Dallas Mavericks: Eduardo Najera



LOS ANGELES -- On a floor full of superstars and All-Stars, J.J. Barea stole the show in the fourth quarter and sealed the Mavericks' Game 2 victory with an array of drives and stellar finishes.

He outscored Kobe Bryant, 8-5, in the final quarter and out-assisted Jason Kidd. He took more free throws than Dirk Nowitzki and even added a rebound. For the game he had 12 points to lead the Mavs' bench and four assists.

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Mavericks G J.J. Barea talks about taking a 2-0 series lead against the Lakers, Ron Artest's ejection and more.

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"Really, I don't think they had him on the scouting report there in the fourth," Nowitzki said. "He kept attacking off the pick-and-roll. We had good ball movement and that means they have to constantly close out and J.J. was able to attack their bigs off the dribble off the screen-and-roll and got to the basket a couple of times. He was spectacular and really won us the game in the fourth."

Barea, listed at 6-foot, but honestly a couple 0f inches shorter, shredded Lakers guards Steve Blake and Shannon Brown.

With the Mavs starting the fourth quarter leading 68-62, Barea blasted through the lane, missed the layup, but his penetration left Brendan Haywood clear for the tip in, 70-62. Barea busted through the paint again and kicked out to a wide-open Jason Terry, who buried a 3-pointer, 73-64. And then Barea did it again and drew the foul. He knocked down both free throws and it was 75-65 with 9:46 to play.

Still in the game nearing the midway point of the quarter, Barea drove, the defense collapsed and he hit a wide-open Haywood on the baseline for a rare tomahawk jam from the big fellow, 79-69.

"The smallest man on the court probably has the biggest heart on the court," Haywood said. "He's not afraid to take it into the giants."

On yet another drive, Barea again found Haywood, who dropped it back to Jason Kidd, who buried the 3, 82-69.

And then came the dagger. Barea whirred past Brown and found himself virtually alone in the paint and he finished it off with a finger roll, 84-69 with 4:39 to go.

"That's how I play. I love to attack the paint," Barea said. "I got all the shooters out there and I've got two big guys setting great screens for me."

Barea's razzle-dazzle finally popped the Lakers' top in the final 30 seconds when Lamar Odom and Ron Artest were all over him in the backcourt. Odom fouled Barea and then Artest stuck out his arm and clotheslined Barea across the face, drawing a technical foul -- his second of the game -- and a possible suspension for Game 3.

Barea didn't have a good first-round series driving into Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge. He averaged 5.2 points and shot 32.4 percent. In two games against the Lakers he's averaging 10.o points and dropping shots at 46.7 percent. It helps when most are coming from 3-feet and in.

"I came out with a lot energy. I knew we needed it," Barea said. "We did a great job defensively all game, so I think a little spark by me helped us get the win."

Even Cuban's wallet has threshold these days

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
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DALLAS -- For years, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has spared no expense to acquire talent. It wasn't always money well spent, but it was money spent in the name of doing whatever it takes to put a winner on the floor.

The lone glaring exception, of course, was Cuban's decision to let Steve Nash walk for big cash in Phoenix. But, back in the summer of 2004, few media voices blamed Cuban, and most even agreed that Nash, who had yet to hit is two-time MVP form, was a health liability moving forward. Nash, of course, has made all those people look foolish, and ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline that the Mavs were interested in bringing Nash back if the Suns were ready to deal.

Money, and more precisely how it's spent, now seems to matter far more to Cuban. The obvious reason is the expiring CBA and the assumption that a hard cap is on the way. For years, the Mavs have ranked at the top of the league with the New York Knicks in payroll and Cuban has coughed up millions more each season in dollar-for-dollar luxury tax.

Looking at the 2011-2012 season (assuming all or at least a partial season is played after a potential lockout), the Mavs have around $57 million locked into eight players. The (soft) salary cap this season is $58 million and the Mavs' payroll hovers around $86 million. If a hard cap is enacted and is set at, say, around $60 million -- and it might not be that high -- taking on additional salary now can be extemely limiting over the next few seasons.

And, in particular, this offseason when the Mavs will pull out all the stops to keep center Tyson Chandler after he becomes the most sought-after big man on the free agent market.

