Ahead of tonight's game in Dallas between the Rockets and Mavericks, I took some time off from breaking down the game to ask a few questions to Jonathan Tjarks from our friends at SB Nation Dallas. We spend so much time talking about the NBA from a Rockets point of view, I thought it'd be interesting to get the view of a Dallas writer on the playoffs, the Mavericks future, and the Houston/Dallas rivalry. Below is the transcript.
Brian McDonald: What are the expectations of Mavericks fans going into the playoffs? Most defending champions are favored, but after losing Chandler, Butler, Barea, and others; it would seem like just winning 1 series would be considered a success.
Jonathan Tjarks: I'd say you're about right in terms of reasonable expectations for the season. Being a tough out in the second round is about all you can expect after the Mavericks let all their free agents walk last season. Like everyone else in the West, match-ups will be key for Dallas in determining how far they advance in the playoffs. They've been most effective playing Brandan Wright at the 5, which means they don't want to see a lot of size in the first round (Memphis, LAL) but no matter where they finish, they're going to be fairly confident headed into the playoffs. If Beaubois' latest injury (he's missed the last two games) isn't serious, they'll finally have their playoff rotation ready to go for the first time this year.
Brian McDonald: How do Maverick fans perceive the Rockets/Mavericks rivalry? We hear from time to time, especially in football, that most of the hatred comes from the Houston fans and that most Dallas fans view themselves to be above it. How fired up do Maverick fans get when the Rockets come to town?
Jonathan Tjarks: After living in Dallas my whole life, I was fairly shocked when I came to UT and found out that there was a rivalry between the two cities. Dallas is a city of transplants as well and there's never been a huge sports rivalry between the two cities to kind of rally up anti-Houston animus. Personally, I love to taunt my Houston friends but I wouldn't say Mavs fans in general get really up for the Rockets; the Lakers and the Spurs are easily the two main rivals.
Brian McDonald: With the Mavericks being one of the oldest teams in the league (their top 5 players in minutes per game are all 33 or older), have the Mavericks front office and/or Mavericks fans started thinking and planning for the eventual rebuilding process? How long will they try to "win now" with this group of Nowitzki, Terry, and most of their best players being near the end of their prime?
Jonathan Tjarks: The Mavericks front-office is clearly thinking big picture, as it's the only way to justify their roster decisions since the lockout ended. Personally, I can understand letting Butler, Barea and Stevenson walk, but I'll never be on board with letting Chandler go. Dirk has been waiting his entire career to play with an elite defensive center and when he finally gets one, you let him walk while still keeping Haywood's $55 mil contract on the payroll? The good news for Dallas is that Dirk's game is based on size and shooting ability, which doesn't really get worse as you get older. He should conceivably be an All-NBA player until at least his age 36-37 seasons, which gives the Mavericks a four-year window to build around him. Right now, the player being linked to Dallas is Deron Williams, a local kid who would give the Mavs the next superstar to take over the reigns from Dirk. However, even with Dirk + Deron, you still need a Chandler-like defensive center if you're going to win a title.
Thanks to Jonathan Tjarks from SB Nation Dallas for taking a few minutes to talk to us. Should be a great game tonight.
Check out my interview on SB Nation Dallas (will be up soon as of 10am)