(Sports Network) - The Dallas Mavericks will try to continue their unblemished success against the Charlotte Bobcats tonight, when the two team kick off the 2010 campaign from American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks, who are 12-0 all-time against the Bobcats, have enjoyed a decade's worth of playoff appearances and hope a revamped frontcourt will result in the team's first NBA championship.
Mavericks flamboyant owner Mark Cuban, however, has to be losing patience with this team and its inability to bring home the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy to the Lone Star State.
The Mavs bolstered their roster last season by acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from theWashington Wizards to play alongside All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. The additions paid off and Dallas finished with 50-plus wins for the 10th consecutive season before bowing out to San Antonio in the playoffs. The early postseason exit took a toll on Nowitzki, who contemplated leaving the team before signing a new contract this offseason. It may have felt like another season wasted for the German sharp shooter, whose contract is reportedly worth $80 million over four years.
Nowitzki, a nine-time All-Star, has been the team's most productive player over the last decade. Last season, he averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 81 games -- the 10th straight season in which he's averaged over 20 points and seven rebounds. The league's MVP in 2007, Nowitzki knows the window of opportunity is closing and won't be able to do it himself.
Head coach Rick Carlisle will not have center Erick Dampier in the middle anymore after the Mavericks dealt for Tyson Chandler to compete with Haywood for playing time down low. Either way, Nowitzki has to like what he sees from the frontcourt.
"He is one of the most versatile big men in the league today," Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson said of Chandler on NBA.com. "He gives our front line a defensive, shot-blocking, athletic punch we haven't had here in awhile."
Dallas is still a long way off from competing with the LA Lakers as the top team in the West, and also has to fend off the Spurs, Rockets and Hornets in the Southwest Division, which it was won twice in the previous four years. The Mavericks, who captured the No. 2 seed in last year's playoffs, have championship potential and the 2010-11 campaign could very well be their last ticket to NBA greatness.
The Bobcats are coming off the best season in their short history culminating with the franchise's first ever postseason bid. Improving on that finish this year may be a tough task in a loaded Southeast Division, however.
Like most Larry Brown coached teams, the Bobcats excel at the defensive end and struggle at times to score, but the acquisition of Stephen Jackson, along with the development of All-Star forward Gerald Wallace, gave Brown just enough offense to get the club into the playoffs last year, albeit just a cameo appearance before being swept by division rival Orlando
The biggest questions facing Charlotte this offseason were the futures of the nomadic Brown and point guard Raymond Felton, an unrestricted free agent who ended up signing with New York. D.J. Augustin is expected to run the point in his third season as a pro.
"He's in much better shape. He's much stronger and quicker than he was," Brown said of Augustin on NBA.com. "He's got to facilitate more and the only way that's going to happen is for him to be more aggressive offensively. But I'm sure that's going to come. He's had a terrific preseason."
Brown figured to be interested in openings with Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Clippers but those franchises went in different directions leaving the veteran mentor in the Queen City for at least another year.
That means the Bobcats will remain competitive but still may take a step back since Miami and Washington figure to be much-improved in the division, while other non-playoff teams in the conference like the Sixers, Knicks and New Jersey Nets were all more aggressive than Charlotte this summer and are clearly better than a year ago.
The Bobcats, who were swept in four games to Orlando in the playoffs, did little in free agency and weren't involved in the draft although that's not necessarily a a huge concern since Brown loathes relying on young players.