We saw a harder financial stance taken by Cuban last offseason when the Mavs had Al Jefferson targeted in a potential trade with Minnesota, but balked at taking on Jefferson's three-year, $42 million contract without the Timberwolves helping out and taking back some of the Mavs' bad contrats. Charlotte eventually did, taking Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera off Dallas' books in the deal that sent Chandler and his expiring $12.6 million contract. Utah landed Jefferson because it didn't need to dump salaries back on Minnesota.

Money was again a factor at the trade deadline. The Mavs seem to have dug in regarding taking on salary, which is why seemingly difference-maker-type players such as Stephen Jackson, who has two more years at some $19 million left on his contract, never got a serious sniff despite the immediate impact he could have made offensively and defensively at the wing position. And why Tayshaun Prince, with an expiring contract, was much more palatable. Detroit, however, hung on to Prince.

The Mavs were willing to take on Devin Harris and his remaining $18 million only because they viewed him as a gateway to possibly acquiring Deron Williams.

Mavs president Donnie Nelson said after Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline passed with the Mavs standing pat, that the organization did not draw a line in the sand regarding taking on salary.

"No. I think that in a couple years there's certainly an argument for having some room," Nelson said. "But, again it's talent first, second, third. So, if there was a talented player that went into that cap space we were willing to look at that."

Instead of adding big money, the Mavs signed Peja Stojakovic on the cheap after the Toronto Raptors bought out his eight-figure salary on the final year of his deal. And the return of Roddy Beaubois the week leading into the All-Star break provides what the Mavs hope will be a super-impact player at the bargain-basement price of $1.2 million.

Did Mavs deal Erick Dampier too soon?

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
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The Charlotte Bobcats still have hope they can make good use of Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract in the trade market.

Bobcats general manager Rod Huggins told reporters that he’ll try to trade Dampier after Sept. 13 – when he can be packaged with other players – instead of waiving the big man beforehand and taking the savings from his $13 million salary being wiped off the books.

“It's going to take a while,” Higgins said. “Now that we've got another center, waiving him for the sake of waiving him doesn't make a whole lot of sense for us. We're going to continue to talk to teams to try to improve our roster.”

If Charlotte lands a star, it’ll be easy to second-guess the Mavs’ brass for not making better use of the Damp chip. But that's unlikely, considering the Mavs thoroughly explored the trade market before pulling the trigger on the deal that shipped Dampier to Charlotte.

As it is, we can still debate whether the Mavs would have been better off getting Al Jefferson instead of Tyson Chandler. I’d rather have Jefferson, a proven 20-10 player, but the AAC-based logic is that Chandler is a better fit from a basketball and financial standpoint.

The Mavs are delighted with what they’ve seen from Chandler during his time with Team USA. They believe his explosiveness is back after a couple of injury-ravaged seasons. They’re optimistic that his ability to defend multiple positions, run the floor and finish make him a excellent complement to Brendan Haywood.

And then there’s the financial aspect of acquiring Chandler. The Mavs managed to dump two contracts on Charlotte (Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera) for a player with a $12.6 million expiring contract.

If the Bobcats are able to move Dampier for an impact player, it’ll look bad for the Mavs. But we can’t really judge the Mavs’ use of the Damp chip until we see whether they’re able to flip Chandler for the sort of star they hoped to land this summer.

Mark Cuban: Beaubois' injury not a concern

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
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Injured Dallas Mavericks guard Roddy Beaubois is on his way back to Dallas from France and upon arrival later will have his broken left foot examined by team physician Richard S. Levy on Monday.
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Mark Cuban talks about making a play for the Rangers and Roddy B's status on The Ben and Skin Show.

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Beaubois broke the fifth metatarsal bone last week while training with the French National team for the FIBA World Championships later this month. Initial estimates were that Beaubois could miss up to three months. Mavs training camp opens in late September and the regular season starts in late October.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban, appearing Monday on the "Ben & Skin Show" on 103.3 FM ESPN, said he's not overly concerned because of the amount of time that remains until the start of the season.

"No, it wasn't a huge setback," Cuban said. "He broke his foot, he didn't have it amputated."

Cuban said he is also not concerned with Beaubois' progress at point guard despite what appeared to be a somewhat disappointing summer league in Las Vegas. Cuban said Beaubois will play better when surrounded by Jason Kidd, Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki as opposed to playing with a makeshift roster of guys who will mostly be headed overseas.

