Nostalgia is a fickle beast. Just ask the Dallas Mavericks.
Two games into the NBA season it is already evident the Mavs are soft—just like they were in the Don Nelson days. The Nelson era made stars of Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, but the team’s ceiling for success was “that’s a nice story.”
Dallas played fast offensively and supplied plenty of highlights, but when it came time to declare an NBA champion, all their dynamic offense got them was a condescending pat on the head while the real contenders hit the floor.
In short, the Dallas Mavericks were cute. Nothing more.
Starting with Avery Johnson and continuing with Rick Carlisle, defense evolved from a novel idea to something a few players tried to total team commitment. Last season, when the Mavs won the NBA title, Carlisle had the personnel to match his defensive philosophy.
Tyson Chandler constructed a brick wall in the lane against the Miami Heat in last year’s NBA Finals. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of the best dribble-drive scorers in the game and Chandler forced them to take jumpers. On the rare occasion LeBron or D-Wade did get by him, Chandler made them pay with hard fouls.
Despite his incredible defensive presence, the Mavs traded Chandler to the New York Knicks, leaving a hole in their interior defense. Dallas also failed to re-sign DeShawn Stevenson, a solid defender who is no stranger to a hard foul. Stevenson is as merciless on the perimeter as Chandler is in the paint and will make a worthy addition to Avery Johnson's New Jersey Nets.
The loss to the Heat on Christmas Day showcased how much the Mavericks miss Chandler and Stevenson.
Wade and point guard Mario Chalmers had their way with the Dallas defenders assigned to guard them, and the Dallas bigs were so inept on the defensive end that they let Miami turn the NBA Finals re-match into a dunk contest.
Unless the Mavericks commit to defense, Dallas fans should prepare to party like it's 2002. Bust out your Shawn Bradley jerseys and dust off your Limp Bizkit CDs. Watch the first Spiderman movie, just to set the right mood.
Don Nelson basketball is back in Big D. Championship runs are not.
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