Dallas Mavericks: Deron Williams

Mavs not admitting mistake with trade

June, 25, 2014
Raise your hand if your initial reaction to the report of Tyson Chandler’s return to Dallas was the thought that Mark Cuban was admitting a massive mistake.

Think again. You're wrong.

[+] EnlargeTyson Chandler and Mark Cuban
Glenn James/Getty ImagesReacquiring Tyson Chandler doesn't necessarily mean Mark Cuban was wrong to let him go in the first place.
Dealing for Chandler in the final season of the four-year deal he signed with the New York Knicks after the lockout -- and only months after he played a major role in the Mavericks’ championship run -- isn’t proof that Cuban regrets the decision to let the big man go in the first place. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for the Mavs now, when their financial picture looks completely different than it did in December 2011.

"It's apples and oranges," Cuban said via an email reply to ESPNDallas.com. "You couldn't get from there to here."

First and foremost, Dirk Nowitzki is no longer one of the highest-paid players in the NBA. He has committed to re-sign with the Mavericks for a drastically reduced salary, likely in the Tim Duncan-discount territory of $10 million per year, less than half what the big German made the past few seasons. In other words, Nowitzki’s pay cut next season will probably be pretty close to Chandler’s salary.

After studying the new CBA, Cuban’s fear was that the Mavs would become what the Brooklyn Nets are now, an old team with a bloated payroll and no real shot of winning a title and extremely limited avenues of upgrading the roster.

Cuban’s hope was that the Mavs could take advantage of their financial flexibility -- those might as well be curse words in Dallas now -- by signing an in-his-prime superstar to pair with Nowitzki. That didn’t happen, with Deron Williams and Dwight Howard declining Dallas’ recruiting pitches and Chris Paul committing to stay in L.A. without even listening to the Mavs.

In hindsight, would the Mavs have been better off keeping Chandler all along? Only if you think an aging team that made a surprising championship run was going to have a legitimate chance to repeat in a lockout-condensed campaign that was especially tough on old legs.

The potential reward was never realized, but it was big enough to justify the Mavs’ risk.

The Mavs are in better shape now with Chandler back in the mix than they would have been if he never left. With Chandler on board last summer, meaning the Mavs wouldn’t have hoarded cap space with Howard/CP3 hopes in mind, there wouldn’t have been any room for Monta Ellis on the roster.

That means the Mavs’ offense would still lack the dynamic dribble penetrator who blended so well with the big German and took pressure off the now-36-year-old Nowitzki.

Now the Mavs have a potent one-two offensive punch, a defensive backbone (again) and the salary-cap space to make at least one more major addition this summer.

No, Cuban’s grand plan didn’t work out as he hoped. Yes, Chandler is coming back to Dallas to complete the contract the Mavs weren’t willing to give him originally.

That’s proof that the Mavs’ front office is doing what it feels is in the franchise’s best interests now, not that Cuban & Co. are attempting to make up for a mistake from a few years ago.
Monta Ellis and Dwight HowardJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsHow good would the Mavs have been offensively with Dwight Howard but without Monta Ellis?
None of the big fish the Dallas Mavericks failed to catch in free agency advanced to the conference finals.

Would Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard still be playing if they signed with Dallas?

Of course, that’s a hypothetical that’s impossible to answer. Who knows how the Mavs’ roster would look if their recruiting pitch to one of the max-salary stars was successful? But pointless speculation can be pretty fun, so we’ll do our best to guess the Mavs’ odds of being in the NBA’s final four with each of the big fish that got away.

Williams: A falling out of bounds full-court heave.


Which big fish would have given the Mavs the best chance at advancing in the playoffs?


Discuss (Total votes: 10,629)

It’s gotten so bad for Williams in Brooklyn that there’s talk about the Nets trying to trade the five-time All-Star point guard this summer. That’ll be tough to do considering that Williams’ contract is considered toxic with him being owed $63.1 million over the next three seasons.

The Mavs certainly wouldn’t trade Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon for Williams. They’re much better off with their current starting backcourt -- with combined salaries significantly lower than Williams' -- than a former star whose bad ankles have caused him to fall a couple of tiers.

Williams, 29, had his least productive season since he was a rookie, averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 assists while missing 18 games. His shooting percentage plummeted in the playoffs, when he made only 39.5 percent of his field goal attempts.

Maybe the Mavs’ medical staff, considered one of the league’s elite, could have prevented Williams’ ankle problems. But Mark Cuban, who has all but admitted sabotaging the Williams recruiting effort by refusing to meet face to face with the native north Texan, must feel like he dodged a bullet by not making a max investment in Williams.

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OT: No easy solutions to Mavs' star search

January, 29, 2014
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks’ grand rebuilding plan is still in place.

