Friday, March 6, 2009

I Wasn't Throwing In The Towel, I Was Waving It Around And It Slipped Out Of My Hand

One of the great mysteries in sports is when a team officially should admit that the current crop of championship puzzle pieces just aren't fitting together anymore. Generally, this is followed by the team trading off key players for future draft picks and then trying to prevent the fan base from storming the castle as the team slowly sinks into the abyss.

(Unless, of course, the team is called the New York Yankees. Then it's all about buying so many stars that the playing field is tilted in your favor forever. I imagine the Yankees as Joaquin Phoenix from Gladiator, stabbing every other team before they meet in battle. But for this article, we're going to assume a team does not have unlimited funds in the broken financial system that major league baseball has.)

It's incredibly dicey to blow up a team since it will mean years of a bad product and limited fan attendance. But in most cases the alternative is watching a team die slowly in front of your eyes. I personally don't like seeing teams I like hang around the playoffs for years without any real shot of making a championship run.

As Def Leppard lamented mused: it's better to burn out than fade away.

Which leads me to my point: the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks are dead. They aren't bad teams, but they aren't championship teams either, and the door is closing ever faster.

The Mavs will probably make the playoffs this year, but they won't make it past the second round. Dirk is still in his prime, but not for much longer. Josh Ho
ward is officially a knucklehead and the Mavs blew up their future with a panic trade where the team mortgaged it's future on a 35 year old point guard. It didn't work.

The Suns a
re even worse off this year because it became official that the team has lost it's All-Star forward for the rest of the season. The hope was that Amare Stoudemire might make it back from eye surgery and be able to help the Suns during the playoffs while wearing some sort of martial goggles to protect his eyes. Without hope of his return, the team probably won't make the playoffs this year which means they will look to next season. And it doesn't look good: the superstar center and MVP point guard are in their mid-30's and breaking down. There's nothing left around but role players. Talented ones, but no good without an engine.

So both the Suns and Mavericks are faced with a decision this off-season: dismantle the team and suffer through some awful seasons in the nea
r future, or keep the core together and hope that a key draft pick or free-agent pickup will vault the team over the top.

I pick the first choice, though I know it's miserable when a team officially gives in to reb
uilding. I grew up in Dallas during the early 90's when the Mavericks could have been beaten by a college team and it was ugly. But the alternative is to waste time as the current team picks a few half-hearted runs into the playoffs and then rebuilds anyways.

I don't consider the dismantling of a team as surrender. I see it as foresight while remembering that the ultimate goal is a championship title.

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