Legendary football coach Bill Parcells once said "you are what your record says you are."
The Dallas Mavericks are hoping that's not true and to be fair the sample size is far too small to declare this Mavs team a failure but here's what we do know -- Dallas is off to the worst start by a defending NBA champion in 40 years as it returns to North Texas searching for the club's first win of the truncated 2011-12 campaign against the Toronto Raptors.
The Mavericks, of course, secured the franchise's first title back on June 12 with a 105-95 triumph over Miami in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, a win that could end up being the team's last in the calendar year unless they can get it done tonight.
The Mavs are coming off a heartbreaker on Thursday night in Oklahoma City when Kevin Durant made up for a defensive mishap by burying a long three-pointer at the buzzer, lifting the Thunder to a thrilling 104-102 victory over Dallas to keep the champs winless.
Durant's game-winner came after he left Vince Carter open for a three-pointer that gave the Mavs a 102-101 lead with 1.4 seconds left. But an Oklahoma City timeout was as long as Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas had to think about getting its first win of the season. Instead, the team became the first NBA champs to start 0-3 since the 1969-70 Boston Celtics.
Nowitzki led the Mavs with 29 points and 10 rebounds, Jason Terry had 16 points off the bench and Delonte West scored 15 in the loss for Dallas, which was playing its first road game of the season after consecutive home losses to Miami and Denver by a combined 33 points.
The Mavs are 0-3 for the first time since 2006-07, when they opened the season with four straight losses before going on to win a franchise-best 67 games.
For now it's probably best to call these Mavericks the reigning NBA champions and not the defending champs. Sure Dirk and Jet are still around but the championship team's defensive heart, Tyson Chandler, is now in New York. Meanwhile, the hard-nosed DeShawn Stevenson calls North Jersey home, J.J. Barea is in the Twin Cities and Peja Stojakovic has called it a career.
The Raptors, who are opening up a three-game road trip tonight, are coming off a 90-85 loss to Indiana in their home opener on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 22 points -- all in the second half -- and Andrea Bargnani finished with 21 points.
Jerryd Bayless contributed 13 points off the bench and Amir Johnson pulled down 10 rebounds for Toronto, which failed to carry momentum over after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-96, in Dwane Casey's debut as the team's head coach on Monday.
"I thought we played hard," DeRozan said. "We got a few calls that didn't go our way in the first half, but we fought hard to get back in the game like we had to."
Casey was an assistant coach under Rick Carlisle in Dallas for three seasons before getting the Toronto job.
These two teams have split home-and-home series for the past two seasons but Dallas has won 12 of 15 overall vs. the Dinos.