The Dallas front office remains determined to acquire an in-his-prime superstar to pair with Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs’ brass is confident that will happen while the big German is still an elite player.

[+] EnlargeHoward
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesThe Mavs' pursuit of superstars such as Dwight Howard to pair with Dirk Nowitzki has proved fruitless thus far.
It’s a lot easier said than done, as we’re reminded by Dwight Howard’s Wednesday night appearance at the American Airlines Center in a Houston Rockets uniform. The plan started with three firm targets -- Chris Paul, Howard and Deron Williams -- and Dallas struck out over the past two summers.

How can the Mavs pull off such an optimistic plan at this point? Heck if they know. Not right now, at least.

“Superstars win in this league,” said Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, although he’s pleased with the performance of summer consolation prizes such as Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. “That’s not lost on us. ... This summer, I can’t sit here and tell you a hard-and-fast game plan, because we won’t know until we hit the battlefield, so to speak.”

That’s primarily because nobody knows whether this will be a bumper crop of free agency or if there will be slim pickings when it comes to superstars on the market this summer.

The Mavs will be positioned to offer a max contract again this summer, when Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter come off the books, with Nowitzki vowing to re-sign at a significantly reduced salary. The question is whether there will be anybody worth offering a max deal.

Several marquee players have the right to opt out of their contracts, a list that includes LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, among others. If the stars don’t test the market -- or simply decide to re-sign with their current teams, as Nowitzki has vowed to do in Dallas -- then Luol Deng could be the biggest name available among unrestricted free agents.

No disrespect to Deng, a two-time All-Star small forward whose ability to score and defend would make him a good fit in Dallas at a reasonable price, but adding him to the Mavs wouldn’t make Nowitzki the second-best player on the roster.

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Opening Tip: No winners in D-Will sweepstakes

January, 24, 2014
Nobody got what they wanted from the Deron Williams sweepstakes in the summer of 2012.

The Dallas Mavericks are still hoping to acquire a bona fide superstar to pair with Dirk Nowitzki during the big German’s golden years.

Deron Williams
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty ImagesChronic ankle problems have limited Deron Williams to 24 games this season, and he's averaging only 13.4 points and 6.8 assists for arguably the most disappointing team in the NBA.
The Brooklyn Nets are stuck paying a superstar price for a player who hasn’t been able to perform at that level since signing a max deal.

Williams’ numbers dipped to 18.9 points and 7.7 assists per game last season, when his streak of five consecutive All-Star appearances ended and he dealt with nagging ankle pain. Those chronic ankle problems have limited Williams to 24 games this season, and he’s averaging only 13.4 points and 6.8 assists for arguably the most disappointing team in the NBA.

That’s far from the production Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov planned on getting when Williams signed a five-year, $98.8 million deal to be the face of the franchise as it moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

The Mavs attempted to sign Williams to a max deal despite owner Mark Cuban’s reservations. As Williams noted last fall, maybe he would have signed with his hometown team had Cuban bothered to meet with him face to face instead of filming “Shark Tank” on the opposite coast.

Those comments were in response to Cuban claiming the Mavs were better off without Williams, a remark that came across as sour grapes and spin and looked especially silly when Nowitzki’s .500 beard made him look like a “Duck Dynasty” reject.

More than a year later, a case could be made that the Mavs ended up being better off after having settled for a pair of mid-tier free agents (Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis) to make up their backcourt, given Williams’ injury issues. But the reality remains that the Mavs have no chance of competing for a championship as long as the 35-year-old Nowitzki is by far the best player on the roster.

Williams wasn’t the ideal option in the Mavs’ grand rebuilding plan. When they made their post-lockout move to create financial flexibility, a phrase that prompts eye rolls from Mavs fans, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard were the prime targets with Williams an attractive fallback plan.

But Paul and Howard didn’t opt out of their contracts that summer, making Williams the lone big fish in the market. He ended up being strike one for the Mavs. Dallas didn’t even get a chance to swing at CP3 last summer and whiffed when Howard opted to head to Houston.

Maybe the Mavs are better off without Williams, but they’ll be stuck on the mediocrity treadmill as long as the in-his-prime superstar void exists on their roster. Brooklyn is in worse shape with its bloated payroll, but that doesn’t do anything to help the Mavs' title hopes.

This spin won't serve Mark Cuban well.

His claim that the Dallas Mavericks are "in a better spot" than they would have been if they had signed Dwight Howard isn't what fans want to hear. Especially not after they heard essentially the same thing last summer after the Mavs missed out on Deron Williams.

If that's the case, what was the point of stripping down the 2011 title team?

Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.

