Dallas Mavericks Information
The Expansion Years
The Dallas Mavericks franchise was first conceptualized by Don Carter and Norm Sonju in 1979, when they requested the right to bring an NBA franchise to Dallas. The last professional basketball team in Dallas had been the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association, which moved to San Antonio in 1973 and became the San Antonio Spurs.
At the 1980 NBA All-Star Game, league owners voted to admit the new franchise, and the Mavericks paid a $12 million entry fee to join the NBA for the 1980-81 season. They joined the Midwest Division of the Western Conference, where they would remain until the league went to six divisions for the 2004-05 season. Dick Motta, who'd guided the Washington Bullets to the NBA Championship in 1975-76, was hired as the team's first head coach. He had a well-earned reputation of being a stern disciplinarian, but was also a great teacher of the game.
Kiki Vandeweghe of UCLA was drafted by the Mavs with the 11th pick of the 1980 NBA Draft, but Vandeweghe refused to play for the expansion Mavericks and staged a holdout that lasted a month into the team's inaugural season. He was traded to the Denver Nuggets, along with a first-round pick in 1986, in exchange for two future first-round picks that eventually materalized into Rolando Blackman in 1981 and Sam Perkins in 1984.
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In the Mavericks' debut game, taking place in the brand-new Reunion Arena, the Mavericks stunned the San Antonio Spurs, 103-92. But the Mavs started the season with a discouraging 6-40 record on their way to finishing 15-67. However, the Mavericks did make a player acquisition that, while it seemed minor at the time, turned out to play a very important role in the early years of their franchise.
Journeyman 6'3" guard Brad Davis, who played for the Anchorage Northern Knights of the Continental Basketball Association, was tracked down and signed by the Mavs in December. At the time, there was absolutely no reason to expect that Davis would be any better than the expansion-level talent the Mavs had. But he started the Mavs' final 26 games, led the team in assists, and his career soared. He spent the next twelve years with the Mavericks, and eventually his #15 jersey was retired.
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But it was Jay Vincent who made the biggest difference for the Mavs in their second season, leading the team in scoring with 21.4 points per game and earning NBA All-Rookie Team honors. The Mavericks improved to 28-54, getting out of the Midwest Division cellar as they finished above Utah.
Becoming a Power Early
In 1982-83, the Mavericks really began to make their run for their first postseason berth, but fell just short, finishing seven games behind the Denver Nuggets for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But the Mavs' 38-44 record signified a 10-game improvement from the previous season, and the fact that a third-year expansion team had even been in playoff contention at all was quite remarkable.
At the All-Star break, the Mavericks were 25-24, having won 12 of their last 15 games. They couldn't sustain their momentum for the second half of the season, but they had clearly become a team to be feared. Mark Aguirre led the '82-83 Mavericks with 24.4 points per game, finishing sixth in the NBA. Jay Vincent and Rolando Blackman contributed 18.7 and 17.7 ppg, respectively. Brad Davis was 10th in the NBA in assists with 7.2 per game, and shot .845 from the line, 6th in the league.
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Derek Harper was drafted by the Mavs with the 11th pick of the 1983 NBA Draft. The 6'4" guard would spend the next decade with the organization, averaging 15 points and 6.1 assists. The Mavericks' hard work paid off in 1983-84 as they posted a winning record for the first time in franchise history, finishing 43-39 and second in the Midwest Division. The Mavs also earned the first playoff berth in franchise history. Mark Aguirre was named the team's first NBA All-Star, as he finished with an average of 29.5 points per game-- second in the league only to Utah's Adrian Dantley.
Dallas finished with the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and their first playoff trip was modestly successful as they defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in five games. The Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers were next for the Mavs, and the young club fell short, losing four games to one. But a trade the Mavericks made in their inaugural season of 1980 paid off for them in 1984, because they owned Cleveland's first-round pick, which ended up being the fourth pick overall. The Mavs used it to select forward/center Sam Perkins, a former North Carolina Tar Heel with surprising range from the three-point line who would average 14.4 points and 8.0 rebounds in six seasons with Dallas. The 1984-85 team finished a game better than the previous year at 44-38.
