We are all starved for sports. That’s no secret to anyone.
It’s been almost two months since we witnessed a live match or game. Networks are doing their best with viewing events like The Last Dance or the NFL draft, but there isn’t much that can match the excitement of a live sporting event.
Or is there?
Enter the 2011 Dallas Mavericks.
Likely the peak of sports fandom for every DFW resident, the Mavs unforgettable run is one of heroic performances, fascinating characters, and even a few menacing villains.
Quite simply, it’s a fairy tale we never get tired of living. And thanks to the good people of Fox Sports Southwest, we get to do it all over again. The network has already begun re-airing every Maverick victory from the run. As of today, we have made it through the first two games of the Lakers series, with the Mavs holding a 2-0 lead.
We obviously got to live these events in real time, but these games were played almost a decade ago. Viewing them now, we have the benefit of hindsight, and in my case, a greater understanding of the game. It’s helped bring me new perspective on the most significant team in franchise history. A team that is worth studying and appreciating all these years later.
Below, you’ll find a few of the noteworthy observations I’ve made while rewatching the first six games of their eventual title run.
1. Tyson Chandler leaving is almost as significant as Steve Nash’s’ departure
Let me be the first to admit: I defended the decision to break up the title team before they had a chance to defend it.
The idea of signing aging, veteran players to expensive deals seemed like the worst way to maximize what little of Dirk’s prime remained. Sure, letting Tyson walk would hurt, but who would care when we landed Dwight Howard?!
In all seriousness, Tyson was exceptional for this team. Much like Nash was Dirk’s offensive support system, Tyson did the same on the other end.
This was abundantly clear during both the Portland and L.A. series. Those teams brought massive frontlines to the table. Portland with Aldridge/Camby/Wallace and the Lakers with Artest/Gasol/Bynum. They don’t stand much of a chance making it through either of those teams without Tyson. Portland was especially difficult and Tyson’s 14-point, 20-rebound Game 5 was a huge catalyst in helping close out the Blazers.
He had a healthy case as the team’s second best player. And they let him go for absolutely nothing in immediate return.
They had their reasons, misguided or not, but it’s hard not to wonder what could have been had he and Dirk played more than two seasons together. Letting him get away not only once, but twice is one of the franchise’s greatest missteps.
2. The 2011 Mavericks were well ahead of their time
Flip on a game from this time period of the NBA and you will see a lot of two things: Post ups & mid-range jumpers. Finding the easiest path to those situations is what offenses were designed for. But the Mavericks bucked the status quo. They often deployed three-guard lineups with multiple playmakers. You would see them regularly run four & five-out sets that stretched defenses to their limit.
Even the roster construction indicated how much they valued modern basketball strategies, as they had four of the most prolific 3-point marksmen of all-time: Kidd, Terry, Peja, and Dirk.
Here is a Twitter thread I made highlighting their elite court spacing and what it did to the Lakers defense.
Those clips look similar to the stuff you see from teams today. While the 2011 Mavs didn’t launch with the volume of today’s squads, they did understand the hidden value of the 3-point line. Something that gave them a huge advantage during their run.
3. Shawn Marion was the unsung hero
I had fond memories of Shawn Marion and his contributions to the 2011 title team. He was a great source of defense, energy, and rebounding. However, I was always the guy that yearned for Caron Butler. If you recall, Butler started over Marion for the first portion of that year. He was the teams’s second leading scorer and a staple of their early success. Right around the time the calendar flipped to January though, Butler went down with a season-ending injury and predictably, the team suffered. Marion filled in admirably, but simply put, Butler was just perceived as the better player.
While that still might be true, I’m beginning to think they were better off with “Trix” being their featured wing player.
His nearly unmatched versatility gave them a new advantage in every series. His ability to get out in transition killed the slower, plodding Lakers. Against Portland, he often posted up smaller players with ease to score necessary buckets. And he managed to do it in incredibly timely fashion.
Did he have the sexiest moves? Nah. Prettiest jumper? Certainly not. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t fully appreciate his performance back then. But upon rewatching, it’s clear that “The Matrix” was indispensable to that team.
4. Jason Kidd’s contributions are not celebrated enough
Jason Kidd averaged a whopping 9.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds during the 2011 postseason. Kidd was 38 at the time of this run, far removed from his Hall-of-Fame caliber play, but he was so impactful within the margins of these games. There was the big stuff in critical moments, like the turnover he forced Kobe into late in Game 1, but there were also the times where he would knock in run-halting threes.
However you wish to look at it, Kidd was remarkable during the run. Much like Marion, he excelled at being “on-time.“
The Mavericks certainly aren’t champions without his toughness, leadership, and especially his defense.
For that, MFFLs are eternally grateful.
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