Dallas Mavericks: Carmelo Anthony

Players have leverage in SF market

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
10:20
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Chandler ParsonsBill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons is a long shot because of the Rockets' intention to match any offer he receives.
One NBA front office executive compares free agency to watching frogs in a pond.

There are only so many lily pads for the frogs to hop onto. As those lily pads start getting claimed, the frogs tend to get a little more frantic, or at least more willing to negotiate deals that could be perceived as team friendly.

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Who is the most realistic option for the Mavs at small forward?

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Case in point: Monta Ellis, who settled for a lot less than his initial asking price last summer when the Dallas Mavericks were the lone lily pad left in the pond.

Could a similar scenario unfold in this summer’s market for small forwards? Don’t count on it. There are simply too many lily pads.

The Mavs are one of several teams who have ample space under the salary cap and a glaring need at small forward. Other teams on that list include the Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and the couple of teams competing for LeBron James, the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Several other teams hold cards because they own Bird rights or can match offers made to restricted free agents. That list includes the New York Knicks (Carmelo Anthony), Utah Jazz (Gordon Hayward), Houston Rockets (Chandler Parsons), Washington Wizards (Trevor Ariza) and Brooklyn Nets (Paul Pierce). And the Los Angeles Clippers are a contender determined to upgrade at small forward, via a sign-and-trade deal.

That’s almost half the league that’s looking for an upgrade at small forward or trying to keep their starter from last season. The Mavs consider only six small forwards to be Plan A or B options in this free-agency market.

(Read full post)

No harm in Mavs' holding pattern

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
11:07
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Why don’t the Mavericks just move on?

That’s a question I’m getting in various forms a lot on Twitter. The logic is that the Mavs are such long shots to land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony that they might as well shift their attention to other targets, making sure they don’t end up empty-handed after the first wave of free agency.

There are two good reasons that patience is the right path for the Mavs right now.

First, no matter how slim the chance is, it’d make no sense for the Mavs to walk away from talks with an in-his-prime superstar without being told no. The potential reward, particularly with James, is simply too high. The reality is that the Mavs are a star away from being a legitimate title contender, so they should run out every ground ball when the rare opportunities arise to try to get one of those guys.

Second, the market for small forwards is frozen until Anthony and James make their decisions anyway. For that matter, most of the role players on the Mavs’ radar are in a holding pattern, too.

Unless they’re blown away by an offer, it’d be bad business for Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza to agree to a deal before the big fish choose their ponds. The Mavs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are all in the same boat -- looking to upgrade at small forward and holding out hope for one of the superstars. If you’re a second-tier small forward in free agency, why get a deal done now when the market could be much bigger in a few days?

A common suggestion: Hurry up and sign restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to an offer sheet while the Houston Rockets are filled with Melo hopes? Here’s the problem with that: No offer sheet can become official until July 10 anyway. Unless Anthony drags his decision out a lot longer than anticipated, the Rockets won’t be rushed in deciding whether to exercise their right to match an offer to Parsons.

Parsons is still in play for the Mavs, but he’s a long shot because of the Rockets’ stated intention to keep him. Ariza and Deng are still possibilities.

None of that is likely to change by the time the superstar suspense stops.

Melo could help push Parsons to Mavs

July, 3, 2014
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Carmelo Anthony doesn't have to come to Dallas to help the Mavericks.

Just as long as Anthony relocates to the Lone Star State.

The Mavs realize that the only realistic way the Houston Rockets would decline their right to match an offer to restricted free agent Chandler Parsons is if they replace him in the starting lineup with a perennial All-Star small forward. So, as much as they'd love to win the Melo derby, the second-best scenario would be seeing him join stars Dwight Howard and James Harden in Houston.

Should Anthony sign with the Rockets, the Mavs would swoop in and attempt to sign Parsons to a lucrative offer sheet.

The Rockets' leftovers in that case would be a phenomenal fit in the Mavs. The 25-year-old Parsons isn't a lockdown defender by any stretch of the imagination, but he's a skilled 6-foot-9 small forward who is a crafty passer, can create off the dribble and knock down 3-pointers.

It'd be quite a coup to get a player like that as he enters his prime. It's probably only possible for the Mavs if they get an assist from Anthony.
DALLAS -- Maybe this math won't matter, but it's hard to consider it an encouraging sign that the Dallas Mavericks got less than half as much face time with Carmelo Anthony as the Houston Rockets and about a quarter as much as the Chicago Bulls.

