We are just mere hours away from Christmas, but for Dallas Mavericks fans, it may be difficult to be in the holiday spirit.
The Mavericks, just two years removed from a world championship, find themselves with a mediocre 12-16 record, losers of three games in a row and fading quickly in the Southwest Division.
Dallas did get one early Christmas present though, a healthy Dirk Nowitzki who made his season debut yesterday against the Spurs. The bad news for the Mavs is that despite having Nowitzki back in the lineup, Dallas was embarrassed by San Antonio.
If the Mavericks are going to turn their season around, a lot has to change from here on out.
Dallas has not missed the playoffs in 12 seasons, but they currently sit in 12th in the West looking way up at the postseason.
While there is assuredly lots of time left to go to right the ship in Big D, the Mavericks' Christmas wish list is likely very long this year considering all the issues that they have seen in the season's first 28 games.
First and foremost the Mavs need to wish for a healthy team, and specifically a healthy Dirk Nowitzki for the remainder of the year.
As bad as the Mavs have been this season, an asterisk still needs to be put on their first 27 games, since they were played without the team's best player.
It make take a few more games still for Dirk to get back into the mode for an NBA game, but once he does, we can finally see how good the Mavericks can be with a complete arsenal of players at their disposal.
It is painfully obvious that without Nowitzki in the lineup the Mavericks are no better than an average team with little to no hope of a playoff berth. However, with the added element of Dirk in the frontcourt, it should transform how this team plays offensively.
Other injuries to Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Derek Fisher have plagued the team this season, and considering how loaded the West is this year, the Mavericks can not afford to go long stretches of time without having all of their best players available.
Another thing that the Mavericks should wish for is a better defensive effort. The Mavericks' recent losing ways can largely be chalked up to their lack of defensive intensity. Dallas ranks 28th in the NBA in points allowed per game at an abysmal 102.5 per game.
During their recent stretch in which they have lost six out of their last seven contests, the Mavs have given up over 110 points four times in that stretch.
Simply put, if the Mavericks can't figure out how to defend, they aren't going to win many more games the rest of this season. They simply don't an offense capable of outscoring their opponents on a consistent basis.
Dallas should also be wishing for better rebounding. The Mavericks rank dead last in the NBA in rebounding difference, much like they have for most of the season.
Whether it is just emphasizing defense more, or acquiring better rebounding post players, something has to be done to stop the Mavs from consistently getting massacred on the boards by their opponents.
The Mavericks also need to wish for the old O.J. Mayo to come back, or at least the one from earlier in the season.
Mayo is still averaging nearly 20 points a game, but he has fallen off significantly over the last month. In fact in his last three games, Mayo has scored just seven, 10 and eight points three of his four worst totals of the season.
In the month of December, Mayo's scoring average is more than a full two points lower than it was in November, and he is also shooting worse both overall and from beyond the arc.
Whether it is just a cold streak or other teams figuring out how to defend Mayo more effectively, Mayo needs to snap back to his A-game even with Nowitzki back if Dallas has any shot at relevance this season.
While there at it, Dallas should also wish for better play out of Vince Carter, who has been in a terrible cold streak this month, Darren Collison whose assist-to-turnover ratio is just 26th amongst Western Conference point guards and Elton Brand who has been ineffective even when healthy this season.
Dallas has a lot to wish for this Christmas, but Santa won't be coming down the chimney of the American Airlines Arena to solve their problems.
It will be solely up to the players and coaches if they are going to get their act together and salvage something out of this season, or if they are going to be the first Mavericks team this millennium to miss out on the NBA playoffs.