"Those guys are going to make a point guard look a whole lot better than Omar [Samhan]," Cuban said, referring to the Saint Mary's center who played on the Mavs' summer-league team and will begin his pro career in Lithuania.

Cuban hit on a couple of other subjects:

*The owner said he was excited about acquiring center Tyson Chandler in a trade: "We traded Matt [Carroll] and Eddie [Najera], two guys that barely got off the bench, for the starting center on Team USA," Cuban said. Chandler does appear to be a lock as the starting center for Team USA as it competes in the World Championships in Turkey beginning on Aug. 28. Cuban said Mavs head athletic trainier Casey Smith, a member of the Team USA medical staff, has reported that Chandler appears to have regained the explosion he had prior to ankle injuries that ruined the past two seasons.

*Cuban said rookie shooting guard Dominique Jones is in Dallas and working out. "We're excited about him," Cuban said.

*Regarding Nowitzki's new, four-year, $80 million deal, Cuban said his 7-foot forward was never about the money (he could have signed for as much as $96 million) and that they discussed ways to improve the team through a major trade. That didn't happen this summer, but Cuban said the two also discussed how the bigger deals typically happen near the trade deadline in February. The Mavs have made two big deadline deals over the past three seasons. "That’s when the over-the-top trades happen," Cuban said.

PF: Dirk Nowitzki is the one and only

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
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Fourth in a five-part series breaking down the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks. (Previous installments.)

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty ImagesAfter another summer away from the game, Dirk Nowitzki should be fresh to start the season.
Position: Power forward

Personnel: Dirk Nowitzki (7-0, 245), Shawn Marion (6-7, 228), Tyson Chandler (7-1, 235)

Outlook: Nowitzki is coming off another stellar regular season (25.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) in which he was again required to carry the team offensively. After opting out of the final year of his contract and then re-signing in early July for four more years at a discounted rate of $80 million, Nowitzki won't have the help of a superstar as he had hoped to share the burden. Instead, he remains optimistic that Roddy Beaubois can step up. Otherwise, Nowitzki, by re-signing, has agreed to be patient and wait for a trade opportunity to present itself. As for the position, Nowitzki is the lone true power forward on the roster. The Mavs lost out on free agents Udonis Haslem and Al Harrington, and when they traded Eduardo Najera to Charlotte in the deal that netted center Tyson Chandler, Dallas got rid of its one down-and-dirty, blue-collar worker on the front line. The Mavs will rely on small forward Shawn Marion and the 7-foot-1 Chandler to handle some backup duty as coach Rick Carlisle looks to reduce Nowitzki's minutes, which climbed to 37.5 per game last season. Dallas is reportedly interested in signing Tim Thomas, who played 18 games for the Mavs last season before leaving the team to care for his ill wife.

Most likely to step up: Nowitzki decided not to play for Germany in the FIBA World Championships later this month, a move that surely pleased owner Mark Cuban. Nowitzki said he felt much fresher at the start of last season after not playing for Germany a year ago, so he's primed for another fast start.

Most likely to step back: With no other true power forward on the roster at the moment, this category is not applicable.

For Najera, easy come, hard to go

July, 13, 2010
7/13/10
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When Eduardo Najera returned to the Dallas Mavericks mid-season for a second stint, he couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

"I love it [being back in Dallas]," Najera said. "I always kept a home here even when I was gone, so I was never really gone, gone. During the summer I was around the city, around the people, so deep down when I was gone I was hoping that I would actually come back."

Now, he's gone again. Najera was included in Tuesday's Erick Dampier trade-chip deal that also sent Matt Carroll to Charlotte for centers Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca.

Dallas drafted Najera out of Oklahoma in 2000 and he spent the first four seasons of his career with the Mavs. He'll go down as the lone player involved in the trades that brought Dampier to the Mavs and saw him go. In 2004, Dallas sent Najera, Christian Laettner, two first-round picks and the draft rights to two others to the Golden State Warriors for Dampier, Dan Dickau, Evan Eschmeyer and the drafts rights to another player.

