With the no-brainer contract becoming a done deal today, assuring that Rick Carlisle is signed up to coach the Dallas Mavericks through at least the 2015-16 season, the real work begins.
When Carlisle arrived on the scene in 2008 as the successor to Avery Johnson, the roster included soon-to-be 30-year-olds in Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, and a 35-year-old Jason Kidd. Wow, seems like spring chickens.
When Carlisle and the Mavs open training camp in October, the roster will include a 34-year-old Nowitzki and ...?
Who else is the $81 million question, or the $108 million question -- the amounts the Mavs or Brooklyn Nets will pay Deron Williams, respectively, whenever he chooses one over the other (interesting, of course, that Johnson coaches the Nets). Terry and Kidd are free agents and Marion isn't guaranteed to return.
Beyond Dirk, Carlisle doesn't know who will be on the 2012-13 roster in what promises to be a significant transition season coming of the 2011 championship followed by the first-round sweep out of the playoffs by the young hot-shots due north in Oklahoma City. It's not soft-pedaling things to say that the Mavs will battle mediocrity (36-30 this season) and even relevance, at least to the standard set during Mark Cuban's 12 years of ownership, if Williams opts to stay with the Nets.
Not that the perennial All-Star point guard promises a quick return to the Finals, but it would be a promising start. The free-agency list won't be laden with superstars or superstar potential to drape around Nowitzki.
Still, with or without Williams, Carlisle will indoctrinate a slew of new players into the system, a task he will no doubt attack with vigor, yet one that could be considered more daunting than the one he inherited even with the club having bottomed out emotionally in the first -round loss to the Chris Paul-led New Orleans Hornets in five games.
At least the Mavs took a game from those Hornets, the No. 2 seed then just like the Oklahoma City Thunder who swept Carlisle's Mavs to an early summer vacation less than two weeks ago. If the title team looked different this season, just wait until next season.
It will take a strong communicator to bring an unfamiliar group of players together and launch new era of winning basketball in Dallas. Carlisle proved he could bring a cast together during the championship season, coming off what had the makings of a devastating first-round playoff exit to the San Antonio Spurs the season before.
Carlisle believes the area he's grown the most over these last four years in Dallas is in communicating with his troops, a trait that cannot be undervalued in the NBA.
Or undersold, say, if Kidd relates his experiences with a flexible, open-minded Carlisle to a potential point-guard newcomer who happens to be friends with Kidd and shares the same agent.
"One of my strengths is that I’m an open-minded coach, I’m open to communication and I listen to the players," Carlisle said during the team's exit interviews on May 6. "I’m always working on being a better communicator as a coach and I work on that every single day and I’ve gotten better with it and I’ll continue to get better with it."
It could be the single most important aspect to the job as Carlisle is now officially on board to tackle the changing environment at the American Airlines Center.