But the Mavs knew all along that it was a long shot for them to talk Anthony into taking a less-than-max deal to come to Dallas.

Realizing their dark horse status in the Melo derby, the Dallas decision-makers have put a lot of thought into their Plan B options. They'll be prepared to pounce if they don't pull off the upset of signing Anthony.

The problem is it could be pretty slim pickings on that tier of small forwards in free agency.

Houston's Chandler Parsons and Utah's Gordon Hayward are fine young small forwards who would fit especially well offensively with their perimeter strokes and ability to create for themselves and teammates. Too bad they are restricted free agents whose teams have made it clear they intend to exercise their right to match any offers.

Maybe the Mavs call the bluff of the Rockets or Jazz, but that would mean they either pay more than the value point they placed on one of the players, or are left still looking after the three-day waiting period.

The Mavs would certainly have to pay a premium price to pry Trevor Ariza, a 3-point and defensive specialist coming off a career year, away from the Washington Wizards.

That leaves Luol Deng, a defensive stopper and 16-point-per-game career scorer who would arrive in Dallas without a reliable 3-point shot and with significant durability issues. He also doesn't want to take much of a pay cut from the $14.7 million salary he made last season, while the Mavs view his value in the high seven figures annually.

In this market, it's a good bet Deng would get his eight-digit salary. There are simply too many teams with salary-cap space that are searching for a starting small forward, with the Bulls (if they don't get Anthony), Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers among his other suitors.

The question the Dallas front office might have to ask itself: Would the Mavs be better off giving Deng a $12 million-per-year deal or attempting to build a roster with great depth?

Say they do the Deng deal. At that point, they probably have to choose between Devin Harris or Vince Carter with the $5 million or so of cap space they'd have left at that point, and attempt to fill a glaring need for bench scoring or point guard with their cap-room exception ($2.7 million per year for no more than two seasons).

If they go for depth, they could probably re-sign Shawn Marion as the starter, bring back Harris and Carter, have room for a high-upside project like Al-Farouq Aminu and still have the cap-room exception (D.J. Augustin?). With a roster like that, they could rely on coach Rick Carlisle to work his sideline wizardry, mixing and matching to get the most out of a rotation that would be 10 or 11 players deep.

In the depth scenario, the Mavs would also have several lower-priced pieces that could be assets in the trade market, while Deng would likely be difficult to move with a large, long-term deal.

The Mavs have put a lot of effort into Plan B options, but Plan C might be a better path.

Melo meeting lasts two hours

July, 2, 2014
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DALLAS -- The third stop on Carmelo Anthony's free-agency tour was the shortest so far, as his meeting with the Dallas Mavericks lasted a little longer than two hours.

Anthony spent approximately nine hours with the Chicago Bulls' contingent on Tuesday, including dinner after a session at the United Center and tour of the team's under-construction facilities.

The perennial All-Star forward spent almost six hours with the Houston Rockets' recruiting committee, starting at the Toyota Center and continuing at lunch.

The Mavs' meeting with Anthony, who will visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday before listening to the New York Knicks' pitch to re-sign him, occurred at owner Mark Cuban's mansion, a source said.

The Bulls and Rockets made public displays of their affection for Anthony, posting large, photoshopped signs outside their arenas of him wearing No. 7 in their respective uniforms.

There was no such pomp and circumstances from the Mavs. Dallas' meat-and-potatoes pitch emphasized the opportunity to contend immediately with elite coach Rick Carlisle, selfless star Dirk Nowitzki and a quality supporting cast featuring high-scoring guard Monta Ellis and defense-minded center Tyson Chandler. The Mavs also focused on the creativity and proven track record of the front office, stressing their plan to sustain a contender throughout Anthony's prime and ability to add at least one more major piece next summer.

The Mavs will wait on Anthony's decision, but sources told ESPN.com that Dallas is ready to move on quickly to Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons or Luol Deng if it doesn't land Anthony.


The Dallas Mavericks believe they have a legitimate shot of landing Carmelo Anthony and will hope for the best, but they better have alternate plans.

That’s why the Mavs were so aggressive in exploring the small-forward market in the first day of free agency.

LeBron James would obviously top the Mavs’ list if he looked to leave Miami, but the belief is he’ll be back with the Heat next season. The Mavs have registered interest in at least seven other small forwards who started last season.

