By Rob Mahoney
A good chunk of the Mavericks roster bonded via bearded solidarity this season, collectively vowing in early February to continue growing out their facial until the team registered a .500 record. That's a relatively low benchmark for a franchise that has made the playoffs in each of the last 12 seasons, but an injury to Dirk Nowitzki and an incredible amount of roster turnover forced Dallas to reset its standards. An even record became the new goal, and until that goal was reached, the faces of select Mavs would only grow woolier and woolier.
Not all of the Mavs have played by the rules of their beard pact, but Nowitzki stands as a beacon of the team's hopes, insofar as any shaggy chin ever could. Deadspin's Barry Petchesky chronicled the evolution of Nowitzki's beard in photo form, though his tribute may wind up as something of a eulogy.
With Tuesday's win over the the Clippers -- and 13 wins over a 20-game stretch -- Dallas is now 35-36 overall with an eye toward Thursday's matchup with the Pacers, which provides a chance to break even. Nowitzki, in particular, seems eager to shed his soup-catcher -- so much so that the Mavs have invited a hand-picked barber to attend Thursday's game in the hopes of trimming down postgame. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News has the scoop:
“Everyone will have the clippers in the locker room Thursday,” Mayo said after the Mavericks’ robust 109-102 overtime win over the Clippers Tuesday. “Hopefully guys can watch us shave it off. The barber will be here. We’ll leave him tickets (for the game) and hopefully give ourselves a chance to shave it off. I want to do it right. I don’t want any patches. I’m ready to shave it.”
Apparently, Omar the barber is going to do the honors. No clear word on who’s barber Omar is, but he’ll certainly be a popular guy Thursday night if the Mavericks can pull off their fourth consecutive victory.
Nowitzki didn’t really want to talk about the possibilities, preferring not to open the Mavericks up to any voodoo that might befall them if they take anything for granted.
“I don’t really want to jinx it, but I’m ready to get this thing off,” he said. “That’s a big outing for us Thursday against a very good, tough team from the Eastern Conference.”
Unfortunately for Dirk and the few Mavs that have continued to grow out their beards, Thursday's game is hardly a lock. The Pacers are one of the toughest teams on Dallas' remaining schedule, and subsequent games agains the Bulls, Lakers and Nuggets will offer no chance for a quick and easy rebound. Late-season affairs against Portland, Phoenix and New Orleans should give the Mavs a few more chances to hit .500, but the barber's presence Thursday should up the stakes in a game that's already significant thanks to Dallas' impressive playoff chase.
OJ Mayo said he's ready to shave his .500 beard. (Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images)