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OKC Thunder vs. Mavericks: This isn't the same Dallas team that beat OKC in 2011

The Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA title, then abdicated the throne. Virtually declared that there would be no repeat in 2012.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 27, 2012

The Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA title, then abdicated the throne. Virtually declared that there would be no repeat in 2012.

Having finally captured the carrot he long had chased, Maverick owner Mark Cuban decided to play for long-term glory.

Cuban let defensive demon DeShawn Stevenson go to New Jersey as a free agent (fine).

Let waterbug point guard J.J. Barea go to Minnesota as a free agent (uh, OK).

Let splendid center Tyson Chandler go to New York as a free agent (what was he thinking?).

The Mavs went into rebuilding mode immediately upon grasping the O'Brien Trophy, all in the name of securing payroll cap room for 2012 free agents Dwight Howard and Deron Williams.

Williams, a Dallas guy, is a sensible recruit, since current Mav point guard Jason Kidd debuted in the peach-basket days and will retire any decade now.

But Howard? One thing we've learned this season is that Chandler is the equal of Howard as an NBA center.

Not that the Thunder is complaining. The Baby Boomers were Dallas' Western Conference Finals victims last May, but now it's the Thunder with title hopes, while the Mavs have scraped into the playoffs as the seventh seed.

Which was the plan all along, Cuban said Thursday, the final day of the NBA regular season. Just get to the playoffs and take your chances.

But the Dallas team that needed only five games to beat the Thunder in a seven-game series last season has changed dramatically.

“So many key members of their championship team last year are on other teams,” said Thunder point guard Derek Fisher, whose Lakers were swept by Dallas in the 2011 West semifinals. “Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea. (Peja) Stojakovic retires. So there are a number of guys that did great things for them last year that just aren't there.”

The Mavs still have their old pros. Superstar Dirk Nowitzki. Supersub Jason Terry. Kidd. Shawn Marion. Just so no one would think Cuban was interested in a youth movement, he signed 35-year-old Vince Carter. That's five prime players at least 33 years old.

Meanwhile, the Thunder's four best players are all under 24.

But give the Mavericks credit. They still play the same way. The foot soldiers have changed; the strategy has not.

Dallas plays tough team defense, then on offense spreads the floor and passes the ball and produces its fair share of open shots.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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