Sunday, April 25, 9:46 EST. I am curled up in the shower, sobbing as the water washes over me, a la Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura when he discovered the truth about Lois Einhorn/Ray Finkle.
My beloved Mavericks just blew Game Four of the best-of-seven series to go down 3-1, and a once-promising season looks to be going down the drain like oh so many tears.
It could be argued that at the beginning of the series the Mavericks had more talent than the Spurs, and that is true. Outside of the Big Threes (Duncan/Parker/Ginobili and Dirk/Kidd/Butler) the Mavericks boasted superior role players.
Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood, Erick Dampier, and Shawn Marion were vastly superior to George Hill, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner, and Richard Jefferson.
But the Spurs are simply executing better, playing sharper on both ends of the floor, while the Mavericks self-destruct at every angle.
So let's take a look at who is to blame for a series spiraling quickly out of control.
First lets see who isn't to blame for this disaster.
Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
Both have played all-out, with everything you'd expect from two All-Stars.
Dirk Nowitzki submitted an all-time great playoff performance in Game One, scoring 26 points on 14 shots. While his shooting was bound to return to the mean, Dirk has been the only consistent thing about the Mavs' offense during the series.
In Game Two, he missed some shots he usually makes, but he's averaging 28 PPG on 53.5-percent shooting. He's also getting to the line and making those shots, having missed one free throw all series.
Shawn Marion also isn't the problem. I wasn't a huge fan of his during the season, but he's been great this year embracing the defensive stopper role, while not getting plays drawn up for him but providing a lot of offensive boards, steals, and blocks.
After Game Three, he mentioned being yanked in and out of the lineup like a "rag doll," and he's right. Carlisle isn't playing him in crunch time, despite Caron Butler's terrible performance.
Marion has swallowed his pride all season for the betterment of the team, and he isn't being rewarded with it.
During Game Four, a camera was on Marion as he sat on the bench, in his warm-ups, as the game, series, and season slipped away from the Mavericks. He looked upset, and rightly so.
He had dropped 14 points on 7-for-13 shooting and seven rebounds, all in 27 minutes, and here was Caron out there stinking it up in crunch time.
I'd also like to take this time to point out that Jason Kidd, while not to blame, isn't going to get off scot-free.
He hasn't established himself as an outside threat this series, shooting only 30 percent from behind the arc. San Antonio is getting more and more comfortable giving him space and focusing their defensive attention elsewhere, and Kidd isn't making them pay for it.
Rick Carlisle is going to shoulder most of the blame for this series if the Mavs can't bounce back.
Where to begin? How about first of all, yanking Shawn Marion's minutes around like a rag doll. Marion was supposed to give the Mavs an athletic edge on both ends of the floor against the Spurs, and yet he can't do it while tethered to the bench at crunch time.
Instead, he puts out Caron Butler (who, as you can probably tell, will have a section later) who is absolutely murdering this team on the offensive end with his stagnant play.
Now let's move to especially sensitive territory: playing J.J. Barea over Roddy Beaubois. Ridiculous.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has placed trust in rookie DeJuan Blair, and Blair has rewarded him with hustle plays on the boards and scoring, and even some defensive playmaking.
Carlisle has shown no such trust in rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, who could help the Mavs in a number of ways. He can shoot the ball from the outside and get to the rim, which the stale offense of the Mavs could use. He could also provide some sort of counterpoint to George Hill, who the Mavs are letting have the series of his career.
J.J. Barea is getting far too much play for a team that is supposed to be contending for a championship. He's a great gimmick, and a good change of pace for a few minutes, but the way Carlisle has him out there, the Mavericks don't stand a chance against a good team.
No matter how you play it, when Butler and Marion are playing the 2 and 3 is the only time the Mavs' backcourt stands a chance.
Pick your poison, Kidd/Terry, Kidd/Barea, or Barea/Terry, they might as well be traffic cones against the combos of Parker/Manu, Parker/Hill, or Manu/Hill.
Carlisle plays Kidd/Terry against Parker/Manu in crunch time, and it's hurting them big time.
Carlisle isn't on the floor though, and he was visibly pissed off about Game Four, which the Mavs let slip away, but his personnel decisions and player management skills aren't helping much.
Caron Butler has become exactly the kind of player that destroyed the Wiizards for a season and a half.
Butler and Antawn Jamison have the most frustrating offensive games on the planet, because they waste so much skill. With his speed and physicality, Butler should be charging to the rim, instead he loves that step-back midrange jumper with a hand in his face.
I like how he makes them, but they bring the Mavs' offense to a standstill, and that's what is so frustrating. Once Caron Butler gets the ball, the Mavericks possession is over, for better or worse.
You know (and San Antonio knows) that he's going to shoot the ball, and then it's anyone's game for the rebound if he misses.
In Game Four, he took 18 shots (to Dirk's 10), and only made seven. He's shooting 38 percent from the field, and has only cracked the 40-percent mark once.
And this is the guy who was supposed to be Robin to Dirk's Batman, but he just isn't getting the job done. More importantly, he's killing the Mavericks offense in the halfcourt.
They need ball movement, pick and rolls, drive and kicks, and Caron Butler can't (or won't) do any of it.
He's a good jump shooter, especially when open, so how come he isn't coming off screens like Jason Terry?
He's getting the crunch time minutes, and while I like his defensive work, he's dead weight on offense because he stays along the perimeter too much, when he could be fighting for rebounds.
