We take a lot of pride in the way DallasBasketball.com covers the Mavs. Facts. Fact-based opinion. Access to info. Analysis so deep that, if done right, we can tell you what's going to happen before it happens. (Case in point: The DeMarcus Cousins "supermax'' plan in Sacramento, which our must-read interpretation of the new CBA helped us tell hopeful Mavs fans what was going to occur way back on Nov. 11.)
And we attempt to do it all while drawing you to be a Mavs Premium Fan without headline-porning you in here.
As fans, we take the same sort of pride in watching our team, yes, even as the Mavs struggle to what is now an abysmal record of 11-27.
They've earned that pride from us. They've won more games than most teams over the last 15 years. They've won two conference championships and an NBA title in the Cuban Era. They've employed some of the finest basketball players on the planet (much love for guys like Jason Terry, Matrix, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd -- and Dirk Nowitzki, of course).
It's tough to watch the team you love lose night after night. But, it does make it far more rewarding to watch them learn how to win again. It's been a long time since we've been in this position, and we appreciate it as you hang out with us while we talk our way through this together.
Along those lines, there is something Dirk has earned -- or at least, DB.com can report, this is the way the Mark Cuban-led Mavs think of the situation.
How long until Dirk settles in to the idea that the Mavs probably won't make the playoffs this year? Is the eighth seed still a mathematical possibility? Yes, of course. The West has replaced the East for a moment as the conference that's likely to field a losing playoff team. If Dallas tops Phoenix in the Thursday game at Mexico City (discussion here on DB.com Boards), optimism will rise again.
But, there will very likely be a moment this season when Dirk won't be playing for a post-season appearance any longer, and he's going to have to decide what he IS playing for.
Unfortunately, we fear Dirk's well-earned pride is blinding him to this reality. Not selfishness; hey, he'll move to be Dallas' sixth man if that'll help win games. But pride. The pride that has him looking at the standings and seeing only a small leap to eighth. The pride that has him believing that the playoffs are the end-all/be-all. The pride that drives him to privately and now publicly stating that this team's intended starting lineup, including Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams, "deserves'' some time to play together.
As always, management listens to Dirk. Even assuages Dirk. But if you "give time'' to Bogut and Deron, it means you don't trade them by the Feb. 23 deadline. It means that Dirk's motto of "Let 'Er Rip!'' is a path to nowhere in terms of what is best for the franchise. It means a much slower post 2016-17 march back to relevance ... and a march that might not include Dirk, anyway.
Here's the rock and hard place, the catch-22 place, that Dirk's pride puts you in:
If you continue to allow Assistant GM Dirk to call shots as to the direction of the franchise, and you therefore absolutely refuse to even consider the embrace of just one more half-season of Organic-Tanking pain, you stay bad ... and Nowitzki is tempted to retire sooner than he might otherwise, because "bad'' isn't "fun.''
If, on the other hand, you decide that Dirk's powerful voice be silenced here, that he's going to have to endure some down times in order to accelerate more good times ... Nowitzki might be temped to retire sooner than he might otherwise, because ... well, again, "bad'' isn't "fun.''
"If things don't go so well and it hurts everywhere, it could be that 2017 will be the end." Nowitzki's words.
We've chronicled before how Assistant GM Dirk has helped call shots, from the acquisition of Kidd to the acquisition of Rondo and many more in between. ... and the risks involved in allowing even an iconic "inmate'' to help run the asylum. But most of those decisions were largely about how to make a good team better.
This is different. This is about whether to make a bad team worse. And about whether the Dirk and the organization (as opposed to Dirk and the team, which obviously is trying to win within a 48-minute framework, thus Rick Carlisle's ping-pong ball disgust) are willing to do so.
The Dirk/Cuban bond is remarkably strong. Along with Rick Carlisle and Donnie Nelson, this is The Quadrangle of Trust. They are all together on the same page in a way we simply cannot imagine many other organizational leadership groups in sports can match. (Maybe Belichick's Patriots and Pop's Spurs and that's about it.)
The Quadrangle of Trust needs to do not just what is best for Dirk -- best to keep him happy, engaged, and desirous of playing two more seasons to make it a nice, round 20 -- but rather what is best for the Dallas Mavericks from top to bottom, from present to future, from Dirk Era to Next Era.
We worry about what occurs if Dirk can't come to terms with the reality of this withering season. Far more frustration over the next few months? Dissent when someone inside the Mavs finally acknowledges those realities? (Bogut's bosses weren't exactly thrilled with him uttering those two dirty words the other day.) Frustration that bring his career to a close before the Mavs have a chance to right the ship?
Along with all this pride must come all that trust. There is a serious discussion to be had about trade-aways and tanking and it can't be about platitudes or past-days or pipedreams. It's got to be about not just Cuban, Rick and Donnie listening to the pridefully competitive Nowitzki and bending to what he thinks is best for the Dirk-led team; it's also got to be about Dirk -- the most unselfish superstar of all-time -- bending to what might be best for the Mavs when they are no longer Dirk-led.