Playing To Win When A Win Means Crapbag

Avery Johnson in a leisure suit. Possibly two hundred painted lines on the court. A raucous crowd of college kids and...  clay barons? (Seriously, what does New Mexico do? I feel uninformed.) The middle of October. Darvin Ham. These things do not add up to exhilarating basketball. But hey, what do I know?

I think I know why Reggie Theus was playing to win: This team needs a confidence boost, and he certainly wanted to give these Las Crucans something to remember. If that meant regular season minutes for most of the starting lineup, fine. If that meant ignoring your backup point guard roster battle and surveying neither, fine. Theus is trying to make statements left and right, and this seemed like a very important game to him.

But why was Dallas so invested in a win? Even once Josh Howard got ejected and the game got incredibly chippy... you think Johnson might let Dirk Nowitzki rest a little? Maybe ensure no one gets hurt, or at the very least give J.J. Barea an extended look? Nope. Johnson wanted nothing but a win. So did the Dallas bench. Maybe 'doing it for Howard' was the angle; maybe they took a coincidentally close game as an opportunity to show they aren't a bunch of chokers. (And when they passed that test, they got a bit excited.) More power to them.

You know what? I'm glad everyone took it so seriously. That was the best preseason game I've ever seen. It went beyond the 'getting excited about a certain young player' or 'feeling relief about a vet's early performance'. That was just a good basketball game. Funny how one of those can pop up anywhere. You know, I haven't watched really dramatic basketball involving a team I care about in a long time. Maybe the Bibby vs. Phoenix game last spring... maybe even the Charlotte shootout. It's been a while. My body hasn't adjusted yet -- my heart actually pounded during the final moments, I couldn't sleep for an hour (even though I watched the TiVo'd game pretty late). I shouldn't get so geeked for a preseason game. But I did, which I think speaks to the power of basketball and sport. Or at least how mentally troubled I am.

Even if our team sucks, we'll get a few of these this season, right? Makes it worth watching all the crap knowing there's a nugget of awesome buried somewhere in there.

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