DALLAS -- This might have been the worst possible way, barring injury, that the Mavs could start this seven-city, nine-game, 12-night journey.
At the risk of greatly exaggerating a regular-season game, Tuesday's loss to the lottery-bound Nets could have major ramifications on the future of the Mavs' franchise.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Brook Lopez doesn't rebound like Dwight Howard, but that 38-point outburst had to be appealing.
That's assuming Orlando general manager Otis Smith checked out the game on League Pass while the Magic had a night off.
The Mavs let big man Brook Lopez, the potential centerpiece in a package that could send Dwight Howard to the Nets, showcase what a skilled 7-footer he is. Lopez, playing just his third game of the season, lit the Mavs up for 38 points on 17-of-28 shooting from the floor.
Lopez scored on all sorts of shots in the paint -- drives, post-ups, finishes off defensive breakdowns -- and even displayed 20-foot range.
The Nets are the primary threat to deal for Howard before the March 15 deadline, and that's the one deal the Mavs really don't want to see go down.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban isn't about to lay out his offseason intentions, but it's pretty clear than Plan A is convincing Howard and Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams to take a little less than max offers to join Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
Who wouldn't want to pair the best big man in the NBA and a top-five point guard as they're just entering their primes? The Nets would sure love to make that happen before they move to Brooklyn.
Plan B for the Mavs: Sign Howard. Plan C: Sign Williams.
All of those are off the table if Howard lands in New Jersey next month, and the possibility of that happening had to increase a little bit with Lopez looking like Hakeem Olajuwon against the Mavs.