Rick Carlisle cut to the heart of the Mavericks’ season in a no-nonsense fashion
after practice Monday afternoon.

“This has been a season of great opportunity,” he said. “It’s been high on
opportunity and low on people that have seized opportunity.”

That’s painful, but no more so than a 33-point loss or scoring five points in a

quarter or staring up at 10 other teams in the Western Conference standings.

And with 23 games left, Carlisle said, time is wasting for players, particularly the
nine Mavericks who are in line to be free agents this summer. They are the ones with the
most to gain by playing with pride and playing well the rest of the way.

“In my mind, there’s plenty to play for,” he said. “We got to keep pushing as
coaches. The players got to stay at it. And they got to keep fighting.”

And if they don’t? Well, playing time is not something that is given away. It has
to be earned. At some point, the Mavericks will have to make tough decisions based on
what’s good for the franchise, not necessarily what’s good for this season’s win-loss
ledger.

At 26-33, the 50-win mark – something that was a given for more than a decade
before last year’s lockout-shortened season – is a goner. The playoffs are, too, barring
some sort of miraculous winning streak. And this team has given no indication it’s
capable of one of those.

Don’t get the wrong impression. This is not the time to start diving for lottery
balls. The hoop god frowns on anything that resembles tanking games (as does David
Stern) and both higher authorities tend to find ways to punish those who openly try for a
better lottery position.