Fresh from the most successful season in franchise history, the best-case scenario for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011-12 would have been to repeat as NBA champions.
Plan B — breaking up that team for flexibility and salary-cap space, in what proved to be a futile attempt to lure Dwight Howard, Deron Williams or some other in-his-prime, flag-planting free agent — didn’t go so well. The Mavs went 36-30 in the post-lockout season, finishing 14 games back in the Southwest Division and, in the playoffs’ first round, got swept by new West finalists, Oklahoma City.
On to Plan C, the re-stocking of the roster with solid supporting players — center Chris Kaman, forward Elton Brand, guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo among them — who don’t qualify as franchise guys or even as that dream sidekick to All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. The idea again seems to be, do the best they can and add a big name in the summer of 2013.
But Nowitzki, in an email interview with Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, sounded more upbeat — and competitive — than that:
This year, the Mavericks again have maintained financial flexibility with a lot of short-term contracts. That doesn’t deter Nowitzki.
“I think we have a good team again,” Nowitzki said. “I like all the new additions. I think we got younger on the perimeter, more athletic and that was always our goal. … The month of October is important to get everyone adjusted, but I think we got a lot of potential.”
It makes sense that Nowitzki would see the Mavs’ glass as half-full; he has all sorts of reason to be in a good mood. He got married in the offseason. With labor peace this fall, he knows when training camp and the 2012-13 season is going to start. And he feels healthy, eager to get going without the yapping of his knees that turned last season into the worst (21.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 45.7 FG pct.) since his second year.
Having Dirk enthused and on board, at age 34, is vital for Dallas because of his timeline. On a team built around short contracts, he’s no longer a lifer, with just two years left on his four-year, $80 million deal. Short horizons proved to be a problem for the Mavs last season and now their superstar has one as well.
If this season were all about waiting for 2013-14, Nowitzki would be giving up 50 percent of what could be his remaining NBA time. Nowitzki makes it sound as if his ambitions for the Mavs are much higher.
As he typed to Sefko: “We are all professionals, and I expect everyone to play at a high level and give it their best no matter what their contract situation is.”