Your 2009 Dallas Mavericks: Mediocre? Morose? Magical?

In between the few highlights of an entirely underwhelming college football championship game between what looked like two very average quarterbacks, I sneaked some peeks last night at your Dallas Mavericks.

What'd I see?

Another win, pushing their record to an impressive 22-13.

Another unimpressive performance, this time barely outlasting the lowly New York Knicks 99-94 in what was a one-point game in the final minute.

Not exactly sure what to make of these Mavs.

Since a 2-7 start, they've gone 20-6 to become a legit playoff team in the Western Conference. Only three teams in the West have more wins. But at about 33 percent of the way through the season, they've played about 12 percent of their games against the crappy Clippers.

And last night was a microcosm of their recent run: A win. But an ugly win. Against a horrible opponent.

The five-point survival over the Knicks finished a six-game stretch where the Mavs played nothing but the NBA's Washington Generals - the Clippers-Timberwolves-Sixers-Grizzlies-Clippers-Knicks. Combined, those teams are 65-142. Not only did Dallas go only 5-1, it trailed the Timberwolves by 29 at home, trailed Philly at the half, needed an 11-2 closing kick to nip L.A. Tuesday night and were booed in the first quarter last night while allowing a 16-2 run to hapless New York.

So is 22-13 macho or a mirage?

We'll get a better answer tonight when the Mavs play at Phoenix.

Until then, we're left to ponder this season's good, bad and ugly:

*The biggest story has been owner Mark Cuban's investigation by the SEC.

*Shockingly, J.J. Barea has blossomed into a more than adequate backup point guard. 

*As has been the case since this guy left, the Mavs' can't find a consistent shooting guard. Five different players have started opposite Jason Kidd this season, with Antoine Wright now getting a shot. "It's wacky," says coach Rick Carlisle. "I wish we had more consistency, but that just may not be in the cards for us this season."

*The league apparently isn't impressed, as in this week's Sports Illustrated a survey pegs the Mavs as the most overrated team in the NBA.

Unfortunately, it feels like the Mavs are in no-man's land. Not good enough to compete for a championship; not bad enough to be in the lottery.

It'll be interesting to see which direction they go as the Feb. 19 trade deadline approaches: Re-sign Kidd and acquire another player in a "go for it" mentality? Or trade Kidd, admit the window has slammed shut and begin rebuilding. - Richie Whitt

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