- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Highlights from Mark Cuban's appearance Saturday on 103.3 FM's ESPN Dallas Game Day:
On whether the first round of the playoffs unfolded well for the Dallas Mavericks from a perspective of pending free agents: “I don’t know if ‘pretty well’ is the right description, but it certainly got more interesting. It opened up at least a few doors for us to have conversations, where some of those teams that were still playing, I don’t think those doors would have been open.”
On whether any potential options -- left unsaid is Chris Paul -- have been eliminated since the end of the season: "No, not at all. Nothing has really changed. Our approach has always been to be opportunistic and explore all of our options, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We haven’t closed any doors, and as far as we know, there haven’t been any doors that have been closed to us. We’re just going to run them all out there and see what happens.”
On if he feels smart about letting Tyson Chandler go: “When you’re out of the playoffs, you’re not allowed to feel smart. I’m not going to talk about specific players or teams other than to say that when we had to go on our decision of whether or not to stick to our plan, which was our older guys were coming off contracts and we went for it, had a super-huge payroll, knowing that all of our guys' contracts are ending within two years. Did we want to stick with that or bring them all back? You guys have heard me say many a time that my greatest fear was what happened to Detroit at the end of their run -- that we kept the guys too long. Now, you add to it all the things we discussed about the CBA and it really is difficult. You’re hearing some of those teams when their fans are asking if they can make a sign-and-trade for a free agent, and the answer is no. Can they keep some of their existing players? It’s going to be far more difficult and their options are very much limited. We didn’t want to be in that position as we try to put a great team around Dirk to make another run and prepare for our future.”
On if he'd make that same decision again: “In a heartbeat.”
On the sales pitch to convince a max free agent to decline the fifth year and larger raise his current team can offer: “First, you try to look what is important to the play. All players say they want to win rings, and that’s true. All players want to make as much money as they can and that’s true. They all view their careers differently, and I try to focus on what we can do to help them reach their career goals and put them in a position to succeed.
"In terms of that fifth year, that really is overrated from the perspective that if he’s young enough, he’s going to get another contract or two. When you sit down with them and say that there might be the issue of this contract ends before we can opt out of this current CBA. That may sound silly since we just signed a new CBA two years ago, but the ability for the league to opt out after six years means a five-year contract signed now puts you other side of that CBA, which may not be a good thing. You may want to be in a position where you want to sign another long-term deal before the NBA has the option to opt out of this CBA. I’m not suggesting that anything is going to happen with this CBA, but it’s just something to consider. On the second side of that, you’re young enough to get another contract.
"The third point, look at what LeBron [James], Kevin Durant, [Chris] Bosh and all those guys did. They all signed deals with opt-outs after three years, so there’s plenty of precedent. It’s not like all of these guys have to have that fifth year. A lot of them look at the flexibility and the options, and they have enough confidence in their ability to get that next contract. They have enough confidence in their ability to find insurance contracts in case they get hurt.”
On how Dirk Nowitzki's intention to take a "significant" pay cut next summer will be incorporated into free agency sales pitches: “I just let Dirk say it. You know, we spent this weekend together [in Las Vegas]. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we're going to do and how we’re going to do it.
"I’m setting up times with [Shawn Marion] to talk to him. I’ll talk to Vince [Carter]. We’re going through and trying to get feedback from all of our guys. With Dirk, it’s obviously more important because of the contractual scenario.
"I’ll let Dirk decide that [amount of his pay cut]. It’ll just depend on how strongly he feels about who we’re bringing. That dude has saved every nickel he’s ever had. He’s not worried about paying for his funeral. Dirk wants to win, and his heart is in the right place. He’s a great guy. We get along great and we can have very open and honest conversation and we don’t hold anything back. When it comes down to that time, we’ll have that conversation and figure it out.”
On discussions with Shawn Marion and the possibility of him exercising his early termination option and re-signing a long-term deal at a lower salary to create cap space: “We’ll have that conversation, but that’s not the important part of the conversation we’ll have with Shawn. Shawn is a warrior. Everyone knows that he gave 100-plus percent every game. When we weren’t able to perform at a certain level, he got mad. He really, really wants to win.
"I respect his opinions and we get along great. I’m more interested in what guys he likes out there, who he’s played against and who he respects and what he thinks we need. On where that goes, we can have other conversations about the other stuff. There’s no point in him opting out if we don’t think we’re going to get what we need.”
On the possibilities for the 13th overall pick in the draft, including trading it: “It depends on what kind of offers we get. Everyone talks about this being a weak draft, so it depends on who falls to No. 13. We’re not going to make the decision way in advance.
"If we like the person at 13, we’ll keep it and we’ll figure something out elsewhere to free up cap space to get there, but that’ll be an option for us. If our guy doesn’t get there, we’ll look at trading it. If a guy falls, we’ll be happy to take him and figure out who to work the cap. If no one wants to make a trade for whatever reason, we can maybe get a guy to stash overseas somewhere. If we put him overseas and he doesn’t play, he won’t count against our cap. There are so many different options, and we’ll explore them all.”
On whether Nowitzki needs to be the second-best player on the roster next season: “We want to be a championship team. We’ve never said we have to be a championship team this year. We want to be a better team, a top-seed team. If we get the top free agent, that doesn’t leave us a whole lot of flexibility to add a lot of players, but we have a good nucleus around them. We know we’ll have a good team, but we won’t know if we have a great team. If you look at this like a two-year plan, then we think we’re on a track to have a great team by the end of next year. I wouldn’t say necessarily this year that Dirk has to be the second-best player, but hopefully by the end of next year.”
On whether he intentionally sabotaged the Mavs' efforts to sign Deron Williams because he preferred to make a run at free agents available this summer: “Did you see that episode of 'Shark Tank' I filmed that day? It was amazing!”
On his confidence level of being able to sign one of the big fish this summer: “Honestly, I don’t know. The way I work in all my businesses, if you prepare and you put yourself in a position to win, you’re not going to win them all but you’re going to get some. I can make an argument why we should absolutely go after the big fish, and I can make an argument on why we shouldn’t. There are a lot of really, really, good players that -- in combination -- I think can make us a top 3 or 4 seed in the West.
“We can go out there and get guys that are really good players that want to come here whose agents have suggested that they’d really love to come to Dallas. We can go put together a good team and see what we’ve got. If it doesn’t work, with Dirk and Marion coming off the books, with the stretch provision and contracts, we still have the opportunity to go after two max free agents [next summer] if we’re willing to take the hit on the stretch. I’m willing to do that."
On being fully committed to trying to sign a big fish in free agency this summer: "It’s not like last year. We’re going to go after them. But it’s not like we’re not having all the intense conversations to figure out all of our alternatives.
“We can play it both ways. We can go and put together a better team by signing multiple guys to multiyear contracts. We won’t sign anybody to a one-year deal. They’ll all be four-year deals because that gives you the most flexibility if you stretch them.
"Just to explain some more, you can sign a guy to a four-year deal and only have $10 million guaranteed. If you cut him and want to stretch him, you take the guaranteed money only and divide it by the number of years, times two, plus one. So you can stretch that contract out over nine years, as long as you do a four-year deal. There’s a finite amount that you’re allowed to total and stretch, but that’s more of a financial issue more than anything else.
"There’s so many different ways and permutations that I don’t think we can say if we don’t get Free Agent A, B and C that this summer is a failure. There’s a lot of different options, and we have to explore all of them. I’m not about winning the summer; I’m about trying to do what I think is best for the franchise.”