Things have not come easy so far this season for the Dallas Mavericks.
After starting 4-1, Dallas has lost eight of its last 11 to fall back to 7-8 on the season.
Still, with only 15 games played so far this year, Dallas still has plenty of time to improve its record and make noise in the playoffs.
Mavericks fans are still holding their breath awaiting the return of former league MVP Dirk Nowitzki to the lineup, which should drastically improve the team's chances.
7-8 is nothing to write home about, but Dallas can't be that disappointed that it is only one game under .500 without Dirk on the floor.
Here are five ways that the Mavericks have been able to keep their heads above water without their German superstar.
So far this season, Dallas has been able to take care of business against the weaker teams in the NBA.
Without Dirk in the lineup, Dallas might only be a middle-of-the-road team at best, so it is crucial for the Mavericks not to lose games against the bottom half of the league.
Thus far, Dallas is 5-3 against teams with a losing record. However, all three of their losses have come against potential playoff teams in Minnesota, Indiana and the Lakers. Also, all three of those teams are just one game under .500 each.
Without Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks needed to find a reliable scoring option to take his place.
O.J. Mayo has been the top threat from the outside, but it has been Chris Kaman doing the job in the paint for the Mavericks this year.
Kaman did not get the starting spot until midway through the month, but he has shown just how valuable of a free agent pick-up he was ever since.
Kaman is second on the team in scoring at 14.5 PPG, and he is also second in rebounding at 7.0.
Kaman has reached the 20-point mark three times this year and has been in double figures in 11 of his 14 games played.
Mavs fans are anxiously awaiting to see how dominant a Kaman-Nowitzki duo can be in the post, but until then they will rely on Kaman to handle the bulk of the inside work for this Dallas team.
Dallas is one of only six NBA teams that has averaged over 100 PPG so far this season, and they have been doing it with the long ball.
The Mavericks rank among the league leaders in three-point shooting percentage (40 percent), three pointers made per game (8.3) and three pointers attempted per game (20.7).
O.J. Mayo himself is shooting the long ball at an incredible 52.4 percent, which is a large reason why he averages over 20 points a night.
Vince Carter is also shooting above 40 percent from three, and he averages more than two threes a game.
Other contributors from long-range this year have been Jae Crowder, Shawn Marion and Troy Murphy.
When the team gets Nowitzki back, it will certainly be an even better shooting team.
If Dallas can hit from deep with consistency it will be an extremely tough team to beat moving forward this season.
Another large reason that the Mavericks have been one of the top scoring teams in the league without Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup is their unselfishness.
The Mavericks are 10th in the NBA, averaging 22 assists per game so far.
Darren Collison has been the lead man in that category for Dallas and is 18th in the league at 6.3 APG.
The emerging Dominque Jones has also been effective when he has seen the court, averaging a surprising 3.5 dimes per game in just over 11 minutes.
O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion and Roddy Beaubois are also averaging around three assists per game.
Dallas knew that it would need to take advantage of its depth this season if it was going to win games.
While the Mavericks have relied heavily on Mayo, Kaman and Carter to score, they also have spread the wealth and shown that they are willing to ride the hot hand.
What Dallas lacks in talent on the offensive end, it makes up for in smart, unselfish basketball.
The biggest reason that the Mavericks have been able to survive thus far this season has been the dynamic play of their two shooting guards, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter.
Mayo was Dallas' biggest offseason pickup, and he is showing in his fifth year in the league just how good of a scorer he can be.
Mayo is currently seventh in the NBA in scoring at 20.8 PPG and is the team's top threat night-in and night-out.
Mayo has excelled more than many thought he would when being the primary option on offense for an NBA team.
In Memphis, Mayo was forced to come off the bench and share the spotlight with Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
However in Dallas, he has been given the green light and is having a career year thus far.
Vince Carter has also been more than pulling his weight coming off the bench.
The 35-year-old is showing that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, and he has to be considered in the mix for the NBA's top sixth man so far.
Carter is third on the team in scoring at 13.3 PPG, despite playing less than 24 minutes a game.