Mavericks: Deron Williams
That’s become a meme that’s often repeated in discussions about Mark Cuban’s bold plan to create ample salary cap space by stripping down the 2011 title team. Never mind the facts.
The fact of the matter is it’s difficult to sign free agents if you don’t have salary cap space. That’s not exactly unique to Dallas.
The Mavs whiffed on Deron Williams last summer, although Cuban’s effort in that recruiting pitch resembled some of Josh Hamilton’s final at-bats in a Rangers uniform. Being 0-for-1 doesn’t constitute a trend.
The point isn’t to predict that the Mavs will land Chris Paul or Dwight Howard this summer. The odds are against Dallas simply due to the rules that allow for their current teams to offer an extra year and larger annual raises.
However, from weather to a winning culture, Dallas’ attractiveness as an NBA destination is an advantage to the Mavs. Being a top-five market without a state income tax is a bonus. The days of Kiki Vandeweghe refusing to play for the Mavs are ancient history.
The Mavs have earned a reputation as a first-class franchise during Cuban’s 13-year ownership tenure. That’s why Jason Kidd’s agent helped orchestrate a trade to bring the point guard back to Dallas in 2008. That’s why Shawn Marion’s agent played a key role in making a complicated sign-and-trade deal go down the next year. That’s why Tyson Chandler was crushed when Cuban declined to offer him a long-term deal. That’s why Howard had the Mavs on his very short list of acceptable trade partners when he was forcing his way out of Orlando.
That’s why there will be plenty of free agents who will want to talk to the Mavs in July, a list that perhaps includes the two biggest prizes on the market.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in an environment like this every night?” restricted free agent Brandon Jennings said during the Bucks’ trip to Dallas in February. “You’ve got an owner who’s so into his team and everything like that. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They’re about winning.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mavs will win this summer. But if they don’t, it’d be foolish to blame a mythical aversion NBA players have for joining the Mavs.
For as well as Williams has been playing after emerging from the All-Star break healthy and slim, that might not be stretching the truth too much.
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDeron Williams showed Mark Cuban and the Mavs what they would have seen daily had he not balked at their free-agency pitch and decided to be the face of the Brooklyn Nets.
Maybe Williams really didn’t draw any extra motivation from his summer flirtation with his hometown team and fall back-and-forth with Cuban after deciding to be the face of the Nets’ move to Brooklyn. But Williams definitely gave the Dallas Mavericks a painful glimpse of exactly what they missed out on when their free agency pitch to Williams failed.
Williams torched the Mavs for 26 of his 31 points in the second half of the Nets’ 113-96 win, lighting up whichever overmatched Dallas guard was unfortunate enough to draw that defensive assignment, scoring on a variety of jumpers and drives.
Perhaps the prettiest of Williams’ 11 buckets in the second half: an 18-foot fadeaway that he launched just a few feet from Cuban’s courtside seat. That stretched the Nets’ lead to nine, prompting Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to call a timeout and Williams to crack a huge smile while glancing at the Dallas bench.
“When you’re feeling good and feel like you can’t miss,” Williams said, “it’s a good feeling.”
An especially good feeling because of Cuban’s claims that the Mavs were “better off” without Williams? If that was the case, Williams certainly wouldn’t admit it.
He stuck with his pregame claim that the only reasons the Nets’ annual trip to Dallas was special was because he got to play in front of friends and family and loved shooting at the American Airlines Center. Williams figured the cheers from those folks drowned out the smattering of boos from bitter Mavs fans when his name was announced with the Nets starters.
“I always get up for the games at home just because it’s home and given the situation,” said Williams, who kissed his wife and one of his children at courtside before heading to the Nets locker room after the game. “Honestly, I tried to attack it as a regular game. I didn’t eat anything special. It was a regular game for us, but a big game for us.”
After a rough first half of the season, Williams is having big games on a regular basis now.
Williams is back to being the point guard who had two franchises trying to convince him to accept their max offers this summer. (It must be mentioned, though, that Cuban didn’t exactly go the extra mile, opting to film “Shark Tank” in California instead of travel to New York with the rest of the Mavs’ recruiting party to meet with Williams.)
Since the All-Star break, when Williams dropped weight with a juice-cleansing program and got cortisone and platelet-rich plasma injections to help his ailing ankles, the Nets’ franchise player has been earning his money. Williams has averaged 23.9 points on 48 percent shooting since the break, scoring at least 30 points four times in 15 games.
