MIAMI -- So why was this Dirk Nowitzki's last chance to win a title? That line of thinking made sense, especially considering the five torturous years and crushing disappointments endured by the Mavericks since their last trip to the NBA Finals.
But doesn't it also stand to reason that these Mavericks -- the NBA champions for 2010-11 -- could be better in 2011-12? (Assuming there is an NBA season.)
"We can do it again," J.J. Barea said. "I know with the staff we've got, and I know Mark Cuban is going to put the pieces together to give us a chance."
Caron Butler, Rodrigue Beaubois and Corey Brewer weren't major on-court contributors to the title run. Of the three, only Brewer saw action during the postseason -- and that was a grand total of 23 minutes.
Those three guys, however, figure to be integral parts of the franchise for years to come.
Butler, an upcoming free agent, was arguably the Mavs' second-best player to Nowitzki when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January. Butler tried to return for the playoffs, and should be healthy once the season comes around. He wants to return to Dallas, and the organization feels the same about him.
Beaubois was supposed to be Kidd's backcourt running mate and eventual heir apparent. Beaubois' season was essentially lost after breaking his foot last summer. Like Butler, he should be ready to go next season.
The Mavs won a bidding war to land Brewer, signing the defensive-minded swingman to a multi-year contract. Brewer did provide a game-turning stint in the Lakers series, and starting a full season in Rick Carlisle's system can only help.
On the free-agent front, Tyson Chandler and Barea are top priorities for the front office. Chandler's leadership and fire helped redefine the team's image. Barea has developed into an offensive spark that has the full confidence of his teammates.
"It's definitely not the last shot, but this is a great opportunity," Butler said. "We'll see what happens. We're looking to do some unbelievable things for years to come here. We feel we have a great team in place, we've got a great core and up-and-coming young guys as well, so we can put some special runs together."
Bringing back the core, which also includes backup centers Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi, along with those sidelined should position the Mavs nicely in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City will be stout, but the future appears somewhat uncertain for the aging San Antonio Spurs and transitioning Los Angeles Lakers.
Winning the West again seems more plausible than winning it before the 2011 playoffs started. Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson didn't going into this past season building a one-and-done team, but nothing is ever guaranteed.
"You look at San Antonio, they win a championship [in 1999] and they're bounced in the first round the next year," Nelson said. "I don't think this is Dirk's last run or anything like that. If he keeps drinking from Jason Kidd's water cooler we'll be doing this for 10 more years. More than anything it's just so competitive that you just don't know.
"That's why this was so special. This was absolutely there for the taking and the guys grabbed it by the throat."