A month ago, the Dallas Mavericks had been left for dead. They were 11-27 and the playoffs were the last thing that even die hard fans had on their mind. Film of players such as Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, and Josh Jackson were being studied day in and day out, and it seemed as though the Mavs were content on getting a top pick in a loaded draft and doing a quick rebuild so they could contend in the future. Then they reeled off three straight wins, albeit over below average competition. But then, two weeks later, they won four straight, including stunning victories over the Spurs and Cavs, one after another. The Mavs are 13-5 in their last 18 games, much to the disdain of fans on Twitter who had been obsessing over a top 5 pick. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the Mavericks now find themselves in the middle of a playoff race. At this point, you may be asking yourself, “How the hell did this shit team get themselves into a playoff race?” Well, my disgruntled friends, look no further than the wise words of Coach Carlisle to find your answer: “We’re a shit team, but we’re an underrated shit team.”
Being a fan of a team with a winning culture such as the Mavs is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, Dallas has the 2nd best winning percentage since the turn of the century, which is great! On the other, that means they don’t know how to lose, which in the case of this season, is bad. Back in December, Coach Carlisle stated that “We’re not in this for the ping pong balls or any of that kind of stuff.” Sure, for fans who don’t want to be bounced by the Warriors in 4 games, that can be frustrating. But what did you expect from a franchise that has spent the last 16 years infuriating both their fans and opposing teams?
In order for the average NBA fan to understand why the hell the Mavericks didn’t call it a season after starting 11-27, let me introduce you to Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk has been the heart and soul of the franchise for 18 years, and the only time the man hasn’t made the playoffs is his rookie season and during the 2012-13 campaign, when he was out for 29 games and O.J Mayo of all people was the leading scorer while he was out. For a friendly reminder of what O.J Mayo is doing these days, click here. Other members of that roster included: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, and Darren Collison. It is honestly amazing to me that a team that had a primary starting 5 of Darren Collison, O.J Mayo, Shawn Marion on his last legs, washed Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman for a good part of the season was able to go 41-41. Back to the main point: Dirk Nowitzki has the heart of a damn champion. Combine that with the resilience of Wesley Matthews, the adaptability of Harrison Barnes, a very surprising emergence of Yogi Ferrell, and a shot blocking machine in Salah Mejri, and you’ve got yet another ragtag group of players who probably have no business being in the playoffs. However, if there is anything I have learned about the Mavericks in my life, it’s that Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki are wizards.
The most frustrating thing about this team is also the thing that makes it the most lovable one since the year Dallas won a championship: their resilience. Wes, Dirk, Rick and the rest of the squad have all insisted that the Mavericks won’t stop fighting to make the playoffs, which has made fans of other teams ask, “Why?” Well, fuck you, that’s why. Besides, who needs a top pick in a loaded draft when you can just get revenge on the Warriors for 2007?