Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Last year's record?
55-27, lost in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs.

Significant departures? Eduardo Najera(notes), Erick Dampier(notes).

Significant arrivals? Brian Cardinal(notes), Tyson Chandler(notes), Ian Mahinmi(notes), Steve Novak(notes). Really pushing it with that last one. And the first one. Possibly the third and second one.

Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 52-30

Why I think that sounds about right?

Because, as much as age sets in, and as much as a lack of depth will likely keep the Mavericks away from the ranks of the championship contender, Dallas will still field a sound rotation of basketball players that will give them a chance to beat every team -- every single one of them -- soundly on any given night.

Even if Jason Kidd(notes) won't be able to pop jumpers all night as a threat off of a screen and roll, and if Dirk Nowitzki(notes) finally does decide to not act like an All-NBA player, the core is good enough to keep this team competitive, and in the race for that distant second spot behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?

Though drop-offs in production due to age are inevitable, and often predicted with good accuracy, those declines can often take fans, paid observers, players and organizations by surprise.

And if Dirk takes a small step back, Kidd takes a small step back, Jason Terry(notes) takes a small step back, Tyson Chandler never finds his footing due to injury, and Brendan Haywood(notes)/Caron Butler stay about the same? This could be the first Mavericks team in Mark Cuban's full-season ownership run (he took over the Mavs midway through 1999-00) that fails to hit 50 wins.

But I doubt it. Dirk might not rebound anymore, but he can still fill it up. Kidd's smarts alone have kept him more than treading water even as his legs fail him, and if Rick Carlisle can find the right balance in that backcourt (read: stop playing Jose Juan Barea(notes), run more lobs for Roddy Beaubois), then it wouldn't be a surprise if the Mavs actually topped the record I have them pegged for.

The Mavericks aren't really excellent at anything, but they are pretty good at just about everything. This pays off in regular season wins, if not postseason glory.

Dan Devine's Corner Three

Mark Eaton rhymes ...

Made-up limericks about "going for it" in the NBA regular season and in life, from the 7-foot-4 former Utah Jazz center and current celebrity motivational speaker.

Dirk has such a smooth three-point shot.
He's unstoppable when he gets hot.
   But without more playoff help,
   Fans will be left to yelp
As Dallas title hopes once again rot.

--

Let's take a closer look at Brian Cardinal, who just saw "Paranormal Activity 2."

This has been a closer look at Brian Cardinal, who just saw "Paranormal Activity 2."


--

We'll be missing you

Hasta la vista, Eddy. I'm sure they'll enjoy both your feathery floater and your proclivity for unleashing knifehand strikes on unsuspecting defenders in Charlotte.

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