DALY CITY, Calif. – The Dallas Mavericks should have received their championship rings three weeks ago in a ceremony on the opening night of the 2011-12 NBA season. They didn't, of course. The league's ongoing lockout has indefinitely postponed their coronation, and the players can't be sure when they'll get their prize for winning last season's title.
"For me, personally, I don't think there will be a season," Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson(notes) said recently at Drew Gooden's(notes) Make-A-Wish charity game. "Right now there is just a lot of bad blood and [the owners] keep putting offers out that we're rejecting. So we're not going anywhere."
Stevenson thinks the owners have been slow to recognize how much the players have already conceded in negotiations, but he also points blame at someone else: Billy Hunter, executive director of the players' former union.
"I felt like we should have decertified in July," Stevenson said. "I feel like Billy Hunter is doing a horrible job because basically now [the owners] know our hand. The media knows our hand. The owners know our hand."
Hunter pointed out that Stevenson hasn't had a direct role in the negotiations.
"DeShawn is entitled to his opinion," Hunter said. "It would be much more meaningful if he were more directly involved and would have understood what fully transpired and understood the issues. I think he'd be better informed.
"I respect DeShawn's right to say and feel what he is saying. I can't fault that. I don't have nothing negative about DeShawn. He said it. It's not justified, but he has every right in the world to say what he thinks."
Jason Terry(notes), the Mavs' representative for the Players Association, was in New York on Nov. 14 when the union decided to disband. He said the players had "no choice" but to turn down the NBA's latest offer and that Mavs All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki(notes) supported the decision.
"A lot of players were misinformed from watching [television]," Terry said. "But once we gave them the information and what it was about, they knew that wasn't a fair deal for us."
Unlike Stevenson, Terry remains optimistic there will still be a 2011-12 season. And that the Mavs will eventually receive their championship rings.
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"I've seen a lot of ring designs," Terry said. "Whenever that day comes, whenever that day might be, it will be another great day. [Opening day] is the day you finally get your rings, and it's the fans' day. I was sick for them. You had [Nov. 1] circled on your calendar when the schedule came out. We were playing Chicago, opening night and [Derrick Rose(notes)] was coming to town.
"But it's here and gone. We sorely regret it and wish we can get that day back."
One reason why Terry was glad the players rejected the owners' most recent offer: Under it, he thought the Mavs would have a tough time keeping some of their core contributors. While Nowitzki, Terry, Shawn Marion(notes) and Jason Kidd(notes) are under contract, the Mavs have a long list of free agents that include Stevenson, center Tyson Chandler(notes), guard Jose Juan Barea and forwards Caron Butler(notes), Brian Cardinal(notes) and Peja Stojakovic(notes).
"Look at our roster," Terry said. "Free agency is going to hit us hard. We don't know what our team is going to look like."
For Stevenson, the lockout has so far robbed the Mavs of their moment of validation. Already, he thinks the Mavs aren't getting the credit they deserve for beating LeBron James(notes) and the Miami Heat in last season's NBA Finals.
"I haven't see a Dirk commercial, I haven't seen a Jason Kidd commercial, Jason Terry commercial," Stevenson said. "But I've seen a LeBron McDonald's commercial. Dwyane Wade(notes) is on a T-Mobile commercial. I just feel like we don't get the respect as a team that worked hard to win a championship."
Said Marion: "We are the champs. We got the hardware. Well … we haven't received it yet, but we're the champs."
If the entire season does get canceled, Marion thinks the Mavs can make one claim:
"We're going to go down as the longest champs in NBA history," he said.
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