Mavericks Offer Hope for Chargers Fans

The Mavericks won the NBA Championship and taught the Chargers some valuable lessons in the process. The Chargers and Mavericks, known for following strong regular seasons with disappointing playoff runs, have more in common than one might think. Here is a look at what the Bolts can take from their basketball brethren.

1. It's an Odds Game

A.J. Smith preaches the importance of getting into the tournament. Once there, he believes, anything can happen. That was almost the case for the Chargers in 2007, where only injuries to Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson prevented the Bolts from catching lightning in a bottle.

The Chargers have made the playoffs in five of the last seven years, causing fans to doubt if their team will ever break through. Fans in Dallas felt the same way until -- after the team's 11th straight 50-win season -- the Mavericks finally rose up and won it all. And therein lies the lesson: If you keep kicking at the door, it will eventually fall.

2. The Power of One

Football, like basketball, is a team sport. But the importance of building around a transcendent superstar cannot be overstated. The Mavericks assembled their team around Dirk Nowitzki, rewarding him with a rich contract extension even as outsiders doubted his ability to come through in the clutch. Given enough time and a deep enough supporting cast, he justified the organization's faith in him.

Rivers, of course, is San Diego's Nowitzki. He puts up gaudy numbers; leads his teammates inside and outside the confines of the game; and embraces his role as face of the franchise. But Rivers has thrown at least one interception in each of his career playoff games and has yet to lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl, let alone win one. Rivers must believe in himself -- just as Nowitzki did -- and feel that he will be able to seize the right opportunity when it comes along.

3. A Little Want-to Goes a Long Way

The Mavericks had a bevy of veterans smart enough to recognize their best (last?) chance at winning it all. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler are just a few of the 30-somethings who were in desperate search of their first ring.

The Chargers have 30-somethings who are equally desperate: Quentin Jammer, Antonio Gates and Shaun Phillips, to name a few. These players know they are running low on chances, which should work in San Diego's favor. Usually, in close contests, the team that wants it more wins.

Will the Chargers follow the Mavericks' lead? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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