The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets has been a ‘friendly’ rivalry both on and off the court over the past few years, most notably after this past off-season.
Daryl Morey and Mark Cuban have exchanged a few jabs on social media while Chandler Parsons and Jason Terry are now ‘enemies’ to their once former fan bases and teammates. Dwight Howard was the ‘big fish’ Houston stole from Dallas about 2 years ago because Howard felt teaming up with James Harden instead of an old Dirk Nowitzki gave him his best shot at a championship. Now for only the third time in history these two team will meet in the playoffs where the Mavericks have won both prior match ups (1998 & 2005).
So why does this playoff series have the feeling of two teams renewing a rivalry? Well it mostly has to do with what has transpired between the teams off the court more so then on it, we take a closer look at the recent history between these two Texas teams.
1. Perhaps the number 1 reason why these two teams have developed a friendly hatred for one another is Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey exchanging verbal jabs at one another the past couple summers. Below is a quote from Daryl Morey prior to the start of the 2014-2015 regular season where he claimed free-agents would pick Houston over Dallas anytime.
“But let’s be clear: If the money’s equal between the Rockets and Mavericks, I think players are picking Houston. Every time. For Dwight [Howard], I just don’t think it was a hard choice between us and Dallas. If you want to win, you’re going to want to join our organization. We have a first-team All-NBA player in his prime [James Harden]. They have an enormously talented superstar [Dirk Nowitzki] but he obviously isn’t 24 years old.”
Cuban on the other hand has made several comments of his own before when making claims that consolation prize Monta Ellis would make a bigger impact than the big fish Howard the Mavs couldn’t hook. Cuban’s also threw back MIT-educated math-geek Morey’s chemistry claim stating Morey doesn’t understand chemistry as well as the Dallas decision-makers do. Needless to say it’d be fun to simply watch these two geniuses duke it out in a battle of wits and calculators.
2. Dwight Howard was courted by both Dallas and Houston in the summer of 2013 and stated that he chose Houston because he felt he had a better chance to win a title there than in Dallas. The Mavericks, at the time, were borderline desperate to make a big splash in free-agency after blowing the 2011 title team and had their eyes set on bringing in Howard to pair up with Dirk in the front court. Houston had acquired James Harden the season before and envisioned having the best 1-2 punch in the NBA when they acquired Howard. The Mavs in the meantime settled for Monta Ellis who at the time was looked at as a less than stellar move. Both teams were bounced out in the first round last year and the Mavericks would love nothing more than proving to Dwight Howard he made the wrong move in choosing Houston.
3. Chandler Parsons, who much like Howard was courted by both Dallas and Houston but was looking for a big payday after playing for the minimum since being drafted in the second round. Parsons felt offended when Houston decided to go after Chris Bosh during free-agency when he himself felt that he was worthy of being part of a “Big 3” with Dwight Howard and James Harden. Dallas saw the opportunity and made a run at Parsons with a near untradeable contract offer that gave the Rockets major pause in matching after Chris Bosh re-signed with Miami and seeing would it would do to their cap flexibility down the line. Parsons signed with Dallas and has been bent out on proving his worth while Rockets fans still feel a sense of betrayal from Parsons for choosing their I-45 Texas rival. Lot of eyes will be on Parsons especially with his right knee injury still a concern. Dallas needs Parsons if they’re to upset Houston but for now he’s still very much a question mark.
4. Jason “Jet” Terry, one time beloved Mavericks player and champion is now on the other side playing for the Houston Rockets. The Rockets acquired Terry via trade before the season started and some saw it as Houston just trying to get back at Dallas for signing Chandler Parsons but Terry has filled into his role very nicely. With Patrick Beverley unavailable Terry has stepped into the starting lineup at point guard and will go up against his former coach, Rick Carlisle, and former teammates, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea & Devin Harris. Jason Terry made it known in the off-season that he would love the idea of returning Dallas if he were to somehow get released from the Sacramento Kings but instead was traded to Houston and Mavericks fans to this day nearly throw up to notion of him representing the Houston red colors.
5. While it’s been nearly a decade since these two teams have met in the playoffs these teams have had some memorable regular season games over the years. Take for examples this year where every game was decided in the fourth quarter. You have superstar players like Dirk Nowitzki and James Harden leading their respective squads trying to get into a second round match up with perhaps another Texas state rival, the defending champs San Antonio Spurs. What’s better than that?
The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since the 2011 championship run but they came one game from upsetting the Spurs last year and have a roster full of veterans with championship experience. The Rockets have Jason Terry and Trevor Ariza wearing championship bling but have only won one playoff series in the last 17 years. However you slice it this series is full of story lines from all angles and whichever team wins will have bragging rights in what has become a heated in state rivalry which can be taken to another level if this series goes to seven games. Doesn’t get much better than this, let’s go Mavs!