The Mavs will miss the edge Najera brings, which was on full aggression-mode in the playoff series against the Spurs. With the Mavs needing to flex some muscle, Najera picked up a Flagrant 2 for a hard takedown of Manu Ginobili and he added another flagrant while enforcing his "no layup rule" on Tony Parker.

Najera will take that toughness to Charlotte, his fifth team and sixth stop as he heads into an 11th NBA season.

Dampier chip turned out to be dud

July, 13, 2010
7/13/10
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The Mavs entered the offseason hoping for fireworks, optimistic that they’d be able to acquire a co-star for Dirk Nowitzki with one of the most attractive trade assets in the market.

But the Erick Dampier chip turned out to be a dud.

The Mavs were never serious contenders to land any of the free-agent superstars in a sign-and-trade deal. They tried to land Al Jefferson, only to have the Utah Jazz seize the opportunity in the late stages of talks with the Timberwolves.

Less than 24 hours later, the Mavs settled for another overpaid center and a project.

This deal makes financial sense for Mark Cuban. Tyson Chandler, the injury-prone big man on his way from Charlotte to Dallas, will make $12.6 million this season in the final year of his contract. Alexis Ajinca, who will join Ian Mahinmi as former first-round pick French project centers who sit on the pine, will make $1.47 in the final guaranteed season of his rookie deal.

The Bobcats were willing to take Matt Carroll (three years, $11.7 million) and Eduardo Najera (two years, $5.75 million) as the price for improving their bottom line this season.

If healthy, Chandler would combine with Brendan Haywood to make a solid center tandem, although neither big man is an offensive weapon other than finishing around the rim. But that’s a big, big if. He’s missed more than 30 games in each of the last two seasons, when his rebounding rates have dropped drastically.

An optimist might hold out hope that Cuban and Co. will be able to flip Chandler’s expiring contract for an impact player before the trade deadline.

A pessimist – or perhaps a realist – is simply disappointed that the Mavs couldn’t make better use of Dampier’s evaporating contract.

Which free agents left worthy of the MLE?

July, 12, 2010
7/12/10
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Udonis Haslem would have been a terrific free-agent addition to the Dallas Mavericks. But, not suprisingly, Haslem will take less money to stay in Miami and play with the Superfriends.

Finding a capable power forward or center remains a top priority for the Mavs, who are determined to reduce Dirk Nowitzki's minutes (he averaged 37.5 mpg last season). Behind Nowitzki is only Eduardo Najera. At center, Brendan Haywood signed a six-year deal with the Mavs, Erick Dampier may or may not be back and Ian Mahinmi, who agreed to terms Monday, is a project.

But, who in free agency is left that is worthy of paying and producing at the full mid-level exemption of $5.8 million starting next season?

Scan the free-agent list and the pickings are slim. How does Brad Miller sound? Al Harrington would be strong, low-post addition, but he'd be taking more than a 40-percent pay cut if he signed for the MLE.

Of course, Shaquille O'Neal remains the largest name on the market.

The options are so thin in free agency, that the Mavs might look to split the MLE among two or more players. Suns unrestricted free agent center Louis Amundson played for the minimum last season. He's more marketable now and he has several teams interested. Former Spurs center Fabricio Oberto is out there. So is former TCU star Kurt Thomas, as is Garland's Ike Diogu.

There just isn't much to throw good money at, which is why the Mavs are taking a long, hard look at using the Dampier trade chip in a possible deal for Minnesota's Al Jefferson. Right now, he's the best it gets.

Heat's Udonis Haslem will have a choice

July, 11, 2010
7/11/10
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Earlier Sunday, we pointed out here that the Dallas Mavericks have been interested in power forward Udonis Haslem, who has spent his entire seven-year career with the Miami Heat.

On Sunday night, sources close to the situation confirmed to ESPNDallas.com that the Mavericks have extended a multi-year offer to Haslem that starts at the full $5.8 mid-level exception.

One source added that Haslem – one of Miami's most effective defenders on Dirk Nowitzki during the 2006 NBA Finals – is giving Dallas' pitch strong consideration despite the fact that the Heat are lobbying him hard to stay for less money and play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The 6-foot-8 Haslem has averaged 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds in his career. Haslem, 30, made $7.1 million last season. The newly star-laden Heat hope to keep him but will be limited to offering Haslem just over $4 million a year after signing the mega-free-agent trio and completing the expected signing of sharpshooter Mike Miller.

