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The Beginning Of The End

After a strong showing in 1989-90, the debacle of 1988-89 appeared to have been nothing more than a brief detour. The Mavs seemed to be back on track; however, the track would prove to lead right off the edge of a cliff. All NBA teams evolve through cycles of success, decline, and rebuilding, but this was different. The Mavericks went into a free fall the likes of which have seldom been seen in the NBA. Within a couple of seasons they would be one of the worst teams in the league, not even competitive with a new flock of expansion franchises, and flirting with league records for futility. <p>Won 28, lost 54 (sixth, Midwest)…the Mavericks had averaged over 48 wins the previous four seasons. Dallas, which got off to a 4-1 start before losing Roy Tarpley and Fat Lever for the season due to right knee injuries, dropped 53 of its final 77 games, including 13 of the final 16 games…39 times Dallas was without the services of three or more players, including five games in which four or more players were sidelined. Dallas came back seven times from deficits of 12+ points to win, including twice from 16 points down the Mavericks were 15-16 in games decided by six points or less, including 9-6 in games decided by three points or less…the Mavericks were 21-21 when scoring 100+ points and 7-33 when held under 100 points. The Mavericks' roster continued to change. Sam Perkins went to the Lakers as a free agent in 1990, and Rodney McCray, Fat Lever, and Alex English-all near the ends of their careers-made their first Mavericks appearances. Virtually all of the remaining starters suffered injuries in 1990-91, and the team plummeted to 28-54, a record which was bettered by both the expansion Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves. The team's problems began early. On November 6 Roy Tarpley led the Mavericks to a victory over the New York Knicks by scoring 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Three nights later it was announced that Fat Lever would have surgery on his right knee and be lost for the year. In that night's game Tarpley went down with a kneecap injury and was also lost for the season. With Tarpley and Lever out, the club fell into a nosedive. On November 28 Rolando Blackman passed Mark Aguirre to become Dallas's all-time leading scorer. That milestone was barely noticed amid the tumult of the season. In March the Tarpley story took another unfortunate turn. He was charged with suspicion of driving while intoxicated and was again suspended by the NBA.

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