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Western Conference Champions... Almost
The 1987-88 season saw the Mavericks dip just a little bit in the regular season-- finishing 53-29 and losing their Midwest Division title to the Denver Nuggets-- but it was another successful year for the team. Mark Aguirre and James Donaldson both played in the 1988 NBA All-Star Game, the Mavericks rattled off a franchise-best 11-game winning streak, and Rolando Blackman scored his 10,000th career point.
Aguirre lead the team in scoring for the sixth consecutive year with 25.1 points per game, and Roy Tarpley won the NBA Sixth Man Award with averages of 13.5 points and 11.8 rebounds. The team had its most successful postseason to date in the 1988 NBA Playoffs. They dispatched the Houston Rockets in four games and the Nuggets in six, leaving only the defending NBA Champion Lakers between them and a trip to the NBA Finals. The Mavericks gave L.A. everything they could handle, but in the end the more experienced Lakers prevailed, defeating Dallas in seven games on the way to eventually winning their second consecutive NBA Championship.
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Their brief 1990 playoff appearance would be the team's last until 2001. The team endured numerous changes in 1990, losing Sam Perkins to the Lakers via free agency and suffering injuries to practically their entire 1990-91 starting lineup. The players they managed to acquire-- Rodney McCray, Fat Lever and Alex English-- were all in the twilight of their careers. On November 9 it was announced that Fat Lever would have season-ending surgery on his right knee, and that very night, Tarpley suffered a knee injury of his own which ended his season. The Mavericks' season only got worse from there, and they finished with a record of 28-54, falling behind even the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic.
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In 2000-2001, the Mavericks improved further and finished with an impressive 53-29 record, fueled by an impressive offensive triangle of Nowitzki, Finley and Nash. The Mavs made a blockbuster trade minutes before the trade deadline that sent Hubert Davis, Christian Laettner, Courtney Alexander and Etan Thomas to the Washington Wizards for Juwan Howard, Calvin Booth and Obinna Ekezie. This move brought in fresh blood that secured the club’s first playoff visit in 11 years. In the playoffs, the Mavericks won the first round against the Utah Jazz, advancing to the second round for the first time since 1988. This was also the last season in the old Reunion Arena before making the move to the modern American Airlines Center.
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In 2003-2004, two blockbuster trades were announced. The Mavericks acquired Antawn Jamison, Danny Fortson, Jiri Welsch and Chris Mills from Golden State in exchange for Nick Van Exel, Evan Eschmeyer, Popeye Jones, Avery Johnson and Antoine Rigaudeau. Another high-profile trade sent Raef LaFrentz, Chris Mills and Jiri Welsch to Boston for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk. Although the team struggled for chemistry, the Mavericks easily qualified for the playoffs. With the trio Nowitzki-Finley-Nash and NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, Jamison, the Mavericks continued their reputation as the best offensive team in the NBA. Notable were two rookies, Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels, who made an immediate impact. However, the Mavericks were eliminated quickly the playoffs, losing in the first round to the Sacramento Kings, a team which played clearly better defense. The Mavericks management had to re-evaluate their strategy.
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The 2004-2005 brought in blockbuster trades which (among others) sent All-Star point guard Steve Nash to the Phoenix Suns but brought in burly center Erick Dampier, combo guard Jason Terry and defensive stalwart Alan Henderson. On March 19, long-time coach Don Nelson resigned, and his assistant Avery Johnson became his successor. Under his tutelage, the defense of the Mavericks became stronger, and they easily qualified for the playoffs with an impressive 58-24 record. The Mavericks defeated the Houston Rockets in Round 1 of the playoffs in 7 games. The Phoenix Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4 games to 2 in a very close series in which the final game was decided by only 4 points in overtime