Ninth in a series chronicling the Dallas Mavericks' streak of 10 seasons with 50 or more wins (previous installments).
Avery Johnson was out, and owner Mark Cuban told reporters during the club's media day that a handful of players came to him and told him they wanted to play elsewhere if the head-strong Johnson was coming back.
Cuban wasted little time in hiring the quirky, yet successful Rick Carlisle, who had taken the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals in rather short order. Carlisle was the Mavs' lone candidate granted an interview.
Known more for a structured offensive philosophy and a strong defensive disposition, Carlisle came in with the directive to allow Jason Kidd, in his first full season back in Dallas, to do his thing. Yet, things didn't get off to a rousing start as the Mavs dropped seven of their first nine and seemed headed for an early internal showdown before Dirk Nowitzki had a huge fourth quarter and overtime for a come-from-behind win at New York to avoid a 2-8 start.
Dallas would become the first team in the NBA to start 2-7 and go on to post 50 wins. But, make no mistake, it was a struggle. The Mavs never won more than five in a row and that streak started with the early-season rally against the lowly Knicks.
Jerry Stackhouse played just 10 games due to a mixture of injury, overall conditioning and attitude. Josh Howard, coming off his dubious end to the 2007-08 season and the ensuing summer, played just 52 games due to a wrist injury, but mostly a sprained ankle that wouldn't go away.
Nowitzki put up MVP-type numbers for a team that had to have him go for big numbers every night just to have a chance to win. When Howard didn't play, which was often, the Mavs were the only team in the NBA that featured just two players averaging double-digit scoring. Even with Howard in the lineup, the Mavs never knew when a fourth scorer might emerge.
Still, the Mavs managed to snap a two-year skid of first-round defeats, dusting off a beat-up San Antonio team that was without Manu Ginobili. But, Dallas was no match for the Denver Nuggets in the second round, losing 4-1.
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Record: 50-32 (3rd, Southwest)
Playoffs: Defeated San Antonio (4-1); lost to Denver (4-1)
Team payroll: $95.05 million*
Highest-paid player: Jason Kidd ($21.4 million)*
Offseason transactions: Signed C DeSagana Diop (free agent); signed G Gerald Green (free agent); signed F James Singleton; traded G/F Eddie Jones, a 2009 second-round draft pick (A.J. Price) and a future 2nd round draft pick to Indiana for F Shawne Williams.
The high: With Jerry Stackhouse out of the picture early on, Jason Terry gladly accepted the sixth-man role and thrived, averaging 19.6 points, his best as a Maverick. It earned him the league's Sixth Man of the Year award. Terry and Dirk Nowitzki made up the third-highest scoring duo in the NBA at 45.5 points.
The low: It's doubtful it would have changed the outcome of the second-round series against Denver, but the non-call as Antoine Wright tried to wrap up -- but more like flailed at -- Carmelo Anthony, who then buried a 3-pointer at the end of Game 3, goes down as another one of those "what-if" playoff moments for the Mavs. In the offseason, rather than use their mid-level exception to try to sign a much-needed scorer, the Mavs overpaid to bring back DeSagana Diop. His production was so poor that the Mavs traded him midseason to Charlotte for center Ryan Hollins and guard Matt Carroll. Hollins is no longer on the team and Carroll never plays. The Jerry Stackhouse situation was unfortunate. One of the team's prouder players and a key cog in getting the franchise to its first NBA Finals had a foot issue, but as the season wore on either Stackhouse or the organization decided to shut him down. The facts there are still fuzzy, but Stackhouse's days as a Mav were over.
F Dirk Nowitzki (25.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
G Jason Terry (19.6 ppg, 3.4 apg)
F/G Josh Howard (18.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg in 52 games)
G Jason Kidd (9.0 ppg, 8.7 apg)
F Brandon Bass (8.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
G J.J. Barea (7.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 20.3 mpg)
G Antoine Wright (7.3 ppg, 23.9 mpg)
C Erick Dampier (5.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
F/G Gerald Green (5.7 ppg in 38 games)
F James Singleton (5.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
G/F Jerry Stackhouse (played in 10 games)
G/F Devean George (3.4 ppg, in 43 games)
C Ryan Hollins (2.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg in 27 games)
G Matt Carroll (1.2 ppg in 21 games)
F Shawne Williams (played in 15 games)
C DeSagana Diop (1.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg in 34 games)