“If you looked at the League Pass the last couple of weeks, he’s been on fire,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s been moving better. I don’t know if he had health problems early in the season, but he looks way more aggressive. He’s in a groove. I don’t think it had anything to do with tonight. He wanted to win the game and he took it over.”
Added Carlisle: “He’s just a great player that got in a groove.”
Williams played a facilitating role in the first half, patiently running the offense while big men Brook Lopez (season-high 38 points) and Andray Blatche (14 points, all before halftime) kept the Nets in the game.
It became Williams’ game early in the third quarter. He got hot while exploiting a mismatch against the smaller Darren Collison and kept on rolling.
“He was so much more aggressive in the second half,” Dallas center Elton Brand said. “You could see it in his eyes. He wanted the next one. He was going to shoot no matter what. I know he wanted to prove a point, but I didn’t think he was overly aggressive. He’s just playing at a really high level right now.”
Kinda makes you wonder how the Mavs might be faring if they had Williams as the starting point guard instead of 37-year-old journeyman Mike James, huh?
Nowitzki, who led the Mavs with 16 points on 80-percent shooting but got only 10 field goal attempts, doesn’t want to go down the what-coulda-been road.
“He’s an exceptional player,” Nowitzki said. “We knew that before. That’s why we were trying to recruit him, so this is nothing new. He’s been one of the best point guards in this league.
“We had to move on as a franchise, though. We can’t be lingering. He made a decision last summer and I think both franchises moved on. That’s where we’re at.”
With Williams, the Nets are headed for the playoffs. Without him, the Mavs need a miracle to reach the postseason, especially after Williams’ game got the last word Wednesday night.
Brooklyn big man Brook Lopez dominated the entire game.
The 7-foot Lopez lit up the Mavs for a season-high 38 points and 11 rebounds, making 15 of 22 shots from the floor. Williams shrugged off a sluggish start to pour in 26 of his 31 points in the second half.
Williams was 13-of-25 from the floor, including a dagger 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes remaining, despite missing 5 of 7 attempts in the first half. He also dished out six assists.
Williams and Lopez took over the third quarter, when the Nets broke a halftime tie and took the lead for good. Lopez had 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the frame; Williams scored 13 on 5-of-7 shooting.
Meanwhile, Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki didn’t even attempt a shot from the floor during the third quarter. He finished with a team-high 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
The Mavs, who made 50.6 percent of their field goal attempts, didn’t have a problem scoring points. They simply couldn’t stop the Nets, especially once The Colony native Williams got cooking.
What it means: The Mavs started a critical six-game homestand on a sour note. The loss dropped Dallas (32-36) to 3½ games behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers in the West standings with only 14 games remaining on the Mavs’ schedule. The Nets (40-28) remain in fourth place in the East, a game behind the crosstown rival New York Knicks.
Play of the game: An in-the-zone Williams swished a fadeaway jumper from the right corner to stretch the Nets’ lead to nine midway through the third quarter. Williams, who claimed Wednesday morning that this was “just another game” to him, couldn’t resist turning around and cracking a grin toward the Mavs’ bench while trotting up the floor.
Stat of the night: With his fourth rebound, Nowitzki became the 10th man in NBA history with at least 24,000 points and 9,000 rebounds. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett and Patrick Ewing in that exclusive club.
“I usually get cheers here,” Williams said. “Now that’ll probably stop.”
Williams cracked a grin after that comment. He gets that he’s no longer known around these parts purely as one of the best basketball players ever produced by the area, joining Larry Johnson and Chris Bosh on the short list. Now the native of The Colony, a Dallas suburb, is the dude who decided that he didn’t want to play for the Mavericks when he had the chance this past summer.
Williams admits that most of the 25 or 30 people he’ll give tickets for Wednesday night’s Nets-Mavs game lobbied for him to choose Dallas when he was a free agent. He decided to move to Brooklyn with the Nets, swayed in part by the Nets pulling the trigger on a trade to acquire shooting guard Joe Johnson and his gigantic contract.
There was a little long-distance bickering between Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Williams before the season started, but Williams insists he’s not worried about that or anything else related to his free agency during this trip.
“It’s just another game for me,” Williams said before the Nets’ shootaround. “I’m glad my family and friends get a chance to come out and see the game. I’m glad I got a chance to spend a couple of days here and see people. But other than that, it’s just another game.”
