Basketball is in the air in DFW. Larry Brown takes over as coach for my current alma mater SMU earlier this week and the MAVS start their playoff run versus the OKC Thunder this Saturday.
Last week we took Jackson to his first Mavericks game. It was the last home game of the season and JDW was stoked. I have a buddy who teaches next door to me who works part time for the American Airlines Center. He now is the attendant for the visitor's locker room. He got us down to the tunnel to give high fives to the Mavs as they came out on to the floor. I got a fist bump from Dirk. JDW got a five from Jason (JET) Terry. We also got fives from Brian "The Custodian" Cardinal, Delonte West and Jason Kidd. One of the ManiAACs gave Jackson a silver beaded necklace. Then we headed to our seats for a rousing game which the Mavericks won. They gave out free Mavs hats and we made a "Go-Witzki!" poster in the concourse before the game. We are ready for the playoffs!
Interestingly enough, my suspicion is that had the Thunder been in OKC while I lived there I probably would be a Thunder fan today. After all OKC is my birthplace. But they weren't around back then and I adopted the Mavericks when I moved to Dallas in 1997. The Mavs were pretty lousy then but I needed a team. I had been in the NBA lurch since my original fave the Kansas City Kings had migrated to Sactown. In fact, it was at a Mavs game in old Reunion Arena when I asked my father-in-law for his blessing to marry Kimberly. The only way we persuaded him to go to a game was that Larry Bird (they grew up together in French Lick, Indiana) was in town coaching the Indiana Pacers.
Eventually the AAC would be built, Cuban buys the team and they begin a twelve year run of playoff basketball culminating with last year's NBA World Championship. I'll never forget watching the first couple of games of the final series in Fort Collins with a couple of other diehard Mavs fans in a room with Miami fans during the AP grading in Colorado. Then once back in Texas, JDW, Kim and I raced back home from an FC Dallas soccer match to watch the Mavs clinch over the hated Heat. We watched the victory parade on the big whiteboard via LCD projector in my classroom during my summer school sessions.
So everyone is counting out the Mavs this year since they let Chandler, Barea, Stevenson and Butler go. But they wrote them off last year as well. We picked up Vince Carter, Delonte West and some other nice parts. Plus, Brandon Wright and Brendan Haywood have played nicely. I wouldn't count out the little Mavs out just yet. Now that Odom has been ditched the Mavs should do okay. I know everyone is counting on signing Deron Williams and perhaps Dwight Howard next year but I think this group could make a nice little run. Especially since everyone's healthy.
So don't count the Mavs out. You heard it here first. I don't expect a repeat. But I am predicting a finals appearance.