The Plan B group consists of four players who are likely to sign contracts with starting salaries between $8 million and $12 million. The small forwards in the Plan C group are projected to land in the neighborhood of $3 million to $5 million. In either case, the Mavs would have cap room to make moves other than filling the starting spot at small forward.

PLAN B

[+] EnlargeChandler Parsons
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons is close to a perfect fit for the Mavs on the offensive end, but the Rockets can match any offer he receives.
Chandler Parsons: The 6-foot-9 Parsons can knock down 3s, create off the dribble, averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a 25-year-old last season and is pals with Dirk Nowitzki. He’s pretty close to a perfect fit, at least offensively.

Dallas, we have one huge problem: Parsons is a restricted free agent, meaning the Rockets have the right match any offer. If Anthony chooses the Rockets, maybe Houston declines to match a big offer for Parsons, but those two would be compatible in an offensive system that wants its power forwards to be perimeter threats.

It’s probable that Parsons will make eight figures next season after being a six-figure bargain as a second-round pick the last few seasons. The Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among the teams reported to have shown interest.

Gordon Hayward: The 24-year-old Hayward has a lot of similarities to Parsons – a young player who has a versatile offensive game (16.2 ppg, 5.2 apg last season) and is a restricted free agent. All indications coming out of Utah are that the Jazz plan on exercising their right to match any offer that Hayward receives.

But the Mavs might call the Jazz’s bluff. Hayward’s suitors reportedly include the Cleveland Cavaliers, Suns and Celtics, where he could reunite with college coach Brad Stevens.

Trevor Ariza: The 6-foot-8 Ariza is set to cash in after having a career year in a contract year at the age of 28. The Washington Wizards are determined to keep him their 3-and-D guy after Ariza averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds while defending the opponent’s best wing scorer all season, playing a key role in the franchise winning a playoff series for only the second time in three decades.

While most of the market at this position will wait for Anthony to make his decision, the Wizards are trying to lock up Ariza as soon as possible after giving center Marcin Gortat a five-year, $60 million deal to stay in Washington. Ariza’s other suitors include the Suns, Lakers, Heat, Jazz, Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers.

Luol Deng: There is a large difference between Deng’s asking price and the Mavs’ perceived value of him, but that was the case with Monta Ellis at this point last summer. The parties meeting somewhere in the middle is certainly possible if Deng’s other suitors don’t step up.

Deng would likely be the Mavs’ last choice out of this tier for two reasons. He’s a below-average 3-point shooter (32.9 percent for his career), which is particularly concerning for a team that has a subpar perimeter-shooting backcourt. Perhaps more importantly, there are significant concerns about his durability after he played heavy minutes for years in Chicago and has missed double-digit games in five of the last seven seasons.

The Bulls, Lakers, Heat, Clippers and Hawks are among the teams to express interest in the 6-foot-9 Deng, an outstanding defender who has averaged 16.0 points and 6.3 rebounds during his career.

PLAN C

[+] EnlargeShawn Marion and Rick Carlisle
Chuck Myers/MCT/Getty ImagesShawn Marion isn't likely to return to the Mavs unless it's in a starting role.
Shawn Marion: The Mavs aren’t going to get Marion, who played such a critical role on their 2011 title team, to take a discount deal after aggressively trying to replace him in the starting lineup.

Marion would be a great fit as retired Shane Battier’s replacement in Miami, and there’s a strong feeling that he ends up chasing another ring as part of King James’ supporting cast. It’s doubtful that Marion, the Mavs’ best defender during his five-year tenure and leading rebounder the last few seasons, returns to Dallas unless he’s a starter again.

Paul Pierce: At 36, he’s no longer one of the premier wing players in the league, but Pierce can still play. He averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets, who hope to keep him.

Doc Rivers, the coach of Pierce’s championship team in Boston, is attempting to convince the future Hall of Famer to join him in L.A. The Bulls, Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies have also put out feelers for Pierce.

Al-Farouq Aminu: He’s a freakishly athletic, 6-foot-9, 23-year-old former lottery pick project who would look much better coming off the bench than in the starting lineup for a playoff team. His poor perimeter shooting is a major concern, but Aminu has the tools to be a terrific defender and rebounder for a small forward and might be ready to take off in the right system.