It’s another game at the American Airlines Center, an arena Williams called his favorite in the league last year, pumping up hope that he’d sign with the Mavs even a little bit more.
Williams said Wednesday that he still loves this “shooter's arena.” He’s certainly performed well in front of friends and family, averaging 22.8 points and 9.0 assists while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 46.9 percent from 3-point range in 10 career starts at the AAC, although his team's record was just 3-7 in those games.
But Williams, who got off to a slow start this season has played his best basketball since the All-Star break, wanted no part of hyping this homecoming.
“I’m just going to try to focus on basketball tonight and not worry about anything else,” said Williams, who intends to ignore a certain courtside-sitting billionaire. “It’s another game, but it’s a big game for us. We’ve got to build on what we did last game and try to win in a tough environment.”
UPDATE: Cuban had a similar attitude when asked about how Mavs fans should treat Williams.
"I don’t care," Cuban said. "I don’t have any interest one way or another. He’s just a guy who plays on another team."
What about Deron Williams tonight?
Cuban is keeping his mouth shut on that one. Or he at least didn’t reply to an email inquiring about the subject. And he intentionally avoided making the trip to Brooklyn to see the Mavs play the Nets at the beginning of the month because, he explained, “I don’t need to be on the back page of the New York Post.”
That’s probably wise. No need for Cuban to give an opposing star any additional, fresh motivational fodder. (That worked out so well with Kobe Bryant, huh?)
Besides, Williams doesn’t deserve to be booed during his annual trip to the American Airlines Center, an arena the native of nearby The Colony described last year as his favorite in the NBA.
Unlike full-of-it quitter Fisher, Williams didn’t do the Mavs wrong. He just politely and professionally declined their halfhearted recruiting pitch and decided to move to Brooklyn with the Nets.
You can debate whether Williams made the right decision. You can argue that he’d have been better off as the centerpiece of a two-year rebuilding plan in Dallas instead of being stuck on a roster with bloated contracts in Brooklyn, which will be handcuffed by the CBA in its attempts to make the upgrades necessary to become a legitimate contender.
Cuban could have made those points in a face-to-face meeting with Williams in July, but he opted to have Michael Finley join Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle as the point men for the most important free-agency pitch in franchise history. Filming "Shark Tank" on the West Coast was Cuban’s priority, hence the halfhearted recruiting pitch.
If you’re still upset about Williams not coming home this past summer, boo Cuban, not the point guard.
Cuban is the one who has said that he didn’t really want Williams anyway -- and the whole "Shark Tank" deal seems to support that statement. (Cuban, who has taken some reality=show-related heat from Dirk Nowitzki, has vowed to keep his schedule clear for the first two weeks of July this summer.)
It was only after Cuban declared that he believed the Mavs were “better off” without him that Williams fired back, telling New York reporters that he might have signed with the Mavs if Cuban had only made the effort of meeting with him and answering his questions. That back-and-forth fizzled out quickly, and nobody else with the Mavs has any ill will toward Williams, whose concerns about being left to carry the Mavs by himself if Nowitzki went down seemed pretty prescient in the first two months of the season.
“He’s still a friend of mine,” Nowitzki said before the Mavs’ trip to Brooklyn. “Obviously, he didn’t come join us, but I wished him luck then.”
For the Mavs’ wish for a win to come true, they’ll probably need to contain Williams, who struggled through his own health issues for the first half of the season but is suddenly performing like an elite point guard again, averaging an efficient 23.4 points and 7.7 assists since the All-Star break.
No need for the AAC crowd to add any fuel to Williams’ fire with boos that would just make Mavs fans look bitter.
Better to save your venom for a deserving target. On a related note, Lamar Odom comes to town next week.
After his half-hearted, long-distance recruiting pitch failed to woo Deron Williams, Mark Cuban claimed the Mavericks were “in better position” without the three-time All-Star point guard anyway.
|Rick Carlisle joins Galloway & Company to discuss his conversation with Deron Williams during the offseason, the Mavericks' recent losses and much more. |
“So, that was a challenge that we had because we want to win. Everybody talks about Dirk’s window, but not only would it have been difficult to add players, it also would have been difficult to trade players. In reality, that was the same problem that Deron had. Because he looked and saw the same thing and said, ‘Now what are you going to do?’”
Michael Ansell/ABC via Getty ImagesMark Cuban infamously was on the set of "Shark Tank" when the Mavs' brass was meeting with Deron Williams.
