I was really excited - re-invested, as it were - in the Dallas Mavericks and this year's NBA Playoffs. The team was poised. The games are fun. The conversations about the games are entertaining. The city is empowered by the wins and somehow galvanized by the losses.
But, alas, the circus tents came down before May 1. Bummer summer.
I know, the last thing you want to talk about right now is next season. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks seem about as relevant as those flying cars or swarms of killer bees that we've been waiting for decades to arrive.
By Halloween maybe we'll feel different. By Christmas maybe the Mavs will have one of their patented 12-game winning streaks to re-stock our hope. And by Easter perhaps they'll be again flirting with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Even then - after a third first-round flameout in four years - it will be difficult to go "all in" with the Mavericks.
It's going to be a long Spring without playoff basketball. If the Mavs are to get in a position to break our hearts again, they've got work to do.
How about an off-season to-do list:
*Re-sign Dirk Nowitzki. He's able in July to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Without him, the Mavericks immediately lose relevance and win a spot in the lottery.
*Roddy Beaubois must expand his game and become a viable option at point guard. He'll play on Dallas' Summer League team in Las Vegas, so that's a start.
*Find a Robin to compliment Dirk's Batman. Or vice-versa. Don't care who gets what label, but the Mavs need two 20-point scorers come playoff time, not one. LeBron James is probably unattainable in free agency and I'm told Dwyane Wade is set on Chicago or New York, but attractive players like Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh just have to be Dallas targets.
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*Jettison Erick Dampier. Not only because
he sucks he's underwhelming on the court, but because his $16 million expiring contract can be used in a sign-and-trade deal to lure one of the aforementioned game-changers to Dallas.
*Make head coach Rick Carlisle get a tighter grip on his loose playing rotations. Because players had no idea from night to night if they were going to play or how much, the bench was an underachieving mystery in the Spurs series. Beaubois, obviously, was grossly underutilized, and for role players to be effective they have to, well, know their roles.
Says Carlisle, "I think we'll tweak the roster, hopefully add a free agent, come back in the Fall and bounce back to make another stab at this."
Unfortunately, Mavs fans are experts in the healing process.