Tonight’s lid-lifter at American Airlines Center between the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets has a plethora of sub-plots that could possibly escalate into season-long themes:
Rick Carlisle’s arrival. Avery Johnson’s departure. Jason Kidd’s last gasp. Antoine Wright’s emergence. Josh Howard’s redemption. Dirk Nowitzki’s legacy.
Or, they could all be trumped by Ron Artest’s debut.
For a Mavs’ franchise that has often shot its wad right off the bat, the ends and the means of tonight’s game will have to be pretty snappy in order to carve a primo place in Dallas history. From a bunch of expansion punks whipping George Gervin, to a triple-overtime win in Phoenix and even a loss to the Spurs that eventually led to a 67-win season, Mavericks’ Opening Night has long provided its share of lasting images.
The Top 10 Most Memorable Season Openers in Dallas Mavericks’ History:
10. ’02 – at Mavs 119, Grizzlies 108 What was seemingly a dominant, ho-hum victory led by Steve Nash’s 24 points is actually the beginning of a franchise-best 14-0 start.
9. ’96 – Mavs 92, at Nuggets 91 Jim Jackson caps a 28-point, 11-rebound performance with two free throws in the final six seconds.
8. ’86 – at Mavs 103, Jazz 77 Led by Mark Aguirre’s 18 points, Dallas rolls in its biggest season-opening win, setting the stage for a franchise-best 55 wins.
7. ’99 – at Sonics 92, Mavs 86 (OT) Led by Cedric Ceballos and non-plussed with a 0-point, 16-minute debut by a rookie named Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas falls as Nash and Michael Finley commit crucial turnovers at the end of regulation.
6. ’91 – at Spurs 140, Mavs 99 The Fat Lever Experiment debuts with a resounding thud as the Mavs suffer their seventh all-time worst defeat.
5. ’94 – at Mavs 112, Nets 103 The much-ballyhooed Three J’s Era opens to rave reviews as Jackson, Jamal Mashburn and Jason Kidd combine for 77 points.
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4. ’87 – at Mavs 95, Jazz 93 Derek Harper saves an otherwise dull, sloppy contest with a 25-foot 3-pointer with one second remaining.
3. ’88 – Lakers 116, at Mavs 113 Just five months removed from their epic 7-game loss to the NBA champs, Dallas loses another thriller to Magic and Kareem despite Rolando Blackman’s 34 points.
2. ’05 – Mavs 111, at Suns 108 (3 OT) In a delicious showdown between best friends and former teammates, Dirk’s 28 points and 15 rebounds top Nash in a preview of the Western Conference Finals.
1. ’80 – at Mavs 103, Spurs 92 Before a naïve crowd of 10,373 at Reunion Arena, the expansion Mavericks, led by Winford Boynes’ 21 points, christen their franchise with a shocking upset. – Richie Whitt