Better off without Williams? This season couldn’t get much worse for a franchise that considers winning 50 games to be a minimum standard. (All the Mavs have to do to get to 50 wins is finish the regular season with a 25-game winning streak.)
You certainly can’t convince Dirk Nowitzki that the Mavs are better off without Williams. Nowitzki has often bemoaned the Mavs’ lack of basketball IQ after close losses this season. That wouldn’t have been a problem with Williams and Jason Kidd – who definitely would have returned to Dallas if his golf buddy signed with the Mavs – on the floor during crunch time.
If you want to see Nowitzki sneer, just mention “Shark Tank,” the reality show Cuban filmed instead of meeting face to face with Williams.
But would the Mavs have been a playoff team with Williams? That’s far from a sure thing.
First of all, as Cuban mentioned, the Mavs would have been handcuffed while trying to fill out their roster. Would O.J. Mayo have signed for the mini mid-level ($700,000 less than he ended up getting)? Who would have played center with Brendan Haywood being amnestied and no Chris Kaman or Elton Brand?
And it isn’t like Williams has been worth the max money this season. He’s struggled while dealing with injuries, most notably ankle problems, putting up numbers (17.3 ppg, 7.7 apg, .417 FG%) that are far below his standards and failing to be selected to the All-Star Game for first time since 2009.
Combine the declining numbers with the 28-year-old Williams’ moodiness – how would he have dealt with Dirk’s 27-game absence? – and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s a player who can be the foundation of a contender.
Of course, it’s also fair to wonder whether the Mavs can land that caliber of player. If they fail to do so this summer, Cuban can’t claim that they’re better off without Williams.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Deron Williams wanted no part of rehashing the offseason, when he chose to stay in Brooklyn over heading back home to Dallas.
|Rick Carlisle joins Galloway & Company to discuss his conversation with Deron Williams during the offseason, the Mavericks' recent losses and much more. |
Williams will face the Mavericks for the first time this season when the Nets host Dallas on Friday night at Barclays Center.
"It's just another game," Williams said.
Williams, 28, met with both teams during free agency. Given that he is from Dallas, it was a difficult decision. Ultimately, he decided to re-sign with the Nets for five years and $98 million.
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams as teammates? It would've been intriguing, but it didn't happen.
"A lot of the questions that me and my agent had for them really didn't get answered that day -- you know, pertaining to the future," Williams said in October. "And I think if (Cuban) was there, he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. Maybe would have helped me."
Cuban then fired back: "I'm a big D-Will fan, but I'm kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference. I would have expected him to say -- like I'd expect one of our guys to say -- 'Hey I'm so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn't have mattered what he did.'
"He's a superstar point guard, but my goal is to build a team. ... I'm flattered that he thought my presence would have made more of a difference than what the Nets' management did."
Williams said he hasn't spoken with Cuban since.
"It wasn't really a back-and-forth thing, anyway," Williams said Thursday.
Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who joined the Nets in December 2011 as an assistant coach, said he was worried about the possibility that the franchise point guard might leave.
"Until he re-signed, I was concerned," Carlesimo said. "Clearly, being from Dallas and Dallas having a pretty good roster -- they just won a championship a couple years ago -- I thought it was a viable option. My opinion was he was always going to stay just because he seemed very, very comfortable here. And his relationship with Avery Johnson and Billy King was such that I was confident he was going to stay here. But was I worried? Yes, I was worried."
As has been well-documented, this season hasn't been easy for Williams, who has battled injuries, fatigue, confidence problems and becoming acclimated with an offensive system that isn't best-suited for his game. In 55 games, he's averaging 17.3 points, 7.7 assists and 2.9 turnovers and shooting 41.7 percent from the field.
An All-Star from 2010 to '12, Williams wasn't selected to participate this season.
"I know I belong out there regardless of watching (the All-Star Game on TV) or not," Williams said. "It's just the fact that this year I wasn't having an All-Star year, so I wasn't in the game. I'll look to get back there next year, play better, hopefully be healthy."
Since the All-Star break, Williams -- who has already had three sets of cortisone shots in both ankles -- is averaging 22.8 points, 8.4 assists and 3.6 turnovers while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from 3-point range. He says he'd like to cut down on his turnovers, but otherwise feels good about his game.
