When the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban okayed pulling the trigger on a trade that brought F Caron Butler, G DeShawn Stevenson, and C Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards, he engaged in a stare-down with the Los Angeles Lakers. Essentially, Cuban took 20 paces, cocked his cowboy hat, stroked his gun, looked straight in the eyes of Phil Jackson, and said, “Son, this here town ain’t big ‘nugh for the both of us.”
He might be right.
After posting a dud against Oklahoma City in the first game after the NBA’s trade deadline, the Mavericks have been on an absolute roll. Road games in Orlando and Atlanta? No problem. Hosting those dastardly Lakers? A breeze.
All things told, Dallas has run off six straight wins to move to 38-21, 4.5 games clear of the Spurs in the Southwest Division. The Mavs are currently stalking 39-19 Denver for the #2 seed in the Western Conference, and after that, their sights will be set on the defending champs from La La Land.
Historically, this Dallas team is one that puts together a fantastic roster chalk full of players like F Dirk Nowitzki and G Jason Kidd and then ultimately falls on its face at some point during the playoffs. Glitz and glamour is what the Mavs are normally after. However, this time, they’ve gone after grit, determination, and toughness, and that might be the key to the championship.
Yes, that glitz is still there. Nowitzki is still one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. Look no further than his 37-point effort against the Hawks in Atlanta last night for proof of that. On this winning streak, the German national player is averaging 28.3 points per game, significantly higher than his 25.0 point average for the year.
Kidd is still one of the flashiest point guards in the NBA as well. He’s always been known as the king of the triple-double of this generation, and he had yet another one in Atlanta, scoring 19 points, dishing out 17 assists, and bringing down 16 rebounds. It was his 18th double-double of the year and his first triple-double.
G Jason Terry is as pure of a scorer as it gets. He’s averaging 16.9 points per game, and he’ll surely be a great candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honors.
When the Mavericks acquired F Shawn Marion in the offseason, it was the beginning of their transformation into a tough team. Marion is a former Defensive Player of the Year award winner, and he’s always doing the little things to keep his team going. His numbers aren’t fantastic (11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game), but he’s the one that Dallas turns to get to step in front of that pass and start the fast break or go diving into the bench to try to save a loose ball.
Even though Dallas knew that it was probably heading towards another division championship and a high seed in the playoffs, Cuban and his front office knew that this team wasn’t tough enough to body with the likes of Kobe, Pau, and Bynum for the Lakers. Something had to be done.
Though everyone will look at the trade during the All-Star Break and call it the “Caron Butler deal,” truth be told, Butler for the departed Josh Howard would’ve been a comparable flip-flop.
The difference-maker has been Haywood. Talk about someone that has played like a man possessed! Since coming over from our nation’s capitol, the new center for the Mavs has recorded at least ten points and at least nine rebounds in all six of his games. He has averaged 11.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in that stretch as well, adding 19 blocked shots to boot.
Haywood’s defensive presence is starting to become contagious. Dallas has only allowed 92.3 points per game in its L/6 overall, and it is starting to play like a legitimate contender.
And if you don’t think that this winning streak can’t continue, just take a look at what’s on tap… New Orleans, Charlotte, Minnesota, Sacramento, Chicago, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, the Clippers, Portland, and Golden State… That’s the next 15 games for this team.
Look out, LA. If you’re not careful, the new sheriffs in town are going to overtake you, and the road to the NBA Championship will be going through Big D.