Although Dallas can clearly outbid Miami, Haslem's strong ties to the area – especially to his close friend Wade – hurt the Mavericks' chances of actually landing him. It's also possible that New Jersey could join the bidding for Haslem as well.

Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle have said the club's top free-agent priority is to sign a power forward or center. The Mavs have secured new deals with Dirk Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood, but depth is lean behind them with only Eduardo Najera and Erick Dampier on the roster.

ESPN’s Avery Johnson doesn’t buy that the Mavs will be a legitimate player in the LeBron James sweepstakes.

“The situation in Cleveland is better than the situation that he can get in with Dallas,” the ex-Mavs coach said.

I’ll respectfully disagree with the thought that the Cavaliers could offer King James a better supporting cast than the one he’d have here in Dallas.

For the sake of argument, we won’t include Erick Dampier, Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois in the debate, since the Mavs would likely have to give up most or all of those guys in a sign-and-trade deal to get the two-time MVP. We’ll call the potential to attract free agents or make other roster additions even, since both franchises are over the salary cap but have owners willing to spend to win.

We’ll leave the 7-foot centers out of the debate, with the Cavs’ over-the-hill tandem of Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the Mavs’ inconsistent Brendan Haywood all unrestricted free agents.

Here’s a comparison of the players LeBron could count on to form his supporting cast in Cleveland and Dallas:

Antawn Jamison vs. Dirk Nowitzki Jamison is one of the better offensive power forwards in the NBA. Dirk is the best. This is a no-contest. Dirk would instantly become the best second banana LeBron has ever had, and it wouldn’t be close. EDGE: Mavs.

Mo Williams vs. Jason Kidd They’re both good spot-up 3-point shooters – a particularly important trait for a guard who plays with LeBron – but that’s where the similarities stop. Williams is really an undersized shooting guard. Kidd is one of the best passers in NBA history. He’d get LeBron transition buckets in bunches. While Kidd struggles with waterbug point guards, he’s still a significantly better defender than Williams. EDGE: Mavs.

Anthony Parker vs. Shawn Marion Parker is a much better perimeter shooter, but that’s his only advantage over Marion, one of the league’s most underrated defenders. Marion usually draws the toughest defensive assignment for the Mavs, which would allow LeBron to conserve energy and occasionally roam on that end of the floor. Marion’s a good cutter who would likely get a lot of layups and dunks off feeds from LeBron. EDGE: Mavs.

Delonte West vs. Jason Terry West is a tough player with a well-rounded game and some defensive tenacity, but he’s not close to Terry’s class as a scorer. Terry is a one-dimensional player who has recently disappointed in the playoffs, but he’s an efficient jump shooter that could light it up with the wide-open looks he’d get from defenses dealing with LeBron and Dirk. EDGE: Mavs.

Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson vs. Eduardo Najera OK, the Cavs have a huge advantage with frontcourt energy guys. Varejao is basically a bigger, younger version of Najera, a guy who excels at annoying the opposition. The 21-year-old Hickson has the frame (6-9, 242) and athleticism to develop into an impact player. EDGE: Cavs.

Mavs 50 for 10: The beginning, 2000-01

May, 10, 2010
5/10/10
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The Dallas Mavericks achieved a rare feat in the NBA by winning at least 50 games for the 10th consecutive season. Only three other teams in league history have accomplished that: the Boston Celtics (1958-59 to 1967-68), Los Angeles Lakers (1979-80 to 1990-91) and San Antonio Spurs (1999-2000 to present).

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Ronald Martinez/Allsport Dirk Nowitzki had a team-high 21.8 points per game for the 2000-01 Mavs.
The one glaring difference between the Mavs and those teams are, well, championships. While Dallas continues to hunt for its first NBA title, the others have hung multiple banners. But, why quibble over small details? The Mark Cuban-era Mavs have been regular-season warriors and we thought it would be interesting to trace the history of the streak, looking back at the numerous players who have come and gone, such as Christian Laettner, Evan Eschmeyer, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Juwan Howard (twice) and, of course, Antoine Rigaudeau; plus the highs, the lows and the missed opportunities.