The Mavericks currently find themselves five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Nets, meanwhile, are on track to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Looks like D-Will made the right choice -- if this season is any indication, anyway.
|The day after the NBA trade deadline, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joins The Ben & Skin Show to talk about the trades made and the Mavericks' future. |
It needs to be a big summer for the Bank of Cuban. The Mavs’ front office made sure they’d be positioned to be major players this offseason by not doing anything that would dampen their powder.
“Flexibility has always played well for us,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said, perhaps forgetting about whiffing on Deron Williams and scrambling to put together a temporary supporting cast last summer.
|Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson joins Galloway & Company to discuss the team's recent trade for Anthony Morrow and push for the playoffs. |
In other words, the Mavs don’t want to look at this summer as Dwight Howard or doom, although the dramatic big man will definitely be their top target. If the Mavs don’t win the Dwight sweepstakes, they still need to make moves that provide a foundation for the franchise’s future.
That could mean taking advantage of luxury tax-fearing teams desperate to dump salary. That could mean signing quality complementary players at affordable prices, constructing a supporting cast for the star(s) they can chase the following summer when the contracts of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter expire.
“First of all, you guys make up the plans,” Mark Cuban said. “I tell you we’re going to be opportunistic. I tell you, based off of what we interpret in the CBA, that you can’t just go ahead and sign older players. The guys you do sign, if you make a mistake, it’s expensive to move them. Or you’ve got to give up a lot and not get a lot back.
“From there, we say we’re opportunistic. And that’s what you’ve heard me say every day since we walked in the door. You can’t expect any one thing to happen, because it never does. We have cap room; we’ll see what happens. We’ll try to be opportunistic; we’ll see what happens.”
The Mavs must begin building some continuity again, but they have to balance that goal with leaving enough financial wiggle room to acquire a player capable of being a franchise centerpiece for a contender.
But this can just be another summer of signing guys to one-year deals and acquiring expiring contracts. That wouldn’t play well with the Mavs’ frustrated fan base or with Nowitzki, who has vented repeatedly about the problems that come with so many new, temporary teammates and has made it clear that he doesn’t want to finish his career chasing the final playoff seed in the West.
“We certainly feel for all of our fans and some of the frustrations that have taken place this year,” Nelson said. “Whether it’s them or Dirk or some of the guys in the locker room or ownership on down to management or coaches, we are committed to bringing a championship back to Dallas. Whether it’s the short term or the long term, we’ll make it happen.”
No matter how eager the boss is to do a deal, payroll relief is the only significant asset Dallas can offer teams between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline, since Cuban has made it clear that Nowitzki is off limits … and with Dallas' 2013 first-round pick either required to stay in Big D if it falls in the top 20 or otherwise already owed to Oklahoma City through a previous trade with the Lakers (Lamar Odom) that ultimately put the pick in the Thunder's hands as part of subsequent trades headlined by Derek Fisher and James Harden.
Cuban is serious when he says he intends to make some sort of swap before the trade buzzer sounds, but my sense is that the most likely scenario has Dallas taking the bulk of its financial flexibility into the summer as long planned. If the Mavs have waited this long for a shot at Dwight Howard, after Cuban's controversial decision to let several free agents from his 2011 title team scatter, what's another six months to wait and see if they've got any sort of shot at the famously fickle big man?
Dwight definitely wants things (and needs them) to work out in L.A., for his image and also because he loves the Hollywood scene, but let's be honest: Who knows how he'll feel about Lakerland come July?
And that's why, in the short term, Dallas is more apt to try to trade Vince Carter to a contender that could use an extra shooter, or pitch the likes of Brandan Wright to a team in search of one more big man in hopes of securing an extra draft pick or shedding a little extra salary.
The "Bank of Cuban" reference was a typically colorful reminder from the Shark Tank patriarch that the Mavs are in position to make a splashy acquisition by taking on a big contract as opposed to merely counting on a free-agent savior after missing out Deron Williams last summer. But that option will be there for them in July with their cap space, too, so holding off on taking in a big contract now -- even if their Dwight odds are microscopic -- only makes sense.
Which helps explain why sources close to the situation tell ESPN.com that the Mavs are not among the teams that have expressed interest in Grizzlies' highly available Rudy Gay.
Read the rest of the Weekend Dime here.
DALLAS – The questions about Mark Cuban’s strategy started being questioned before the ink was even dry on Tyson Chandler’s contract with the New York Knicks.
