Sunday, December 25, 2011
Mavs raise banner before opener
By Jeff Caplan ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- The American Airlines Center filled up earlier than usual Sunday afternoon and the sellout crowd roared with approval as the Dallas Mavericks capped the 2010-11 championship, the franchise's first in 31 years, by raising the commemorative banner to the rafters.
Chants of "Let's go Mavs" started up 10 minutes prior to the ceremony as the Mavericks and their Christmas Day opponent, the Miami Heat, the star-studded team Dallas ousted in the NBA Finals six months ago, warmed up for their nationally televised season opener, which they lost, 105-94.
The Mavericks' 2011 NBA championship banner includes the players' names around the border.
The Mavs donned new warmups which read "2011 NBA Champions" on the back of their jackets and grey jerseys with a small Larry O'Brien patch on the front.
About an hour prior to the ceremony, Mavs owner Mark Cuban suggested that the raising of the banner and the title season were already in his rearview mirror.
But, then he relented some as the ceremony drew nearer.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say that every time I see the trophy at my house I don't get butterflies," Cuban said. "You know I see pictures with my kids, all the Christmas cards with trophies in it that we've gotten. I'll get butterflies, I'll get emotional when the banner goes up."
The ceremony started with a video montage of stirring highlights during the Mavs' championship run that included knocking off the Portland Trail Blazers in six games, a sweep of Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, dumping Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games and then finally beating LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat in six games.
Cuban, standing at center court next to NBA commissioner David Stern, who was booed loudly, grabbed the Larry O'Brien trophy and held it high as the crowd stood and "We are the Champions" blared over the PA system.
"All I can say to each and every one of you is thank you," Cuban told the crowd. Then he paid tribute to the coaching staff and other behind-the-scenes members of the team.
Coach Rick Carlisle was up next and he first recognized those who are no longer with the franchise, including former assistant Dwane Casey, now the Toronto Raptors head coach, and the six players who were not brought back to defend the title: Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Corey Brewer, Peja Stojakovic and Caron Butler.
Guard Jason Terry took the microphone and put the day into perspective.
"We'd like to thank each and every one of you because you waited 31 years; 31 years you waited," Terry said, "to call your team a champion."
The NBA Finals MVP and the face of the Dallas franchise now starting his 14th season provided the final word.
"You guys made it through a lot of disappointments with me over my 13 years," Dirk Nowitzki said. "This is a very special day. We waited a very long time for this. Thanks for coming. Go Mavs."
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Franchise founders Don and Linda Carter watched from their usual courtside seats. With straps for everyone to yank, a dark curtain was peeled away, showing off the banner. It features a huge trophy, the team's logo and has the last name of each player printed around the border. The signatures of Cuban and Carlisle are in the two bottom corners.
Finally, it was raised to the rafters.
The Mavs aren't quite done celebrating last season's championship. A ring ceremony will be held prior to an upcoming game, probably next month.
Cuban delayed ordering the rings because he wanted Nowitzki, Terry, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion -- the title team's returning veteran core -- to have a say in the design. Team personnel were prohibited from talking to players during the five-month lockout.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.