So, here we go, starting where it all began with the 2000-01 season, Cuban's first full season since adding the title of ambitious owner to biggest fan. Twenty players dotted the roster and The Big Three started to take hold:

Coach: Don Nelson
Record: 53-29 (T2nd in Midwest Division)
Playoffs: Defeated Utah (3-2); lost to San Antonio (4-1).
Team payroll: $51.4 million*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($8.4 million)*

The high: Cuban bought the team in the middle of the previous season (Jan. 4, 2000) and the Mavs finished on a roll. The momentum carried over and the franchise finally ended an 11-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA and then rallied from 2-0 deficit to stun Utah in the first round, 3-2 ... Only team in the league to finish in the top five in points per game (100.5, 4th), field-goal percentage (45.9, 5th), free throw percentage (79.4, 2nd) and 3-point field-goal percentage (38.1, 4th) ... It was the team's first 50-win season in 13 years and the franchise's third since joining the league in 1980.

[+] EnlargeMark Cuban
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMark Cuban's investment in the Mavs paid off in his first full season, which saw Dallas upset Utah in the first round of the playoffs.
The Low: The Mavs played their final home game at cozy Reunion Arena on April 18, 2001. Although the 120-100 win over Minnesota ended the regular season on a four-game win streak, leaving the team's original home -- which spawned the "Reunion Rowdies" -- always comes with a touch of sadness.

Major transaction: February 22, 2001: Traded Courtney Alexander, Hubert Davis, Christian Laettner, Etan Thomas, Loy Vaught and cash to Washington for Juwan Howard, Calvin Booth and Obinna Ekezie.

Roster:
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 21.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 151 3FGs)
G Michael Finley (21.5 ppg, lead team with 118 steals)
F Juwan Howard (17.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg in 27 games with Dallas)
G Steve Nash (15.6 points, team-high 7.3 assists)
G Howard Eisley (Started 40 games, played 82, second on team with 107 3FGs)
C Shawn Bradley (7.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, team-high 228 blocks)
G Greg Buckner (Played in just 37 games)
C Calvin Booth (Always remembered for game-winning layup to defeat Jazz in Game 5)
C Wang Zhizhi (7-foot, second-round pick played in five games)
G Vernon Maxwell (Mad Max averaged 4.3 points in 19 games after being signed as free agent)
F Gary Trent (Injuries reduced him to just 33 games played)
F Eduardo Najera (Traded from Houston to Dallas in the summer; played 40 games)
F/C Obinna Ekezie (Played in just four games)
F Donnell Harvey (Played in just 18 games)
F/C Mark Bryant (Played in just 18 games, started one)
F Christian Laettner (7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg before trade to Washington)
G Hubert Davis (Started seven of 51 games before trade to Washington)
G Courtney Alexander (Averaged 4.2 ppg before trade to Washington)
F Loy Vaught (Averaged 3.1 points before trade to Washington)
F Bill Curley (Played in five games)

*Source: Basketball-Reference.com

Will they stay or will they go?

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
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The only certainty about the upcoming summer for the Mavs is that it'll be interesting.

Owner Mark Cuban, as usual, plans to be "opportunistic." In this case, that means swinging for the fences in what might be the best free agent market in NBA history. Even if the Mavs strike out in their quest for another superstar, there could be significant tweaking of the roster.

Here, as a complement to Jeff Caplan's report card for the Mavs' 2009-10 season, is a look at how likely it is that each player on last season's roster will return:

Dirk Nowitzki – 95 percent

I thought this was a lock until I heard Dirk’s comments after the Mavs’ third first-round exit in four seasons, which he didn’t back off the following day. Can you blame a superstar in his situation for considering his options? However, it’d still be stunning if Dirk decides to leave Dallas this summer. My hunch is he’ll simply decide not to opt out of the final season of his contract, keeping his options open if the Mavs aren’t any closer to a title a year from now.

Jason Kidd – 99.9 percent

The Mavs love him despite disappointing performances in the playoffs the last three seasons. They won’t shop him. Even if they did, there wouldn’t be much, if any, interest in a 37-year-old with two seasons remaining on his contract. The Mavs need Rodrigue Beaubois to develop his point guard skills this summer enough to let them manage Kidd’s minutes.

