In-State Rivalry Developing In The NBA’s Western Conference?

ESPN reporters Marc Stein and Tim MacMahon published an article today citing NBA sources that former Los Angeles Clippers star DeAndre Jordan has agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. The deal won’t formally be complete until teams are officially allowed to conduct business with free agents per NBA policy on July 9th.

Here are my thoughts! 🙂

If LaMarcus Aldridge signs with the San Antonio Spurs​ after DeAndre Jordan signs with the Mavericks, that Texas NBA rivalry is going to be S.I.C.K. SICK SICK SICK!!! OOOO I hope that happens, and not just because I love the Spurs. That’d be so cool for basketball, to have two of the major teams in Texas competing like that with two young superstars.

The Spurs-Mavericks rivalry goes back to my youth, before I even liked basketball enough to care. I was barely 11 when Tim Duncan was drafted #1 by San Antonio in the draft. Throughout my youth and into my adult life, Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas and Tim Duncan have been two of the best “big men” in the league. They’ve had some fantastic games against one another, and their teams have always fought hard against one another.

This rivalry isn’t new. Even in years the Spurs have won NBA championships, the Mavericks have often played them hard, and I remember watching the two teams go to Game 7’s in Western Conference Finals and Semi-Finals series. The Spurs haven’t always won either. It’s been one of the most rivalries in all of sports to watch, and when it’s on, I have trouble choosing between that and Stanley Cup playoffs, no matter how much more I love hockey than basketball.

Some rivalries are like that in sports. The University of Michigan’s rivalry with Ohio State University in college football is like that as well. Ditto when the Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. There’s something compelling, for the guy like me and the millions of others who enjoy simply watching great athletes perform, about watching these athletes go up against others with both teams determined to battle harder than even their bodies can take against one another because of the simple nature of who the other team is.

The Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs are like that, and the two are primed to be even more so for years to come. As I’ve listened to a host of shows on ESPN radio, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that the perennial “big markets” like Los Angeles and New York no longer can recruit big star basketball players using the “big city, big fanbase” pitch. That pitch used to work great. But as social media has taken off, fan bases have become easier to have regardless of market. Kevin Durant, who I’ve heard called the second best player in basketball (behind Lebron James presumably), plays in Oklahoma City and still has no problems with fans. Fans can watch these small market teams (like Oklahoma City) play and can cheer them on from anywhere in America.

This has caused players to not need to stay in a “big city” as we think of them to have a lot of fans, and now based on reports, the majority of players seem to be aiming for cities where they know they have a chance to win.

What does this mean? It means actually that places which once were considered very niche markets are able to draw great players depending on their record of making it to the late rounds of the playoffs. Teams like San Antonio, which was at a disadvantage because of their central Texas location and has become known for recruiting talented role players from overseas, suddenly find themselves more targeted by superstar free agents because of their record of success in the playoffs.

It’s an interesting paradigm shift, and I wonder if that doesn’t mean you can say the Spurs have been ahead of their time because of that. Now, with Tim Duncan coming back possibly for his last year (this will be year 19 for him in the league according to a previous ESPN article I remember seeing), the fact that major free agents like Aldridge and former Indiana Pacers star David West are giving them strong consideration shows how much potential San Antonio have at reloading for the post Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era in which they’ve seen so much success.

Dallas’s signing of Jordan (pending signing of the deal and that ESPN’s sources are correct, of course) could mean sports fans have years of intriguing fantastic Western Conference playoff basketball to watch, while each team’s own fans have years of sweating and anxious drinking at playoff watch parties to plan for.

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