Tonight the Dallas Mavericks take the first step of what they hope is an eight-month journey to the NBA Championship. Dirk Nowitzki will resume his climb to MVP. Avery Johnson will continue to preach "basket-BAWL." Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs will again provide the major obstacle. And, of course, the night will commence with the raising of the 2005-'06 Western Conference Championship banner to the American Airlines Center's ceiling. Won't it? Nope.
Weird, but something tells me a certain owner named Mark Cuban will be more amped for Monday's visit by the Golden State Warriors and coach Don Nelson than tonight's lid-lifter. Nellie's new team, by the way, stumbled out of the gate with a 12-point home loss to the Kobe-less Lakers, prompting perhaps the quickest reach for a panic button in NBA history. "So much for good starts," Nelson said. "I was disappointed with our performance, our energy and with whatever else went on out there. We reverted to last year, maybe worse. Any way you cut it, we were poor tonight. The team is telling me I might have to make changes."
Doncha just miss him to bits?
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The Mavs' debut against their rivals presents a feat last accomplished in 1989. That's the last time the loser of the NBA Finals returned to the championship series the following year. Just hope Dallas' hangover isn't as brutal as Miami's. Ouch. --Richie Whitt