If you want to know why the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks were swept from the first round of the playoffs this year, look at the boxscores of this year's Mavs-OKC playoff series vs. last year.
Then look for owner Mark Cuban and basketball operations president Donnie Nelson.
Last year, nine Mavs contributed. This year, you have six.
Vince Carter has been a liability, only hitting 12 of 41 shots. Brendan Haywood has proven he is a backup center, only averaging three points and three boards and missing easy dunk shots. He averaged more as a backup last year.
Brandan Wright and Roddy Beaubois haven’t performed in the playoffs. The only real contributor among the newcomers has been Delonte West. Ian Mahinmi, who played on the team last year, has done a decent job, but he is no Tyson Chandler.
Besides Chandler, who averaged 10.6 rebounds a game in last year's OKC-Dallas playoff series, missing Mavs include J.J. Barea, who had major contributions off the bench, including scoring 21 and 14 points in big wins; Peja Stojakovic, who hit some big shots; and Deshawn Stevenson, who provided needed defensive toughness. Corey Brewer, who was shipped to Denver by Cuban, would have helped this year.
Against OKC this year, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion played about as well as you could have hoped. But they looked tired down the stretch, and their play suffered. They had to do more with Chandler, Barea and Co. gone, and it caught up to them. Dirk even had to play center, with OKC’s thug, Kendrick Perkins, fouling him on just about every possession.
Jason Terry had a good first game, but then he faltered in the last three games. You could tell his heart wasn't in it after Cuban and Nelson decided not to re-sign Chandler, Stevenson and Barea.
Cuban and Nelson deserve scorn for essentially gutting last year’s title team, not signing Chandler, Barea and Stevenson in hopes of maybe signing a big free agent later this year or next year. Have they not heard the old saying, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?
It was like Cuban and Nelson didn't really believe this team could have won the title last year without sneaking up on teams, and they didn't want to keep the same players around to allow critics more fuel if they fell short this year. They kept to the premise that the Mavs could compete this year, overlooking how much they wrecked the team's championship chemistry.
I contend that Cuban and Nelson blowing up the championship team just a month or so after it won the title was the biggest blunder in Dallas sports history. That's saying a lot, considering contending blunders like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones firing Jimmy Johnson after two Super Bowl wins.
But at least in the latter case, Dallas had won two titles and the team was left just about intact. And the Cowboys did win the Super Bowl again two years after Jones fired Johnson.
Does anybody think the Mavericks have a real shot at winning the NBA title two years from now?
Whatever their reasons, Cuban and Nelson didn't give the Mavs a real shot at defending the championship this year. And that's just a damn shame.
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