Pretend you’re Mark Cuban.
Right away, everything is different. For one thing you have $2 billion.
More things have changed than that. As you start to look around, you find you suddenly have boundless energy and a keen insight into things you didn’t know anything about, like the Internet, the stock market and the future of global communications.
On the other hand, you don’t care about things that seemed important, like clothes. Now a T-shirt will suffice, no matter where you’re going.
Oh, and you have an obsession with this NBA team you own, that seemed to be going down the drain.
You still go everywhere with it… and it’s ever more painful as its fall accelerates from its pinnacle (2-0 up over the Heat in the 2006 Finals with a 13-point lead midway through the fourth quarter of Game 3) to its present state.
Even if you have a lot going on, like trying to buy the Cubs, which Commissioner Bud Selig will never let happen —Bud likes owners with a more reverent attitude toward commissioners—and SEC is charging you with insider trading, you’re still out there suffering day-by-day with your Mavericks.
You bought the franchise when it was nothing… just as coach Don Nelson started to pull it together.
Of course, dying to help, you got him Dennis Rodman, who scuttled the rest of that season like an anvil dropped from space.
In subsequent years, you and Nellie disagreed about which of you was the genius, but you managed to put your personal feelings aside and let Nellie do what he does.
Then, when Nellie left and the legal proceedings began, you even went Avery Johnson, whom Nellie nominated to succeed him. Avery took Nellie’s offensive team and made it defend.
Avery went 16-2 after stepping in for Nellie, 60-22 in his first full season and 67-15 in his third, giving him the highest winning percentage in NBA history at that point.
You let Steve Nash go… to back-to-back MVP seasons in Phoenix and still wound up as a better team!
It looked like it was going to become a championship team except for your misadventure in the 2006 Finals after going up, 2-0 and blowing that 13-point lead in the last six minutes in Miami when it looked like you were about to lead, 3-0.
Now all everyone remembers is you railing about the referees, you getting fined $250,000 by Commissioner David Stern, Avery changing hotels and bristling at the press, presaging your losses in Games 4, 5 and 6.
The next season was even better and worse: 67 wins, utter domination of the regular season, followed by that first-round loss to the Warriors… and that damned Nellie.
The season after that, 2007-2008, you started 35-17 but that was only No. 3 in the West as everything changed.
The Lakers, who had almost lost Kobe Bryant, were back with Andrew Bynum on the rise and the Grizzlies donating Pau Gasol.
Worse, the Suns had just beaten you to the obvious move —Shaquille O’Neal— who would have fit naturally with you but fit awkwardly with them.
So now, you had to think up a dramatic move of your own… Jason Kidd?
Unfortunately, you gave up Devin Harris, your best player under 25, and it would have been nice if someone had figured out Jason would fit about as well with you as Shaq did with the Suns.
Your offense was built around isolations for Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, leaving little for Kidd to do but hand them the ball and get out of the way.
So you finished 16-13, lost in five games to the Hornets in the first round and offed Avery, who was supposedly too controlling and making everybody crazy.
Now you’ve got Rick Carlisle, a sharp guy who turned around his first two teams, the Pistons and Pacers, but it’s clear your days of winning 55-60 are over.
What do do now?
Make trades in the hope of patching on the fly?
Back up the truck?
Unfortunately, there’s a certain point at which you’re out of good moves—and you’re there.
If you want to trade, you’ll soon discover the only players anyone wants will be Dirk, Josh and Brandon Bass, the ones you’d want to rebuild around.
If anyone knows you, they know you won’t ever be trading Dirk, your No. 1 fave.
There are deals out there, they’re just loaded with risk and freighted with huge, long-term contracts (see: Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury or your choice of any Clipper of Bobcat.)
On the other hand, when you see it’s not working, how long do you intend to gaze at it?
Detroit’s Joe Dumars just decided he wasn’t going to watch his veterans—who had been in the last six East Finals—die by inches, plunged boldly into the future and, in the meantime, aligned his fate with Allen Iverson.
Meanwhile, Denver just went from uncoachable with AI, Carmelo Anthony et al. to semi-lucid with Chauncey Billups there to restore order.
We don’t know how they’ll wind up but it was Denver’s best shot to right the ship before Carmelo abandons it and it pushed Detroit headlong into the future.
Of course, the best thing would be if you can get one of those flashes of genius like creating Broadcast.com.
Did you ever see that movie, “Weird Science”, in which two geeks program all the facets about their perfect woman into a computer and out pops Kelly LeBrock?
In any case, you’d better figure out a new way to get where you’re going because you’re not getting there this way.
Follow Mark Heisler on Twitter at @MarkHeisler