The Mavs' five-pronged pitch to Melo

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
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Carmelo Anthony Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs have a definite plan when it comes to trying to woo Carmelo Anthony to Dallas.
DALLAS -- There will surely be some bells and whistles during Carmelo Anthony's visit with the Dallas Mavericks, such as entertainment elements and marketing plans.

You can count on money coming up in the conversation, too, with that discussion centering on just how close Mark Cuban can come to a max-contract offer.

But the Dallas decision-makers firmly believe Anthony has the purest intentions as he takes a free-agency tour that started Tuesday in Chicago, will make stops in Houston and Dallas on Wednesday, head west to Los Angeles for a Thursday visit with the Lakers and wrap up with the Knicks trying to talk him into returning to New York.

"There's no question he's entering the phase of his career where he wants to win," a source said, well aware that Anthony has advanced past the first round only twice in 11 NBA seasons after carrying Syracuse to a national title during his lone NCAA campaign.

That's why this will be mostly a meat-and-potatoes presentation. The Mavs' four-man committee of Cuban, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, coach Rick Carlisle and All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki will make a five-pronged pitch appealing to Anthony's burning desire to play for a contender.

[+] EnlargeCarlisle
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsRick Carlisle has few rivals in the coaching ranks when it comes to game-planning, a trait the Mavs hope will appeal to Carmelo Anthony.
1. Play for an elite coach: Carlisle joins Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra and Doc Rivers as the only active NBA championship coaches, and he has outwitted two of those men in recent playoff series.

Pop's Spurs won the series against the Mavs, but it was by far San Antonio's toughest step to the title, primarily because of Carlisle's game-planning brilliance. That, as well as the underdog Mavs' championship march in 2011, offers tangible evidence of the impact Carlisle can have on a playoff series.

"Everybody thought we were going to get crushed," Cuban said recently. "That allows us not to say, 'Hey, we played them the best,' but allows us to say, 'Look, when it comes to the playoffs in particular, Rick has got the skill set and we've got veteran guys who know how to implement offensive and defensive strategies that really give us a unique opportunity.' That's something that very few teams can say.

"If you look at other teams with cap room and then you just look at their coach and if they've made the playoffs, you look at how their playoff runs went, you're not looking at them and saying, 'Wow, that team really ... .' I don't want to throw anybody under the bus, but their coaches are not as good as Rick Carlisle."

Carlisle is also considered one of the NBA's most creative offensive minds. His ideas of how to help Anthony be more efficient should be welcomed by a 30-year-old who has had to work hard for most of his nearly 20,000 career points.

(Read full post)

Small forward tops the Dallas Mavericks’ summer shopping list.

Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Cleveland’s Luol Deng, Washington’s Trevor Ariza and Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce are among the small forwards that the Mavs registered interest during the opening hours of free agency.

All of those players are expected to have several suitors, and the Rockets have the right to match any offers for Parsons because of his status as a restricted free agent. Those small forwards are also fallback plans for the Mavs if they fail to successfully recruit one of the available superstars.

The Mavs have a meeting scheduled with Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday afternoon. They are one of five teams Anthony plans to visit.

The Mavs are also attempting to set up a meeting with LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul.

The Mavs remain interested in re-signing Shawn Marion, but they are aggressively trying to replace him in the starting lineup.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s first order of business in free agency was to meet point guard Devin Harris for dinner.

Well, unless he called Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter en route to the restaurant. There were also plans to contact Shawn Marion soon after free agency officially opened at 11:01 p.m. CT Monday night.

Devin Harris
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavericks hope to re-sign point guard Devin Harris, according to a team source.
Cuban and other members of the Dallas front office will reach out to the agents of dozens of other free agents late Monday and in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. These phone calls will be feelers, considering the Mavs hope to use their approximately $26 million in salary-cap space to sign Carmelo Anthony in addition to the certainty of re-signing Nowitzi to a to-be-negotiated hometown-discount deal.

The Mavs are scheduled to visit with Anthony on Wednesday afternoon in Dallas. They are third in the perennial All-Star forward’s lineup after the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets and before the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.

Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons is among the players in whom the Mavs registered interest, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported. Parsons is a restricted free agent, but Houston could decline to match an offer if it is successfully recruiting Anthony.

While the Mavs hope to keep all of their key free agents, it’s unlikely, particularly if they replace Marion as the starting small forward.

