ESPN’s “The Last Dance” docu-series has been a weekly treat for all sports fans to enjoy the last three Sunday nights. Ratings have been impressive and it shows that people are as hungry as ever for new sports content. It obviously helps that the subject matter of the documentary is basically the most popular and successful athlete of all-time in Michael Jordan, but I would think that each region has a team or subject matter they would flock to consume a 10-hour documentary on if were available. The key is that this can’t be a fluff piece doc with just fun interviews we’ve all seen before. This has to get down and dirty like “The Last Dance” has been while covering the difficulties the Bulls went through during their dynasty in the 90’s.
I know I’d be down to consume just about any in-depth, behind the scenes look at pretty much any of the Mavs teams I’ve followed since becoming basketball-conscious in 2001. Which seasons would be the best ones to cover though? I’ve picked three and picked them based on the following reasons:
1. There were notable examples of conflict leaked out during this season.
2. There was considerable star power/interesting personalities on this team.
I’m going to start off controversially and say that I’m not going to include the 2010-2011 championship season. Say whaaaaat? We’ve all seen so many different interviews and behind the scenes videos of this team from various outlets. Plus, it seemed like that team basically all got along and were a group of calm veterans with their eyes on the championship prize. The bottom line is that this is my experiment and I’m welcome to have any silly rules I want. The Mavericks 2011 championship team is probably the least “spicy” team of any of theirs the last 20 or so years. I feel as though I’ve seen, heard and read it all about that championship team, so I’d rather get some in-depth info on teams where it went wrong.
Record: 36-30 (Lockout-shortened season); Eliminated after first round series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1)
Interesting characters: Lamar Odom, Delonte West… enormous gap in edginess… Vince Carter
Intriguing storylines: Season starting in December, Banner Raising Ceremony, Ring Ceremony, Lamar Odom’s instability and early departure, one last season with Jason Terry and Jason Kidd
I would LOVE to see videos of practices or locker room scenes with Lamar Odom being as low energy and apathetic as he was on the court. In the interview above, Odom talks about that infamous final game of his when the Mavs were taking on the Grizzlies in Memphis.
According to the play-by-play of that night, he played the final 4:15 of the first quarter and entered with Dallas trailing 14-3. His time on the court would end at the end of the first quarter with the score being 29-10 Memphis and Odom putting up just one shot that got blocked by Marc Gasol and sporting a -7 rating in that short stint on the court.
Coming off a 2010-2011 season where he was the Sixth Man of the Year, Odom only managed to put up 6.6 points while shooting a career low 35% from the field that season for the Mavericks. Bad head space or not, the dude just checked out once he was traded from his ideal situation with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Getting an in-depth look at the team trying to fight their way through a 66 game season that began on Christmas Day would be very interesting. Hearing people talk about how Delonte West acted throughout the season would be intriguing considering he was actually a strong contributor for the team and it was his last NBA action before getting cut in training camp the next season and obviously his life going in an unfortunate direction ever since.
Record: 50-32; Eliminated after first round series loss to the Houston Rockets (4-1)
Interesting characters: Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons, Monta Ellis, Amar’e Stoudemire
Intriguing storylines: The Return of J.J. Barea, Scorching Start to the Season, Rondo Trade, Stoudemire Signing After Buy-Out, Rondo/Carlisle Dynamic, Ellis/Parsons Dynamic, Disastrous First Round Series Highlighted (Lowlighted?) By Rondo Quitting in Game Two
The video above is from the first time Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle clashed in front of cameras. This game was on February 24, 2015, over two months after the trade that brought Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas. Carlisle took Rondo out of the game at the 8:10 mark of the third quarter and he didn’t play the rest of the game. Surprisingly, the Mavericks ended up winning that game 99-92 to improve Dallas’ record to 39-20 at the time. That’s a lot of conflict for a team that is nearly 20 games over the .500 mark three-quarters of the way through the season. It would only get worse.
When the Mavs officially completed the trade on December 18th, 2014, their record was 19-8. They were on pace for roughly 58 wins and likely one of the most efficient offenses in league history. The day before the made the trade, Dallas took down a bad Detroit Pistons team 117-106 with Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons combining for 57 points with both shooting comfortably over 50% from the field. Noticeably, their starting point guard, the then-32-year-old Jameer Nelson, scored 0 points and dished out 0 assists. Clearly the team could upgrade at that spot with only over the hill veterans like Devin Harris and J.J. Barea coming off the bench.
Of course the season would come to a terrible ending with the team’s quick dismissal at the hands of the Rockets in the first round. Rondo would publicly embarrass the franchise again by quitting on the team in game two and then not playing the rest of the series with a made up back injury.
