After beginning the season in disastrous fashion, going 4-17 in the first 21 games, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made it abundantly clear that the team will not tank and will always compete under his tenure.
As early as November, many declared the campaign as a lost cause for the Mavs and that tanking was in the best interest of the franchise. That didn't sit well with the most important man in the organisation.
"Haters gonna hate. We think that you always compete," Cuban said.
"We have so many young guys on this team, we want the games to mean something. Not to be, 'OK, who are we going to pull in the fourth quarter so we can lose this game?' That's not how teams develop good habits."
After an injury-ravaged start to the year, the Mavericks have turned things around and the games definitely mean something again now.
Last night's home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder was Dallas' 12th win in their last 19 games and 10 of 12 at home.
Things look completely different in Texas now compared to when star man Dirk Nowitzki was out with an Achilles injury and they were rooted to the foot of the Western Conference.
In just a few months, the Mavs have rocketed up the standings and are now just two games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west.
This is largely due to the new direction the franchise has decided to take, with youth at its core. After the trade deadline, Dallas decided to waive veteran point guard Deron Williams and trade center Andrew Bogut to Philadelphia for 22-year-old big man Nerlens Noel.
The decision to part ways with Williams was made easy by the emergence of rookie Yogi Ferrell and the rise of Seth Curry.
"I like our squad right now," Cuban said before the victory over OKC. "We basically went from 4-17 to, all right, this squad has got some real potential. We did it on the back of undrafted free agents and one trade. There's a lot to be said for that."
Normally a team that dispenses of two experienced players like D.Will and Bogut will be looking to enter tanking mode, but that's not the case with the Mavericks.
Out of the shadows
The Mavs are 4-2 since the trade deadline, but their resurgence began sooner than that and it coincided with an inspired decision by head coach Rick Carlisle.
Since inserting Curry into the starting lineup as a two-guard, the team is 15-9 and it has finally allowed him to step out of the shadow of his MVP brother Steph and begin to make a name for himself.
The 26-year-old has shown himself to be a consistent and efficient scorer, averaging 16.8 points while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and 46.9 percent from three-point range. His two-year, $5.9 million deal looks like a bargain at the moment.
"He's our kind of guy -- shoots, plays hard defensively, great in the locker room," Cuban said of Cury." We call him Swaggy Swag. High swag level, low volume level. Those kind of guys are good. Swaggy Swag's a keeper."
Sometimes, a player and a team can just be perfect for each other and mutually benefit from one another, which is something Curry believes is the case in Dallas.
"You're learning to play the right way," Curry said. "Last year, I was in a situation in [Sacramento] where we played some young guys at the end of the season and we weren't playing for anything, and it felt different.
"I mean, you want to win games, but you're playing basically just to play well and show individually what you can do. Here, you've got to play the right way. You've got to play within the system to win games, play both ends of the floor. That's a more valuable learning experience than just going out there trying to play well for yourself."
Another player who has blossomed in Texas is Harrison Barnes. The Mavericks can now be vindicated in their decision to offer him a max contract in the summer as he has taken his game to new heights this year.
Throughout the campaign, he has been a bright spark for the Mavs and has thrived in his role as the go-to guy on the team after being a complementary piece in Golden State for four years.
The 24-year-old is averaging career-highs of 20.1 points, 1.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game and appears to be the perfect player to build around when Dirk finally calls time on his career.
Waiving Williams - a five-time All-Star and a seasoned point guard in the league - and handing the reigns to Ferrell is also a decision that the organisation has got right.
After signing a 10-day contract, Ferrell scored 19 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers and 32 points against the Portland Trail Blazers during that period and earned himself a permanent contract and proved that he belongs in the NBA after spending most of the year in the D-League.
With smart acquisitions and decision-making, the Mavericks are proving that tanking isn't always the answer and all of a sudden a bleak start is turning into a bright future for the team,