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Hindsight proved otherwise, but I'll stick to my guns that Cuban's decision to create financial flexibility at the expense of keeping the aging 2011 championship roster intact was worth the risk due to the potential reward. The Mavs needed to make mid-30s Dirk Nowitzki their second-best player to have a realistic chance at another championship run, given all the gray hairs of Dirk's supporting cast.

What went wrong? The circumstances changed after Tyson Chandler & Co. turned down one-year offers to stay in Dallas and got paid good money to go elsewhere. And give the competition credit for making their situations more attractive.

The Mavs hoped Chris Paul would be looking to escape New Orleans last summer. Instead, he got traded to the Los Angeles Clippers soon after Cuban made his difficult, CBA-influenced decisions. The Mavs prayed Paul would consider them this summer, but the Clippers pried open Donald Sterling's wallet to replace Vinny Del Negro with Doc Rivers, prompting CP3 to inform potential suitors that they need not even bother with a recruiting pitch.

The Mavs hoped Howard would be looking to escape Orlando last summer. Instead, he pulled an all-time waffle and made a last-minute decision to not opt out of the last season of his contract with the Magic. He regretted that enough to force a trade, landing with the Los Angeles Lakers for a "nightmare" season. That would have played right into the Mavs' hands had the Houston Rockets not done such a phenomenal job accumulating and deploying assets over the last couple of years, leading Howard to head down I-45 to team up with James Harden.

The Mavs hoped Williams would be looking to escape the Nets last summer, although he was always Plan C. The Nets made the bold, expensive move of trading for Joe Johnson, convincing Williams that he had a better chance of competing in Brooklyn than Dallas. Cuban, who had reservations about Williams all along, helped the Nets' cause by not joining the Mavs' contingent for face-to-face meetings with the All-Star point guard.

The truth of the matter is that Paul, Howard and Williams all made the right basketball decision. They all picked teams that are in a better position to contend than Dallas would have been if one of those superstars had signed with the Mavs.

In a roundabout way, Cuban acknowledges that with his annual statement that the Mavs are better off for having failed to hook the big fish. Of course, that's also acknowledging a fatal flaw with the original big-picture plan.

It's a stretch of the truth, to say the least, to claim that the Mavs benefited from those big fish picking other ponds. This is a superstar-driven league, and Dallas desperately needs to find a way to add another to give Dirk a chance to compete for a second championship in his golden years.

The Mavs certainly weren't better off without Williams last season, when a gimpy Dirk and a bunch of one-and-done temporary teammates limped to a .500 finish, snapping a 12-year playoff streak. With Williams on board, the Mavs could have easily added Samuel Dalembert as a stopgap, rim-protecting center this summer by using their midlevel exception.

Would that make the Mavs a championship-caliber team? Doubtful. But having Williams here would make the Mavs more competitive now and more attractive to free agents next summer, when the Mavs would have still had ample cap space.

This has been a better summer for the Mavs, for sure. They added a pair of potential foundation pieces for the future in guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis, plus Dalembert.

But just imagine the reaction if Cuban called Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and offered Calderon, Ellis and Dalembert for Howard. Or made the same calls to L.A. or Brooklyn to try to pry away Paul or Williams.

It'd be hilarious laughter and a quick hang-up.

You can make the case that the Mavs have recovered well after missing out on all the big fish, but nobody in their rational mind would believe that the Mavs are better off in the short or long term for not having successfully recruited a superstar.

Not even Cuban, no matter what he says.
Could this summer get any worse for the Mavericks? Well, Dirk Nowitzki could start having second thoughts about his intention to stay in Dallas for a drastically reduced salary when his deal expires after the 2013-14 season.

Actually, sad as it is to say, that might be in the franchise’s best interest long term.

Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.

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Owner Mark Cuban’s biggest fear has been for the Mavs to get stuck on the mediocrity treadmill. That drove his decision to strip down the 2011 title team, ensuring that the aging Mavs wouldn’t decay into an expensive team incapable of contending or making necessary upgrades.

Instead, the decline in Dallas was steep. The Mavs have a grand total of zero playoff wins in the past two seasons and zero big-fish free agents hooked in the past two offseasons.

Cuban, as stubborn as he is smart, is trying to pull off the most difficult task in pro sports: rebuilding without hitting rock bottom. To pull that off, the Mavs' front office must be willing to gamble -- and have a bet or two pay off big.

Yet the Mavs refused to take a risk on Andrew Bynum, the one potential home run left on the market this summer after Dwight Howard headed to Houston.

Here they are, stuck in the middle again.

Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.

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This isn’t a case of another name-brand free agent turning down the Mavs. The Mavs didn’t make an offer to Bynum because they were scared away by the bad knees that kept him sidelined all of last season. All Dallas had to do to get the 7-footer, who was an All-Star in 2012, was trump Cleveland’s offer that included only $6 million in guaranteed money. The Mavs weren’t willing to take that chance.

