Like the old soldier of the ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Goodbye.
– Douglas MacArthur
I was there in 2004 when Steve Nash left, and I was there in 2005 to watch Steve Nash become an MVP on a different team.
I watched in horror when Cuban sold the farm for Eric Dampier’s shiny bean-shaped head.
I counted my championship chickens during the 2006-2007 regular season, and then limped out of a first-round elimination covered in blood, egg, and tears.
I felt nothing the 2007-2008 post-season, numbed to the Hornets’ stings.
I hated the Spurs. A lot.
And in 2011, it felt so much more sweet knowing that I had been there in the highs and the lows.
I’m from Dallas, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the magical experience of growing up along side Dirk Nowitzki.
When DeAndre agreed to join the Mavericks, it was one of those moments.
When he left, it was one of those moments too.
I lived the 2015-2016 season before it ever began. My thoughts below are a product of ecstatic hope and long-fought resolution. This is how it went:
I’m Mr. Blindside
Will your friendship with Jordan survive this?
Parsons: “Um, you know, it’s … He’s a good dude and I am friends with him. We did develop a really good relationship and we got close over the last few weeks. I just think the decision was much bigger than that. It was something that he wasn’t ready to handle.
– Chandler Parsons during a Q&A with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon
It was only a dinner, how did it end up like this? It was only a dinner; it was only a dinner!
Well, it was actually 5 dinners in a row, but who’s counting?
Chandler Parsons and Deandre Jordan go waaaay back: it seems like only a couple of weeks ago that they had dinner and discussed DeAndre’s future as a free agent. Nothing says “bros for life” like 5 nights of strippers, champagne, and Dallas night clubs.
Was DeAndre’s decision unethical or cruel in terms of his relationship with Chandler Parsons?
Of course not. Let’s move on to basketball.
Dig, if You Will, this Picture
With DeAndre, the Maverick’s depth chart would’ve <probably> looked something like this:
PG – Jeremy Lin / Deron Williams / Jose Barea / Raymond Felton
SG – Wesley Matthews / Devin Harris
SF – Chandler Parsons / Justin Anderson / Richard Jefferson
PF – Dirk Nowitzki / Charlie Villanueva / Jeremy Evans
C – Deandre Jordan / Amare Stoudemire / Dwight Powell
That is already a better starting line-up than the 2011 Mavs.
As I mentioned earlier, Carlisle is a wizard when it comes to putting tricky pieces together in a way that meshes. If the potential for on court chemistry exists, he will sniff it out, and a deeper analysis of the Maverick’s composition smells like team spirit.
Griffin has worked on his outside shooting but Dirk’s range would make for damn sure that no power forwards would tread anywhere near the paint. DeAndre would only have to worry about 1 player on defense in terms of offensive rebounding and pick and roll slams. There’s absurd spacing potential between Dirk, Parsons, and Wesley Matthews. Each of them hover around 40 % from the 3 point line and are consistent enough to demand a contest on every attempt.
What could have made this Dallas team truly devastating is Chandler Parson’s elite potential as a point-forward.
Last year, Parson’s ranked 5th in the league in points per possession as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll. The four players that rank higher are all guards, and only one of them had a higher effective field-goal %, and that player was last year’s MVP. During the last third of the season he connected on 42 percent of his 3s. He wasn’t a spot up shooter in Houston – he was the secondary ball handler behind Harden. He used to average 4 assists as SF on a team with James harden on it. He’s developed his game and added deadly spot up shooting and more bulk and post moves. He could already shoot off the dribble.
Chandler’s talent was buried due to Rondo’s and Ellis’ collective ball-dominance. Parsons only accounted for 18% of the team’s pick-and-roll opportunities as the ball-handler.
Deron Williams has proven that he can adapt as an off-ball player, hitting a respectable 36% of his catch-and-shoot 3s last season. Players who can fill both roles at the guard position make life much easier for their teammates. Rick Carlisle knows guards better than guards know guards, and the Mavs projected to be a relentless threat in that regard.
Devin Harris is also a massively under-rated pick and roll point guard. His production dropped severely after Brandon Wright was traded to the Celtics because Harris had such chemistry in that second unit throwing him lobs. With the emergence of second-year player, Dwight Powell, Devin has a new Brandon Wright for all intents and purposes. Now that he’s not injured and has developed a 3 point shot, he’s a starting caliber pg as well.
Williams is generally understood to be this year’s reclamation project, (unless there’s a Javale McGee sighting) because there was a time at which he was a top 3 point guard in the league. That Deron might be there somewhere. However, I think that Jeremy Lin is closer to that cusp – and younger.
During the Linsanity season, Lin averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists until his knee surgery. On the rockets, he walked into a situation where he had to be a pure spot-up shooter rather than a facilitator, off the dribble shooter, and pick and roll maestro because of James Harden; but, as soon as Harden walked off the court, Lin’s numbers jumped to per-36 minute averages of 19.7 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds. He also shot with a 56 true shooting percentage.
