Most of us immediately wrote the Dallas Mavericks off once we saw reigning NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki fall to the hardwood in pain on Saturday.
I admit I was one of those people.
I knew from watching the replay that Nowitzki would be sidelined for a couple of weeks at minimum.
But after taking a little "Jeffy" time on my porcelain kingdom, like you wanted to know that, I've decided to keep believing. Let me explain my reasoning for this. Have you forgotten the immense amount of talent suffocating this Mavericks' roster?
If tonight was any indication, Josh Howard has indeed returned from his back injury.
Howard scored 32 points to lead the Mavs past the Clippers, keeping them 1.5 games ahead of the Warriors for 7th place in the West.
With a dominating and aggressive Howard, it only makes newly acquired point guard Jason Kidd that much deadlier. And I won't dive into how great this future Hall of Famer is. You witness it.
Also, you've still got Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry at guard. Each one is able to score at a whim. Deveon George, whether you want him or not, is providing solid and at times incredible defense.
Adding to the veteran leadership at point guard is back-up Tyronn Lue, and newly acquired Antoine Wright from the Nets. This back court is still extremely talented and deep.
Nowitzki going down obviously adds problems to the front court. You can't just replace an MVP. But remember, we're not replacing him for an entire season, just for a couple of weeks, best case scenario. We need only to win enough games to maintain/better our seeding to make the playoffs.
Brandon Bass is a great young talent, and extremely capable of filling Dirk's shoes for the time being. He's becoming a terrific mid-range jump shooter, and is aggressive down low on the block. He's a great rebounder, and is steadily improving his offensive low post game.
Yet, for some reason Bass is in Avery's dog house. Tonight for example, he only logged 19 minutes. Over the last 3 games, he hasn’t logged more than 15 minutes per game. Ridiculous if you ask me. It's not time to play games; Avery must keep this team in the playoff picture and not lose anymore ground. The Nuggets, in 9th place, are only 2 games back with 11 games left to play. But I am sure Avery has a credible explanation for his benching of Bass. That's why he is an NBA coach, and I'm still in college.
Still, Bass is needed more than just 15 minutes per game if you want to win games against teams such as the Nuggets, Warriors, and Lakers, all of whom remain on the Mavs schedule. Beating the Nuggets and Warriors is a must. Anything to distance themselves from the 8 and 9 spots is a necessity.
Bass is a lot better at a run-and-gun style of tempo than Nowitzki, which is the style Kidd prefers. This is exactly the way the Mavs need to play in their remaining 11 games. They need to be aggressive, and "take" these games to build confidence going into the playoffs.
As for a back-up to Bass, Malik Allen is great. He's not a starter, which Avery has him playing now; he's a formidable back-up. Yet, he is doing a nice job with the minutes he has received.
Center position is held down by the much improved Erik Dampier. And newly signed Jamaal Magloire is a great back-up to Damp.
So as you can see, the Mavs still have a great amount of talent on this team. They're deep at all positions, even with Nowitzki out of the lineup. Let there be no mistake, Nowitzki makes this team a championship contender. But without Nowitzki, this team can win enough, and gain enough confidence to maintain and get into the playoffs.
Don't write this team off just yet. Let's see how Avery has his bunch playing in the next few games before we stop believing.