Dallas Mavericks: Dallas Mavericks
That comes straight from owner Mark Cuban, who offered an emphatic “no” when asked whether the Mavs would look to move Felton, who was acquired along with center Tyson Chandler in last month’s six-player trade with the New York Knicks.
“We like him and think he will have a great year,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com via the Cyber Dust messaging app. “Do quote me on that.”
The Mavs envision Nelson, Felton and Devin Harris all getting significant playing time at point guard and some minutes at shooting guard behind Monta Ellis, as well.
Nobody, least of all Felton, denies that the nine-year veteran point guard is coming off a dreadful season in New York. Felton averaged a career-low 9.7 points and a near-career-low 5.6 assists for a disappointing Knicks team that failed to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference.
Felton, who has averaged 13.1 points and 6.5 assists during his career, dealt with injury issues (a groin strain) and off-court problems (a divorce and arrest on gun charges) last season. He’s healthy now and hungry to prove himself again.
“Just to show everybody that I’ve still got it, I still can play,” Felton said on a recent conference call with Dallas reporters. “I still can play the game at this level. I still play as an elite point guard at this level. That’s just all.
“When you come off a season like I had last year, there’s always a point where you’ve got to prove yourself coming back the next season. And trust me, I look forward to it.”
So do the Mavs, Cuban insists.
Dallas doesn’t have a backup for Dirk Nowitzki.Shawn Marion to power forward when the face of the franchise rested. The odds of Marion returning to Dallas are awfully slim at this point, but Chandler Parsons will play some power forward. Mavs officials have also mentioned that Brandan Wright will play more power forward than he has in the past few years.
Still, it’d be ideal to have a power forward with perimeter-shooting ability on the bench, giving the Mavs a backup for Nowitzki who wouldn’t force fundamental changes to the offense when he’s on the floor. That’s why a healthy Lewis would have been a good fit for the veteran’s minimum.
Some potential minimum-priced free agents who might be able to fill that role:
Charlie Villanueva: He was a disaster in Detroit after signing a five-year, $38 million contract, playing only 20 games in the final year of the deal last season. Maybe he’d benefit from a change of scenery. He’s 6-foot-11, 232 pounds, turns 30 next month and has career averages of 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He shot a career-best 38.7 percent from 3-point range in 2010-11, his last relatively productive season.
Earl Clark: The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Clark has played for five teams since the Phoenix Suns selected him with the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft. His best season came as a part-time starter for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13, when he averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game. His career shooting percentages (40.4 from the floor, 33.1 from 3-point range) aren’t exactly appealing.
Antawn Jamison: It’s been more than a decade since Jamison’s one-season stint in Dallas, when he earned the Sixth Man of the Year award. At 38, Jamison might not have any gas left in the tank. He averaged only 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 22 games last season for the Los Angeles Clippers before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks before the deadline. The Hawks waived him and Jamison didn’t get a job the rest of the season.
Al Harrington: At 34, the 6-foot-9 Harrington might be ready to make the transition to coaching after 16 seasons in the league. A career 35.2 percent 3-point shooter, Harrington averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game for the Washington Wizards last season, playing in only 34 games.
“We’re talking to a couple of players, but it’s one of those things that if we don’t get the right player, we’ll just hold it so that during the season when a player gets cut, we’ll have that opportunity to offer,” Cuban said during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Fitzsimmons and Friedo.”
There has been mutual interest between the Mavs and guard Mo Williams throughout the free-agency period. However, Williams has offers for more than the $2.7 million salary the Mavs can offer, sources said.
A source also told ESPNDallas.com recently that Williams wasn’t the Mavs’ top target for their $2.7 million exception, declining to elaborate on the player who is a higher priority. (Jameer Nelson?)
If the Mavs opt not to use the exception this summer, they’d be positioned to outbid many teams for veteran players who receive midseason buyouts. That is how the Mavs acquired swingman Corey Brewer during the 2011 title season.
It’s a legitimate question, just like it was four years ago. The Mavs hope the evidence to the contrary is just as conclusive as it was during Chandler’s first stint in Dallas.
During his last season in New York, Chandler didn’t really resemble the center who was such a critical piece to the 2011 Mavs’ championship puzzle, much less the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year or 2013 All-Star. His production in an injury-plagued season (averages of 8.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in only 55 games) was his worst since his lone season in Charlotte, just before the Mavs acquired Chandler in a salary-dump deal.