Do you expect Rajon Rondo to ever wear a Mavericks uniform again? "No, I don't," Rick Carlisle said.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 22, 2015
For someone who keeps the cards as close to the vest as Rick Carlisle, saying something that revealing in the middle of a playoff series shows how disastrous this locker room must have been.
Add in things like Monta Ellis’ moodiness following the team’s signing of Chandler Parsons to a big contract the summer before and it would be really, really interesting to hear ultimate pros like Dirk, Tyson Chandler, Barea or Harris try to window dress the turmoil going on behind the scenes that season.
Record: 33-49, missed the playoffs
Interesting characters: Luka Doncic, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith, Jr.
Intriguing storylines: Luka’s Amazing Rookie Season, Dirk Nowitzki’s Final Season, Team Chemistry Issues, The Porzingis Trade, Harrison Barnes Being Traded During a Game
It was awesome to see Luka Doncic explode onto the NBA scene with a campaign that won him the Rookie of the Year. This also happened to be my first season with a media credential and it certainly appeared to be much juicier than I would have anticipated.
This was a team constructed of a mix of young up-and-comers like Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. and then veterans who were trying to prove they were worthy of their big contracts/playing for their next one like DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews. There were never any major blowups on the court similar to Carlisle and Rondo, but there was the interesting rebound situation with Luka and DeAndre. This led to an eventual Tim MacMahon nugget that said Jordan had rubbed teammates the wrong way with selfish play. Jordan then “next-question”-ed MacMahon in the locker room for weeks after that and even walked away from a media scrum at one point when pressed about the issue by another writer. In my view, DeAndre was basically the most media-friendly guy on the team who was always ready to talk after a game win or lose. He joked and shared a smile with every person he interacted with in the locker room and seemed to really get along with one of the main leaders on the team in J.J. Barea. His rebound-hunting and poor effort on defense was definitely disappointing, though.
After a Mavs early season home loss to a bad Knicks team dropped their record to 2-7, I saw Wes Matthews having a conversation with Donnie Nelson outside the Mavericks locker room while the media was meeting with other players. It was definitely only heated on one side as it was Matthews who was upset and Nelson had his hand on his shoulder trying to talk him down from whatever he was upset about. Perhaps Matthews was just upset with his own play as he was a team worst -20 that night with only six shot attempts in 31 minutes. This was ultimately spread to a larger audience than my Twitter audience by another site and it led to Rick Carlisle addressing it at the beginning of his media availability at a practice a couple days later.
I always got the feeling that these same veteran players were a bit jealous of the constant talk and praise around Luka Doncic. I wouldn’t blame them. Every media scrum they were a part of was basically led by a question that more or less was, “Talk about how great this rookie kid is.” Everyone has a sense of pride in their own game, so why would they just want to constantly talk about this rookie phenom? I’d be interested to hear them honestly speak about that more than year after the fact.
Of course, it’d be pretty interesting to have an in-depth interview with Donnie Nelson about how the seemingly out-of-nowhere trade for Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke came to be. This came after weeks of speculation that things weren’t right with Dennis Smith Jr. Luka and DSJ definitely liked each other. No issues there. It was just obvious that DSJ probably didn’t have the BEST attitude when it came to being coach-able and finding a role that would allow him to contribute while Doncic handled the ball.
Then reports of Harrison Barnes being traded to the Kings leaked in the middle of a game just a week after the trade with the Knicks took place. Barnes was always polished and well-spoken like a politician. He was a great ambassador for the team in the community, so it was unfortunate that his time with the team came to an end like that. Despite him being seen leaving the floor without a jersey like you might associate with a pissed off player who was kicked out of a game, I really think he just wanted to do another charitable thing and give his gear to a young fan.
— i choose to not disclose my name due to last tweet (@JoshNew76901442) February 7, 2019
There have been plenty of well done articles and videos about the exit of Dirk Nowitzki and the magical night that was his final home game. Dirk has been pretty open about just how difficult and borderline miserable it was for him to get his body ready to play the limited role he did in 51 games last season. The media would wait for him after every game to limp into the locker room and stand in a towel while he patiently and kindly answered any question thrown his way. It was a treat to be a part of something like that, but it was hard to see him struggling to get around like he was. It’s a miracle he was even able to finish the season.
Obviously a well-done documentary on any of these relatively forgettable Mavericks seasons wouldn’t hold a candle to “The Last Dance” because we’re not talking about Michael Jordan here, but they’d be damn entertaining for DFW sports fans. There’s a 1% chance that important figures like Dirk Nowitzki or Rick Carlisle would be willing to be as open about the negative issues as all of the Bulls players and Phil Jackson have been, but let’s pretend they would for the sake of this exercise.
We’re allowed to dream, right?
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