Tuesday night’s Mavericks-Clippers game was all sorts of amazing. An overtime finish already on a delayed start in a later time slot because TNT does that added up for one helluva ride.
For the first time all season, the ride ended in a Dallas photo finish, with a heavily-bearded 7-foot German leading the way, notching a season-high 33 points including outscoring LA’s better half by himself – 8 to 5 – in the deciding overtime period.
Not since the middle of December, when Dirk Nowitzki was nursing a surgically repaired knee, Derek Fisher was the starting point guard and Troy Murphy was actually on our roster three weeks earlier had Dallas been within one game of .500.
Not your traditional magic number, but one that has dominated headlines, noselines and chinlines in the metroplex since that fateful post game decision by proud Dallas Mavericks.
Then 18-25 after losing to the Spurs at home, Vince Carter, OJ Mayo and company had had enough of the embarrassing play. VC and Juice got together and found a rather… itchy incentive.
No shaving at all (well, beards) until the team reaches .500.
“We were just like, ‘Let’s do it,’ Carter said. “and guys were all in.”
The team pact of course turned into a public campaign, urging fans to get involved. It made national news but mostly as a sad joke for a team that couldn’t seem to accept its destiny as a lottery participant for the first time in 12 years.
I admit, I was skeptical. All MFFL’s were. But I haven’t touched a razor since not watching the Pro Bowl.
February 8th rolled around and the Mavericks had played six more games, splitting hairs – err – games. Beards grew thicker for Mayo and Nowitzki and bolder for Carter and Elton Brand but when February ended, Dallas was still 7 games under .500.
At this point, they had been written off by pretty much everyone, getting so bad to the point where radio PBP announcer and die-hard fan Chuck Cooperstein was already laying out potential top 10 draft picks on the Mavs’ radar.
One of my favorite NBA writers, Bill Simmons, explained that the 2012-13 season Dallas Mavericks season was lost from the beginning when Nowitzki missed 27 games and upon returning was still far from the
Finals MVP we know.
Rick Carlisle somehow kept a level headed and collected approach through this all, reiterating every chance he got that he believed in his guys.
One of those guys is 37-year old journeyman and 2013 10-day contract product Mike James. Darren Collison wasn’t playing bad by any means as the starting point guard, but turnovers and not passing to #41 in crunch time proved costly for Dallas.
Mike James has always been of a score-first mentality, but after 11 NBA teams (not counting 2 d-league stints and 6 stops overseas) James was more than ready to reinsert himself not only as an NBA player – but a starter – which he was named as on March 6th.
Since the team is 9-3. Do the math, that’s 6 games over .500, finally getting away from the 7 under mark that the team couldn’t shake. Wiry Mike James has been shaking and crossing over, and playing at a level nobody expected – and for under 8 grand.
So Tuesday night, backed by an energized crowd fueled by Lamar Odom’s return to Dallas, and led by a vintage Dirk Nowitzki performance, the Mavericks beat the Clippers, setting the stage for Thursday’s home game vs. Indiana where clippers remain in the building prepped to wipe the losing off the face of the Mavs and continue the push for the playoffs.
Even OJ Mayo’s barber Omar will be in the house and heck, I’m ready to return to a clean shaven look as well.
“I don’t really want to jinx it, but I’m ready to get this thing off” – Dirk