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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Inside Skinny: Loyalty may not be possible

By Jeff "Skin" Wade

As I'm sitting here watching Shawn Marion and J.J. Barea get their shine on "Lopez Tonight," it seems that basking in the glorious warmth of this championship run is a feeling that nobody around here wants to abandon. But it will will eventually come to an end. And the reality of the tough decisions every front office faces in sports will bring some storm clouds to this seemingly endless parade.

As the Dallas Mavericks try and figure out if they truly do want to bring this team back to make a run at defending their crown with the full posse, they have some tough realities with which to deal.

They're on the book for $60 million next year before re-signing Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Barea (not to mention Peja Stojakovic or Brain Cardinal, who are probable minimum veteran guys). Without a new CBA in place, we're just in speculation mode right now. But if the owners stand firm and the idea of working toward a hard cap is a part of the NBA's new financial framework, you can see how difficult it will be for Dallas to move forward with the same cast.

Keeping Chandler is a must and you'd think Barea is too, but can you afford to pay him if someone offers him average NBA salary -- basically mid-level exception money in the neighborhood of $5 million or so a year? Can this team afford for those two guys alone to eat up $15-$17 million a year of hard cap space?

One popular idea folks like to kick around is an "amnesty clause" similar to the one in the last CBA that allows teams to remove a contract off of their books in order to avoid luxury-tax penalties, though they would still owe the player that money. But what if this version actually freed up some cap space as well? If the Mavs truly want to be players in the free-agency class of 2012 when Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard become available, then wouldn't they have to use that clause on a player in order to be in the mix for those guys?

Does that mean parting ways with a guy like Shawn Marion, who just went on an epic playoff run that included locking down Kobe, KD and King James? How do you sell that to your team and the fan base?

In a tough new landscape that may include a hard cap, will a team be able to pay Marion $9 million dollars in the 2013-14 season when he's 35? Would the Mavericks be willing to part ways with him just for the flexibility to be able to get one of those big-name guys 12 months from now?

Those are tough decisions. Under the old system, having Trix around is the ultimate no-brainer. The question: Just how different will the new system be? It's strange to think about all that with the "Lopez Tonight" party scene starring Barea and Trix unfolding on my TV.

If it's a simple question of loyalty, those dudes will be Mavericks teammates for years to come. But the new CBA simply may not allow it.