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The Building of the Mavs Cornerstone

In 1981-1982 Dallas improved its record by 13 games to 28-54 and climbed out of the Midwest Division cellar to finish above the Utah Jazz. The Mavericks opened the season with a fashion change: green road uniforms replacing the previous year's blue. Mark Aguirre scored 19 points in his first regular-season game. On November 14 he hit for 42 points, but the Mavericks still lost (for a seventh straight time) to the Golden State Warriors. Dallas's losing streak would stretch to a season-worst 12 games. Considering that the Mavericks opened the campaign 1-13, the rest of the year brought impressive improvement.

Won 28, lost 54 (fifth, Midwest)…13-game increase in wins over 1980-81 represented fourth-largest improvement in the league…Jay Vincent was 15th in the NBA in scoring and an unanimous First Team All-Rookie squad choice by the NBA coaches…Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman and second round selection Elston Turner all received All-Rookie Team votes…49 of 82 games (60 percent) were decided by eight points or less…Vincent became the first Maverick to win an NBA Player of the Week award on February 15…the Mavericks had a 22% increase in attendance over their inaugural season…Brad Davis started all 82 games.

Even though the Mavericks finished their first season on a low note, the 1981-82 season would be the beginning of a new era. In perhaps the most impressive draft in franchise history, the Mavericks selected three key players who would become the cornerstone for most of the 1980s: 6'6 Forward from DePaul, Mark Aguirre (1st overall pick), 6'6 Guard from Kansas State, Rolando Blackman (9th pick from Denver (Kiki Vandeweghe trade) and 6'7 Forward from Michigan State, Jay Vincent (24th pick).

The Mavs' young guns showed a lot of promise. Aguirre immediately became a scoring threat and recorded 42 points in a losing effort against the Golden State Warriors in the middle of November. It was the first 40-point game in the team's history. Aguirre hit a bump in the road though when he broke his foot in a game against the Kansas City Kings on December 9. He could have been Rookie of the Year or even an All-Star if he hadn't missed 31 games as a result of his injury, he was THAT good. Vincent was just as good if not better at times. He scored a career-high 41 points in a victory over Kansas City on December 29th. On February 15th, Vincent was named NBA Player of the Week for averaging 32.5 ppg, 7.3 rebounds, and shot 58% in victories over Seattle and New Jersey. He was the first Maverick to receive the accolade. Blackman didn't quite hit his stride as quickly as Aguirre and Vincent did in their rookie seasons, but rest assured, everyone would know his name for years and years to come.

Despite winning their home opener for the second straight season over Kansas City, the young Mavericks struggled early to keep pace with the rest of the NBA as they lost 12 of their first 13 games. The season started to reach a turning point in January as the Mavericks piled up win streaks of two, three and four games for the rest of the season; an encouraging sign for a franchise that had been in the league for only two years. On March 23, in a game against the eventual World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, Aguirre nailed a key three-pointer to put Dallas up for good with seven seconds left in the game. L.A. never recovered as Dallas pulled off at the time their biggest win ever, 118-116.

Along with new players, the Mavericks' biggest change came with a slight fashion alteration. Wearing blue road uniforms the previous year, they now donned green road uniforms. Superstitious comments said the blue uniforms caused the Mavs to have a 4-37 road record last year while the green uniforms improved their record to 12-29.

For the entire season, Vincent led the team in scoring with 21.4 points per game and Aguirre averaged 18.7 points. The triple threat of Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, and Jay Vincent showed the Dallas faithful and the rest of the league that they were going to be around for a long time and that the Mavericks were a team on the rise. Dallas finished the season at 28-54, a 13-game improvement over the past year.

"Our team is a credit to the league in the way they play. They are a credit to our sport. I don't mean to sound corny, but they are." - Head Coach Dick Motta

Aguirre, a 6'6 forward who was a threat to score every time he touched the ball, was one key to the team's growing success. In his seven-plus seasons in Dallas he averaged 24.6 points. Fellow rookie Blackman, a 6'6 guard with a sweet shooting touch, also embarked on a long and productive career with the Mavericks. Over his 11 seasons with the team he averaged 19.2 points and proved to be a solid defender.

On December 15 Vincent, a 6'7 forward, started in place of Aguirre and led the Mavericks to victory over Washington by scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. It marked the first of 15 30-point games for Vincent during the season. He scored a career-high 41 points in a December 29 win over the Kansas City Kings.

Dallas put together a modest four-game winning streak in January , an encouraging sign for the young team. Vincent continued to score at a torrid pace, and reserve forward Allan Bristow (who later became a coach in the NBA) provided able all-around support. By the end of January the Mavericks had rebounded from their horrendous 1-13 start; after those first 14 games they turned in a respectable 12-15 performance. They couldn't sustain momentum for the duration of the season, but they were showing promise. For the year, Vincent led the team in scoring with 21.4 points per game and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team. Aguirre added 18.7 points per contest.

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