- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS – Maybe the fourth time will be the charm when it comes to breaking the Mavericks’ .500 failures.
Some call it the Curse of Omar the Barber, whom O.J. Mayo publicly welcomed to shave those scraggly .500 beards when the Mavs got their first shot at the break-even mark late last month. Believe what you want, but there’s no denying that the Mavs are 0-3 when they’ve had a chance to get to .500, and their performances in those games have been uglier than their facial hair.
The 39-40 Mavs have another shot to shave Sunday evening, when they’ll face the New Orleans Hornets in that franchise’s final home game before officially becoming the Pelicans.
“We’ve been chasing .500 for a long, long time,” said Dirk Nowitzki, the bearded face of the franchise and one of six Mavs participating in the pact. “Every time we’re right there, we take a big L. We have another chance Sunday and it’s a big, big game for us.”
The Mavs were 11-11 the last time they were .500, way back in mid-December when Nowitzki had yet to play a minute this season while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. They dipped as low as 10 games under .500 on Jan. 9, when they were 13-23 after a miserable stretch of 13 losses in 15 games. The .500 beards pact began at some point in late January.
For most of the last two and a half months, those beards have been a warm, fuzzy story. That ended March 28, when the Indiana Pacers blew out the Mavs by 25 points at the American Airlines Center and boasted about keeping Omar’s clippers from buzzing.
The Mavs’ second shot at shaving didn’t go much better. They let the Los Angeles Lakers blow them out by 20 at the Staples Center on April 2, all but ensuring that Dallas’ dozen-year playoff streak would end, which it did when they were officially eliminated eight nights later.
The third strike might have been the biggest embarrassment for the Mavs. The Phoenix Suns snapped a 10-game losing streak with an 11-point win Wednesday at the AAC, causing Shawn Marion to question his team’s effort and Vince Carter to admit the Mavs took such a terrible opponent for granted.
Well, there’s no better place to break a curse than the Big Easy. (That’s a voodoo reference, not a dig at the 27-53 Hornets. With a different kind of curse, coach Rick Carlisle warned that only an “f------ idiot” would take a Mavs win for granted the morning before the stinker against the Suns. We’ll only make that mistake once this week.)
But the Mavs at least have recent history of breaking a possible curse here. They’d lost 11 in a row at New Orleans Arena, dating the Hornets’ quick dismissal of Dallas in the 2008 first round, before winning two of their last three in this building.
If the Mavs can win Sunday evening, they can get rid of their beards and remain focused on the post-elimination goal of finishing with a winning record.
Another loss, and Omar’s invitation will rank right behind the city of Dallas’ 2006 parade plans among the Mavs’ most regretful premature celebration plans.