Yet Chandler, who turns 32 in October, has no doubt he can be the big man Mavs fans remember from four seasons ago. He’s physically healthy -- and hopes to stay that way with the help of the Mavs’ outstanding medical staff -- and mentally rejuvenated after the dysfunctional Knicks traded him back to Dallas.
“I think I can be better.” Chandler said during his conference call with Dallas reporters last month. “I finished the season healthy, so this summer I was able to start earlier. I took a couple of weeks off and then I already started getting back in the gym and improving things. I want to get back to thinking and moving the way I moved. I started correcting things mentally and physically. I was already looking forward to this summer because I felt like there was so many things I could improve on.
“Then once I started in the gym, I’ve already seen in the six weeks or two months I’ve been working out so much improvement already that I’m truly excited. When this happened and I know I’m putting myself in a situation again to really have a shot at making a run, it just gives me more to work on and more excitement and more drive.”
"It's been a long time coming, but it's a blessing at the same time," Griffin said. "I'm just happy to be part of a team that wants me."
The 6-foot-8, 194-pound Griffin averaged 9.8 points in 19.3 minutes during four games with the Mavs’ team in the Las Vegas Summer League. He had several highlight-worthy slam dunks during the summer league.
Griffin has played professionally in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Italy in addition to spending the 2013 preseason with the Miami Heat. If he does not make the Dallas roster, Griffin’s D-League rights will be owned by the Mavs affiliate Texas Legends.
"It's definitely not over," Griffin said of his dream of playing in the NBA. "I've got to prove myself to the team and the organization."
The Mavs still have their $2.7 million cap-room exception and a minimum-salary slot available to fill out their roster.
Bryan Gutierrez contributed to this report.
The “Merry Minimums,” as the Mavs’ brass often refers to the minimum-salary veterans that fill out the roster, included significant contributors Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair last season.
The Mavs filled three of their minimum slots this summer with players who should at least factor into Rick Carlisle’s rotation, if not play every night. Swingman Richard Jefferson, small forward Rashard Lewis and center Greg Smith are all good bang-for-buck additions.
A look at how the three new members of the Merry Minimums can help the Mavs:
Vince Carter and Jose Calderon. The 34-year-old made 40.9 percent of his long-distance attempts for the Utah Jazz last season, the third time in four years that he shot better than 40 percent from 3. He averaged 10.1 points in 27 minutes per game as a starter for the Jazz, but the Mavs won’t ask nearly that much from him.
Lewis: At 34, Lewis hardly resembles the scoring threat the Mavs tried to steal from Seattle long ago. The two-time All-Star is a role player now who has the experience of playing in three NBA Finals, including the last two seasons with the Miami Heat. “We’re always looking for veteran players who are pros and know how to win playoff games,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He definitely fits that mold.” Lewis also fits the mold of a stretch 4, allowing the Mavs the luxury of having a legitimate backup for Dirk Nowitzki that doesn’t require completely changing the offensive scheme. The 6-foot-10 Lewis is a career 38.6 percent 3-point shooter and a quality defender, especially in pick-and-roll and isolation situations.
Smith: The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder, who was sent to Dallas in a salary-dump deal from Chicago, will replace Blair as the Mavs’ bargain-priced banger. “Our front line really needs a DeJuan-type presence,” Nelson said. “[Smith] is a thick-body rebounder and enforcer.” Smith, 23, had season-ending knee surgery in February, which the Mavs anticipate will be a “maintenance issue” this season. But there is hope that Smith can get back to his form from 2012-13, when he averaged 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game for the Houston Rockets.
However, a source said that there is one target for the $2.7 million slot who the Mavs have higher on their board than Williams.
Who is that target? Mum is the word from the Mavs.
Here are a few educated guesses, none of which Mavs sources would independently confirm or deny:
Evan Turner: This would be an awfully low price for a player four years removed from being the second overall pick in the draft, but Turner certainly didn’t help his stock after a midseason trade to the Indiana Pacers, averaging only 3.3 points as a bit player during the playoffs. A short-term deal in Dallas might allow Turner to showcase his skills as a sixth man and give the Mavs a high-upside replacement for Vince Carter with scoring and ball-handling ability. The 6-foot-7 Turner averaged 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as a starter for the 34-48 76ers in 2012-13.