That’s an awfully conservative approach for a franchise that rolled the dice so boldly after the lockout.

There’s a good chance the Mavs are right about Bynum’s knees and he’ll spend big chunks of this season sporting wild hairstyles while watching from the bench. But this would have been the time for a boom-or-bust swing for the fences.

The potential reward if Bynum worked out: a foundation piece. The risk if he didn’t: money down the drain and a ticket to a loaded lottery.

It’s not as if the Mavs were going to be on the hook long term if Bynum was a bust. After all, he went to Cleveland for a two-year deal that has a team option on the second season. And the Mavs, with $35 million of expiring contracts on the roster, are guaranteed to have salary leeway next summer anyway.

But the Mavs decided not to make a bold move after missing out on Howard. They played it safe. They’ll plug in Samuel Dalembert or someone of that unimpressive ilk at center and try to make a blockbuster trade despite lacking attractive assets.

The reality is that the Mavs will have to scrap to have a shot at one of the last couple of playoff seeds in the loaded West next season. Dallas seems destined to finish around .500 again with a draft pick that isn’t high enough to get one of the can’t-miss prospects and isn’t low enough to unload to Oklahoma City, which owns a Mavs pick that is top-20 protected through 2017.

(On a related note, Cuban’s two biggest mistakes since stripping down the title team: 1. Pulling off what seemed like a steal for Lamar Odom, giving away only that protected pick, which has since bounced from L.A. to Houston to OKC, helping the Rockets land James Harden to make them an appealing team to Howard; 2. Not going all-in on recruiting Deron Williams, skipping the face-to-face meetings while filming "Shark Tank," when Cuban really preferred to make a run for Chris Paul or Howard this summer.)

The Mavs’ biggest splash so far this offseason has been signing a soon-to-be 32-year-old point guard who has never won a playoff series. Cuban has acknowledged that it’d take a two-year process to put the Mavs in position to contend again, but the strides this summer haven’t been nearly big enough to provide any optimism that the plan will come to fruition.

Cuban’s biggest fear is coming true. The Mavs might not have a bloated payroll, as the Boston Celtics did before realizing their run was over, but they’re still a noncontender that can’t find a way to get better, handcuffed by a lack of assets and a sudden aversion to risk-taking.

Dirk, as loyal a solider as you’ll see in this NBA generation, can’t put a so-so supporting cast on his back and make the Mavs a legitimate threat in his mid-30s. Hard as he might sprint, the Mavs aren’t moving forward, at least not enough to matter.

They can’t compete with the Spurs and Thunder and Rockets and Clippers and Warriors and Grizzlies. Given that reality, with Dirk, they’ll probably be too good for their own good.

The Mavs are stuck on the mediocrity treadmill. Does Dirk really want to stick around for that?
This isn’t the day to defend the Dallas Mavericks’ logic regarding their post-lockout decision to allow the 2011 title team to scatter throughout the league.

Mavs fans don’t want to hear about risk-reward ratio or financial flexibility. Not right now. Probably not ever.

Folks who pay for tickets don’t want to be reminded that, at the time Mark Cuban opted to offer only one-year deals to Tyson Chandler and free-agent other championship pieces, the Mavs had reason to believe that Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would all be on the market last summer and looking to move.

Fans don’t care how much the circumstances changed with Paul getting traded from the franchise formerly known as the Hornets to the Clippers, Howard opting to return to Orlando before forcing his way to L.A. and the Nets making splashy moves to convince Williams how much better life would be in Brooklyn.

The NBA is a bottom-line business. The bottom line is that Cuban’s grand plan, as smart as the risk may have been, can fairly be judged as a failure now that all the big fish are gone.

Not that Cuban, fresh off losing a recruiting battle to the I-45 rival Rockets, is willing to concede that point.

“We haven't played a game yet,” Cuban replied to ESPNDallas.com via email. “Look back at the big deal that won last summer and ask how it’s working for everyone now.”

Yep, that’s an indirect shot at the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the summer of 2012 by pulling off a four-way blockbuster deal that brought Howard to Hollywood to follow in the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.

Never mind winning multiple championships. Howard didn’t even win a single playoff game while wearing purple and gold.

The deal didn’t exactly work out well for the Denver Nuggets or Philadelphia 76ers, either. Andre Iguodala was one-and-done in Denver before going to the Golden State Warriors in free agency. Bynum’s destination is to be determined -- and Dallas is a possibility -- but he definitely isn’t returning to Philly after being a $17 million spectator last season. The Orlando Magic stand as the big winner in that deal -- yet had the NBA’s worst record (20-62).

