Mavs: A Shocking Sunset + A Dark Night Ahead
“Speaking of sunsets,
last night's was shocking.
I mean, sunsets aren't supposed to frighten you, are they?
Well, this one was terrifying.
People were screaming in the streets.”
From the poem Never Again the Same by James Tate (December 8, 1943-July 8, 2015)
Over the years, sports fans experience loss if they experience anything. More than joy.
Ask the Cubs. Ask the Buffalo Bills. Ask the 13 NBA teams (including the desperate Clippers) who have never won a championship.
The greatest lie in sports is that only championships matter. But it’s a lie that lives in the breath around us—and it fills up our lungs like a humid specter—and we drown in our failures.
I wrote yesterday that Mavs fans should enjoy this moment of triumph. That Mavs fans should take a moment to suspend our tendency to panic—and just soak in a pure and precious moment of hope. I was right when I wrote it—but the aftermath paints a picture of wrongness that seems naïve.
We were supposed to welcome our self-appointed Batman —but now we have a dark night ahead of us. A shocking night.
It’s not that DeAndre stayed in LA with his friend Blake and his “brother” Chris. It’s that he handled it the way a coward breaks up with a girlfriend. He ignored his phone (with Cuban and Parsons on the other end of the line), played video games and cards, and he and his buddies showed zero class as they violated an unwritten NBA rule.
A rule that’s likely to change. How could it not?
I tweeted it last night, and Fish has said it right here on DallasBasketball.com: The problem with this rule isn’t that a waffling man-child burned the Dallas Mavericks—the problem is that a team with fewer scruples (is there one at the moment?) might intentionally use this rule like a Trojan horse.
What’s to keep a rival team from sending in a max-level player, telling him to feign commitment to a conference rival, to tie up their cap space until nobody is left to sign, and then pull out the rug? Yes, that’s exactly what happened to the Mavs, but the one thing we can at least be certain of is that it wasn’t malicious on the part of the Clippers—simply incompetent. Jordan, for his part, is just another guy who wanted to be present for his own funeral. It seems he never really wanted to leave LA. He just wanted to hear all the eulogies he felt he’d earned over the last few years.?? Chris Paul paddled his banana boat all the way to Houston, Blake Griffin barricaded the door with the same tone-deaf sense of humor that gets him hit with hard fouls every night for being a bit of a smarmy prick, and Doc Rivers behaved like a guy who’s never won a championship before.??He bailed on Boston when stuff got hard—so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised that his sense of integrity gives way to his need to win.
Do you imagine Rick Carlisle or Greg Popovich would ever poach a player who’d committed to another team? Can you imagine that Pop would even want to coach a guy who’d back out of a verbal commitment without picking up the phone? (By the way, here's Fish writing from Cuban's CyberDust on how DeAndre literally refused to contact Cuban about his decision.)
The Mavs are in trouble—but in some ways, so is our game. The buzz from sports columnists focused on how much fun the chaos was, and not about how damaging it was for trust and integrity. We can make light of the stuffy members of the Baseball Writers Association, but you can bet they’d have very little fun watching a grown man back out on his word and do so without an ounce of maturity.??
So, to all you fans who read my column yesterday, I owe you an apology. I urged calm, when clearly the sky was falling faster than my keystrokes. Whether or not we pick up some Carlos Boozer-level guy is the least of our worries now. (Jordan Hill. Kevin Seraphin, Norris Cole, Tristan Thompson, Andre Miller. Somebody off the Summer-League team?) In fact, the questions and the problems of the 2015-2016 Dallas Mavericks are far more desperate than any I could’ve imagined 24 hours ago.
I claimed this wasn’t a tragedy—and I was wrong. Yes, some around the league will see it as comedy—but the secret underlying intelligence will also recognize how it shakes trust in the system.
It’s not the losing that bothers me. Nearly every team must, from time-to-time, rebuild from the ground up. What bothers me is this: Losing takes time. "Team Tank'' -- the notion broached by Cuban regarding what Dallas might've done had it not secured Jordan -- becomes a notion that must be broached again.
Time is the one commodity (not players, not salary cap space, and not draft picks) that can never be recouped. How much time does Dirk have left? Probably not enough to see the next sunset for this Mavs team—and that’s the greatest tragedy for me as I reflect on our current sunset.
The late James Tate once wrote:
“The mockery of it all stung us bitterly.
And when it was finally over
we whimpered and cried and howled.
And then the streetlights came on as always
and we looked into one another's eyes
ancient caves with still pools
and those little transparent fish
who have never seen even one ray of light.
And the calm that returned to us
was not even our own.”
There’s a special kind of calm that comes from shock. So many of us looking around at one another like we’ve barely survived a car crash. Too early still to know if anyone is trapped within the wreckage.
I couldn’t have swerved, even if I’d seen the oncoming lights—but I’m embarrassed that I missed them. I can only imagine how Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson must feel. Or Chandler Parsons. Or Dirk.
People were screaming in the streets. First with joy— and then not. Now every column for three days will just read like an incident report, or a eulogy. A borrowed calm. A shocking, shocking sunset.
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