The Dallas Mavericks are a strange case. Nobody had them pegged as championship shoo-ins entering 2010-11, but several NBA observers understood that if everything aligned itself properly, the Mavs would have enough to make it all the way to the franchise’s first title. As it turned out, everything came up Mavericks. The team wasn’t lucky, nor did it receive any big breaks along the way, but the squad remains an unlikely champion. A veteran outfit that made its own fortune.

And, as ESPN’s Ric Bucher pointed out this week, a group that took expert care of its respective bodies along the way. To a chilling degree, literally.

Dirk Nowitzki(notes), Tyson Chandler(notes), Jason Kidd(notes), Jason Terry(notes), Shawn Marion(notes) and Brian Cardinal(notes)(who drove the group there, I suspect) all repeatedly schlepped to Plano, Texas, during the team’s two-month postseason run to take part in cryogenic therapy. The Mavericks stripped to their skivvies at this facility and stepped inside a 6-foot-tall silo of sorts that would whir around and possibly remind each of these guys of an episode of “Lost in Space” — if any of these Mavericks (all in their 30s, Bucher points out, save for Chandler) were old enough to remember that show.

For 2 1/2 minutes — at a cost of $75 per person, billed to Mavs owner Mark Cuban — blasts of nitrogen-chilled air emanated from the walls, quickly dropping the air temperature to as low as -320 degrees Fahrenheit. By the last 30 to 45 seconds, their bodies would be shaking uncontrollably.

“The first time Shawn did it, I thought he was going to jump out after 30 seconds,” Terry says. “He was yelling, ‘My nipples are about to fall off!'”

Marion’s always been the excitable sort, but can you blame the guy for thinking that things might go awry at that temperature? Hell, given 2 1/2 minutes at that temperature, my nipples would be the lastappendages I’d be worried about.

The Mavericks certainly don’t credit this sort of treatment for their championship run, but given the way the players mentioned above looked and played deep into June, who wouldn’t want to try this? Dirk Nowitzki was missing jumpers in the first round last year that he was swishing with regularity in the fourth round last month. Terry was actually picking up opposing point guards with full-court defense, Marion had to guardLeBron James(notes) and score on his own, Kidd clearly has turned back the hands of time, and Chandler was everywhere in the Dallas defense.

Whatever the reason, even if it was a placebo of sorts, these guys looked entirely better this year than they have in past postseasons, with the possible exception of Nowitzki (who is routinely brilliant). These particular Mavs, at the very least, defied expectation considering their respective ages. Cryogenics or not, something was up. And that’s coming from the most dismissive and cynical mug you’ve ever met.

“Crynosaunas,” kids. It’s the cold wave of the future.