How Impressed Should We Be With The Mavericks' Recent Rally Cry?
On Tuesday afternoon, Vince Carter took stock of the Dallas Mavericks' season to date.
“It's understood that we need to win games,” he told Earl K. Sneed, content manager and beat reporter for the Maverick's official NBA team site. “Take it one quarter at a time and find a way to win.”
Carter isn't wrong, of course. Winning is the objective of any sports team. Rarely does a team enter a game with a mindset to lose, 1919 White Sox aside.
So, yes, the Mavericks need to win games. Because that is what is expected of them and because that is what is expected of all professional sports teams.
OK. Got it.
But, other than just winning games, what is the goal of these Mavericks?
How about winning half of their games? Currently, some players on the Mavs are participating in hockey-style beard-growing effort as part of a sign of solidarity and camaraderie as the team tries to lurch back to a .500 record.
In a season that has grown terribly mediocre for players and fans alike, this move has for sure sparked plenty of interest — especially since the team's play on the court has been continuously marred by late mistakes and inconsistency.
Listen: Getting back to .500 is a sound goal. And the players that Dallas has assembled are too proud as a unit to wallow below that figure — especially since many are in the back end of their careers. It's a respectable goal; a .500 record carries with it an air of respectability.
Well, in the Eastern Conference, at least.
Currently, Dallas is seven games below .500, so it would seem that these Mavericks will be growing beards for some time. Even if the team does rattle off seven wins in a row — an unlikely event considering how this team plays — it will be March 1 before the razors can come out.
Coming into the season, the Mavericks' goals were far loftier. During the preseason, head coach Rick Carlisle said Dallas was a team that plays for championships. At the time, no one actual took those statements seriously, considering all the new faces the Mavs welcomed in the offseason. It was clear even then that this would be a year of restructuring and rebuilding.
But, somewhat unfortunately, those championship expectations will always be there now after 2011.
Winning a championship was both at blessing and a curse for Dallas. Expectations were always high for the team as the two other major sports franchises with Dallas in their name have hoisted their sport's respective championship trophy. Now that the Mavs have done so — and since regressed — every arm-chair general manager has been questioning every move the team has made.
Winning is a culture, and the Mavericks have thrived within that culture for more than a decade.
Now they're on the outside looking in and, rightfully, the expectations have been significantly lowered.
So what happens if the Mavs actually get to .500? How will the goal of the team shift? Is it feasible that they could try to eek into the eighth seed in the West and somehow find their way into the playoffs?
Maybe. Honestly, a .500 record might be an unattainable goal, so let's just assume they get there for a moment. Then let's assume that, yes, they do sneak into that last playoff spot. What's the likely outcome if all of these hypotheticals come to fruition?
For one thing, we know that they'll play at least four games, two of which will be at the American Airlines Center. Those games will sell out and playoff tickets are damn expensive; the team will make a pretty penny to be sure, and that's before factoring in the revenue earned from concessions, parking and all of those surrounding businesses. (Yes, there are actually, like, three whole restaurants in the desert wasteland that is Victory Park these days.) So, yes, there is quite a bit of money to be had if the Mavericks defy all logic and probability and somehow make the playoffs.
But they won't make the playoffs, so just go ahead and forget that money right now. Even if they did make the second season, they'd more than likely earn a quick exit at the hands of either the Spurs or the Thunder, two teams that have proven to be much better than the Mavs this season.
So the goal isn't really to make the playoffs is it? The goal is to reach .500. That's it.
If you watched the State of the Union last night, you heard President Obama talk about how the country needs to repair its crumbling infrastructure. That seems like a reasonable goal, doesn't it? Maybe. Neil deGrasse Tyson put Obama's speech into perspective on Twitter as it was happening: “Times have changed: Kennedy: 'Let's go to the moon.' Obama: 'Lets [sic] repair our infrastructure.'”
This is the state of the Mavericks. Expectations for this team are low and justifiably.
Right now, they're just trying to fix the problems they currently have — and there are many. They're not looking to go above and beyond those concerns. Dallas is a team currently focused on housekeeping. A .500 record is therefore a respectable goal.
It's not impressive, but it's somewhat attainable.
So we can expect the Mavs to keep growing their beards for the foreseeable future. And maybe that's something.
No, beards aren't a Larry O'Brien Trophy. But this season, they're the one symbol that the team and fans can rally around.
That may not be an especially impressive symbol to hold on to. But, for now, it's all there is.
Cover photo via the NBA's official Mavericks page.