Jordan Crawford: He’s a 25-year-old gunner who has bounced around the league, already playing for four teams. The 6-foot-4 Crawford, who can only play shooting guard, is a streaky shooter who has averaged 12.2 points per game during his career, hitting only 40.5 percent of his field-goal attempts and 30.6 from long range. But his last two games against the Mavs might have left a pretty good impression. He had a pair of 19-point performances in Warriors wins over Dallas in March and April, going 15-of-22 from the floor in those two games.
Jameer Nelson: Nelson, who spent his entire 10-year career with the Orlando Magic before the rebuilding team recently released him, might be the best point guard on the roster if he signed with the Mavs. He averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 assists last seasons, numbers pretty similar to his career stats, and he is a better spot-up 3-point shooter than Raymond Felton or Devin Harris. His 44 games of playoff experience could also be attractive to the Mavs. Then again, a point guard with his credentials might be able to get significantly more than $2.7 million.
2014-15 salary: $7,974,482
2015-16 salary: $8,333,334
2016-17 salary: $8,692,184
The three-year, $25 million contract includes a player option for the third season.
Nowitzki will be the fourth-highest paid player on the Mavs’ roster this season behind Tyson Chandler ($14,846,888), Chandler Parsons ($14,700,000) and Monta Ellis ($8,360,000).
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle spent time with Johnson after "training camp" practices in Dallas to work on his 3-point shot.
Johnson had 19 total attempts from long range in his 125-game stint with the Atlanta Hawks from 2011 to 2013. The Mavs clearly see something in the 30-year-old forward. But the results of the work in the first two games in Las Vegas weren’t great, as he went 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
The persistence paid off in the team's final preliminary game of the summer league, however, and Johnson finished 2-for-4 from 3 in a win over the Toronto Raptors.
"Practice makes perfect," he said.
Dallas certainly will look to see if his strong finish in shooting in the preliminary round can translate into the summer league playoffs. The Mavs will stay the course with the veteran forward and continue to let him shoot those perimeter shots.
"We're going to stay positive with him," said Mavs summer league coach Kaleb Canales. "They're open looks and good looks in our system. We want him to shoot [3-point baskets] and shoot them with confidence. He knocked them down [on Sunday], and we're going to keep encouraging him to shoot that shot."
Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said before the team left Las Vegas that Johnson was "more than just a summer league guy" for his team. Based on that statement and Carlisle's time investment, Johnson could be in the process of being groomed for a roster spot -- groomed with a very specific skill added to the arsenal, that is.
Johnson is an undersized low-post player in a similar vein to DeJuan Blair. Such players are brought in the game to change the flow of the game and create constructive chaos. It's intriguing to see the Mavs trying to develop his shooting range, when he's known more as an aggressive player who gets in the middle of things.
"I'm still that same dude," Johnson said, flashing a smile that showed off his six-tooth gold-and-diamond grill. "I'm still that dude, but I'm expanding my game."
While they are trying to add a new dimension to his offensive game, the Mavs also are trying to ensure Johnson maintains the assertive identity he's known for on the defensive end of the floor and when he attacks the glass. In maintaining his style and spreading out the floor, the staff hopes to bring a different dynamic to Johnson's game altogether.
Showing he is coachable in the development of a perimeter shot could go a long way in extending Johnson's career. That's what the Mavs are envisioning with this assignment for Johnson.
"We've talked about it as a staff in terms of what we want him to specifically do this summer," Canales said. "He's doing a good job with that. We're going to keep getting in the gym with him and keep trying develop that shot for him, which I think will be a good weapon for him going forward."
If persistence and practice pay off for Johnson, he'll be able to continue his dream of playing in the NBA -- whether it’s for the Mavs or elsewhere.
“It’ll be amazing to play with him,” Parsons said on a conference call with Dallas reporters.
Parsons, the 25-year-old, multi-skilled small forward, intends to take full advantage of the opportunity. Parsons was a captain in Houston last season and plans to take on significant leadership role in Dallas, but there’s no doubt he’ll be in line behind the big German and looks forward to following and learning from Nowitzki.
As a former second-round pick who had to prove he was worth a roster spot, much less a starting job, Parsons prides himself on being an extremely hard worker. He can learn to work smarter by watching Nowitzki and picking the future Hall of Famer’s brain.
“Everything he does, I’m going to be a sponge and absorb everything,” Parsons said. “I look forward to getting into the gym with him, getting there early and getting shots up with him. It’s not often that you get to play with one of the greatest of all time, so I’m looking forward to absorbing any info I can.”
