Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Greatness in progress?

Here in Dallas, fans, sportscasters, general media and even the merely interested felt stunned after the Mavs started the season by dropping their first four games, including losing to both Texas rivals. Was it Finals Fatigue where the team just couldn't get past choking away the NBA title last year? Had there been such damage to the collective psyche that the once-promising Mavs would just be a one-year wonder? And, how could the Mavs catch the Spurs to win the division (mind you, this was after four games)?

Since that start, the Mavs are 48-5. That's a winning percentage over 90! If the Mavs had been on that pace all year long, they'd project to 74 wins -- eclipsing the '95-96 Bulls. At 48-9, the Mavs' winning percentage projects to a 69-13 season. The rival Spurs are 9 games in the Mavs' rear view. Even the Suns are four games off the pace. And the Mavs have rattled off 3 win streaks of 12 or more games, which no previous NBA team had achieved in one season.

These Mavs remind me of the '98 Yankees. They whip all rivals (4-1 combined against Phoenix and San Antonio, 32-6 against the strong Western Conference), they are consistent, and like the '98 Yanks but unlike the '01 Mariners who set the AL record for wins before honking to the Yanks in the ALCS, the Mavs do NOT have players reaching career heights that they'll never approach again. The Mavs' best player, Dirk Nowitzki, is averaging fewer points than he did last year or in '04-05, Jason Terry is nowhere near his career highs, and Josh Howard is a third-year player on an upward arc (see 1998 Derek Jeter), not a veteran having an overachieving season.

Hopefully, Dallas is seeing some history in the making. If so, cherish it. The Monk remembers the '98 Yanks quite well, and doesn't plan to let go of that any time soon.

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