(Read full post)

Why Mavs make sense for Carmelo Anthony

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
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Drik Nowitzki and Carmelo AnthonyAP Photo/Jason DeCrowThe Mavs know Dirk Nowitzki would be the best player to ever be paired with Carmelo Anthony.
DALLAS -- How much is winning worth to Carmelo Anthony? How much does he value a legitimate chance to chase a championship?

The Mavericks, confident they can provide a title-pursuing opportunity immediately and for the duration of Anthony’s prime, intend to find out.

The Mavs know Dirk Nowitzki, coming off his 12th All-Star appearance, would be the best player to ever be paired with Anthony, whose teams have advanced past the first round only twice during his 11-year NBA career despite his consistently prolific production.

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Which team will Carmelo Anthony choose to sign with?

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With all due respect to George Karl, the Mavs firmly believe that Rick Carlisle would be Anthony's best coach. The Mavs’ front office will point to the 2011 title run and this season’s seven-game challenge of the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs as recent examples of Carlisle’s brilliance. They’ll surely mention Carlisle’s impact on Monta Ellis, who excelled in the Mavs’ flow offense after arriving in Dallas with a reputation as an inefficient, me-first gunner, harsh labels that often come out of Melo critics’ mouths, too.

The Mavs can make the case that a Monta-Melo-Dirk trio would be the NBA’s most explosive one-two-three offensive punch. They certainly will make the case that adding Anthony to Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler, his former New York Knicks teammate, would give the Mavs the best frontcourt in the league.

Oh, and that frontcourt could get much better next summer, when the Mavs plan to have the financial flexibility to pursue another big fish in free agency, such as Kevin Love, Marc Gasol or Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.

But it’s the Chandler trade that made the Mavs believe they could convince Anthony that Dallas is the best fit for him now.

“My feeling is that I’m a prospective free agent out there, we became a lot more attractive, because I don’t know many front lines that not only have that kind of punch in terms of inside-outside, but also two great guys, great teammates, guys that you love to go to war with, night in and night out,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “That with the fact that we can accommodate a max salary this year and next makes our future bright in the here and now. It also makes it bright in the future, next year. I think the future is bright here in Dallas.”

Yeah, about that max salary, Melo ...

As Mark Cuban clarified Saturday on 103.3 FM’s “ESPN Dallas GameDay,” the Mavs don’t plan on offering one of the available superstars a deal for the full max. It’s simple math, really. Dallas has about $26 million in cap space and needs to re-sign Nowitzki, whose hometown discount isn’t going to be steep enough to give Anthony a starting salary of $22.5 million.

Theoretically, the Mavs could move Brandan Wright and his $5 million salary in a cost-cutting deal and beg Nowitzki to take a bit less than the Tim Duncan discount to make max room for Melo, but that’s not the plan. The Mavs hope to convince Anthony that they present the best chance to win championships, which is probably pretty valuable to a man who has made more than $135 million but won only three playoff series during his NBA career.

Money aside, are the Mavs the best fit for Melo? It might take a little mud-slinging to convince him, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a shark like Cuban.

The Mavs’ case starts with Carlisle, who is clearly the most offensively creative coach among Anthony’s suitors. Would Kevin McHale, who is still searching for his first playoff series win on the bench, know how to keep James Harden, Dwight Howard and Anthony all happy? Do you trust a rookie head coach in Derek Fisher? Or the uncertainty of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Coach TBD?

Nowitzki is a dream teammate: a floor-spacing star willing and eager to hand over the keys to the franchise after he signs a team-friendly contract. How much is Harden willing to share the ball and spotlight? Will Derrick Rose overcome his unfortunate knee problems to be an All-NBA guard or end up as a max-salary albatross? (Hey, how did that work out with Amar'e Stoudemire?)

If Anthony wants to win now, his safest bet is the Mavs, whose front office also has a solid plan to sustain a contender around him throughout his prime and the recent track record that proves they’re capable of pulling it off.

Isn’t that worth a superstar with a nine-figure net worth sacrificing a few million dollars? Hey, have we mentioned that Texas has no state income tax?
In his self-deprecating style, Dirk Nowitzki jokes that premier free agents must not like him. After all, the Dallas Mavericks have failed to hook a big fish the last two summers.

The Mavs are ready to try, try again, with Nowitzki preparing to play a key role on the Dallas recruiting committee in the pursuit of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
AP Photo/Alan DiazThe Mavs have plenty of selling points to try to entice LeBron James.
Nowitzki has repeatedly said the Mavs “would love to have” Anthony, one of the league’s elite scorers. It’s obvious they would prefer James, a four-time MVP who led the Miami Heat to the Finals each of the last four years.

