Mavericks' Old Age Crown Gives Dallas-San Antonio Rivalry New Look

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IApril 14, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 22:  Erick Dampier #25 of the Dallas Mavericks during the game against the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on March 22, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  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 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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A Dallas Mavericks fangleeful after his squad rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-103 in a January tiltshouted at a woman wearing a Tim Duncan jersey.

He pointed at the AT&T Center court.

"Geriatric! Geriatric!"

That fan should avoid the rest of this column.

When the Spurs take the floor tonight against their inter-state rivals, they should get comfy in the confines of the American Airlines Center.

They might as well stay for the duration of the week.

Barring a miracle upset by the Golden State Warriors at the Rose Garden, the Spurs will face the Mavericks in a first-round rematch.

If Nate McMillan's resilient Portland Trail Blazers beat the defending champion L.A. Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder on back-to-back nights without the services of franchise star Brandon Roy, they will not stumble against the woeful Warriors.

If the Spurs win tonight and the Warriors find a way to take their mastery of the Blazers at home on the road, the Alamo City's hoops squad would move up to 6th.

A Jazz win and Mavericks loss would net Utah the second seed and Northwest Division.

If the Suns and Spurs win, well, a certain silver and black point guard would lick his chops at the thought of another playoff meeting with Steve Nash.

Phoenix, though, played Tuesday night and expended a lot of energy in whooping the Denver Nuggets.

In other words, the Spurs should bet on playing the Mavericks this weekend.

If they do another postseason tango, differences on both sides will make the series as competitive as the classic in 2006.

Manu Ginobili did not play in last year's opening round. If he can pour 32 points on Ron Artest, he can torch any defender Rick Carlisle throws his way.

Spurs killer Josh Howard now plays for the Washington Wizards. The Mavs traded him to get Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood.

Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, George Hill, and Dejuan Blair will play significant roles for San Antonio. Hill was on the roster last year, but Popovich declared in early April, "this playoff probably isn't for him."

Some things have not changed.

Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan still play at an elite level. Jason Terry still pantomimes an airborne jet after he hits big jumpers.

Jason Kidd will start at the point opposite Parker.

One component of this antagonism, however, has changed dramatically since 2006.

Just after the buzzer sounded

The Mavericks boast the highest average age in the league.

Dallas is the oldest team in the league.

Dallas is the oldest team in the league.

Dallas is the oldest team in the league.

Dallas is the oldest team in the league.

I will repeat this fact until it sinks in for everyone planning to write about this match-up.

In 2006 and 2009, the Spurs ranked as the NBA's eldest statesmen. Since those fateful series, GM R.C. Buford has lowered his roster's average age by more than two years.

Blame it on more than just D-Leaguers and 22-year-old foul machine Ian Mahinmi. Hill and Blair, 23 and 20 respectively, will figure prominently in the playoff rotation.

The former merits consideration as the sport's most improved player. These playoffs are for Hill.

Mavs' GM Donnie Nelson's roster has continued a steady climb. The only players younger than 30 sure to get some playoff burn are 25-year-old J.J. Barea and 22-year-old Rodrigue Beaubois.

How much time Carlisle plans to give a rookie who often plays like one remains to be seen (I'm not saying Blair does not do the same, just that he's farther along in his pro-level development).

Deshawn Stevenson, 29, deserves a few minutes for his defensive abilities.

Ginobili and Terry boast identical ages. Nowitzki carries comparable playoff mileage to Duncan, even if the German forward is two years younger.

Now, no one can say the Spurs are too old to beat the Mavs.

In 2006, too many gullible analysts bought into such jocosity. I never did.

Dallas won in seven games, they said, because of fresher legs and younger bodies.


The Mavs triumphed because they were three or four plays better than the Spurs.

A pair of critical crunch-time mistakes by Duncan and Ginobili proved too costly to overcome.

What if Duncan had attacked the basket at the end of Game Three instead of settling for an out-of-rhythm jump-shot?

What if Ginobili had followed Gregg Popovich's instructions not to foul a shooter at the end of regulation in Game Seven?

That overtime loss continues to haunt San Antonio. It gives Dallas a rare edge not present in first-round losses to Golden State and New Orleans and a second-defeat to Denver.

The age comparison, however, does make this go-around more compelling.

As if this rivalry needed any more intrigue.

The Mavs may well kick the Spurs back to that "muddy ass thing called a Riverwalk."

Another series in which Nowitzki walks away with more wins than Duncan would surprise no one who has watched these two teams battle.

Neither of the aging stars, though, has reached the geriatric mile-marker.

Nowitzki averaged better than 26 points in arguably the best season of his career. Duncan averaged better than 18 points and 10 rebounds.

That delirious Mavs' fan should take note of a now indisputable fact.

If the franchises were indeed competing to get into a proverbial NBA nursing home, his would get there first.


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