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Mavericks Open 2010 With Tough Schedule, Something To Prove

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJanuary 7, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks scores on a jumper against Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the fourth quarter of the NBA basketball game at Staples Center on October 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Well, here we are: 2010. Before this year is over, Dr. Heywood Floyd will go out in search of David Bowman and before long an extra-terrestrial intelligence will finally convince us and the Russians to end the Cold War. At least, that's what happened in this documentary I saw.

But for the Dallas Mavericks, 2010 opens with their chance to prove they belong in the league's elite.

They entered the year with a good bead on the No. 2 seed in the West, which according to the experts, gives them the privilege of losing to the Lakers last.

The game Sunday night gave us no indication that these experts were wrong, as the Lakers avenged their earlier defeat (as well as about five other defeats), by destroying the Mavs in the most inhumane way possible.

But every team has bad games throughout the year, and the Lakers are the team that is most often on the other ends of those games.

What the game did show is that the Mavericks will need size to battle the Lakers, and without Erick Dampier to grind it out with Andrew Bynum, they might as well be facing Shaq in his prime.

The Mavs clearly failed the Lakers test, but they have a chance to really put their stamp on the season.

And what better time to put that stamp on than with a schedule like the Mavs have coming up?

They've got six games in a row against teams that would be in the playoffs, at San Antonio, home vs. Utah, home vs. Lakers, home vs. Oklahoma City, at Toronto, and at Boston.

If the Mavericks are who we think they are, they need to emerge from that stretch 4-2 or better.

A loss to the Lakers, while it might send me into bits of paralyzing rage, is probably inevitable, even with Gasol possibly out. And the Celtics are a tough team, especially at home, despite the loss of several key pieces.

The Jazz and Thunder are good teams, but if Dallas wants to be considered a contender, they need to dispatch those teams, preferably with extreme prejudice.

The two teams offer a good litmus test of where the Mavs are in two areas that usually hurt them in the playoffs.

The Jazz, though their stock has fallen considerably since the 2006-07 season that brought them to the West finals, are still a physical team, and that's something that has given the Mavs troubles.

If we are to believe that these Mavs are different than the ones who have crumbled in the playoffs, then the Mavs need to beat the pants off of them.

So the Mavericks have a lot to prove coming into 2010, and the merciless beatdown at the hands of the Lakers only makes that even more clear.

While the Lakers clearly look to be the class of the league, remember, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked like that at this time last year, and look what happened.

To read more of my work about the NBA's Southwest Division, click here.

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