But Is That Enough For These Hapless Mavericks?

Well, here we are. Christmas has come and gone, and the Mavericks are in the midst of their most difficult stretch of the season.

And, thus far, it hasn't been pretty. Since entering this stretch on December 12 against the Celtics, Dallas has won just one game. That lone win came against the 76ers on the 18th.

Since then, the Mavs have found the loss column three consecutive times against the likes of the Heat, the Grizzlies and the Spurs. None of these games had a final score resembling anything close to a competitive game. That's because not a single one of them was.

Things don't appear to be getting any better any time soon, either. Before the calendar flips over to 2013, Dallas will face the Thunder on Thursday night, then Denver, and then San Antonio once again.

Coming out of any of the next three games with a win will be a tall order.

The Thunder lost a close game to the Heat on Christmas day, so they'll be looking to get back into the win column on Thursday. Plus, Oklahoma City is just one of the best teams in the entire league. San Antonio is up there in that group, too. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference.

Face facts, Mavs fans: Dallas is not anywhere near the caliber of these teams.

Beyond the tough scheduling, the Mavericks' roster turnstile continues to rotate. Saturday, it was announced that Derek Fisher and the team had reached a mutual agreement for Fisher to be waived. The decision to waive Fisher was apparently in the works for a number of days before the official announcement, which partially explains the strange “illness” that was supposed to keep Fisher out of the game against the 76ers despite him starting.

Fisher was on the Mavericks for nine games, though it seemed longer. His tenure saw the team post a 5-4 record, beating teams that are not especially good and being blown out by teams that are. Also? That still-inexplicable loss to the Raptors. But nine games is enough games to accurately assess Fisher's performance, which can be considered admirable given the struggles of the Mavericks this season. His offensive contributions were modest and where he was most effective was controlling the sieve that is the Mavericks' turnover rate, which currently stands at 14.64.

Fisher's departure does bring with it a bit of good news, however. In his place, the Mavericks have called up Chris Douglas-Roberts from their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Douglas-Roberts was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 2008, played there for two seasons, and then played a third season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Since his stint on the Bucks, he has tried to return to the NBA a couple of times. He played on the Lakers this preseason before getting waived four games in. Dallas then signed him in the wake of the Lakers waiving him, but then they too let him go. And so he went to the Legends.

But Douglas-Roberts is no slouch. He was widely regarded as the top NBA-ready talent in the D-League.

Oh, and there was another player the Mavericks welcomed to their ranks this week.

As something of an early Christmas present, Dirk Nowitzki returned to action for the first time this season against the rival Spurs. He. of course, has been sidelined since swelling in his right knee led to arthroscopic surgery before the start of the regular season in October.

Perhaps, though, his return is slightly premature; he returned to full contact practice just a short while before his appearance on Sunday night. And, unfortunately, Dirk did not return to game action in the form of a triumphant victor. Instead, the Mavericks welcomed their star back by getting summarily dismantled by San Antonio. Dallas lost that contest 129-91. Not much can be said about this performance other than that it was simply terrible. Still, in his 20 minutes on the court, Nowitzki played well enough, scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting and grabbing six rebounds to boot.

But what really did the Mavericks in against the Spurs (other than San Antonio's record-setting barrage from deep) was — yet again — this Mavericks team's penchant for shooting long, inefficient two-point shots. These have been an issue for Dallas throughout the season as the team has shown an inability to consistently get to the rim. Douglas-Roberts could help some with that — but he must play his way into Carlisle's favor before he can try and be a factor on this team.

Still think things aren't so bad? Consider this: When the Mavs play the hapless Washington Wizards on New Year's Day, they could have a record of 12-19.

Even with Nowitzki slowly working himself back into game shape, the task the Mavs face in returning to a .500 record could prove too big.

But, hey, at least Dirk is back.

He can't fix everything, nor should he try. But, nonetheless, his return is a major positive for a team in desperate need of good news.

Photo via the NBA's official Mavericks page.

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