Brandon Bass. There. Now that I’ve addressed the positives from the Mavericks’ short-circuited post-season, let’s move on to trying to sort out the shit. Get comfy.
It starts, of course, with the head coach. Avery Johnson must be fired. Now. Because of his micro-managing, defiant devotion to his blessed “system” and his inexplicable inability to coach up point guards, Johnson’s Mavericks have steadily, steeply deteriorated from the time they led the Miami Heat 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Finals. In each of the last three seasons Avery’s team has gotten progressively worse, losing 12 of its last 15 playoff games. The merciful end came with last night's 99-94 Game 5 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, but it merely capped a chaotic final 48 hours of turmoil that clearly showed the coach lost control of the team.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Avery infamously 86'ed Monday’s practice after learning that Josh Howard refused to cancel his 28th birthday party following Sunday night’s Game 4 loss. A front-office source told me this morning, in fact, that -- despite Avery mandating “no partying” during the playoffs -- Howard was passing out fliers to his party in the locker room before Game 4. (The no-shooting, pot-smoking, ineffective and indifferent Howard is No. 1 on the new coach’s agenda. He missed eight of his last 10 shots last night and played only three minutes of the fourth quarter.)
Howard has disturbingly declined, and Jason Kidd is old, and Jerry Stackhouse is old, and Dirk Nowitzki is getting older, and Dallas’ first-round draft picks the next two years live in New Jersey. But, again, first things first, the Mavs desperately need a new head coach.
One who will allow -- even enhance -- the open-court abilities of point guards like Kidd and Devin Harris instead of censoring them with a stubborn half-court sets. One who won’t wait until Game 3 to realize Jason Terry is the only Mav quick enough to defensively bother Chris Paul. One who sees Kidd’s post-up advantage over the smaller Paul and exploits it. And one who will avoid friction with owner Mark Cuban, who deserves better from his financial and impassioned investment in his team.
Cuban uncharacteristically avoided addressing the media after Game 5 -- his silence deafening. The owner -- saturated with pride, stubbornness and intellect -- would like nothing more than to hear the media’s demands for Avery’s job and spitefully give his coach a vote of confidence and another season. But after this April abomination, nothing can save Johnson’s job. Like Barack Obama finally cutting ties with his preposterous pastor, Cuban has had enough.
Radical changes are in order. And it starts at the top.
“If this is the end,” Stackhouse said of Dallas’ run after the game, “you can’t say we didn’t have our chance.”
Instead of a championship parade, we’re left with only that whimper of resignation of our tombstone.