DALLAS -- Whether Rick Carlisle returns to the Dallas Mavericks next season or takes his coaching chops somewhere else, no one can take away the day he raised the banner to the rafters.
"It was great," Carlisle said during Sunday's exit interviews when he still kept talk of his contract status under wraps. "The raising of the banner is one of the most emotional moments I’ve had in 28 years in this league. Really, it’s hard for me to explain, but when I walked out there with my daughter, it was the beginning of a season no one believed was going to happen [because of the lockout], and the banner was there ready to be raised. I became very emotional and I was choked up about it, for a lot of reasons.
"Part of it is the personal journey you go through during that period of time and you think about the opportunity you were given to come into that situation and how grateful that you are, and also the great players you had to work with. And again, probably the foremost thing was just the experience that the fans got to go through when we were able to win it that year."
The lockout provided the Mavs the rare opportunity for multiple celebrations. They raised the banner before the season opener Dec. 25 and then had the ring ceremony a month later when J.J. Barea and the Minnesota Timberwolves rolled through town. Then there still several more more ring deliveries when departed members of the title team like Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson came in with their new teams.
During each ceremony, Carlisle brought the player to midcourt with a heartfelt introduction.
"That was a great moment, giving the guys their rings was a great moment," Carlisle said. "It was just one of those years, every time we handed out rings, we ended up losing games. Not every time, what was it two out of four? Thank God Butler missed that shot. I never would have heard the end of that in a text message from him."
Butler nearly hit a game-winning 3-pointer in his return to the AAC with the Clippers. Hard to believe just 11 months ago, Butler, unable to play despite his frantic rehab to get back on the floor, was on the stage on Miami's home floor raising the championship trophy.
Now Butler has the best chance of any of the title-team Mavs to advance to the second round. And the Mavs have plenty of time to watch.
"Time goes by fast and it doesn’t seem like 11 months ago," Carlisle said. But look, as great as the championship run was, there always comes a time when you have to look forward and that’s where things are at now. I look at this summer for this franchise as a summer of opportunity and excitement, and I don’t think anybody should look at it any differently."