NEW ORLEANS — It took the Dallas Mavericks 121 days to get back to .500.
It took Dirk Nowitzki maybe 90 seconds to get rid of the beard he has been growing for most of that time.
“That shave felt amazing,” Nowitzki said after a 107-89 victory over the New Orleans Hornets improved the Mavs’ record to 40-40. “There was some food caught in there from a few weeks ago.”
That’s a slight exaggeration, but Nowitzki’s forest of facial hair put the power of his electric razor to quite the test. Unlike the rest of the bearded Mavs, Nowitzki couldn’t wait for the morning to destroy the evidence from the pact they made in late January to not shave again until climbing back to .500.
After the final buzzer sounded, Nowitzki made a beeline for the Mavs’ locker room, picked up his razor and began bushwhacking. The beard was gone by the time coach Rick Carlisle addressed the team. After that meeting, Nowitzki and his trusty razor “cleaned up the rest on the neck and behind the ears and the nose hair a little bit.”
Said O.J. Mayo: “I need a barber to get mine. I’ve got to go see Omar the barber. I might get too trigger happy.”
Can you blame the Mavs’ 25,000-point man for being in such a hurry to get rid of the beard? Never mind that he claims that his wife, Jessica, has refused to kiss him for a couple of months. It has been a long, tough climb back to .500 for a franchise accustomed to 50-win seasons.
The Mavs hit rock bottom in mid-January, when they dipped 10 games below .500 for the first time in a dozen years after a stretch of 13 losses in 15 games, with Nowitzki making his surgery-delayed season debut midway through that miserable run. Mayo hatched the beard pact a couple of weeks later, with Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, Chris Kaman and the since-traded Dahntay Jones taking part.
The hope was that they’d shave off the beards before resembling the Duck Dynasty dudes — and en route to the franchise’s 13th consecutive playoff berth. Alas, that isn’t the way it went down.
The Mavs are a more-than-respectable 27-17 since the season’s low point, which projects to a 50-win pace over the course of 82 games. But they dug themselves such a huge hole that near perfection was needed to reach the playoffs.
The final win needed to get back to .500 proved to be especially pesky. After Mayo mentioned Omar the barber would be in the building, the Indiana Pacers blew out the Mavs by 25 points. The Los Angeles Lakers whipped the Mavs by 20 the next time Dallas had a shot to shave, essentially dooming the Mavs’ playoff hopes. And the sorry Phoenix Suns somehow managed to snap a 10-game losing streak with an 11-point win over the Mavs during Wednesday’s potential break-even game.
“We had a chance and laid an egg every single time,” Nowitzki said.
No wonder Nowitzki had no patience when it came to his postgame shave.
Hitting .500 isn’t exactly the kind of feat the Mavs have celebrated during Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career, but it is quite an accomplishment given the circumstances of this season. It was also a necessary step if they’re going to reach the new goal of finishing the season with a winning record, which would require beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and the Hornets on Wednesday.
“This means a lot to this franchise,” Nowitzki said. “This franchise has been a winning team for a long, long time and now the playoff streak is officially over, but we can still make it a winning season and feel good about ourselves going into the summer, feeling good [about] what we did with eight, nine new guys and me being out for so long. I think we can still feel good about ourselves, what we’ve done since the All-Star break. We have a decent record, I think, after the All-Star break, so it’s been fun the last couple of months.
“Before that, there was some rough patches.”
Amazingly, there weren’t any patches left of Nowitzki’s beard by the time he met the media Sunday night. If the Mavs’ superstar actually had an agent, he just might land an endorsement deal with the company that makes his little electric razor.