Friday, May 4, 2012 Updated: May 5, 4:28 AM ET
Mavs have nothing to hang hat on
By Tim MacMahon ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- It's a postseason slogan prime for mocking.
Thoughts of what might have been have permeated the Mavs' roster not just after falling behind 0-3 to OKC, but all season.
The T-shirts and other promotional material proclaim that the Dallas Mavericks are "All In." The reality is that Dallas, down 0-3, is pretty much already out, with nothing other than their pride really on the line in Saturday's Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Coach Rick Carlisle and a couple of Mavs can pump up the why-not-us bravado all they want, but does anybody really believe this bunch is capable of becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome an 0-3 deficit to win a series? The fans, wearing those blue "All In" T-shirts, who flocked for the exits early in the fourth quarter of the Game 3 rout definitely don't.
If the Mavs took truth serum, from the top on down, they'd most likely admit that they never truly believed in this team.
They definitely hoped and wished that this collection of remaining championship pieces and newcomers could mesh over the course of the lockout-compressed season and be a legitimate contender. But that's much different from believing.
They never really had reason to believe.
Unless the Mavs manage to beat the Thunder the next two games -- quite a stretch considering that OKC has won six of seven meetings with their Red River rivals this season -- Dallas will end the year without a single road win over a team with a .600-plus winning percentage. They were a .500 team over the final two-thirds of the season, and that doesn't include the three playoff losses.
The possibility of what might have been has lingered in the locker room all season. What if Mark Cuban made keeping Tyson Chandler and the rest of the departed key title contributors a priority instead of trying to have his cake and eat it too?
Jason Terry openly accused Cuban and the Mavs' front office of mailing in the season because they made those decisions. Dirk Nowitzki hasn't publicly disagreed with the front office's mission of creating significant salary cap space this summer, but he wondered as the Mavs were preparing for the playoffs whether the decisions would work out.
Nowitzki was referring to what would happen this summer, not in the postseason.
"We would have loved to have all the warriors back and go at it one more time, but I think it was a business decision that they had to make," Nowitzki said before the playoffs started. "We'll see over the next couple of years, couple of summers, if it was the right one -- if they can get a big fish, a big name in here. And if not, maybe we should have signed everybody. We'll just have to wait and see what the future brings.
"But I don't think it was an easy one for them, either. They loved Tyson and [J.J. [Barea], all of them, what they brought to the city. I don't think that's a decision they made lightly."
The rest of this series is for pride and entertainment purposes only. This season, the worst in Cuban's ownership tenure, will ultimately be judged by July.
If the Mavs land All-Star point guard Deron Williams, a local lad who will be the only big fish on the free-agent market, then it will all have been worth it.
If not ... whoa, what a disaster.
Things might have been much different if Lamar Odom arrived in Dallas in Sixth Man of the Year form, but the Mavs instead traded for the biggest waste of basketball talent seen in these parts since Roy Tarpley.
Once it became obvious that Odom was a distraction, not a difference maker, how could anyone being honest have any realistic hope that the Mavs could repeat? His biggest contribution to this team might be that postseason slogan, which happens to be a phrase Cuban hollered at Odom in question form during the heated halftime confrontation that was the breaking point before Odom's departure last month.
This team has been mired in mediocrity all season and paid lip service to flipping a switch for the playoffs. Now, they're paying lip service to pulling off the practically impossible.
"We haven't lost any enthusiasm about our approach," Carlisle said. "And we will not."
It's not like these Mavs ever had much enthusiasm to lose.