Oh, and it’s hard to laugh too heartily at the Lakers for their Dwightmare hours after he turned you down to head to Houston.

This is without question the most heartbreaking July day in Dallas basketball history. This is worse than D-Will’s decision, simply because a healthy Howard is on a different tier of superstardom. And it’s a lot worse than The Decision, because the Mavs weren’t even one of the handful of teams to get a sit-down meeting with LeBron James.

Yeah, there was a lot of pre-free agency discussion around these parts about convincing King James to join Dirk and using Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract in a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland. But that hope never got past the point of pure speculation.

Plus, the Mavs ended up with a pretty darn good consolation prize, although nobody knew at the time that the injury-prone big man who arrived in Dallas as a Charlotte salary dump would be the final piece to a championship puzzle.

It now pains Mavs fans that the big man didn’t stay more than one season, that Chandler never got a chance to defend a championship in Dallas.

We'll spare you the talk about how the new CBA and an aging roster forced Cuban’s hands. You don’t want to hear it.

You don’t want to hear about how hard it was going to be for the Mavs to keep contending with that core. You don’t care that Jason Kidd is now Williams’ head coach in Brooklyn or that Jason Terry was dealt to the Nets as a salary-dump throw-in with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

But Boston pulled that trigger on that blockbuster deal because the Celtics had become what Cuban feared the Mavs would be: an old team with a bloated payroll and no real chance to contend or opportunity to upgrade the roster.

Cuban has vowed to never let the Mavs get stuck in NBA purgatory, a place he calls the “mediocrity treadmill.”

Well, how else to describe the Mavs’ place in the basketball world at the moment? The painful past two years have confirmed that Dirk Nowitzki is no longer capable of being the lone star on a contender. Their last playoff win was Game 6 in Miami more than two years ago. They’re coming off a 41-41 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years.

The Mavs have a lot of money to spend but no great options to give it to. They have a lot of potential trade targets but no great assets to give up.

The Mavs, and Cuban in particular, have a PR mess. The only way to clean it up is with basketball success.

It’s going to take a brilliant plan for that to happen. And a bunch of breaks. Even a great plan isn’t guaranteed to work, as the Mavs know all too well.

Plan B: Andrew Bynum and a veteran PG?

July, 5, 2013
Mark Cuban says it’s on to Plan B for the Mavericks.

Really, it’s Plan D, but let’s not get too picky about alphabetical matters at this point. The Mavs whiffed on Deron Williams last summer, never got to sit down with Chris Paul and couldn’t convince Dwight Howard to headline Dallas’ two-year plan.

All the big fish have picked other ponds. So … now what?

Here’s my suggestion: Take one more home run swing. Bet on Andrew Bynum.

The Mavs better hedge that bet, of course. They’d have to insist on language in the contract that includes a team out if Bynum’s knees keep him off the court, as they did all last season in Philadelphia. The easiest way to do that is agreeing to an Exhibit 3 protection, which allows a team to waive a player if he’s unable to play because of specified prior injuries, which is how Minnesota got out of Brandon Roy’s contract this summer. There could also be guarantees based on minutes or games played.

If Bynum and agent David Lee agree to that, go ahead and throw big money at him. He’s the one potential dominant force still available in free agency.

Hold your breath and hope that the 25-year-old 7-footer can return to 2011-12 form, that he can get back to being a big man who puts up 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Hope that athletic trainer Casey Smith can help Bynum get his career back on track, just as he did when Tyson Chandler arrived in Dallas as damaged goods a few years ago.

The Mavs should be able to sign Bynum and get a proven veteran point guard. They’ve been in touch with the agents for Jose Calderon, Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack and Monta Ellis.

Add one of those point guards and a relatively healthy Bynum, and the Mavs ought to be back in the playoffs in 2013-14 with a bunch of money to spend again next summer.

And if Bynum is a bust? Well, the Mavs will be right back in the lottery, but maybe they’ll have better luck in a loaded draft next year.

There are no easy answers for the Mavs. All those guys decided they’d prefer to play somewhere other than Dallas.

Dirk: Mavs' summer not Dwight or bust

June, 28, 2013

FRISCO, Texas -- Realistically, there is one superstar available in the free-agency market, but Dirk Nowitzki says this isn’t a Dwight Howard-or-bust summer for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki and ESPN's Chris Broussard join Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the possibility of Dwight Howard joining the Mavericks and how Dallas should approach the situation.

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“Like last year with Deron Williams, our free agency can’t depend on just one name this year,” Nowitzki said before taking batting practice to prepare for his Heroes celebrity baseball game, which will be played Saturday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. “We’re not going to sign eight, nine one-year deals again. We tried that; it didn’t really work last year.