Dirk’s sales pitch to King James?

“C’mon, you can have the keys to the city,” Nowitzki said to reporters while at Steve Nash's charity soccer game in New York. “It’s all yours.”

If the Mavs can get a face-to-face meeting with James, as they are set to have with Anthony, Nowitzki would surely have much more to say.

The Mavs, who are much more optimistic about their odds of landing one of the superstar small forwards after pulling the trigger on Wednesday’s trade for Tyson Chandler, are prepared to pitch James and Anthony on the opportunity to play for what they believe would be the league’s elite frontcourt next season. Adding one of the league’s top three scorers to the Dirk/Monta Ellis duo would also give the Mavs the NBA’s most potent offensive trio.

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Coach Rick Carlisle’s presence on the Dallas bench is also one of the Mavs’ best assets as they attempt to sign a superstar. He is without question one of the league’s premier coaches, as James found out firsthand during the 2011 Finals, and Carlisle proved again when the eighth-seeded Mavs pushed the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Mavs will also sell the franchise’s championship culture and proven ability to sustain a contender, pointing to their 13 playoff trips in 14 seasons and recent run of 11 consecutive 50-win campaigns.

But the future is much more important than the past for free agents. That’s why the Mavs will pitch a plan that includes potentially adding an All-Star again next summer, when the Mavs will have ample cap space again and intend to pursue Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and/or Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.

That’s an awfully optimistic plan. The second step would be much more likely if the Mavs manage to finally reel in a big fish this summer, especially if it’s the biggest in the NBA waters.

"All the teams with cap room got to try [to sign James]," Nowitzki told reporters. "He's the best player in the league right now. If he's a free agent – which obviously doesn't happen very often that the best player in the league is a free agent – then you got to obviously go at it. I don't know what our chances are, but you at least have to try."

Dirk is offering the keys to the city. More importantly, the Mavs’ front office is offering a chance to compete for championships immediately and for years to come.

Free-agency preview: Power forwards

June, 26, 2014
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The Dallas Mavericks haven’t had a real backup power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki for years.

Shawn Marion has typically slid over to power forward over the last five years when Nowitzki rested. The Mavs would love to continue that type of rotation with LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, both of whom have significant experience playing power forward in small-ball lineups.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesPau Gasol could be an option for the Mavs if they can't lure LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
It’s also possible if the Mavs sign Luol Deng or bring back Marion. Maybe it’d work at times with Trevor Ariza, although he’s awfully slender to play power forward.

The Mavs certainly wouldn’t mind having a legitimate power forward with a reliable jumper to spell Nowitzki without requiring a change in offensive philosophy.

Some of those possibilities:

Pau Gasol: The Mavs believe the trade for Tyson Chandler increases their odds of reeling in one of the big fish, but sources told ESPNDallas.com that it did not eliminate their interest in Gasol.

Landing James or Anthony is the Mavs’ clear-cut priority, and there’d be no room left for Gasol if they were successful. However, the two-time champion with the Lakers could factor into the Mavs’ backup plans, in free agency and on the floor next season.

It’s unknown whether Gasol would be willing to come off the bench at the age of 34, but it’s feasible to project him playing about 28 minutes per game for the Mavs. The Mavs don’t want Nowitzki averaging more than 32 minutes, so Gasol could play 16 minutes per game at power forward. He’d likely get another dozen or so minutes at center, maybe more against certain matchups.

The way the Mavs’ rotation is structured, Gasol and Nowitzki could play some together against opposing second units, diminishing the concerns about their flaws as a defensive duo.

The Mavs would hope to get Gasol, who averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season, for about $8 million per year.

Channing Frye: Frye, who declined an option to make $6.8 million from the Phoenix Suns next season, could be a similar two-position fit in the Mavs’ rotation.

The 6-foot-11 Frye is a poor rebounder for his size (5.1 per game last season), but he’s one of the best stretch-shooting bigs in the league. He has a career 3-point percentage of 38.5, a fraction of a percentage better than Nowitzki.

At this point in his career, Frye launches more than half his field-goal attempts from 3-point range. The Mavs can use all the shooting they can get after giving up 3-point marksman Jose Calderon in the Chandler deal.

