We can continue to whine that they’re “decimated by injuries,’’ but there is no need to sugarcoat reality.
We can continue to alibi that they’re “young and building,’’ but there is no need to spin the downward spiral.
We can continue to pray that “things will get better,’’ but this is only true because it’s almost mathematically impossible for teams with a .182 winning percentage to get worse.
“If you’re looking for me to make some kind of a crazy statement about how bad things are, that’s not how I do business,” said coach Rick Carlisle after Friday’s 80-64 home loss to the Grizzlies before courteously offering up just the sort of crazy/colorful remark that makes the jobs of people like me just a little easier.
“I’m not going to try to put lipstick on a pig here.’’
And there’s your headline and there’s your lead paragraph and there’s your thematic center of a game story that for a second there was going to be about how the AAC crowd (recorded as a sellout but far from it in terms of actual humans willing to subject themselves to this) would boo ex-pal Chandler Parsons …
But turned into a question of whether MFFLs would or should boo their own Boys in Blue.
”Girls will cheer,’’ owner Mark Cuban quipped about Parsons’ homecoming. “And guys will boo.’’
It’s a chestnut Cuban has used before, but it’s clever.
One wishes the same level of cleverness was evident in the assemblage of this basketball team, which started the season with a franchise-record 0-4 mark, has now lost four games in a row, is at 2-9 a match for the 1998-99 edition of the club (so bad and so long ago that it Dirk Nowitzki’s first season in the NBA) and on Friday nearly set one of the most ignominious records there is.
Back in a dismal era when Dallas might win 11 or 13 games per season, the Mavs once scored 62 points in a game. That was against Milwaukee on Nov. 22, 1997. If not for rookie Nicolas Brussino draining a 3-pointer with just 24.8 seconds remaining in the game that pushed Dallas to these 64 points, this awful, awful evening goes down in futility history.
“We’re having a hard time scoring right now,’’ Carlisle said.
Yeah, you are stuck on 61 points with one possession remaining, you scored just 29 points in the first half, and you totaled just 10 points in the second quarter (knotting the franchise record)?
A hard time. Yes.
The issue with the “64’’ is that is threatens to be a stain on the carpet that doesn’t go away. History won’t remember that Nowitzki (sore Achilles), and Deron Williams (strained calf) and Devin Harris (sprained great toe) and J.J. Barea (torn calf) were unavailable, or that they will be unavailable again tonight when Dallas tips at Orlando at 6 p.m.
The carpet stain remains.
“I’m going to keep coaching these guys the same way, I’m going to keep stressing the positives, we’re going to keep working to get them better,’’ Carlisle said. “ We’ve got some things that we’ve got to deal with and we’ve got to play very efficiently, we’ve got to play very tough, and very together right now.”
In other words, we are going to move a coffee table over here and push the sofa a little bit to the left and maybe soften the lighting in the room …
But the carpet stain remains.
People who came to this game might not exactly prioritize the idea of coming back, as watching a largely-nameless team go six and eight minutes without scoring (Dallas’ 21 field goals made is just one shy of the franchise record for the fewest baskets made in a game.) People who tell themselves they want “at least hope’’ aren’t really truly energized by Dorian Finney-Smith and Jonathan Gibson being rotation players. People who realize that there was wisdom in letting Parsons go and replacing him with Harrison Barnes (who led all scorers with 15 points but on just 5-of-17 shooting) will nevertheless be stuck with the vision of Chandsome making a 3-pointer and then giving his “boy’’ Cuban the stink-eye. … and then of visions of Cuban and Parsons hugging it out after the game, as if everything is OK.
Everything about the Mavs is not OK. What deserves the stink-eye is everything about the Mavs.
Folks are already starting to turn their attention to “Tank Talk’’ and the NBA Lottery and if that retains your interest in your basketball team, more power to you. Hey, maybe instead of the Mavs putting placards in all the seats with photos of Deron and Devin and JJB, the placards can feature photos of Kansas’ Josh Jackson, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or Washington’s Markelle Fultz.
But for me, “Tank Talk’’ is sugarcoated spin of another sort, an optimistic way to twiddle our thumbs through what has the lipstick-on-pig markings of a historically bad season. Carlisle’s relentlessness and Barnes’ skillfulness will have to do, so they can commence with the pushing around of furniture.
But this deep into the season with two wins? A Friday night in DFW with too few fans? A division rival in town and all we get are “my boy’’ bugs and 64 points?
The carpet stain remains.