Shawn Marion – 99.9 percent

Teams aren’t looking to trade for a 32-year-old forward who relies on athleticism and is under contract for four more years, even though Marion doesn’t make a ton of money by NBA standards. It’ll be interesting to see how Marion’s role change if Beaubois and Caron Butler also remain Mavericks. A lot of Roddy B’s minutes might come at Marion’s expense.

Caron Butler – 50 percent

Does Butler fit that well with the Mavs? He’s a natural small forward who starts at shooting guard in Dallas, where he was inconsistent with flashes of brilliance. You can count on Butler’s name coming up in trade talks this summer, especially if the Mavs get in serious discussions about a sign-and-trade deal for a superstar. Butler’s talent and expiring contract ($10.8 million salary) make him an attractive trade chip. The Mavs knew that when they made the deal with Washington to bring Butler to Dallas.

Erick Dampier – 40 percent

There is no way that Dampier will finish his current contract, either in Dallas or elsewhere. He’s not worth paying a $13.1 million salary. Due to some creative language in the contract, that money is totally nonguaranteed and the Mavs can use him as an instantly expiring contract in their trade talks. That’s an extremely attractive asset to cost-conscious teams. But Dampier might not be done in Dallas. Whenever he’s released, whether it’s by the Mavs or another team, the Mavs will likely be interested in bringing him back. Just at a fraction of what they’ve been paying him.

Jason Terry – 80 percent

The emergence of Roddy Beaubois will cut into Terry’s role. Terry’s contract is no longer totally untradeable, as only about half of his 2011-12 salary is guaranteed, pending certain incentives. But the odds are he’ll be back for at least one more season. If that’s the case, the question is whether he’ll still be the first guard off the bench.

J.J. Barea – 60 percent

Barea gets asked about a lot when the Mavs are talking trade. That’s because he’s a proven contributor at a discount price ($1.7 million team option for next season). It wouldn’t be surprising if Barea gets thrown in a blockbuster deal this summer, especially with the Mavs’ plan to prepare Beaubois to be the backup point guard.

Brendan Haywood – 60 percent

The Mavs’ brass made it very clear when they blockbuster deal with Washington went down that they wanted to keep Haywood for the long haul. The Dallas decision-makers might not be as excited about Haywood as their big man of the future after his up-and-down few months as a Mav. But what better options are out there? Haywood is an unrestricted free agent, but it’ll be tough for him to find more money and a better fit than the Mavs can offer.

Rodrigue Beaubois – 95 percent

How could Roddy B’s return not be a lock? Because if the Mavs hit a home run in the sign-and-trade market, Beaubois will probably have to be part of the outgoing package. Think of it as a win-win situation: His departure would mean the Mavs are adding a superstar; his return would means the Mavs have a potential star in the making.

Eduardo Najera – 90 percent

The next two seasons on Najera’s contract aren’t fully guaranteed, but the savings aren’t significant if the Mavs decide to get rid of him. Plus, they need Najera’s nastiness, even if he doesn’t play many minutes. He’s a good teammate who opponents hate. In other words, he’s the kind of guy you want on the fringe of the rotation.


DeShawn Stevenson – 95 percent

He’d be crazy not to pick up his player option for $4.2 million next season. It’s possible that he could then be flipped to another team in a trade, since he is an expiring contract. It’s more likely that he’ll continue in his role as a rarely used defensive stopper and be dangled as an expiring contract around the trade deadline.

Matt Carroll – 99.9 percent

The Mavs aren’t holding their breath for other teams to show interest in a player who scored 46 points last season and is owed $14.4 million over the next three seasons.

ESPN Dallas grades the 2010 Mavericks

May, 1, 2010
5/01/10
9:00
AM CT


Another Mavericks season has come, gone and disappointed, and it falls on ESPNDallas.com to assess the damage.

Jeff Caplan handed out grades of the 2010 Mavericks roster, who were eliminated in six games by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Public enemy No. 1, Najera has job to do

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
3:48
PM CT
SAN ANTONIO -- They won't be tossing roses at Eddie Najera's feet inside the AT&T Center tonight when the Dallas Mavericks enforcer checks into Game 6.