The next year he was jettisoned to the lakers because of the rockets insulting pursuit of Carmelo – both used the number 7, and rather than work around that, all billboards around Houston featured Carmelo with the number 7. With his confidence at an all time low, he joined a lakers team that was coached by an impotent Byron Scott who threw Lin into the dog house and belittled him constantly. He even said:
“A lot of people expect him to play at that level again. That might not be realistic. I think he’s a very good basketball player. But the numbers he was putting together at that time were All-Star type numbers,”
He openly told the media that Linsanity was dead, and then proceeded to play him next to Kobe, who at the time, had historically high usage numbers and was unreasonably ball dominant. Lin only played 25 minutes a game, and rarely was given the opportunity to run the offense or shoot 3s because of Byron Scott’s insane and backwards conception of how to play basketball. The only reasonable explanation for Scott’s coaching strategy is that he switched up golf and basketball scoring at some point, and no one’s had the heart to tell him.
Linsanity is most likely not dead, but it will most likely remain in remission due to the Hornets’ coaching and roster situations. He was coached into the ground because of poor circumstances; with DeAndre catching lobs instead of Tyson chandler, and with an opportunity to share ball handling duties with Chandler Parsons, the only other player whose game is dependent on having the ball, Lin would have bounced back to where he was before shit hit the fan. There’s no reason for his drop in productivity: his injury has not crippled his athleticism, size, explosiveness, or quickness. He was, however, crippled by the slew of shitty situations with coaches who refused to believe in his abilities.
He wasn’t just a last resort point guard for the Mavs That Could Have Been: he was a second chance at a prime Deron Williams in terms of size, scoring ability, explosiveness, athleticism, shooting, and (almost) passing.
In Summer League, Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson represented the Mavericks’ very limited youthful side (going into next season, the Mavericks are slated to be the oldest – in terms of average player age – team in the league). Justin Anderson, in particular, is making the Mavericks’ front office salivate, with his rare combination of strength, quickness, shooting, defensive capability, and high IQ game. He came into the league after his junior year, making him 21, as opposed to some other rookies who still need adult chaperones on dates. While he doesn’t have as much time in the NBA to develop and contribute as the one-and-done player, his time at Virginia crafted him into a player with a legitimate chance to contribute right away.
Anderson is one of the rare 3 and D rookies who can both immediately contribute and improve; he shot more than 45 percent shooting in his junior year, improving from 21 % his freshman year. Additionally, Anderson has 6′ 11 1/2 wingspan and can fulfill a wide variety of roles as both a forward and a guard.
Bleacher Report has similarly warm and fuzzy feelings about the Mavericks’ other young stallion:
Everything Powell managed to show in his limited minutes last season was put on full display in the recent NBA Summer League, where he averaged 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
He’s an extremely versatile offensive player. He is mobile, and he can translate that into points in various ways. He can put the ball on the floor, get to the rim and finish with dunks, layups or nifty floaters. He occasionally looks like a guard when driving to the rim, and he has no problem blowing past bigger guys who defend him on the perimeter.
Powell also has a smooth jumper. With the likes of Dirk, Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons next to him, he’s not going to be getting the ball nearly as much as he did in summer league, so the fact that he can stretch the floor and knock down shots will keep him active within the offense.
Dwight Powell was a late second round pick and only made it to Dallas as a trash throw in via the Rondo trade. His development has been a pleasant surprise for Dallas, a team that desperately needs capable young players for Dirk to pass the torch to. It’s hard for me to imagine that Charlie Villanueva is going to be the more effective rotation player of the two – hopefully Carlisle opts to give Powell time on the floor to develop his game further and get acquainted with the big leagues.
After Amare’s giga-contract was bought out by the NY Knicks, he signed for the veteran’s minimum on a Mavs’ team that was hurtling towards the most prolific offense in NBA history, and had recently traded for an All-Star pg with a championship pedigree. The Mavs looked like a team built to win.
It looked like one.
After the Rondo trade, the season fell apart, and Amare voiced his displeasure vocally on numerous occasions, at one point questioning his teammates resolves to win:
I came here to win, and we’re [4 ½] games out of being out of the playoffs, which is unacceptable. This is something we can’t accept. We’ve got to find a way to refocus. We’ve got to key into the details of the game of basketball.
We can’t cheat the game. We can’t screw around in games and practices and joke around all the time and figure we’re going to win games. This is the pros. It’s the highest level of basketball. We’ve got to act that way.
Amare left this offseason because the Mavs didn’t put together a contending roster. At one point this Summer, Amare was ‘high on Dallas,’ but that high became a low that fateful day.
