A year ago today, the greatest Maverick we’ve ever known laced them up one final time. It was the conclusion to an epic, 21-year chapter in the Mavericks history and thankfully, we were all along for the ride.
But as is the case, when a larger-than-life figure departs an organization, there is a void to be filled.
Most teams search years, sometimes decades to find an adequate replacement for the face of their franchise, but the Mavericks? They already have that guy on the roster. Heck, they might have two of them.
Dirk wasn’t even done playing and they already had the hardest part of the rebuild done when they traded for both Doncic and Porzingis. It’s almost unprecedented to have the heir to a franchise waiting in the wings like that. Think Manning to Luck or Favre to Rodgers.
The next step in a successful rebuild usually involves fielding a diverse cast of characters who prop up your stars. Guys like Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Seth Curry all fit this description and they do it for cheap.
Luka’s monster leap is a huge reason that the team has outperformed preseason expectations, but the aforementioned “Others” have their fingerprints on it as well. Nobody questioned Luka & KP’s talent coming in, but the rest of the roster didn’t inspire much confidence. That’s how Vegas comes up with a 41-win projection for this squad.
Yet with 15 games to play, the Mavericks have 40 wins. This reflects a strong culture, one where guys can come in and thrive. There is no greater example of this than Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway arrived in Dallas with the reputation of a high-volume, inefficient shot-chucker who was allergic to winning basketball. And he did little to disprove that in his time last year before being sidelined with a leg injury.
But some individual work with Coach Carlisle and an insertion into the starting lineup has completely unlocked Hardaway. He’s destroying his previous career-high mark in efficiency and become the indispensable “third guy” in the Mavericks potent offensive attack.
The franchise’s ability to find use for misfits and cast-offs like “THJ” can be traced back to the greatness of Dirk. The ability to raise the level of those around oneself is the truest mark of a franchise player and something Luka and KP have taken in stride.
It’s resulted in a fun, but trying year for Mavs fans. There have been flashes of brilliance, but lots of inconsistency and growing pains.
These things aren’t abnormal for blossoming young teams. Dirk’s early-2000’s squads went through similar struggles.
So while we sit and wait for the 2020 season to resume, wondering what the Mavericks future looks like, we can also look back and appreciate the towering legacy Dirk left behind with us.
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