Mavericks and Suns Vying for Basketball Immortality

Paul Kasabian

Many arguments can be made over which NBA team had the best single season in history. The 1972 Lakers featured Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain and Jerry West, a consummate pro. The 1986 Celtics featured the best frontcourt of all-time, consisting of Hall-of-Famers Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale. The 1996 Chicago Bulls only needed immortal Michael Jordan, Mr. Versatility Scottie Pippen and rebound machine Dennis Rodman to win 72 games in a season. These three teams are excellent, but two NBA squads have a great chance to join them as basketball immortals.

Currently, the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks are the most entertaining and skilled teams in professional sports. The 34-8 Suns, who have won 15 games in a row twice this season, use their awesome athleticism and cunning creativity to run teams off the floor. Point guard Steve Nash, who used to run the floor for Dallas, has injected life into a Suns’ team that used to run a set half-court offense around the Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barkley. Nash, a two-time MVP, is averaging 19.5 points and 11.6 assists in 35.6 minutes a game this season. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he will win his third consecutive MVP award even though point guard Gilbert Arenas singlhe-handedly carries the Washington Wizards on his back. The former University of Santa Clara super star is given accolades mainly because of his ability to raise the game of his teammates, specifically Boris Diaw. Diaw only averaged 4.7 points a game for the Atlanta Hawks before being traded to the Suns. Luckily for him, Steve Nash had just arrived a year earlier after signing a free agent contract. The Frenchman averaged 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists in his first season as a Sun, becoming one of the NBA’s most well-rounded players.

The 35-8 Mavericks have risen to the ranks of the NBA elite thanks to the continued great play of Dirk Nowitzki and the coaching of Avery Johnson. Before last season, Nowitzki was never considered to be among the ranks of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant. However, when Nowitzki had the performance of his life against San Antonio in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals, he disproved the critics that said he wasn’t among the best players in the NBA. That game was the most important contest Dallas played in this century. If San Antonio had won the game, Dallas would have entered yet another off-season as the second best team in Texas, which would have been a big downer for the squad.

Coach Johnson is a vast improvement over former leader Don Nelson. Nelson, who was a disaster while coaching the Knicks, is part of a clique of coaches that can never get their teams over the top. Johnson is a knowledgeable basketball coach who was a clutch workhorse during his playing career. His work ethic has rubbed off on Dallas, who is currently working on an eight-game winning streak and has a great shot at breaking their franchise record of 60 wins in a season.

Will one of these teams break the 1996 Bulls record of 72 wins? It’s doubtful. However, Nash’s Suns and Nowitzki’s Mavericks have a great chance to become immortals along the likes of Chamberlain’s Lakers, Russell’s Celtics, and Jordan’s Bulls.