed in me.''
What a coupla cornballs, eh?
The triteness continues (as does the bullets-flying theme) when Rick Carlisle talks about being "in the foxhole'' with Cuban and Donnie Nelson. So it's trite and it's corny but it's really the way they feel ...
It's why Carlisle didn't much bother shopping himself this summer when his contract was up. (Notably, he didn't much grouse in advance of its expiration, either, knowing Cuban's policy against re-upping coach's deals in mid-stream.) Rick is back with his new four-year deal.
Meanwhile, Donnie Nelson -- who has known Carlisle since well before they became NBA power-brokers -- continues to work alongside Cuban without the benefit of a contract at all.
"It's a handshake deal,'' Donnie says. "We've just never bothered to getting around to doing it any other way. And this way ... well, it works for Mark and it works for me.''
It works for everyone at the top of the organization, Cuban and Donnie long ago investing into a familial atmosphere for this club, and then Carlisle coming along and investing similarly, right down to his daughter becoming schoolmates and playmates with Cuban's kids.
The bullets are about to fly. And whatever this franchise has going for it in 2012-13, it at the very least has Dirk (in whatever stage of health he'll start the season in) and the other principals harboring a deep faith in one another.
That by itself does not automatically lead to the wins and the money and the acclaim. But it's a unique foundation point and therefore worthy of mention ... and when times get tough, re-mention.
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