Nowitzki and Parsons have developed a friendship over the last few years, with Parsons playing in Nowitzki’s charity baseball game a couple of times. When they go out to dinner next season, Parsons should probably pick up the checks, considering Nowitzki’s drastic hometown-discount deal made it possibly for the Mavs to bid aggressively and sign the restricted free agent to a three-year, $46 million deal.
Of course, Nowitzki didn’t accept a three-year, $25 million deal to make room on the roster for his friends. He did it because he values the Mavs having a chance to contend more than money at this point in his career.
“That just shows what kind of guy he is,” Parsons said. “Dirk is a true professional. He’s so loyal to Dallas and this organization. Those are the types of guys you want in the locker room and the types of guys you want to play with.”
It’s also the type of guy that Parsons can learn a lot from.
The Houston Rockets, his former team, weren’t willing to financially commit to Parsons as the third foundation piece on their roster. That bothers Parsons, 25, but he’s thrilled the Mavs are betting he will blossom in Dallas.
“A bigger role and more leadership in Dallas is really what I wanted and what I felt was best for me at this point in my career,” Parsons said Tuesday evening on a conference call with Dallas reporters. “I thought this was the perfect place for me to do it. With the current guys that they have here and the system that [Coach Rick Carlisle] has, I just think it’ll be perfect for the style of play that I have.
“I have nothing but love for Houston, but at the same time, I’m definitely excited for a bigger role in Dallas and to be that guy on the team who can hopefully be here for a long time and be a big building block going forward.”
Parsons didn’t back off his comments to Yahoo! Sports about feeling “offended” that the Rockets, who had the right to match the offer to their restricted free agent, did not consider Parsons worth the $46 million price if it meant sacrificing Houston’s flexibility to pursue another star. However, Parsons said he didn’t mean to sound “ungrateful or disrespected in any way.”
“I hope I didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings, and I hope there’s no hard feelings there, because I had a great time in Houston. I created a lot of memories there and have nothing but love and respect for the organization, the coaching staff and my teammates,” Parsons said. “But it’s just offensive when they’re publicly saying they don’t have a third star and they’re going after a third star when I was right there in front of them.”
Parsons said the Rockets’ front office “really did me a solid” by declining the team option to pay him $965,000 for the final season of his rookie contract. That made Parsons a restricted free agent this summer instead of an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
Houston expected to match any offer for Parsons, but the Rockets didn’t anticipate him getting a near-max contract. The Rockets still intended to match keep Parsons, but Houston’s plans changed after they failed to sign All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, a development that surprised the franchise.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey has said he had doubts the Rockets could contend for a title with Parsons locked into an “untradable” contract.
The Dallas decision-makers did what they deemed necessary to acquire an ascending talent. Parsons has increased his scoring, rebounding and assist totals each season he has been in the league. He averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists for a 54-win Houston team last season that got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The Mavs paid a premium rate for Parsons’ promise, aggressively recruiting an impact player whose arrow is going up. The Dallas brass expects Parsons to flourish as a point-forward type in their flow offense and sees ample room for further growth in his game.
Parsons shares those visions, to say the least.
“I’m a very confident guy,” Parsons said. “That’s the big reason why I wanted to come to Dallas, because they do view me as that guy.”
The answer is probably priceless.
This wasn’t just about Dirk’s desire to win. If that’s all that mattered, he’d be headed to Houston. The Rockets would have loved nothing more than to put the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history on the floor with shooting guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard. The Rockets would have kept Chandler Parsons in that case and featured the best starting five in the NBA.
Nowitzki, however, is too loyal to consider leaving the only NBA home he’s ever known. He desperately wants to contend for another championship, but departing Dallas to do it was never an option he considered.
Maybe it’d be different if there hadn't been a championship parade in downtown Dallas a few summers ago. If Nowitzki still didn’t own a championship ring, the thought of a Karl Malone-like, late-career jump to a contender would surely have been tempting.
But, with a Finals MVP trophy on his mantel, Nowitzki can comfortably continue his longtime plan to be a one-team man.
The choice Nowitzki made more than a year ago, when he publicly committed to taking a Tim Duncan-like discount to stay in Dallas when his contract expired this summer, was to sacrifice a small fortune to maximize the Mavs’ chances of contending for a championship during his golden years.
It’s not like Mark Cuban had a tough time negotiating with Nowitzki, who has never had an agent. At this point in his career, Nowitzki is essentially an assistant general manager, so it was just a matter of figuring out how massive his pay cut needed to be to allow the Mavs to fill their needs.
