The body was still warm. The emotions, still raw. But when it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, Charles Barkley doesn't give a damn.
"They got problems," the rotund, ridiculous TNT analyst said last night in the minutes after Dallas' elimination by the Denver Nuggets. "They gotta get younger and more physical around Dirk."
Chimed sidekick Kenny Smith, "As currently constructed, this is as good as this team gets."
So, when it comes to looking into the Mavericks' future we can conduct a new autopsy ... or just consult the old ones. Because, despite getting out of the first round for the first time 2006, Dallas' familar holes remain wholly unfilled.
A look in the Mavs' crystal roundball:
*First and foremost, the Mavs have to decide whether to re-sign 36-year-old point guard Jason Kidd. He's an unrestricted free agent. For what it's worth, Barkley no longer considers him an "elite" point guard. The Mavs can offer him the most money, but he wants the security of a two-year deal while Dallas is likely to only offer one year. If he stays, the Mavs will remain in a "Go For It" mode that seems to be getting them nowhere fast. But if he leaves - without compensation - it will be a Steve Nash redux and Dallas will have only Antoine Wright and one playoff series win to show for the trading away of Devin Harris. Kidd's shooting was better than I expected this season, but his leadership and basketball IQ failed to make a dent in Denver's athletic advantage. I think you re-sign Kidd, try to draft or acquire some interior muscle for Dirk and give this nucleus one last shot. If it doesn't work, blow the thing up next summer. What would you do?
*The other major free agent is Brandon Bass, whose stock rose with his tenacity against the Nuggets. Bad as it was, imagine how brutal this beating would've been without his dirty work in the paint. No way the Mavs can let go of Bass. In fact, they need to find ways to acquire three more players just like him.
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*Rick Carlisle did an average job. Better than Avery, but I don't think he maximized this talent. Though it stops a three-year decline of diminishing returns since the '06 NBA Finals, entering training camp the Mavs would've considered a second-round exit as an absolute failure.
*Remember after next season the free-agent crop could include: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady and, yep, Dirk Nowitzki.
*The Mavs, who don't have a first-round pick next year, will pick around No. 22-24 in June. They need help. Now. Not some Euro who "might" develop down the road. Why is the Mavs' future bleak? Look no further than this decade's top draft picks: '00 Etan Thomas, '01 Kyle Hill, '02 Mladen Sekulavic, '04 Vassilis Spanoulis, '06 Maurice Ager, '07 Nick Fazekas, '08 Shan Foster. Ouch.
*In short - stop me if you've heard this one before - Dirk is a confirmed, in-his-prime, All-NBA, future Hall of Fame star. But he needs help. The Mavs this year were good, but again just not good enough.