San Antonio might be Najera's adopted hometown -- he attended Cornerstone Christian School -- but the fans here will be ready to pounce after Najera's flagrant fouls in each of the last two games. He was called for a Flagrant 2 for a takedown of Manu Ginobili here in Game 4, and he raked Tony Parker across the face in Game 5 for a Flagrant 1, a call Najera said left him perplexed.

"I mean he is the one that created the contact," Najera said of the driving Parker. "Obviously, I felt his body on my chest and I just kind of dropped my arms. I wasn't even trying to get him at all, but obviously, that's what I don't understand, he created the contact."

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had barely utilized Najera in the first three games before desperately turning to him to start the fourth quarter of Game 4 for nothing more than a shot of adrenaline and hustle, areas the Mavs were sorely losing to the more determined Spurs. Najera lasted exactly 47 seconds before his arm caught Ginobili around the neck from behind and flung him backwards to the floor for the Flagrant 2 and automatic ejection.

Najera played 21 minutes in Game 5 and he'll likely have a similar role tonight, although San Antonio's public enemy No. 1 will have to be careful. He's one flagrant foul away from a league-mandated, one-game suspension. Of course, if the Mavs don't win it won't really matter.

His teammates don't see it stopping Najera from inflicting his typical physical style on the wary Spurs in a series that's grown increasily chippy.

"That's how Eddie's always been," center Brendan Haywood said. "We almost got into earlier this year because he fouled the hell out of Gilbert Arenas and I was saying something to him. That's Eddie's game. I think he's just a hard-nosed, tough player and that's just who he his."

Mavs ball up fists to beat Spurs

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
1:33
AM CT

DALLAS – Rick Carlisle didn’t need to deliver a pep talk before Game 5. He just pressed play on the video.

The message came through loud and clear to the Dallas Mavericks as they watched clip after clip of the San Antonio Spurs kicking their butts on hustle plays throughout the series.

“That can’t happen tonight,” Carlisle told his team.

The Mavs responded by roughing up the Spurs, dictating the style of play while rolling to a 103-81 rout that extended their season and sent the series back to San Antonio.

This series isn’t about X’s and O’s. It’s about blood and guts.

The Spurs bullied the Mavs too often – and at too many critical times – during the previous three games. No way were the Mavs going to just sit back and get punked on their home court Tuesday night, which would have resulted in roars about the same ol’ soft Dallas squad.

“Pride was definitely on the line,” said big man Brendan Haywood, who made his presence felt with eight rebounds and four blocked shots in his first start of the playoffs.

Forget about strategy. The main adjustments made by the Mavs – other than benching Erick Dampier for Haywood – came from the toughness department.

“Mostly it was the case of they came with the mental and physical toughness,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “and our starting group wasn’t very good in either category.”

That’s the simple explanation for the Mavs leading for the final 44 minutes of the game. That describes how Dallas seized control of a win-or-the-end game and, other than an 11-2 run to slash the deficit to seven at halftime, never let the Spurs show real signs of life.

Dallas was determined to attack the basket. They accomplished that goal with 42 points in the paint, their highest mark of the series. That was a dozen more than the Spurs, who had a 42-point advantage in that category through four games.

The Mavs made sure they played at the fast pace in which Jason Kidd flourishes. That doesn’t happen without an impressive, energetic defensive performance. Holding the Spurs to a series-low 36 percent shooting while forcing 18 turnovers certainly qualifies.

And Dallas dominated the glass. They won the rebounding battle by a 52-41 margin and had a 19-9 advantage in second-chance points.

In summary, the Mavs played like a team desperate to avoid an early vacation.

“When our backs are against the wall, we actually react really good and usually come through,” enforcer Eduardo Najera said, pointing to the Mavs’ five-game winning streak at the end of the regular season to seize the West’s No. 2 seed. “We have that sense of urgency now. We know that we have to play physical with these guys.”

Added Dirk Nowitzki: “We’ve got some guys that love to compete and love to win. We lost three tough games in a row. I thought we had our chances, but we definitely responded the right way by playing hard and scrambling.”

Not that the Mavs accomplished their mission, as Carlisle reminded during his postgame press conference. Far from it. All they’ve done is made this series a fight.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
20.9 4.5 1.7 34.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.9
AssistsR. Rondo 9.3
StealsR. Rondo 2.0
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4