When the Mavericks’ season ended, every player, coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson all mentioned just how close the Mavericks were to reaching next-level status.
Two weeks later, it’s even clearer.
If the NBA playoffs have shown us anything through two rounds, it’s how thin the line is between being in the Western Conference finals and searching for a new coach and GM.
After three quarters of Game 6 between the Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers on June 4, it was 77-73, Mavs.
The fourth quarter was a 12-minute domination by the Clippers and just like that, the Mavericks were ushered into the offseason.
Two weeks later, the Clippers, even without Kawhi Leonard for the last two games, eliminated a banged-up Utah team and now are playing Phoenix in the West finals.
The Mavericks are in the midst of re-organizing, with Dirk Nowitzki in the loop as a new special consultant for the choosing of new leaders to replace Carlisle and Nelson as heads of the basketball operations.
Nobody knows which direction this is going, but anything that Nowitzki is involved in is certain to be done in well-thought-out fashion.
In the meantime, it will drive you crazy if you think about just how close the Mavericks were to still playing in this season.
They had a close-out game on their home floor on June 4, had a lead in the fourth quarter and couldn’t slam the door in the Clippers’ face.
Think about that. Less than seven minutes to play. Mavericks up 85-84. They miss two shots that would have extended the lead, and then Leonard goes crazy in the final minutes.
What a change to the course of the Mavericks’ history those six minutes delivered.
Had the Mavericks held on and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, they would have faced a Utah team without Mike Conley and with several other players at less than full strength.
You can make the argument that the Mavericks-Clippers first-round series essentially was for a spot in the conference finals, if not the NBA finals.
That’s not to say that changes wouldn’t have happened anyway. But as Jason Kidd loves to say, winning is the best deodorant.
But history is what it is.
The Mavericks may have been thisclose to going to the West finals or further in these playoffs. Instead, it’s the Clippers going against the Suns and one of them will be in the NBA finals next month.