Some people saw this coming, believe it or not.
And not just inside the Mavericks’ locker room.
When he came through Dallas with the Indiana Pacers in late January, former Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said it was clear to him that the Mavericks had the right stuff going for them in Jason Kidd’s first year as the franchise’s head coach.
“They’re a major threat in the West,” Carlisle said of the Mavericks before the Pacers played them at American Airlines Center.
Those seven words now ring truer than ever.
And it’s got a little karma to go with those words, Carlisle said. He was a guest on 105.3 The Fan on Monday night and had an interesting follow-up to his words of wisdom from nearly four months ago.
Remember 2011? Carlisle certainly does.
“The reason (for the success) is their defense travels, they have great playmaking and great versatility, offensively and defensively,” Carlisle said. “And, you know, this eerily reminds me of the 2011 run because it started off not really with much expected. A lot of people thought we going to lose the first round series (to Portland in 2011).
“A lot of people predicted that Utah would beat Dallas with Luka being out for two or three games. They took care of Utah and the momentum has just continued to go. And when you beat the best team in the league as decisively as they did (Sunday), you are playing a high, high level of basketball.”
The Mavericks took the Suns, who owned a by-far league-best 64-18 regular season record, to the seventh game Sunday after each team won the first six games on their home floor.
Then the Mavericks broke through in Phoenix’s house with a 123-90 victory, stunning the team that many thought would win the title this year.
Go back to January, when Carlisle got the tribute video and knew then that some of the seeds he had planted during the difficult rebuild that lasted longer than he or anyone else wanted were starting to sprout.
And sprout very strong.
“They’ve done a lot of things that are very good and very smart,” Carlisle said the last time he was in Dallas on business (his family still livers here). They’ve got a great opportunity ahead of them.”
And also, “They’re having a great year. And they’re very, very hard to play.”
Of course, it revolves around Luka Dončić, who has firmly established himself as one of the top five players in the NBA, if not more, according to Carlisle.
“If he’s not the best player in the world, he’s right on the cusp,” Carlisle said. “He’s just so, so good . . . and as a person, too. I know what a good guy he is. I’ve seen a lot of that. (And) every year, he’s just gotten better and better and better.”
Fast forward to Monday and Carlisle said all the rest of the season and the playoffs proved to him that he’s right.
And that Luka has a great future that may be in the process of unfolding in front of our eyes faster than expected.
“He learned early on that ultimate respect comes from winning,” Carlisle said. “Really, that’s all he’s interested in. I don’t have any question in my mind that there will be multiple MVPs in his future, there will be championships in his future. He has a natural sense for the moment.
And, for that reason, he said: “This will be highly entertaining. This is a real exciting time for Mavs basketball.”