The outrage increased as the defending champion Mavericks, or what was left of them, stumbled through their least successful season in a dozen-year span, concluding with a first-round sweep. The roars are reaching a deafening level now that any realist can see Dallas is in rebuilding mode -- and superstar Dirk Nowitzki’s doubts about the financially flexible, 15-23 Mavs’ future are on record.
“The logic, I thought, was still sound,” Cuban said Saturday night. “I think there’s a lot of people that thought I was an idiot now. There’s a better than even chance that they’re right, but that was the logic.”
That logic, as Cuban explained in great detail in a Dec. 2011 email to ESPNDallas.com, was based on the value of salary cap room under the new, more restrictive collective bargaining agreement. The fear was being locked into an aging roster that had already peaked with extremely limited options of upgrading.
The plan has backfired so far.
The way the dominoes fell last season certainly didn’t help. When the Mavs opted for this plan, they reasonably believed that the 2012 free agency market would feature Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. That isn’t the way it went down.
Paul exercised a contractual option for this season after lobbying his way out of New Orleans, landing in Los Angeles with the Clippers after a deal with the Lakers was vetoed by the commissioner’s office. He’s the centerpiece on a legitimate contender now, so the odds of him being available this summer are closer to none than slim.
Howard went all wishy-washy before shocking the basketball world by opting in for the final year of his deal with the Orlando Magic, a decision he almost immediately regretted. His pouting pushed the Magic to deal him to the Lakers this summer, and as much as this edition of Showtime has disappointed, it’d be surprising to see Howard leave significant money on the table to leave L.A. this summer.
The Mavs swung and missed on Williams this summer, with Cuban infamously skipping the face-to-face recruiting pitch to Dallas’ Plan C to film “Shark Tank” in L.A.
When James Harden got shipped to Houston and signed a max contract, that meant there would probably be no true “big fish” on the market this summer. If the Mavs throw big money at a free agent in July, it’ll likely be second-tier center Al Jefferson or injury-prone big man Andrew Bynum.
That certainly wasn’t the plan.
However, Cuban insisted all along that the point of the Mavs creating significant cap space for the first time during his ownership tenure was solely “in hope of that one super special free agent being there.” He has consistently pointed out that having cap space allows teams much more freedom to make trades under the new rules.
That’s what makes the time before the Feb. 21 trade deadline so important for the Mavs. It might represent their best chance to make a significant roster upgrade before next season.
Too bad the Mavs don’t have any young talent that would be enticing in the trade market. They are armed with a bushel of expiring contracts, which could be particularly attractive to teams attempting to avoid harsh luxury-tax penalties now and in the future. Maybe the Mavs can get a nice prize by being the facilitator in a multi-team deal.
There is a “100 percent chance” the Mavs try to make a trade this season, Cuban declared. For who? Cuban and right-hand man Donnie Nelson have 5½ weeks to figure it out.
If the Mavs keep swinging and missing through this summer, they’ll be stuck in rebuilding mode for the final year of Nowitzki’s contract. And it’s reached the point that even Cuban can’t deny that the R-word fits the current state of the Mavs.
“It’s just a label,” Cuban said. “It doesn’t matter. Strategy is all that matters. Tactics is all that matter. We’ve defined our strategy. We laid it out before we did it. We told everybody what we’d do. Our tactics have been the same since we’ve got here, so there’s nothing to change.”
Nothing but the roster, which requires a major overhaul. Cuban will continue working on it and hope the results are a heck of a lot better than they’ve been the past 13 months.
Williams, a D-FW native, seemed like a perfect compliment to Dirk Nowitzki that seemed to assure the Mavs a shot at one more NBA title run, at least.
Russ Isabella/US PresswireDarren Collison has scored 17 points in each of the Mavs' two games and is shooting 58.3 percent this season.
Collison has been a huge bright spot for the Mavs in the team's season-opening road trip. Through two games, he is averaging a team-high 17 points and is shooting 58.3 percent from the field. Collison is also averaging a respectable 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals per contest.
He tallied 17 points and seven assists in a 113-94 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
"Two solid games," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's done a good job and he's going to get better."
For his part, Collison is determined to push himself to be worthy of his role. With predecessors such as Jason Kidd and Steve Nash as past floor leaders, he knows it will take more than a couple of good games to even ponder joining their company in the minds of fans.
"I can get better," Collison said. "I judge myself on our record and, right now, we're 1-1. There's some things I can get better at. I'm still a work in progress."