Caron Butler is a third banana at best, and hopefully the Mavs package him somewhere else this summer, or at least add a true shooting guard and bring Butler in off the bench.
I like Jason Terry, but he is a playoff choker. He goes ice cold every April, and the Mavericks aren't built to win with Terry playing poorly.
As a streaky shooter to begin with, we know it's cause for trouble, but Terry has been dead weight on offense, just like Shawn Marion.
Whereas during the season, Terry specializes on coming off screens and knocking down big three-pointers, he is doing the exact opposite.
He can't hit his usual elbow jumper, and combined with his poor defensive play, he is costing the Mavs a lot.
I already mentioned the terrible defense of the Mavs' backcourt when Terry is in. When you've got a Kidd/Terry backcourt and Terry is building igloos (you know, ice cold...bricks...leave me alone, I'm hysterical here) then you've got a duo that doesn't get much done on either end of the floor.
Jason Terry has lost his right to play in crunch time, and I would much rather see Kidd, Butler, Marion, Dirk, and Damp/Haywood out there.
Unfortunately, the Mavs only have one more shot at winning crunch time.
J.J. Barea is a fan favorite, and sometimes a fun player to watch.
Not this series, not with Roddy Beaubois trapped on the bench.
He played 31 freaking minutes in Game Three and played a good portion of the time in Game Four when the Mavericks were blowing a lead.
He can't run the offense the way Jason Kidd does because he simply doesn't have the vision or passing skills of Kidd.
He's not a particularly good shooter, though he can get to the rim, but everyone knows he's going to do that. He should play 5-10 minutes max, because his only defensive skill (drawing charges) isn't cutting the mustard.
If it's him and Kidd on the floor, forget about any sort of defense. Barea can't fight his way around screens by players like Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair, and he's going to get abused by whoever he's guarding.
Since he can't run the fast break like Kidd, he's forced to run set plays, and that is the Mavs at their most inefficient and uncreative.
But there's one person who I haven't mentioned yet, and he deserves most of the blame in this whole sordid mess.
Sure, I've had my problems with him, but like any monster he just wants to be loved.
Let's get to this creep, and give him his due punishment.
That's right, I blame myself.
As the regular season wrapped up, I toyed with the idea of growing a playoff beard, for both the Mavs and the Washington Capitals, as they chased the elusive championship gold.
I didn't shave last weekend, and when the Mavs took Game One, I took it as a sign that I should grow my playoff beard. Of course, it lasted two days, until Wednesday morning, when I woke up, and half-asleep, caught a look at myself in the mirror, and noticed my patchy stubble, and decided to shave without thinking about it.
As you can see, I was good and lathered up before I even realized what I was doing, and though I look mentally challenged with my mouth agape like that, it is an expression of horror and regret about what I've done.
I tried in vain to not shave again, but as the losses have piled up, I thought it was a lost cause.
So there you have it, Mavs fans, I am to blame. Heap your hatred upon me.
That's the simple part:
Blow it up.
Dump Jason Terry for pennies on the dollar. Hell, I don't care if the Mavs still pay him, just get him off the team.
Package Dampier's expiring with Caron's contract, get those two out of here. I don't care who it's for. Get them out.
Sign Joe Johnson. I don't care what it takes, get him. Sign him to a max deal for all I care. The Mavs need a legit shooting guard, and though Johnson probably has only about two good years left, I don't care. Get him. We're not going anywhere anyway.
If you can't get Johnson, go after Ray Allen. Another five years, $55 million. Sign those surgically repaired ankles up for the long term, enjoy a year or two of a real shooting guard, and then figure out the rest later.
Sign Haywood to five years, $50 million. Lock him up through his late thirties, when he's probably only got a year or two left. Why not? It's not my money. Sure, he turned in a monster year when it was time to get a new contract, but I don't care. They need a center, and Haywood's a center.
Sign someone like Drew Gooden or Udonis Haslem for four years, $32 million. Why the hell not? The Mavs need a backup center who Haywood will clearly start over.
Clearly, the Mavericks won't put it together. This was a great shot for them, and they've crapped the bed thus far in a very frustrating way.
If I were Dirk, I would opt out this summer, and sign wherever LeBron goes for the MLE, and sit back and collect rings for the next five years.
Dirk would be the perfect foil to LeBron, since we all know Antawn is a poor man's Dirk anyways.
Hell, Cuban should just sell the team. Get rid of it, he had a nice run, but it's over.
Maybe pro basketball in Dallas should just fold up shop. They had some good times, some bad times, but it's not going anywhere. No matter how good of a team the Mavs put together, they can't do it, and I'm tired of getting my hopes up and having them dashed.
As for me, with the Mavs no longer in existence, I'll have to hitch my wagon to a bright rising star by the name of Kevin Durant.
The future's bright there, OKC is a cool city with young, likable players. Maybe then I'll finally get to taste championship gold.
Or maybe not. Maybe I should just stop watching basketball. After all, it seems to bring nothing but pain. Except for the Celtics winning it all on 2008, I can't remember the last time I was happy after the end of a season. It certainly wasn't while the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, or Bulls were winning. Maybe the Rockets in the mid-90s, I can't remember.
I'll probably just stop watching sports. Financial planning is more interesting anyways. Dollars and cents, numbers and data, they never let you down.
They never build my hope to a fever pitch, entertain me with dreams of underdog victories and sweet, sweet redemption.
Maybe there's a site out there called "Commodity Report," where financial fans can get together and write and collaborate on money matters.
Maybe they need a featured columnist for copper futures.