The end of the Dallas Mavericks' 12-year playoff streak is far from official, but it seems all but inevitable at this point, even (or, perhaps especially) after eking out a 117-112 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
Over the last five seasons, the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs has averaged approximately 48 wins during the regular season. To get to that mark, the Mavs, now at 14-23, would have to 34-11 over their final 45 games.
That's not an entirely impossible feat, not with the championship pedigrees of Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion on the floor and Rick Carlisle on the bench. But, for all intents and purposes, it might as well be.
Which is a shame, because it didn't have to be that way. Back in December of 2011, when the lockout came to an end, the Mavs had an opportunity to keep together the same core that had just topped the Miami Heat for the NBA title.
But rather than spend money to keep Tyson Chandler and, to a lesser extent, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler on board, Dallas decided to rebuild on the cheap. Owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson preferred preserving financial flexibility amidst the new collective bargaining agreement over extending their existing championship window.
And so far, the gambit has failed. The Mavs snagged the seventh seed in last year's playoffs, but were bounced in four games by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now, after replacing Jason Kidd and Jason Terry with a slew of spare parts this past summer, Big D finds itself on the brink of the 2013 NBA draft lottery.
Which wouldn't be a big deal, if not for the fact that, by taking a mulligan on this season and last in hopes of landing big-name free agents, the Mavs have wasted the remainder of Nowitzki's prime. It's imperative that a team make the most of any given title window and/or future Hall of Famer, because each is so fleeting and so difficult to come by.
The Mavs, it seems, didn't see it that way, and have squandered the chance to win multiple titles with the best player in franchise history while doing so.