Goodbye, 2013.

Dear 2013,

You started on a really high note! It wasn’t just good, it was great!

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Of course, as expected, shit happened. I didn’t expect it to happen that early, but it did. Oh well. At least it was still fun.

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You allowed me to go back to some familiar places.

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And also see new ones.

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You allowed me to experience a lot of new things.

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You were made even better by the presence of awesome friends.

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Of course, you were awesome simply because I was with the person that matters the most to me right now.

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2013, you were definitely one of the best years of my life! Cheers to you, and goodbye! I hope 2014 will be even better!

2013

Can the Mavs still make the Playoffs?

The Dallas Mavericks have been to the NBA Playoffs for 12 straight years. That impressive streak is in danger of being finally ended this year. The Mavs, who currently own a 20-28 win-loss record, have not been very good this season. A lot of the losing can be attributed to the fact that star forward Dirk Nowitzki missed the team’s first 27 games. Not all of it has been because of Dirk’s absence, however. This version of the Mavericks just doesn’t play defense and doesn’t take care of the ball enough. Having said all of those, can these Mavs actually still make the playoffs?

Mathematically, of course, they still can. Right now, they’re six games behind the 8th seeded Houston Rockets, with 34 games left. When you think about it, the Mavs can still drag their asses to the postseason.

Realistically, though, I don’t think Dallas can get there. Yes. As much as it pains me to say this, I honestly don’t see this team going through to the playoffs. There are a number of reasons for this. Aside from the aforementioned defensive and turnover problems, the Mavs also have plenty of other issues that I don’t think they can overcome.

One of those is weak point guard play. Point guard is probably the deepest position in the NBA right now. There are currently so many good point guards out there. Unfortunately for the Mavs, none play for them. Darren Collison, so far, has been very inconsistent. He was amazing when Dallas jumped out of the gates and started the season 4-1. Since then, his play has fluctuated from very bad to good. I don’t think he’s the worst starting point guard in the league, but his inconsistency has been problematic. And then there’s the backup situation. You know there’s a problem when the front office has to sign two 37-year old wash-ups to play backup minutes.

Then there’s the lack of firepower, which was pretty evident in the shellacking the Mavs got from the Thunder a few days ago. The Mavs just don’t have enough consistent offensive weapons. Dirk still isn’t himself. OJ Mayo has tailed off after a spectacular start to the season. Shawn Marion has had a pretty good offensive stretch lately, but you can’t expect him to keep on scoring like that while also depending on him to defend the opposing team’s best scorer. Vince Carter has shown some flashes of brilliance, but at this point in his career, they’re just that: flashes. Chris Kaman sometimes takes too many shots, preventing the team from having any kind of offensive rhythm. Elton Brand seems to have lost his shooting touch again. There just isn’t a consistent source of points in this team.

Add everything up, and you can only come to one conclusion: the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks are a bad team. They can’t win in OT (1-8 record so far), the find ways to lose even when they’re ahead, they can’t close out games (2-6 in games decided by three points or fewer ), they can’t beat elite teams, heck they can’t beat good teams (5-21 against teams with .500 or better winning percentage), they’re just a bad basketball team.

Even with all of the issues hounding the other teams in the hunt for that last playoff spot (Lakers, Minnesota, Houston, Portland), I see no way for Dallas to overtake any of them. Of course everything can still change with the trade deadline still a few weeks away.

As of now, though, I don’t think the Mavs will make the Playoffs.

Goodbye, 2012.

Dear 2012,

You were not just good; you were actually great! You taught me a lot of lessons about life that I know will be very useful in the coming year and beyond. You made me experience a lot of new things, many of which I really am thankful for. Frankly, you were probably one of the best years of my life, and I will always remember you for that.

You gave me a lot of opportunities to grow. You allowed me to build on many of the things that were established in the previous year. You kept me close to my family. You gave me friends who I know I can trust my life with regardless of how long or short I’ve actually known them.

Of course, you gave me the ONE person who matters the most to me right now, and for that I really am grateful. You made me realize just how important she is to me. Most of all, you made me realize how much I actually LOVE her.

You weren’t perfect, 2012, just as I had expected. Those little imperfections of yours, however, helped me find out about how strong I really am.

You were amazing, 2012, but I hope 2013 will be even better than you.

Thank you for all of the lessons, blessings, and experiences, 2012.

The sudden downfall and the hope for the future.

The Dallas Mavericks finished the last NBA season on top, winning the first championship in the history of the franchise. In an ideal world, they would have started the new season still on top, with the same group of players who won the title being given an opportunity to defend it. Of course, we all know that’s not what happened.