“So there’s plenty of other options out there, I think. You can plug holes with really, really good players -- maybe not superstars but really, really good players -- and still be a playoff team. If that’s the route we have to take if Dwight says no, I’m sure Mark (Cuban) and Donnie (Nelson) will find the right mix of guys.”

Tim MacMahon joins Galloway and Company to discuss the NBA draft and where the Mavericks stand on getting Dwight Howard.

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When the Mavs’ front office decided that creating salary cap space was more important than keeping their 2011 title team together, they anticipated that three superstars would be available in the 2012 summer free-agency market: Williams, Howard and Chris Paul.

Howard and Paul didn’t opt out of their contracts, ending up moving to the two Los Angeles teams and delaying their entrance into free agency for a year. The Mavs swung and missed at Williams -- a half-hearted attempt by Cuban, who didn’t take part in the face-to-face recruiting pitch.

The Mavs’ hopes to convince Paul to leave L.A. for Dallas this summer essentially died with the Clippers’ hiring of coach Doc Rivers.

Former Maverick Jason Terry joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss being traded to Brooklyn, Dirk Nowitzki and having his jersey in the rafters at the American Airlines Center one day.

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“With them getting Doc, that’s pretty much a wrap,” Nowitzki said. “I think everybody knows that. So there’s already one free agent gone that’s a game-changer and Dwight’s obviously another and next.

“How do I feel? I don’t know. There were reports yesterday that we were in the lead, but I don’t buy into all that. You have to wait until he makes a final decision, and then I’ll get excited or be down.”

However, if Howard doesn’t come to Dallas, Dirk is determined not to be down for long. He mentions names like Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings, Utah center Al Jefferson and Denver swingman Andre Iguodala as examples of players who can help the Mavs return to the playoffs.

Putting together a playoff-caliber roster is apparently the face of the franchise’s standard for a successful summer.
IRVING, Texas -- With recently retired NBA star Jason Kidd being named the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked if an NFL player could leave the field and become a head coach quickly as Kidd did.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle gives his take on the NBA Finals, talks about the Nets decision to hire Jason Kidd, the advice hed give Kidd about being a head coach in the NBA and more.

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"It would be a challenge," Garrett said. "If anybody could do it, Jason Kidd could do it. If anybody watched him play basketball for one minute knows how he sees the game and how he understands the game is as good as anybody who has ever played the game. The success that he's had throughout his career, individually and with the teams he's been on has been remarkable."

Kidd retired from the NBA on June 3, and after a conversation with his agent, Jeff Schwartz, the idea was broached about becoming a head coach.

"I have a lot to learn about coaching," Kidd said at a news conference Thursday. "But when I played the game, I looked at myself as an extension of the coach. And now I look at Deron (Williams) to be that guy."

Garrett, who follows some of the New York-area pro teams, is an admirer of Kidd.

"I'm a true fan of his," Garrett said. "I wish him nothing but the best."

Dirk Isn't Done: Commitment still strong

June, 4, 2013
As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 16th season, he's coming off his lowest points per game average since his first full year, saw a dip in rebounding and health is now becoming a factor. ESPNDallas.com will explain five reasons why it’s too soon to say Dirk’s demise as an elite player has arrived.

You can question whether Dirk Nowitzki can still be an elite player, but you can't question his work ethic. When players of Nowitzki’s stature get that elusive championship, like he did in 2011, there’s nothing they want more than to get another.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Glenn James/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki will turn 35 later this month, but he's still willing to put in the work.
The commitment can already be seen. Nowitzki has started his offseason workout regimen. No, he’s not touching a basketball yet, but he’s making sure his legs are healthy and strong in order to avoid repeats of the last two seasons.

The fact that he’s already working should not come as a surprise. Nowitzki’s secret is he still loves the game and it simply doesn’t feel like work to him. During the regular season or the playoffs, it’s a given that Nowitzki is the last player to leave the practice court, getting shots up after a rigorous session. When the team is on the road, he’ll get set up at the team’s hotel and find a local gym to get shots up.

At home or on the road, Nowitzki will engage in one-on-one shootouts with teammates. Whether it’s a new or older guy, they marvel at how Nowitzki motors through his shots. The competitiveness comes out during and after those shootouts. You’ll either see him slam the ball to the ground if he loses or give a loud yell with an accompanying fist bump if he’s victorious. The competitive nature and will to win has always been there, but it has taken on a new form this summer.

For example, Nowitzki joined Mark Cuban in Las Vegas during Tiger Wood’s celebrity poker tournament. No one would confuse the face of the franchise as the next part of the poker boom. One could assume that he was there to help in the recruitment process of Chris Paul, who was also in attendance at the tournament. Why is that a big deal? Where was Nowitzki during the pitch for Deron Williams last summer? He was in Germany.

