Like a jilted lover, long-suffering MFFL’s (Mavs Fans For Life) still find it hard to put their trust in this team. Count this writer, a native “Dallas-ite”, among the jaded. Despite promising signs of change, the ghosts of the past still haunt those who back the “Boys in Blue”.
After a colossal choke job in game four of the first round against Portland had us all thinking, here we go again; the same old Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry – the only holdovers from the 2006 team that spit the bit when a championship was imminent – assured their fans that this Dallas team was made of tougher stuff than those of the past. This brought about a collective “surrrrre” from all within earshot of this seemingly hollow rhetoric. We heard similar promises after the number-one-seeded Mavericks suffered a historic first-round flameout against the Warriors in ’07, and again in ’08 after being upset by the Hornets in the opening round of the playoffs. So when Dallas closed out the Blazers, whom many prognosticators had picked to upset the aptly-named “One-and-Done Boys,” in one of the most difficult arenas to win in as a road team, most saw it as an anomaly.
Next up were the two-time defending champion Lakers. Needless to say, the Mavs were getting longer odds than Buster Douglas had against the indomitable Mike Tyson some twenty years ago. After Dirk and his band of NBA castoffs (Chandler, Marion, Peja, Stevenson) miraculously left the champ bloodied and broken, scoring what amounts to a first-round knockout, everyone chalked it up to some sudden dysfunction within the Laker locker room. It certainly couldn’t have been anything the “Two-and-Through-Crew” did to earn the victory.
Now here we are on the cusp of another trip to the Finals after an improbable five-minute, fifteen-point comeback in probably the second-hardest arena to win in on the road, and the national perception of these Mavericks, who have been known to fold up like a cheap lawn chair in the face of adversity, is slowly beginning to change. This is evident when you listen to the national media talk about this team and its much-maligned, future hall-of-fame-leader, Dirk Nowitzki. The “S” word (Soft) is only uttered in the past tense these days. When discussing the sweet-shooting German, you are more likely to hear “all-time great,” or “man on a mission” than that four-letter epithet. But let me be frank. It will take nothing less than a championship to truly change how we as fans view our hometown hoops team. We’ve been here before. We all thought this team had turned the corner after vanquishing the Spurs in the loaded Western Conference during the ’06 playoffs; and we all know how that season ended. So until David Stern begrudgingly hands Mark Cuban the Larry O’Brien trophy, I and every other realistic “MFFL” will stop just short of giving our hearts completely to this team for fear of having it ripped out again.