HANG TIME, Texas — Pity poor Jessica Nowitzki, who is not a fan of the Mavericks drive-for-.500 beards.
“It’s not a good look,” husband Dirk admitted the other day. “My wife doesn’t like it that much. But I guess we’ve all got to suck it up and reach our goal.”
It might be time to wonder how tolerant Mrs. Nowitzki will be by October, when the Mavs have a more realistic shot to reach the break-even mark after their spectacular 136-103 flameout in Houston? By that time Dirk and his teammates could look like so many Rip Van Winkles or extras from the cast of “Lincoln”.
The Mavs hardly resemble a team that is sharpening its razors or its playoff claws as a lost season staggers toward the finish. They couldn’t defend, get enough shots for their biggest gun or do much of anything right against the Rockets.
“At the clip, we’re losing and losing (close) games at home, and those are the games you have to win if you want to be in the playoffs,” Nowitzki said. “We haven’t shown consistently that we can big games. We have to fight and we have another game on Wednesday and we’ll see what we got.”
What they’ve got is a season that jumped off track when Dirk missed the first 27 games following knee surgery and has never developed a sense of rhythm or direction. Now a team that has not won more than three consecutive games all season would have to go 15-8 over the final six weeks just to get to the .500 mark and it’s unlikely that 41-41 would be good enough to make the playoffs anyway.
It’s the end of an era. Assuming there is no postseason basketball in Dallas this spring, it will bring an end to the best stretch of basketball in franchise history, ending a playoff streak that stretches back to 2001, the first full season under Mark Cuban’s ownership.
The Mavs string of 12 consecutive playoff appearances is tied for the 13th-longest in league history and is the second-best active streak in the NBA, trailing only San Antonio’s 15 and counting.
The highlight, of course, was the 2011 championship, but more than a decade of always reaching the playoffs is a worthy feat that marks consistency and constant striving by what has become a model franchise.
How long has it been? Consider that the first year of the playoff streak, coached by Don Nelson (53-39), had a roster that included Shawn Bradley, Christian Laettner, Juwan Howard, Vernon Maxwell, Wang Zhizhi a rookie named Eduardo Najera and a 27-year-old Steve Nash, along with Nowitzki who was in his second NBA season.
Now only Dirk remains as the Mavs close in on coming full circle to his non-playoff rookie season.
“If you want to be in the playoffs we haven’t showed consistently we can win big games,” Nowitzki said. “It was a nice win in Brooklyn [on Friday], and we can’t follow it up.
“Not consistent enough even over one game. A decent half, a decent three quarters here and there, and one garbage quarter. It’s never consistent enough to really be a playoff threat.”
It was a long road and long climb by the Mavs to get to the top of the mountain, but the only thing getting longer these days is those beards.