Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other you’ll read before the 2016-17 season tips off. The premise is simple. We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle called out his team after a 106-91 loss to the Houston Rockets on October 19. Citing the Mavs’ poor start, he compared his team to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“The beginning of the game was abominable,” he said. “It was a Donald Trump debate performance.”
The consensus was, of course, that Trump had lost the debate after a slow start. Perhaps Carlisle was trying to impress his boss, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. After all, Cuban had come out strongly against the Republican nominee for president a number of times in the offseason. From sitting in the front row of Trump’s first debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to doubling down on claims that Trump has sexually assaulted multiple women, Cuban had clearly picked a side in the election.
If Carlisle’s comments were meant to inspire, however, it didn’t work right away. The Mavs promptly went out and lost their next game, 101-75. It was a disappointing end to the preseason slate where Dallas went just 2-5. With a few days until the season began, the Dallas front office was desperate to light a fire under the proverbial horses before the games start to count.
The horses, of course, would be on the precipice of change in the 2016-17 season. The landscape of the NBA’s Western Conference had changed tremendously over the summer. The best team in the NBA somehow didn’t win the NBA title. In the ensuing arms race, Dallas — and the rest of the league — had fallen behind.
With longtime Mavericks centerpiece Dirk Nowitzki entering his 19th and possibly final season, Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson looked to bring some youth into the fold. Dallas signed Harrison Barnes to a max deal, a 4-year, $94 million contract that was a direct result of Kevin Durant choosing Golden State. One of the NBA’s best players joining the best regular season team of all time made Barnes’ 11.7 points per game expendable. Dallas was more than happy to take the young forward off the market.
Barnes, however, struggled in the preseason. Some in Dallas were already wondering if the 24-year-old was a poor choice for a max contract. But an idea struck Mark Cuban one day when he scouring the internet looking for more ways to tamper with the democratic process. What if he could combine his two favorite things: owning an NBA Team and brutally owning Donald Trump at every possible opportunity?