Marvin Williams: He never lived up to expectations as a No. 2 overall pick, but Williams is a decent rotation player who can be used at either forward position, averaging 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game last season. He could be an option at a relatively low salary.

Anthony Tolliver: He’s a little undersized for a power forward at 6-foot-8, but he’s a floor-spacer who might be available for the minimum. He shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range as a Charlotte reserve last season, shooting almost exclusively from long range. The 29-year-old journeyman had a season-high 22 points against the Mavs.

Boris Diaw: It’s unlikely he’d leave San Antonio after his career revival and the Spurs’ title run. If he looked for another home for some reason, his passing and shooting would fit well in Rick Carlisle’s flow system.
The Mavericks' decision-makers don't know how good their odds are of landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in free agency.

They are certain, however, that those odds got a heck of a lot better in the last few hours.

"It makes us real players for LeBron [or] Carmelo," a team source told ESPNDallas.com after completing the trade that brought center Tyson Chandler back to Dallas.

The Mavs will attempt to convince one of the perennial All-Star small forwards to join Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler in a frontcourt that they believe would be the best in the league.

Dallas has approximately $26.5 million in salary cap space before re-signing Nowitzki, who has long been committed to taking a major pay cut to allow the Mavs to add talent around him. Nowitzki has been expected to give Dallas a Tim Duncan-like discount ($10 million per year), but he might be willing to accept even less to make room for James or Anthony. The Mavs could also make other moves to create more cap space, if necessary.

With Chandler’s contract expiring after this season, the Mavs will be positioned again next summer to make another run at a superstar in free agency even if they are successful next season. The free-agency class of 2015 could include Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Mavs have failed to land a big fish the last couple of summers in free agency, but the front office is full of optimism again after adding more bait with Wednesday’s big deal.

Free-agency preview: Small forwards

June, 25, 2014
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Luol DengAP Photo/Mark DuncanLuol Deng is one of the few players in the league as defensively versatile as Shawn Marion.
The Dallas Mavericks hope to finally land a big fish in free agency.

They also firmly understand that they’re in a long line of teams trying to sign LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Put it this way: The Mavs had better odds of getting Deron Williams or Dwight Howard the last couple of offseasons than signing one of the superstars available this summer.

The Mavs are on a short list of teams that have the cap space to offer a full max contract to either of the available in-their-prime, future Hall of Fame small forwards, but several teams can maneuver to create room. And the superstars’ current teams can trump offers from anyone with contracts featuring an extra year and more than $30 million. Plus, don’t assume that the Mavs would be willing to give Anthony a full max offer with a starting salary of more than $22 million.

The Dallas front office isn’t approaching this summer with a big fish-or-bust mentality. They’ll have strong Plans B, C, D, etc. in place, particularly at small forward.

One of those is re-signing Shawn Marion, the Mavs’ best defender and rebounder over the last five seasons and a critical piece of the 2011 championship puzzle. There is strong mutual interest in Marion’s return, although it is uncertain whether the 36-year-old “Matrix” would be enthusiastic about staying in Dallas if the Mavs envision him as a reserve.

The Mavs are optimistic that they’ll re-sign sixth man Vince Carter, who plays the majority of his minutes at small forward.

A look at some of the Mavs’ other small forward options in free agency:

Luol Deng: There’s a lot to like about the 6-foot-8, 29-year-old Deng. He’s one of the few players in this league as defensively versatile as Marion, but he’s seven years younger and a much more productive offensive player at this point of their careers.

As Rick Carlisle said when Deng came to Dallas with the Cavs last season, any coach would love to have Deng on their roster due to his toughness, intelligence and talent.

(Read full post)

Nowitzki gives 'State of the Mavs' address

June, 18, 2014
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Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki joined ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “The Afternoon Show with Tim Cowlishaw and Matt Mosley” on Tuesday and discussed a variety of topics.

Here are some highlights:

Objects are closer than they appear

The San Antonio Spurs started to figure out what the Mavs wanted to do as their first-round series progressed. A very valid argument can be made that the Mavs were the Spurs’ toughest foe during their championship run in the playoffs.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki and the Mavs gave the Spurs all they could handle in the playoffs.
“Maybe we’ll take some of the credit that we got them hot,” Nowitzki said. “We got them playing well. It was a good series, but Game 7 was a little disappointing.”

The Mavs probably shouldn’t expect a letter of thanks from the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat in the near future, but Nowitzki thinks that the series showed there’s a foundation to build off of going forward, as they try to become legitimate contenders in the West.

