Can Dirk carry the Mavs down the stretch?
Let's face it. Not many NBA followers believed the Dallas Mavericks would repeat as champions this year. They had an epic ride last year, but duplicating it was going to be quite a task with rising teams like Oklahoma City, Miami and Chicago.
What's more, the Mavs lost significant pieces from last year's bunch, namely Tyson Chandler.
However, nobody—and I mean nobody—thought the Mavs' 2012 ride would feature them potentially missing the playoffs. At the season's outset, such a thought was mere foolishness.
Now, the thought is realistic and a cause for panic for Dallas fans.
The Mavs are currently in disarray at the worst time. Lamar Odom's tumultuous tenure with the Mavs has officially imploded (Odom and the Mavs have now parted ways), Jason Kidd is a shell of the player he once was and has been battling a groin injury, and the majority of their roster (besides Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry) simply looks inept compared to their Western Conference foes.
What's more, there's a further reason to panic: the Mavs' remaining schedule. After Tuesday's home tilt with Sacramento, they then hit the road for six of their final eight games. The Mavs currently possess an 11-16 record on the road and even have to play some formidable opponents such as the L.A. Lakers, Chicago and Atlanta.
All this to say, last year now seems so long ago for Mavs fans. There's legitimate reason to panic. As said previously, a repeat title was not necessarily on the docket for 2012, but could the defending champs seriously miss the playoffs? Yes, I'm afraid so.
How will the Mavs' season unfold?
And quite frankly, even if the Mavs do hang onto their position, they'll most likely draw one of San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
In last year's playoffs, they disposed of the Thunder, but the story being written in 2012 appears much, much different than 2011. It would be shocking to see the foundering Mavs knock off one of these surging squads in the early rounds.
At this point, the Mavs have one thing going for them: championship experience. Nowitzki, Terry and Kidd could spark some signs of life during the season's final eight games.
Unfortunately, that's a hope that could turn up void.
Perhaps Mavs fans would be wise to allow their panic to shift their focus towards the offseason, when the hopes of landing Dallas-native Deron Williams could become a reality.
Or, perhaps Mavs fans should simply reminisce upon last year's dream season. I mean, there's nothing wrong with them being a one-year wonder, right?