That's why nights like the one the Mavs suffered against the Jazz sting. Dallas held its own through the first half and Collison was the major driving force behind it. He had a direct hand in two big runs late in the second quarter.
The first came with the Mavericks trailing 47-39. Collison drilled a 3-pointer to kick off an 11-2 run. Dallas took a 50-49 lead when he capped the spurt with a driving layup. He found teammates to ignite the second run. Collison assisted on all four shots that composed a quarter-ending 11-0 run that gave Dallas a 63-55 halftime lead.
"We were pretty efficient in the first half moving the ball offensively," said Mavs center Brandan Wright, who finished with 15 points. "We ran the ball and Darren had some really effective screen-and-rolls."
But all of the shots stopped falling in the third quarter. Dallas made just 5-of-22 field goals and the Jazz took full advantage of the situation. Mo Williams buried a pair of 3-pointers and drove for a layup to score eight straight points to fuel a decisive 18-2 run that put the game out of reach.
"We had a good run coming into the second half," Collison said. "When we come into the third quarter we have to push the tempo off. Keep pushing and keep pushing our will on them. We kind of let it get away from us."
Collison came to Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal with the Indiana Pacers over the summer. So far, it looks like a smart acquisition for the Mavs. He brings a great deal more athleticism than an over-the-hill Kidd showed last season. Collison isn't afraid to attack the rim off the dribble and he is a much more accurate shooter than his predecessor.
"That's what I was brought here for," Collison said. "I play my game and try to go out there and have as much fun as I can. And make sure we win ball games."
As Williams said after he re-upped with the Nets, he feared what would happen if he had signed with the Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki went down or declined.
It’s pretty hard to debate that case at this point in the aftermath of the Dirk-less Mavs being beaten convincingly by FC Barcelona Regal.
Oh, it’s not the end of the world to lose an exhibition game to a European team. The Boston Celtics aren’t canceling their season because they lost to a Turkish team.
One loss for the Mavs, even to a team without a ton of NBA talent, after a little more than a week of work together isn’t worth worrying about too much. As much as Cuban liked the moves made to build a short-term supporting cast this summer, it’s not like anybody believes the Mavs could be a playoff team without Nowitzki performing at an All-Star level.
So save your concern for Nowitzki’s sore, swollen right knee that prompted him to watch this game from the bench.
The Mavs are surely being cautious this early in camp, but we saw early last season how bad Nowitzki could look when his knees bothered him. He altered his offseason conditioning routine to address the problem, but Nowitzki is also a year older with another season’s worth of mileage on his 34-year-old legs.
You can no longer expect Nowitzki to stay strong all season if he has to play heavy minutes and carry the Mavs’ offense on his back.
That’s why GM Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle wanted to sign a superstar in the first place. They hoped Nowitzki could slide into a less taxing co-star role for the twilight of his prime.
After the Mavs missed on Williams, they managed to add a couple of post-up threats in Chris Kaman and Elton Brand and a pair of penetrators in O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison. Cuban keeps trying to convince people -- himself? -- that the sum of those parts is greater than one All-Star point guard.
With or without Williams, one thing is painfully obvious: The Mavs aren’t nearly good enough without a healthy Nowitzki.
"I’m a big D-Will fan, but I’m kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference," Cuban said before the Mavericks’ exhibition game against FC Barcelona Regal. “I would have expected him to say -- like I’d expect one of our guys to say -- ‘Hey I’m so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn’t have mattered what he did.’
"That’s what I expect our guys to say and that’s the way I feel about our team. Again, I’m a big D-Will fan, but it’s not about individual players, it’s about building a team. And I really think we put together a good team for the current team and the future.
"He’s a superstar point guard, but my goal is to build a team. That’s the important thing, to try to win championships.
"I’m flattered that he thought my presence would have made more of a difference than what the Nets’ management did."
The Mavericks face the Nets in Brooklyn on March 1 and at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on March 20.
|Galloway & Company react to the comments that Deron Williams made regarding Mark Cuban's priorities during free agency. |
The Mavs sent coach Rick Carlisle, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and front office assistant/former Mavs star Michael Finley to New York to try to woo Williams, a native of Dallas suburb The Colony.
Cuban was in California taping episodes of the ABC show "Shark Tank" at the time.
"I think (Cuban) would have been able to answer a lot of the questions me and my agent have for him that really didn't get answered that day pertaining to the future," Williams told reporters. "And I think if he was there he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. It maybe would have helped me.
Read the whole story here.
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