This is an unprecedented hometown discount, coming in at $5 million less than Duncan’s deal over the course of his contract. Nowitzki, who took $16 million under max on his previous contract, gave the Mavs enough salary cap wiggle room to overpay Parsons and re-sign Devin Harris after Dallas traded for Tyson Chandler.
The Dirk discount also guarantees that the Mavs will be major players in next summer’s free agency shopping as well. It also might plant seeds of sacrifice in the mind of Monta Ellis, who can opt out of his three-year, $25 million contract next summer or wait a year to be paid market value by the Mavs.
Clearly, Nowitzki is never going to have to plead poverty after making more than $200 million during his career, but he’s gone above and beyond with his loyalty and generosity to Dallas. That is true as the face of the franchise and a community man, as anyone who saw him grant every autograph request long after the lights were out at his sold-out charity baseball game last month can attest.
Nowitzki has two goals for the rest of his career: Retire as a Maverick and win another championship, in that order of importance. The money doesn’t matter that much.
First, the Rockets exposed Parsons to restricted free agency, allowing the small forward to test the market instead of exercising the team option to pay him six figures in the final season of his rookie contract. That move, the biggest mistake of the NBA offseason, ultimately resulted in Parsons getting a 1,500 percent raise from the Dallas Mavericks.
Morey’s message got through to Parsons loud and clear: The Rockets don’t consider him to be good enough to be the third-best player on a championship contender. The Rockets would rather have hope of landing a proven superstar such as Rajon Rondo or Kevin Love than Parsons clogging their salary cap.
That’s why the Rockets declined their right to match the offer from the Mavs, who admittedly bid a bit higher than Parsons’ market value to maximize their chances of getting a 25-year-old small forward who fits so well in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow offense.
The Mavs are betting that Parsons will keep getting better after averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for a 54-win, first-round-exiting team last season. He has improved in each of those categories in each of his three NBA seasons after suffering the indignity of slipping to the second round despite being the SEC player of the year.
The Mavs have acquired center Tyson Chandler, small forward Chandler Parsons, point guard Raymond Felton, a young big man in Greg Smith and a veteran perimeter forward in Richard Jefferson. They have been incredibly aggressive this summer. As always, they've tried to stay opportunistic in the market, whether it be by trade or the free-agent market. To this point, they've done well.
You can't fault Nelson for being ambitious or for his wit. The Mavs ultimately got the man they wanted in Parsons. It was a move that was priority No. 1 for Dallas.
"We targeted Parsons from a very early stage. We feel he can play 4, 3. He can shoot the long ball, he can get the ball into the gut and make passes," Nelson said. "He's also a team guy and he knows what to do without the ball. He can grab it off the glass and push the ball. He knows what to do without the ball and doesn't need the ball to be effective.
"Where do you stop? He's kind of a perfect, tailored guy for the Mavericks."
Looking around the league, a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to come out smelling like roses in regard to their summer spending. That said, you can't discount what Dallas has done as they've made big moves. Continuity was a big buzzword for the Mavs going into the offseason. Continuity is nice, but getting better talent is, well, better.
"We're doing well. We're changing the team, we're getting it better and improving," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas. "Those are all things that are exciting. We've got more spaces to fill and we've got more good prospects. We're going to keep pushing forward."
Their last major asset left in terms of money is their $2.7 million exception. While they could go different ways with the money, one focus is on their mind.
"I think we're looking for the best player," Nelson said. "As long as we can get that, we're happy. There's lot of backup roles that are needed. We can go in a variety of different directions, from point guard to center. I think we're going to try to get the best possible player we can."
Whoever the final pieces to the puzzle are, they will put a nice shiny bow on a successful offseason. The challenge will then become trying to become successful in terms of regular season and hopefully playoff games.
The plan is for him to participate in the Summer League playoffs, a source confirmed. The playoffs portion of the summer league begin on Wednesday. Smith will be taking his physical Tuesday. He is expected to arrive in Las Vegas shortly after that.
Smith is coming off knee surgery that was taken care of in February. If he is able to be cleared and there's still games to be played, Smith will be available for games. For the Mavs, they will play at least two games as that is the minimum that Dallas would play in the playoff portion of the summer league.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Smith averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game over the last three seasons with the Houston Rockets. The Bulls signed him through next season after Houston waived him in April.
Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet Northwest first reported the story.