Nowitzki has developed a unique stature over his career and has earned the respect of his peers. Now, he’s putting it to good use as he steps up as a recruiter. More importantly, he has realized that he simply has to participate now. Last year was different in the sense that Jason Kidd was the pitchman. Nowitzki now knows he can’t afford to sit on the sidelines anymore.

It’s an important summer for the Mavs. It’s clear that Nowitzki is doing his part to ensure the club can put together a club that can play at a high level for the city he “belongs” to, as he mentioned at the start of the offseason.

Activity breeds prosperity. Hard work and a competitive spirit have paid off for Nowitzki and his career. Turning 35 later this month, whether he’s putting up shots or getting on a plane, he’s still willing to put in the work.

Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.

Cuban on Mavs' summer and two-year plan

May, 25, 2013

Highlights from Mark Cuban's appearance Saturday on 103.3 FM's ESPN Dallas Game Day:

On whether the first round of the playoffs unfolded well for the Dallas Mavericks from a perspective of pending free agents: “I don’t know if ‘pretty well’ is the right description, but it certainly got more interesting. It opened up at least a few doors for us to have conversations, where some of those teams that were still playing, I don’t think those doors would have been open.”

Mark Cuban joins ESPN Dallas GameDay to discuss the Mavericks' plans, the free-agent market and what possibilities there are for Dallas.

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On whether any potential options -- left unsaid is Chris Paul -- have been eliminated since the end of the season: "No, not at all. Nothing has really changed. Our approach has always been to be opportunistic and explore all of our options, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We haven’t closed any doors, and as far as we know, there haven’t been any doors that have been closed to us. We’re just going to run them all out there and see what happens.”

On if he feels smart about letting Tyson Chandler go: “When you’re out of the playoffs, you’re not allowed to feel smart. I’m not going to talk about specific players or teams other than to say that when we had to go on our decision of whether or not to stick to our plan, which was our older guys were coming off contracts and we went for it, had a super-huge payroll, knowing that all of our guys' contracts are ending within two years. Did we want to stick with that or bring them all back? You guys have heard me say many a time that my greatest fear was what happened to Detroit at the end of their run -- that we kept the guys too long. Now, you add to it all the things we discussed about the CBA and it really is difficult. You’re hearing some of those teams when their fans are asking if they can make a sign-and-trade for a free agent, and the answer is no. Can they keep some of their existing players? It’s going to be far more difficult and their options are very much limited. We didn’t want to be in that position as we try to put a great team around Dirk to make another run and prepare for our future.”

On if he'd make that same decision again: “In a heartbeat.”

On the sales pitch to convince a max free agent to decline the fifth year and larger raise his current team can offer: “First, you try to look what is important to the play. All players say they want to win rings, and that’s true. All players want to make as much money as they can and that’s true. They all view their careers differently, and I try to focus on what we can do to help them reach their career goals and put them in a position to succeed.

"In terms of that fifth year, that really is overrated from the perspective that if he’s young enough, he’s going to get another contract or two. When you sit down with them and say that there might be the issue of this contract ends before we can opt out of this current CBA. That may sound silly since we just signed a new CBA two years ago, but the ability for the league to opt out after six years means a five-year contract signed now puts you other side of that CBA, which may not be a good thing. You may want to be in a position where you want to sign another long-term deal before the NBA has the option to opt out of this CBA. I’m not suggesting that anything is going to happen with this CBA, but it’s just something to consider. On the second side of that, you’re young enough to get another contract.

"The third point, look at what LeBron [James], Kevin Durant, [Chris] Bosh and all those guys did. They all signed deals with opt-outs after three years, so there’s plenty of precedent. It’s not like all of these guys have to have that fifth year. A lot of them look at the flexibility and the options, and they have enough confidence in their ability to get that next contract. They have enough confidence in their ability to find insurance contracts in case they get hurt.”

On how Dirk Nowitzki's intention to take a "significant" pay cut next summer will be incorporated into free agency sales pitches: “I just let Dirk say it. You know, we spent this weekend together [in Las Vegas]. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we're going to do and how we’re going to do it.

"I’m setting up times with [Shawn Marion] to talk to him. I’ll talk to Vince [Carter]. We’re going through and trying to get feedback from all of our guys. With Dirk, it’s obviously more important because of the contractual scenario.

"I’ll let Dirk decide that [amount of his pay cut]. It’ll just depend on how strongly he feels about who we’re bringing. That dude has saved every nickel he’s ever had. He’s not worried about paying for his funeral. Dirk wants to win, and his heart is in the right place. He’s a great guy. We get along great and we can have very open and honest conversation and we don’t hold anything back. When it comes down to that time, we’ll have that conversation and figure it out.”

