So what the heck went wrong to bring us where we are today?
For starters, Dallas dealt with a number of injuries this year, as have the Spurs...who have yet to make any panicked trades.
Then, Phoenix and LA made moves in the last week to shake things up even further in the increasingly competitive Western Conference.
Now, it seems like Mark Cuban has gone ahead and decided, maybe because the Spurs are injured, or maybe because there are so many young and rising teams in the West, that THIS MUST BE THE YEAR THE MAVS WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
And it has to be that way, because our point guard aged 10 years today.
Today the Mavericks traded 25-year-old up-and-comer Devin Harris, who has made an NBA Finals appearance and started on a 67-15 team (while earning only $3.8 million, might I add) for 35-year-old Jason Kidd, a point guard who can do anything but one thing...ok wait, two things: SHOOT and WIN...recently.
Still on the same number, there are two major problems with this trade...ok, make that 3 major problems (can't get these numbers straight!)
1. It forces us to win THIS SEASON and DECIMATES our team if it doesn't 2. The loss of Diop makes us weaker defensively, slower offensively, and smaller all over the court. 3. It leaves us having two players in the clutch--Nowitzki and Kidd, our two "best"--who can't shoot when it's time to win the game.
Number one is crucial because of injuries and difficulties that arise in each season. To borrow from poker, placing the entire pot on one hand is stupid even when you have a GREAT hand, because sometimes there's still someone whose hand is just gonna beat yours. So in exchanging a 26-year-old point guard and a 26-year-old center for a 35-year-old point guard and... Malik Allen(!!!), we have basically put our faith in this team to win THIS year. Maybe NEXT year, but after that, who knows? Dirk will be 30 this year, and God help us if he gets slower and/or more frail.
And the real killer in this trade besides the two starters we surrendered is the fact that we are surrendering our 2010 first rounder to the Nets (in addition to this year's 20-somethingth pick), the real unsung casualty of this trade. Look at it this way--who knows if Kidd will still be playing in 2010, much less at a high enough level to be worth what that pick could be. AND if Kidd isn't playing at a high level, 32-year-old Dirk will probably not be carrying them to 60 wins at the time, so that will possibly be a lottery pick! In fact, as old as this team just became, that could be a lottery pick even if they DO win the finals this year (see: Miami Heat, 2006-2008). Dang it, I just pissed myself off thinking of that...
Number two, our defense will be an issue in the new West. Our only big man? Erick Dampier...Our fastest point guards on defense? 30-somethings Jason Terry and Jason Kidd...
So when we see Tony Parker? Screwed.
Chris Paul? He'll run and run for days.
Leandro Barbosa? Who's fast enough to contain him?
And on the other side...
Dampier for 48 minutes on Duncan?
Dampier alone trusted to guard Yao Ming an entire game and NOT foul out?
Dampier to guard David West AND rebound with Tyson Chandler?
Plus that leaves Dirk to guard every teams 2nd best big man again, which by all accounts is devastating.
On offense my fear is, believe it or not, that Jason Kidd is not a true fit. The Mavericks play at a pretty slow pace nowadays, and the high-scoring reputation we achieved under Nash has somehow stayed over in the past 3 years.
But the reality is, the Mavericks are a jump shooting team. It's the reason they lost in the Finals and to Golden State. Steve Nash never averaged more than 8 assists on the Mavericks because of this. He averages 12 on a more athletic, up-tempo team in Phoenix. And now people think that Kidd will just come into Dallas and average 15-15-and 15 assists on the same kind of jump shooting team? When he can't make a jumper himself?
I think that is the reason why the other Western Conference teams have to be salivating. The Mavs will spread the court with their shooters, but instead of having to watch Harris' quick drives to the basket, they can just leave Jason Kidd out alone to shoot his .367 shooting percentage all day long, get his 11 points and take another L like he has in Jersey this year.
Now I still think that the Mavs will win 50 games in the regular season. But my concern is what happens when teams pull the rug from under them and force Kidd to shoot in the playoffs. Then when the games are close--which they definitely will be out West this year--your best options to shoot with the game on the line are .367 Kidd and "Choke" Nowitzki? Is no one else finding this a little disconcerting?
Dirk isn't a guy you want under pressure. Sure, he still has time to turn this reputation around, but if you're fighting for a championship, and you've got Dirk, and you're going up against Kobe, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Baron Davis, TMac, Kevin Garnett, or ANY Piston for goodness sake, who do you think is more likely to make a clutch shot? 9 times out of 10, THE OTHER GUY.
By the same token, Kidd thrives when he has teammates that play at a high level. He is instrumental in getting them to play at that level, of course, but he alone is not enough to take over and win games at the end, as his career has proven. It's like they paired two guys up who do exactly what the other doesn't do, but they are both still missing the same crucial piece. Till this season, all Dirk has done is shoot, and all Kidd can't do is shoot. But neither can SCORE when there's ONE possession left. One for lack of stroke, the other for lack of heart.
After writing all this, it may be ridiculous to say, but I hope I'm wrong. I mean, I WANT to be wrong about this. I WANT Dirk to be clutch. I WANT to say that Jason Kidd is going to be what Devin Harris would never become. I WANT to believe that in 2010 the New Jersey Nets will be drafting 30th in the first round. But when you've seen what I've seen--Dirk and Kidd combining to lose 3 of the last 5 NBA Finals--there's not a whole lot of room for optimistic viewpoints.
Hello, $21 million dollar point guard. Goodbye future. Hello PRESSURE.