- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – The Mavericks are seven games below .500 and have nine players who will be free agents this summer, assuming O.J. Mayo decides to test the market instead of exercising the player option in his contract.
That could be a recipe for some selfish, dysfunctional basketball the rest of this disappointing season. But coach Rick Carlisle not so subtly reminds the players that they better play the game the right way if they want to have the option of returning to Dallas.
“If you wanna write us off and all that kind of stuff, go ahead,” Carlisle said. “But I’ll just tell you this: This is a great situation in Dallas. The guys in the locker room that are all free agents, every second they step on the court, they’re auditioning for Donnie (Nelson) and Mark (Cuban) as to whether they’re going to have a chance to be here after this year.
“I’ve been in a lot of other situations over the years. I haven’t ever been in a better one than this”
Cuban, Nelson and Carlisle have had three-quarters of the season to evaluate players such as Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. Mike James, the 37-year-old D-League call-up, has been with the Mavs a couple of months. Brandan Wright has been here for almost two seasons, Dominique Jones nearly three years and Rodrigue Beaubois is wrapping up his fourth season. (Anthony Morrow is the exception, having played only four minutes for the Mavs so far.)
Can those free agents-to-be really change the Dallas decision-makers’ opinions of them in the final six weeks of the season?
“If I don’t believe that, then I’m not being open-minded enough to be in this position,” Carlisle said.
Brand, a veteran who has readily accepted being a reserve for the first time in his career, points out that a selfish player shouldn’t have a chance to showcase his skills for the rest of the season. A me-first man ought to ride pine.
“We don’t have room to think about the business aspect of it – me, me, me; I need to get shots,” Brand said. “We just have to go out there and play with the minutes given. As you see, coach is not going to allow someone to be selfish out there. You get minutes by your effort, you get minutes by how you play out there and how you affect the game. If you’re looking selfish out there, you’re not going to play.”