The Dallas Mavericks are a good team. They have good players, even a few great ones. But they're not playing like it, especially not in the past few games.
The talent is the same, and one could argue they're healthier than they were at the start of the season, when Howard and Marion were banged up.
Throughout the season the Mavericks have established a "Big Three" of Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
Each one of those three excels at one part of the game. Kidd is the passer, Dirk is the scorer, and Marion is the defensive specialist.
And it's not like any of those three are just a one-dimensional player. Kidd can hit the three-pointer, Dirk can pull down 10 rebounds a game, and Marion can rebound and score, especially on the low post.
You would think this would be enough to make the Mavericks one of the elite teams in the league, but they are currently going through a slump that is threatening to sink their season.
So what's the problem?
The problem is consistency from their other players, each of whom is capable of playing like a good player on a championship-caliber team.
Jason Terry is a lights-out, if streaky, shooter, and with him starting the game, the Mavs have been starting out strong on offense and with him off the bench, he provides a scoring spark to help the second unit transition into the game.
But he has been feast or famine lately, either going 2-for-13, or he's 11-for-14 and 3 of 5 from three-point land.
If he's hitting, the Mavericks are usually rolling on all cylinders, because the other team can't gang up on Dirk as much.
If he's missing, he's still going to shoot, and he becomes a black hole into which possessions vanish, never to be seen again.
Josh Howard, is a multi-skilled player who can score, defend and rebound at an amazing rate, when he's healthy and/or motivated.
The problem of late has been: he seems to be both, and yet he's still playing awful.
He says he's willing to play in whatever role coach Rick Carlisle gives him, and he hasn't looked upset or down on himself while playing. His ankle and wrist injuries, now fully rehabbed, seem to be behind him.
But lately he's been playing like Jason Terry, albeit a Jason Terry that never gets hot. Howard can't make a jumper to save his life, and those are the only shots he is taking.
Never a three-point ace, he's been bricking open threes with such regularity that teams are rotating faster to Jason Kidd along the perimeter than to Howard.
Erick Dampier can't stay healthy, he's okay when he's in, but his lingering knee issues leave him a gametime decision almost every day.
Drew Gooden is capable of 10 points, 12 rebounds, against teams with much bigger frontcourts, but lately he's been reverting to the jump-shooting knucklehead that we all feared he could be.
Quinton Ross was brought to make threes and defend, and he has done neither. Rodrigue Beaubois has a breathtaking skill set, but you can count on him to blow a few possessions per game, something the Mavs can ill afford come playoff time.
This Mavs team is becoming like the frustrating teams we've watched in the last few years: namely, you don't know which one will show up.
You just can't tell. And it's not like the Mavs don't know it. Dirk, Carlisle, Kidd, and Terry have all commented about the "funk" the Mavs have been in.
But how does a team that considers itself a contender get into a "funk" in February?
The Lakers, Cavs and Celtics aren't in a "funk."
It doesn't help things that several Mavs are prone to inconsistent play, but if the Mavs hope to go deep in the playoffs, or even attract a top free agent talent this summer, they better find some consistency and get out of this funk very soon.