Based on what Avery Johnson just said at his farewell press conference, the Mavericks are in some trouble. Or they have been for some time.
When talking about the 2006-07, 67-win, first-round-exiting Mavericks, Johnson said that team "significantly overachieved" and that in regards to this 2007-08 team, it was "a miracle we made the playoffs." That's probably not a good thing for the Mavericks franchise if the Little General is correct. If this team was not a playoff team yet managed to claw its way into the 7th seed, Johnson should probably have been rewarded rather than discarded.
So if that's how Avery feels about it, I'm guessing Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson (so really just Mark Cuban) feel this team should have been a playoff team. Maybe this was supposed to be a playoff team because they were in the finals just two years ago (but so was the league's worst team, the Miami Heat). Being two years removed from the finals doesn't guarantee a playoff berth. If Cuban and Donnie agreed with Avery's assessment that the team overachieved in '07 and miraculously made the postseason in '08, Johnson would still be the Mavs head coach.
Johnson played the role of politician, refusing to really step out of line other than saying that he wasn't cool with the fact that he was out of a job, but the coach spoke with pride about his team's accomplishments over the past three seasons.
Avery also laid out his guidelines for what it takes to be a championship team. Read this and then think if the Mavericks have any of these pieces (not if they had them in 2006 when they were so close to a championship, but if they have them now).
A. Superstar player
B. Strong center position
C. Guard that can dribble-drive, get to free throw line
D. Depth on bench
E. Experience on coaching staff
Right now, the Mavericks have one of those five key components. They have a superstar in Dirk Nowitzki.
Strong center position?
Erick Dampier? Um. He does play the center position. But Dampier has hands like the Caretaker in Scary Movie 2, and there is no one behind him who is a true center. So no strong center.
A guard who can get to the free throw line.
The Mavs have a great point guard in Devin Harris who will be a great player for-- Wait, what? We don't don't have him anymore? Oh. Oh yeah, the Kidd trade. Hmm. So the Mavericks had that key part of a championship team in the making. Avery said Devin Harris was on his way to being an 18 and 8 player and a player at an all-star level. While that may be true, Johnson did not badmouth Kidd or the trade for the veteran point guard. But if Harris is on his way to that level, why'd we ever get rid of him???
Jason Terry can drive to the basket sparingly, but he's more a shooter than someone who drives and kicks or drives and creates his own shots. So no guard who can dribble-drive and get to the free throw line.
Depth on the bench?
Brandon Bass will probably start for this team next year, but even if he doesn't, he's the only one on the bench. Devean George showed flashes in Game 5, but not the other 86 games this year. Jerry Stackhouse has fallen off from where he was as a could-be NBA 6th Man in 2006. Stack was instant offense. Now he's instantly awful. Sorry, Stack. Malik Allen, Tyrone Lue, Antoine Wright, Jose-Juan Barea, Juwan Howard? (trying not to laugh) So no depth on the bench.
Experience on the coaching staff?
The Mavs had that when they went to the finals (Del Harris). If Mark Cuban is telling the truth that the next Mavs coach isn't already on the bench, then there's a chance the new coach brings in his own coaches. So this we can't really gage, so right now it's an incomplete.
If that's what it takes to win a championship, which seems pretty accurate, the Mavericks are in serious trouble in the next few years.
The team's young star has faded drastically in the past two weeks. Josh Howard's playoff performance and marijuana confessions rocked what's left of this franchise. "I really hope he gets his game going to that next level because he's a talented young man," said Johnson. "But again, this window closes on your pretty quickly as a player with the wrong move." It seems Howard has made a few of those wrong moves, first with his tell-all radio interview then his birthday party after Game 4.
After listening to Avery Johnson's press conference for 30 minutes, I'm glad to see him take the high road. I hope he gets another coaching job in the NBA (he said other teams have already contacted him), and I hope to see him succeed. Johnson may have lost this team, but after the way they've played down the stretch, it's going to take a coach with the talents of Sherlock Holmes to find them.
When you hear all the franchise's problems Avery addressed, perhaps it's the coach who is be better off without this team and not - as many thought - the other way around.