On discussions with Shawn Marion and the possibility of him exercising his early termination option and re-signing a long-term deal at a lower salary to create cap space: “We’ll have that conversation, but that’s not the important part of the conversation we’ll have with Shawn. Shawn is a warrior. Everyone knows that he gave 100-plus percent every game. When we weren’t able to perform at a certain level, he got mad. He really, really wants to win.

"I respect his opinions and we get along great. I’m more interested in what guys he likes out there, who he’s played against and who he respects and what he thinks we need. On where that goes, we can have other conversations about the other stuff. There’s no point in him opting out if we don’t think we’re going to get what we need.”

On the possibilities for the 13th overall pick in the draft, including trading it: “It depends on what kind of offers we get. Everyone talks about this being a weak draft, so it depends on who falls to No. 13. We’re not going to make the decision way in advance.

"If we like the person at 13, we’ll keep it and we’ll figure something out elsewhere to free up cap space to get there, but that’ll be an option for us. If our guy doesn’t get there, we’ll look at trading it. … If a guy falls, we’ll be happy to take him and figure out who to work the cap. If no one wants to make a trade for whatever reason, we can maybe get a guy to stash overseas somewhere. If we put him overseas and he doesn’t play, he won’t count against our cap. There are so many different options, and we’ll explore them all.”

On whether Nowitzki needs to be the second-best player on the roster next season: “We want to be a championship team. We’ve never said we have to be a championship team this year. We want to be a better team, a top-seed team. If we get the top free agent, that doesn’t leave us a whole lot of flexibility to add a lot of players, but we have a good nucleus around them. We know we’ll have a good team, but we won’t know if we have a great team. If you look at this like a two-year plan, then we think we’re on a track to have a great team by the end of next year. I wouldn’t say necessarily this year that Dirk has to be the second-best player, but hopefully by the end of next year.”

On whether he intentionally sabotaged the Mavs' efforts to sign Deron Williams because he preferred to make a run at free agents available this summer: “Did you see that episode of 'Shark Tank' I filmed that day? It was amazing!”

On his confidence level of being able to sign one of the big fish this summer: “Honestly, I don’t know. The way I work in all my businesses, if you prepare and you put yourself in a position to win, you’re not going to win them all but you’re going to get some. I can make an argument why we should absolutely go after the big fish, and I can make an argument on why we shouldn’t. There are a lot of really, really, good players that -- in combination -- I think can make us a top 3 or 4 seed in the West.

“We can go out there and get guys that are really good players that want to come here whose agents have suggested that they’d really love to come to Dallas. We can go put together a good team and see what we’ve got. If it doesn’t work, with Dirk and Marion coming off the books, with the stretch provision and contracts, we still have the opportunity to go after two max free agents [next summer] if we’re willing to take the hit on the stretch. I’m willing to do that."

On being fully committed to trying to sign a big fish in free agency this summer: "It’s not like last year. We’re going to go after them. But it’s not like we’re not having all the intense conversations to figure out all of our alternatives.

“We can play it both ways. We can go and put together a better team by signing multiple guys to multiyear contracts. We won’t sign anybody to a one-year deal. They’ll all be four-year deals because that gives you the most flexibility if you stretch them.

"Just to explain some more, you can sign a guy to a four-year deal and only have $10 million guaranteed. If you cut him and want to stretch him, you take the guaranteed money only and divide it by the number of years, times two, plus one. So you can stretch that contract out over nine years, as long as you do a four-year deal. There’s a finite amount that you’re allowed to total and stretch, but that’s more of a financial issue more than anything else.

"There’s so many different ways and permutations that I don’t think we can say if we don’t get Free Agent A, B and C that this summer is a failure. … There’s a lot of different options, and we have to explore all of them. I’m not about winning the summer; I’m about trying to do what I think is best for the franchise.”
One of the silliest things you’ll hear this summer is that free agents don’t want to come to Dallas.

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.

Deron Williams' game got the last word

March, 20, 2013
DALLAS -- Just another game for Deron Williams, huh?

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.

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams and Mark Cuban
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.
Just a guy who plays on another team? Yeah, Mark Cuban’s pregame attempt to downplay D-Will’s return to Dallas was way off the mark.

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.

Rapid Reaction: Nets 113, Mavericks 96

March, 20, 2013
How it happened: Deron Williams, the point guard who decided this summer that he’d rather move to Brooklyn than play for the Mavericks, dominated the second half during the Nets’ annual trip to Dallas.

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.



Monta Ellis
20.3 4.4 1.8 33.8
ReboundsT. Chandler 12.0
AssistsR. Rondo 7.2
StealsM. Ellis 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4