Though he moved on to the Heat, it’s fair to assume that he would have remained with Dallas if DeAndre had signed with the Mavericks. He can contribute all across the board in his limited minutes as the go-to bench big, and his attitude and leadership work well within the locker-room.
Richard Jefferson faced a similar dilemma this off-season. The choice to stay with the Mavericks would’ve been a choice to waste another precious year to chase that championship ring. Veterans want to compete – and the actions of a certain dildo center made sure that Dallas can’t compete this coming season.
By moving to the Cavaliers, Jefferson is given an opportunity to fill a much-needed shooter role for an imposing contender. By abandoning ship, Jefferson may get the ring he wants – Cleveland’s willingness to facilitate that speaks to his continued effectiveness as a veteran shooter.
Put It All Together
DeAndre’s Fit: Offense
Dirk’s unrivaled spacing +
Parson’s pick-and-roll handling +
40% ish 3-point shooting from 4 starters +
Relentless secondary secondary assaults from Devin Harris, Jeremy Lin, and Deron Williams +
Versatile and talented offensive players all across the depth chart +
2nd best coach in the NBA =
An offense built for DeAndre.
DeAndre’s Fit: Defense
Guard depth provides fresh legs at all time on defense to put pressure on ball-handler +
Wesley Matthews’ criminally under-rated wing defense (particular in help situations) +
Chandler Parsons being allowed to focus on his assignment without worrying as much about Dirk’s man taking advantage of his lack of mobility +
Solid bench defense: Lin, Anderson, Jeremy Evans, Devin Harris +
Agile post defenders – Jeremy Evans, Dwight Powell, and Justin Anderson – who can work around DeAndre defensively =
A defense in which DeAndre is the clear crown jewel, without having to over-extend or work outside of his comfort zone.
There was a compelling argument for DeAndre to take his talents to the Lone Star State. The Big D’s main weakness has always been big D; and there’s no better big for D than De. That’s why his free agency meeting with the Mavs took 4 1/2 hours.
If Dallas had rounded out the bench with capable players at minimum contracts, they would have had a roster built to be dominant. Oddsmakers had the Mavs pegged at 1/20 chances to win the championship, and that was an under-estimate; but, Mavs fans have become accustomed to their team being constantly underestimated.
This fictional iteration of the 2015-2016 Mavericks could have even made the Finals, just by over-powering their Western Conference opponents with an unstoppable offense. It would have been a fitting end to Dirk’s Hall of Fame career: one last shot at the Finals –
before being swept by the Cavaliers –
But still: The Finals!
The Fall of the Dirk-ish Empire
The real victim of the whole DeAndre debacle is 7 feet tall, blonde, and shoots from anywhere on the court.
That’s right: it’s Kristaps Porziņģis.
No, but seriously: it’s Dirk.
Dirk has spent an illustrious career with the Dallas Mavericks, during which he’s won a championship that most of us are still confused about, won an MVP, and redefined the offensive skill set of the power-forward position. Next to Dirk, centers like DeSagna Diop and Eric Dampier have fooled fans into thinking they are starting caliber centers. Next to Dirk, Jason Kidd could play point guard with a foul jump-shot and win a championship. Because of Dirk, players like Jason Terry have looked like legitimate stars, players like Rodrigue Beaubois have looked like legitimate role-players, and players like DeShawn Stevenson have looked like DeShawn Stevenson.
Dirk is the defining player of the Dallas Mavericks franchise; he’s statue worthy. I can see it now – an off-balance Dirk, shooting over the crowds of fans as the funnel into the AAC to watch a Mavericks team that doesn’t quite feel right without him. Dirk has given Dallas the best years of his life, and all the years of his playing life, and for that, the city loves him.
But no amount of hometown love can rescue him from the anti-climactic descent into basketball oblivion that waits on the horizon. No amount of Mark Cuban phone calls, Chandler Parsons supermodel orgies, or even JJ Barea Quinceañeras, will save Dirk from the future that DeAndre has chosen for him.
Dirk took a ludicrous pay cut to keep the Mavericks in contention for his twilight years as an NBA player – and he did it because he wants to win and he loves the game. He didn’t have to, and no one would have blamed him for bolting to Los Angeles, Houston, or any other team that wanted to throw max money at him for his services.
In classic German fashion, the city of Dallas is in debt to him, and Mark Cuban has defaulted on his payments in a Greek-like fashion. While I don’t criticize Cuban as much as some others do for Dirk’s unfortunate future, I have to question whether he did absolutely everything in his power to give Dirk what he deserves: a team. A good team. A team that he can work with.
Only the future will tell. Dallas Mavericks fans have seen darker days than this – the AAC has seen situations even more hairy than this (see Baron Davis’ beard for reference).
Maybe there is a brighter future for Dirk than I can imagine.
But probably not.
It’s poetic that Dirk’s departure from this league will be his last, and perhaps most unstoppable, fade-away.
At least there’s the memories: