I’m skipping all the questions about the trade deadline this week.
I simply don’t see the Mavs pulling off a deal of any significance. Maybe they surprise me, but all I could offer at this point is speculation, and I’ve already done plenty of that.
Plus, the Mavs have won five in a row for the first time in two years. Let’s talk about a team that’s given some reason for optimism.
Of the top 4 seeds in the West (OKC, SA, POR, and LAC) which playoff matchup would be the best for the Mavs? -- Michael (Aubrey)
We can include the Rockets in this mix, too, and from a media standpoint, that would be the most interesting series. You know Mark Cuban would have some interesting things to say about Dwight Howard and he might just be able to get in the mentally fragile big man’s head.
The Mavs split the season series with the Rockets, but it’s certainly worth noting that Houston didn’t have James Harden in one of their losses.
We know the Mavs want no part of the Thunder or Spurs, two teams that have dominated Dallas since the lockout.
If I had to pick a team based on the Mavs’ chances to advance, I’d go with the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, I’m well aware that the Blazers blew out the Mavs during their last stop in Dallas, but the Mavs won at the buzzer in Portland. Really, it’s about styles. Portland is also a poor defensive team. I’d give the Mavs at least a puncher’s chance to win a series that would be a bunch of wild West shootouts.
What do you think of the Mavs' chances to climb to the fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference? -- TSC_HookEm on Twitter
Maybe sixth. And that’s much more optimistic than I was a week ago. That has as much to do with the Golden State Warriors’ struggles as it does the Mavs taking advantage of a soft stretch of schedule. I thought the Warriors would be fighting for home-court advantage in the first round, but for whatever reasons, they haven’t been nearly as good offensively as I anticipated.
That gives the Mavs and Suns a shot at the sixth seed. I can’t see them catching the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Clippers, especially after the Clippers kept the ship sailing while Chris Paul was sidelined.
Harris has been a big boost, but he’s been the third best player on the bench during this winning streak. Vince Carter and Brandan Wright have been outstanding. In fact, they have the best plus-minuses on the team over the last five games. Harris helps them by giving the bench a proven, versatile guard.
Nowitzki’s dominance makes life easier for everybody offensively, but he’s been playing at an All-Star level all season, save for the occasional off night. When Dalembert plays with the kind of energy and intensity he has recently, the Mavs are a different team, as anyone in that locker room will tell you.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that none of the teams the Mavs have beaten during this streak would be in the playoffs if the season ended now, and only Memphis has a winning record. But the Mavs aren’t just squeaking by bad teams. They’re dominating inferior competition.
I'm fascinated by Holger Geschwindner. Is it normal for an NBA player to get instruction from an outside coach like that, especially during the season? Do the Mavs pay him? Does he train any other players besides Dirk? -- Barrett (Dallas)
Dirk’s relationship with Geshwindner, his mentor since his teenage years, is definitely unique. Other NBA players occasionally work with outside coaches or trainers during the season, such as Dwyane Wade with Tim Grover, but I’m not aware of any who stick to a routine like Nowitzki and Geschwindner.
That arrangement bothered Avery Johnson when he was coaching the Mavs. The Avery-Dirk relationship was basically ruined when Holger got banned from riding the Mavs’ private jet. Rick Carlisle wisely has been welcoming to the man who helped Dirk transform from a gangly teenager to one of the elite players in NBA history.
Nowitzki, not the Mavs, pays Geschwindner, who also serves as Dirk’s quasi-agent. Geschwindner worked a little bit with Rodrigue Beaubois -- yeah, that didn’t work out so well -- but Nowitzki is his sole NBA client, if that’s an appropriate term for their relationship.
Do you think Gal Mekel could benefit from spending time in the D-league? -- Elad (Israel)
Absolutely. It sounds like Mekel, who underwent surgery to repair in his right knee last month, will join the Texas Legends when he’s ready to start practicing and playing again. That’s smart. Barring injury, there’s no room for him in the Mavs’ rotation right now. He’d be much better off getting a lot of minutes running an offense in the D-League than just sitting and watching in the NBA.
Will the Mavs ever be able to rebuild through the draft? I understand the mid-late pick every year, but they have not found a single solid rotation player minus Josh Howard (2003), or maybe Jae Crowder (2012). Stop teasing us with the combo guards ... -- Paul (Harrisburg, Pa.)
Mark Cuban would point out that the Mavs benefited from giving up three first-round picks in the Jason Kidd deal, but it’s ridiculous that they haven’t had a draft pick get another contract after his rookie deal since Howard. Think about that. Not one pick who was good enough to even get a minimum deal from the Mavs or another team after their rookie deal was done.
Crowder should end that streak, but at some point, the Mavs have to find starter-quality talent in the draft. Their draft positioning has made that difficult, but the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers are examples of franchises that have had success finding talent in the mid- to late first round.
One thing that keeps coming up when people talk about next summer is, that Dirk is gonna “take a significant paycut.” What does “significant” really mean in this case? Are we talking veterans-minimum? Seven figures? Or low eight figures? Or does it depend on how much the Mavs are gonna spend on other free agents? -- Luca (Berlin, Germany)
Quite an international flavor to this week’s mailbag. You’re not going to get Nowitzki to talk contract numbers now, but my gut feeling is that his salary will depend at least partially on how much success the Mavs have recruiting other free agents.
Nowitzki is making $22.7 million this year, and I’d be stunned if that figure isn’t at least slashed in half. The circumstances would probably have to be pretty special to get him to take a seven-figure salary -- much less the minimum -- but I don’t see Dirk letting money stand in the way of him having a legitimate chance of competing for another championship. He’s made more than $200 million in his NBA career. It’s an understatement to say that getting another championship ring weighs on his mind much more than padding his bank account.