“I think we feel that we’re not that far off,” Nowitzki said. “I feel like that with Jose [Calderon] and [Monta] Ellis, who had a phenomenal year for us, they really stabilized our backcourt. Moving away from the year where we had eight one-year deals, we moved away from that and brought some stability in. Those guys were great running the show for us.

“You can always get better. No argument there. It’s a big summer again for us, but I really like the stuff that we did.”

Hitting the ground running

The offseason started the first full week of May, but Nowitzki’s time for rest is essentially over, meaning his work toward next season already has begun. He’s using the past as a learning experience in regard to his offseason conditioning regimen.

“I learned pretty much the hard way that after we won the championship that when you’re older that you can’t do anything for a month or two months and then just start up, because then it takes you a good two or three months to fully get back to 100 percent in shape,” Nowitzki said. “I learned that the hard way.

“Now, what I do is go in about three or four times a week, just get a little workout in, cardio in, some lifting in. I haven’t shot the ball since Game 7. You just have to keep a certain level of fitness in so by the time I do start working out with [mentor Holger Geschwindner] in Germany, probably July or August, that the entry won't be hard at all."

It hasn’t been all work and no play for Nowitzki, though. He took about a week off after the Mavs were eliminated from the playoffs and found a nice beach. With a vacation behind him, he’s spent nearly a month getting back into a groove as he heads toward ramping up his workouts to include actual basketball activities with Geschwindner.

“It’ll be pretty smooth the first week. The shooting will be a little off. But with the fitness there, the shooting will come back pretty quick," he said. "If you’re completely out of shape and start shooting, then everything is really ugly and it takes forever.

“I’ve just been keeping a certain fitness level going, and I feel good doing it.”

The negotiation

Speaking of Geschwindner, he’ll be in town, likely in his trademark leather jacket, to help negotiate Nowitzki’s next deal with owner Mark Cuban. Based on past results, Geschwindner has done a great job getting a lot of money for his pupil. Nowitzki also knows Cuban has had his back throughout his career as part of the franchise.

“We all know that Cuban took care of me for a long time. He was loyal to me,” Nowitzki said. “This deal is not going to be about squeezing out the last dollar. This is about being respected as a player that I still am, and that’s about it. There’s nothing more that we’re trying to squeeze out. We’ll just have to wait and see what the years and the final number are. I’m sure it’ll be very respectable for both sides.”

With all of that in mind and his contract being a domino that must fall during Dallas’ free-agency process, is it imperative to get a deal done in a timely manner?

“We’ll get together pretty quick,” Nowitzki continued. “Cuban knows I don’t want to go anywhere, and he doesn’t want me to go anywhere. We’re guessing that’s going to be over pretty quick and we can focus on making this franchise even better. You can always get more athletic, [a] defender, more shooting in. You can always get a big guy that can finish. I think there’s room to improve in a lot of areas.

“I’m looking to get my deal done pretty quickly and look forward to making this franchise even better.”

Melo-drama

Nowitzki has started his sales pitch to expected free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony. Nowitzki already has stated he would love to have Anthony on board. Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Mavs, Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets are teams Anthony would consider as destinations, should he hit the open market.

“I was actually surprised that the Mavericks are one of [the teams he’d consider],” Nowitzki said. “I think if a great player is looking to switch organizations, you’ve got to have all eyes and ears open. We’re always looking to get better. You’ve obviously got to take a hard look at a great player who is, offensively, a top three or four player in this league. He can score with the best of them.

“If that’s really an option for him, the Mavericks definitely have to take a hard look and see if that’s something that makes sense.”

Adding Anthony to the dynamic duo of Nowitzki and Ellis would cause some headaches for the opposition on the offensive end of the floor. Honestly, it’s likely going to add some headaches for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle in terms of defense, but that’s a problem for another day. The combination of Nowitzki and Ellis was lethal. The combination of Nowitzki and Anthony could be even more dangerous. Nowitzki isn’t concerned about the idea of having so many scorers on the floor at the same time with only one basketball.

“A lot has been made of if I can play with him or whatever,” Nowitzki said. “I can play with anybody in this league. I’ve showed that over my 16 years. I can adjust to pretty much just anyone. I don’t think that should be a big problem. If he’s willing to come here, I think Mark and [president of basketball operations] Donnie [Nelson] take a hard look at it.”

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9