Well, that was more like what I was expecting from the 2015-16 Dallas Mavericks. Two games into my fan experiment, my new rooting interest sits at 1-1 after a win in Phoenix and a loss in Los Angeles. To make matters worse, it was a particularly convincing loss, one in which any observer can clearly see that the talent gap between the two teams on the court is immense, or at the very least undeniable.
You don’t need to remind me that the Mavericks are hardly at full strength right now, especially in Thursday’s game, which made the roster on opening night look flush with depth. Neither Deron Williams nor Wes Matthews was able to go, and considering Chandler Parsons has yet to appear thus far, that’s three-fifths of the expected starting lineup out right there. Throw in the fact that JaVale McGee is probably going to win the MVP once he gets healthy, and you can make a case that no team is missing a larger number of key players in the early part of the season.
I’m aware McGee is no one’s idea of an impact player, by the way, but I’m oddly eager to see him take the court as a Maverick, and since I featured him in my post about the debuts I was most looking forward to, I’m kind of stuck with him at this point. With four players hurt — including the impending MVP — and Dirk Nowitzki shooting 6-for-15 from the field, this just wasn’t going to be a pretty night against any team.
The fact that it happened against a genuinely impressive Clippers club did not make the situation any better. Blake Griffin was everywhere, leading me to question whether his surname was perhaps not given to him due to the passing down of a family name, but because he’s a god-damned winged freak, a monstrous creature who flies all over the court and leaves talon marks on the rim after dunks.
Arguably worse, the player the Mavericks got burned by in the offseason made his presence felt as well. Big, fiery DeAndre Jordan didn’t need to do much offensively to make an impact, so I couldn’t care less that he only scored 6 points. The sultan of hulk pulled down 15 rebounds and swatted his way to 3 blocked shots in just under 26 minutes, and he even found time to elbow Nowitzki in the face so hard I was worried that Dirk might decide to immediately join Steve Nash in retirement. Jordan then proceeded to scream loudly and flex just in case anyone had forgotten he was enormous and mistakenly thought that forcibly shutting him up was at all an option.
You know that old expression when you know you’re beaten and you just want your victor to take a little pity on you so it doesn’t feel quite as awful? It’s basically the equivalent of mercy, except stupider: uncle. By the time the third quarter wrapped up, the Mavericks could do nothing but cry uncle. Incidentally, did you know the expression “cry uncle” dates back to the ancient Romans? Well, it does, and DeAndre Jordan would have fit right in as an ancient Roman, bellowing loudly as he raced across the battlefield with a bronzed spear as long as his wingspan, his trusty sidekick griffin flying over his shoulder. I don’t have a way to work Chris Paul into this battlefield metaphor, but I’m sure he’d be off somewhere racking up plenty of assist-kills.
The Clippers are good. Despite what Shaq claimed in the studio after the game, however, it’s too early to say that the Mavericks are not. There were some bright spots, after all, and it’s not like the team is at full strength (let’s all just keep repeating the injury bit, using it as a mantra). John Jenkins was strangely awesome when he wasn’t trying to knock down a three, and J.J. Barea almost put up a double-double somehow. I was thrilled to see Justin Anderson log some minutes, but his 2-for-8 performance from the field sure doesn’t look good in the box score.
Everything taken into consideration? I think any reasonable Mavericks fan knew this game was going to be a loss, and it’s not a big deal. I’m learning new information with each passing day, and my journey to becoming a serious NBA fan is going beautifully. I refuse to give up hope that this Dallas team will be interesting if they ever get healthy, and even if they don’t project to finish at the top of the standings, it’s hard to imagine them being the kind of pushover they were in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Somewhere, DeAndre Jordan’s war calls are still reverberating endlessly, the echoes of an angry giant drifting continually higher into space where sound waves go to die, outpaced only by the soaring of the griffin accompanying it.