The lockout commenced a few weeks after Dallas won in Miami, and it lasted until December. When it ended, a new CBA was in place–one that completely changed the game for traditional big-spenders like the Mavs. The usual pre-season was completely wiped out, and all of a sudden, the shortened and compressed regular season began.

By then, the Mavericks had lost the services of Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, Corey Brewer, and Peja Stojakovic. To replace them, in came Vince Carter, Lamar Odom, Delonte West, Brandan Wright, and Yi Jianlian.

The hope was for the new pieces to fill in the voids left by the free agents who left the team. Personally, I thought they only needed time to gel and find some chemistry. They couldn’t, and the fact that the team was hastily assebled right after the lockout ended was clearly a factor. There were some flashes of brilliance, but they were admittedly few and far between. Then came the Lamar Odom saga.

Obviously, Odom loafing around was not the only problem. There were a lot of other issues that had to be resolved, the most important of which was the offense. I’m actually tired of lisetening to people say that the defense wasn’t good since Tyson Chandler wasn’t anchoring it anymore because that is (or was) completely wrong. Dallas still ranked within the top 10 in defensive efficiency and in points allowed. The bigger dropoff from last season came on the offensive end.

Last year, the Mavs were in the top 10 in offensive efficieny. This year, they were not even in the top 20. They had long stretches when they literally could not put the ball through the hoop, and it was ugly. They limped through the regular season and ended up with the 7th seed, setting up a matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the Playoffs.

Dallas went 1-3 against OKC in the regular season, but they played well in all of those games. This gave some Dallas fans (like myself) some hope that maybe they could string together a few good games and actually give the Thunder a run for their money.

Games 1 and 2 showed how close the Mavs were to the Thunder, or so I thought. OKC needed a Durant buzzer-beater to win Game 1, and a two Terry misses to win Game 2. Game 3 was supposed to be the game the Mavericks would show the world that they still had something left, that they could still compete. Well, they couldn’t, not in this guise.

People will not remember how close Games 1 and 2 were. All they will remember is that the defending champion Dallas Mavericks got swept in the first round of the Playoffs. It’s not really fair, but it is what it is. Just ask last year’s Lakers.

Anyway, the season’s over now, probably much earlier than the Mavs and their fans ever thought it would be, and they go into the offseason facing so much uncertainty. Anyone not named Dirk Nowitzki could be gone by the time the season starts in November.

For the first time in the Cuban era, the Mavs have cap space, and the plan is for the team to sign a top free agent by offering a max deal. Of course, that is not a sure thing.

Whatever happens this offseason, though, I still stand by what the Mavs front office did. Re-signing TC and all of the other free agents maybe would have given the Mavs a chance to repeat, but what would happen after that? They would have been stuck with the same aging core, with no cap space or any other way to improve, for years.

By the time everyone from the title team would come off the books, Mark Cuban would have paid millions upon millions in luxury tax for an aging team that could only hope to replicate what happened in 2011.

I believe that the direction the front office took can only be judged after this postseason. If the Mavs fail to sign anyone who can significantly help Dirk Nowitzki, then yes, not re-signing the championship team really was a mistake. If they do, however, and they extend their contending years beyond Dirk’s decline and eventual retirement, then you have to give them all the credit for taking such a big gamble and for waiting for it to pay off.

Goodbye, 2011.

Dear 2011,

You started off really bad, but you’re ending on a high note. And in between, you gave me the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. I’ll probably never forget you for a lot of reasons, good and bad, and I’ll probably look back at you as the year that changed my life in more ways than one.

You let me know how it felt like to have something finally work. You introduced me to a lot of new and wonderful people. You taught me a lot of lessons about life and about hope. You taught me to not give up, and to be patient. You made me realize a lot of things, and you helped me learn more about myself.

In a way, you were the best and worst year of my life, and you’re awesome because of that. Your run has ended though, and you must give way to the new year.

I am of course hoping that 2012 will be better than you, but that does not mean that I will not miss you and your best moments. I will.

Still, I have to say goodbye to you, so goodbye 2011, and thank you for everything.

The night Kobe outscored the Mavs in three quarters

Exactly six years ago, Mavericks fans witnessed one of the most painful (and downright embarrassing) moments in franchise history. We watched as one man singlehandedly outscored an entire team through three quarters of a professional basketball game.

Even now, it’s still a little difficult to talk about that night. I will though, even for just a little bit. It was supposed to be an ordinary regular season game in December. It started out pretty evenly, actually. The Lakers ended the half up by 9. It was reasonable to expect the Mavs to mount some sort of comeback in the second half. After all, the Lakers that year were not exactly contenders.

