By Kevin Cushingberry Jr., Editor in Chief
You know how when someone gets a new hairstyle and they just don’t look like themselves? You try to act like it’s a good look, or just not mention it, but it’s obvious that the change just isn’t working.
That was the Dallas Mavericks last season.
They started the 2012 season without Dirk Nowitzki, leaving Mavericks fans asking “Who’s No. 42?”
Two years removed from an NBA championship, Shawn Marion is the only remaining player on the roster other than the 7-foot German who helped bring Dallas its only title in franchise history.
Dirk missed nearly 30 games last season, and by the time he came back, the team was below .500. He came back mid-season and tried to rally the team by growing his beard. While the Mavericks made it back to .500 by mid-April, they finished with the same amount of losses as they did wins: 41. The team missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
Owner Mark Cuban splurged on shooting guard Monta Ellis in the offseason. He’s averaging 23 points per game [higher than Dirk] through the first seven games.
His scoring spree isn’t an anomaly — Ellis is known as one of the league’s most confident gunslingers, and he has averaged 20 points throughout his eight-year career.
The Mavericks also acquired Spanish point guard Jose Calderon, who has fared well playing alongside Pau and Marc Gasol in international play for Spain.
Calderon is as versed in the pick and roll as any point guard the Mavericks have had since newly hired Nets coach Jason Kidd.
Ex-Spur DeJuan Blair has also joined the team, adding a post presence alongside free-agent pickup Samuel Dalembert. Ellis and Dalembert played together in Milwaukee last year, where they had some success before falling to the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
As for Dirk, he’s 35 years old and this is his 15th season in the league. His knees look better than they did last year, and he scored at least 22 points in each of the Mavericks’ first three games, a peak he reached only 12 times in 53 games last season.
Dirk’s career averages are attainable this year, and Ellis may add the type of spark the Mavericks need. With the addition of new starters and some key role players, the Mavericks should be back in the playoffs as at least the eighth best team in the Western Conference.
They may not be the league’s prettiest team and it’s doubtful they have enough talent to be championship contenders, but the Mavericks are back to looking like themselves again.