Are the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars Set to Swap Places in DFW?
Young and rising versus age and uncertainty. Will the Stars and Mavericks trade places as Dirk fades and Jamie Benn rises?
It didn't always used to be this way, Dallas.
Once upon a time I was a greasy teenager, and the upper middle-class clientele I serviced at the local quick-serve eatery would freely, and of their own volition, turn over tickets to Dallas Mavericks games. And so I learned to love the local basketball team.
But it was the Dallas Stars who were the kings of spring, and we were all aware. Anyone who was anyone at the turn of the century, a little before, and a little after, knew that.
The "cocaine and boob-job" crowd, as it was so lovingly called, knew little of the left-wing lock or the nuances of faceoff strategy, but they knew where to go to be seen. Why, that was Reunion Arena to be part of the 17,001 privy to championship caliber greatness year after year.
And as they attended, they built the American Airlines Center. Dollar by dollar, night by night- But it would be the Dallas Mavericks who would flourish there, and make it their own. As such, as Dirk came into his own, the Mavs took over spring time in this town for more than a decade, and those boob-jobs had a new place to call home.
The Mavericks were eliminated in seven games by the San Antonio Spurs Sunday afternoon. Once again, the basketball team out-lasted the hockey team. It earned the lion's share of the attention. As it's been for so long.
But for how much longer?
Dirk turns 36 next month. Shawn Marion turns 36 on Wednesday. Vince Carter is 37.
One team's power seems to be waning sharply, with so many free agents it's hard to keep track. The other- well, we have hopes that are appropriately high after the first playoff battle, and it was a proper battle, in six seasons.
Having so many free agents is nothing new for the Mavs, who have churned their roster with ferocity since lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in Miami three years ago.
"When we started the season, we had to integrate nine new guys and no one had us doing anything," Mark Cuban told media Sunday. "As the season went by, we got better and better and better and then we got to this series and we gave them a run.
That sounds at least a little bit like problems the Stars have had in the recent past. Integrate Adam Burish and Jeff Woywitka. Integrate Brian Sutherby, Jason Williams (27 games, do you even remember that guy?) and Tom Wandell. Or how about Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray, Radek Dvorak, Vern Fiddler, Eric Nystrom and Adam Pardy in 2011?
Ray Whitney? Jaromir Jagr, Cody Eakin, Derek Roy, Antoine Roussel, Ryan Garbutt, Reilly Smith, Brenden Dillon, Erik Cole, Alex Chiasson, Jordie Benn and Aaron Rome, the year after that?
That's a lot of integration. A lot of incongruence, in truth.
The Dallas Mavericks are meandering now. As a huge fan I'd like to think it's not true but three years on from one of the best moments of my sports life and the evidence has piled up unavoidably.
Dirk Nowitzki is probably the greatest athlete the metroplex will ever know. He's also turning 36 soon, however, and remains the focal point another year or two where trying to build a contender is concerned.
Monta Ellis had a tremendous year and is wrapped up through at least next season, and it's to him the MFFL's will point- But even he's nearing 30 years of age.
Is it Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman in 1999-2000? Is it Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen in 2009 and 2010? It's a lot of memories. But it's a lot of hope, and that's not a strategy.
Jamie Benn. Tyler Seguin. Brenden Dillon. Valeri Nichushkin. Cody Eakin. Alex Chiasson. Garbutt and Roussel, even- I'm preaching to the choir here, no doubt, but the strength of this team is undeniably in its youth.
Not a single one of those players is one you'd point to and say "promise you he's already had his career-year. He's on the decline." Not. A. Single. One.
And now they get to add to them. Erik Cole and Sergei Gonchar and Shawn Horcoff will play one more year here and then their prominent rolls and cap figures get filled with talent. Young or experienced. And as the core enters their prime and those other spots are filled on a beautifully, intelligently designed schedule (credit Nieuwendyk and Nill both) the team, in theory, competes. Seriously, and for an elongated period.
Like the Dallas Mavericks have done.
Call what the Stars did (Conference Finals in 1998, SCF win in 1999, SCF appearance in 2000) a dominant period of relevance in the national sports conscience, but know that what the Mavericks have done was even better. A string of 50-win seasons spanning nearly a decade and a more consistent chance at winning it all has been a treat, probably taken for granted, enjoyed by all in DFW.
That's what the Stars are aiming for now. Long-term relevance. Automatic, thoughtless consideration by the masses out of town, without doubt, when contenders are discussed. An omnipresent threat.
Respect, in other words.
Chicago Blackhawks. Los Angeles Kings. Boston Bruins. Dallas Stars- Right up there. All the way up there. Just maybe.
I love my Dallas Mavericks, and they've been the go-to club in April and May for years now. They out-lasted the Stars again this season. It's a good thing for all our friends at the American Airlines Center who like that work. It's a good thing for Tom Gaglardi, even, who certainly has financial interest in the American Airlines Center.
But soon it could be the Dallas Stars who are, once again, the darlings of spring in Dallas. That's the hope, anyway. Tell your friends. Hopefully both teams can share the building in April and May for years to come- But chances are just as good Jamie Benn supplants the Big German as the entertainer du jour.