Everything fell apart in the third quarter, however. Kobe Bryant was pissed off, and it showed. Back then, he had to do everything just to give the Lakers a chance to win. And boy did he do everything that night. Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard, Dallas’ designated Kobe “stoppers” at the time, we’re helpless. Bryant scored almost every single time down the floor. He brushed away the defense as if he was brushing away flies. He was, for all intents and purposes, unstoppable.

Even as the Laker lead grew, he continued to pour it on. By the time the third quarter had ended, the game was over and Kobe Bryant had outscored the entire Dallas Mavericks roster BY HIMSELF. It was Kobe 62, Dallas 61. Ouch.

It was, in my opinion, an epic performance…an all time great one (although Kobe would outdo himself later on in the season by burning the Toronto Raptors for 81 unbelievable points – that shall be discussed on a different entry).

I may hate Kobe Bryant, but even I have to admit that he is arguably the best player of his generation.

It was this night (and many others, for that matter) that made last season’s playoff sweep that much sweeter.

David Stern MAY have saved LA there

My initial reaction upon hearing the news that Chris Paul was going to LA was outrage. Absolute outrage! I was like how the fucking hell does LA get another fucking superstar!? It didn’t seem fair that the Lakers were once again gonna be able to get their hands on another superstar. Of course at the time I didn’t know who LA was giving up for Paul, I just knew that they were trading for him. I then found out that they were shipping out Pau Gasol AND Lamar Odom just to get CP3, and I thought “I could actually live with this.” David Stern killed the trade after that and all was okay with the world again…or so I thought. After some more thinking, I realized Stern may have actually done the Lakers a favor by vetoing the trade.

Think about it. The Lakers were willing to give up the most skilled big man in the world today and the reigning 6th man of the year to get CP3. Sure, Chris Paul is clearly the best player in the deal and is probably currently the best point guard in the planet, but again, think about what LA was going to give up. That’s a lot of size…skilled size for that matter, and when you think back to LA’s previous title runs, it was that combination of skill and size that helped them win. LA was willing to give all of that up for Chris Paul, and they were willing to entrust all frontcourt responsibilities to Andrew Bynum (of course I was assuming they won’t get Dwight Howard after they got CP3).

Now, think about LA’s lineup had the deal gone through. They’d have Paul, Kobe, Bynum, Metta World Peace, and not much else. You could say that those four plus a few more serviceable players would have been enough, but that’s considering that all of them stay healthy throughout the regular season (will probably be tougher this year because of the compressed schedule) and the playoffs. That could have been the problem for LA.

Kobe’s not getting any younger, and those knees of his have a lot of miles on them already. Think back to the Dallas series and how 38-year-old Jason Kidd was able to effectively defend him. Kobe is still a monster, but he is beginning to show signs of aging, and I don’t exactly know how helpful that new procedure he had done in Germany will be.

I don’t have to go into Andrew Bynum’s injury history for you to know that he’s fragile. He’s shown plenty of potential, yes, but again, how healthy can he be throughout the entire season?

As for Chris Paul, he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee a cople of years ago. I don’t really know how healthy he is but when I think back to the first round series against the Lakers, I think he’s ok. I can’t help but question how long he can sustain that level of play though. In the last regular season, there were games when Paul clearly was not able to play at the highest level. I’m not sure if he was holding back and saving himself or if he was having some injury issues. The point is, there COULD be some lingering issues with Paul’s left knee.

Add it all up and if the trade pushed through, LA’s fortunes would have depended on the balky knees of its three best players! Think about that! Of course, we’ll never know if the collective knees of Kobe, Bynum, and Chris Paul would have all held up long enough for them to bring a title to LA.

Injuries are not the only issue however. With Gasol and Odom gone, the Lakers go from having one of the best frontcourt rotations in the league to having one of the thinnest ones. Imagine them playing a team like Memphis (with two legit bigs) and the results could be disastrous.

And then there’s the issue of who gets to hold the ball. Paul is a ball-dominant guard. He should be, he’s the best point guard in the world after all and he needs to have the ball to weave his magic. But then you have Kobe. Will Kobe be willing to play off the ball? I wouldn’t bet on it.

I now honestly believe that LA would have faced more problems had the trade pushed through. Sure, they would have gotten a superstar, but his arrival alone does not resolve all of the issues that the Lakers are facing. By blocking the trade, David Stern may have just saved the Lakers.