Dallas Mavericks: Donnie Nelson

Nelson talks Dirk, Devin, what's next for Mavs

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
LAS VEGAS -- President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson spent a few minutes with ESPN Dallas on Friday to talk about Dirk Nowitzki's new deal, Devin Harris being back with the club, the summer league in Las Vegas and what other moves the Mavs may make.

Dirk's deal: When Dirk Nowitzki said he'd re-sign with the Mavs early in free agency, sources would only say that Nowitzki had accepted a three-year deal similar in structure to the last contract signed by San Antonio's Tim Duncan, which was a three-year, $30 million deal. After the dust settled in regards to the restricted free-agency window with Chandler Parsons, Nowitzki's three-year deal ended up being for $25 million.

"We’re just blessed. Dirk is a better human being than he is a basketball player," Nelson said. "He’s a very special man. It’s a sign that he’s willing to sacrifice anything, playing time, financial or whatever, to make us a better team and put us in a position to championship. You can count those kind of guys on one hand."

Nowitzki consented to such a steep pay reduction to give his team the necessary flexibility to strengthen the supporting cast around him.

Harris' return: Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Devin Harris would re-resign with the Mavs and that the four-year deal is worth $16.55 million, with the fourth season partially guaranteed. The guaranteed figure for the fourth year is $1.3 million. Nelson commented that the veteran point guard followed the lead of Dallas' face of the franchise.

"Devin is another guy that sacrificed for the betterment of the team. He was flexible and patient," Nelson said. "We really appreciate that because every penny counts in free agency.The difference of having a little flexibility here and there can mean the difference of you getting a significant player or not."

Dallas now has a trio of point guards as Harris joins Raymond Felton and Gal Mekel. The Mavs have shown over the years that they will often bring some of their best players off of the bench. That likely leaves a touch of doubt in regards who will actually be the starting point guard once the season begins.

Summer league standout: Small forward Eric Griffin signed a non-guaranteed, one-year contract Friday.

"Griffin is one of the real surprises of the summer league," Nelson said. "Here’s a guy that did it the old fashion way, playing overseas. He got cut a couple of times, but he didn’t lose his focus and he’s put himself in a great position.

"I think he’s a guy that, with time, coaching and development, can be a special small forward that might be able to swing to a power forward."

Prior to their final game Friday, the 6-foot-8 high-flying forward averaged 9.8 points in 19.3 minutes during four games with the Mavs’ team in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Mavs' flexibility: The Mavs still have their $2.7 million cap-room exception at their disposal. While there's still a need for perimeter shooting, particularly from the guard position, Nelson said that they will keep all of their options open.

"Nothing new there (to report)," Nelson said. "We’ve got a number of conversations going. Stay tuned."

They will keep their options open, including the idea of leaving an open roster spot and not using their exception.

"We like that. Philosophically, we like leaving roster spots open," Nelson explained. "If there’s something really good, we’ll pull the trigger. If not, we’ll stay flexible."

Mavs find value with 'Merry Minimums'

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
The Dallas Mavericks pride themselves on finding value in the NBA bargain bins.

The “Merry Minimums,” as the Mavs’ brass often refers to the minimum-salary veterans that fill out the roster, included significant contributors Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair last season.

The Mavs filled three of their minimum slots this summer with players who should at least factor into Rick Carlisle’s rotation, if not play every night. Swingman Richard Jefferson, small forward Rashard Lewis and center Greg Smith are all good bang-for-buck additions.

A look at how the three new members of the Merry Minimums can help the Mavs:


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Jefferson: He’s no longer the guy who averaged 22.6 points per game one season for the New Jersey Nets, but Jefferson can still shoot the 3, a skill the Mavs needed after the departures of Vince Carter and Jose Calderon. The 34-year-old made 40.9 percent of his long-distance attempts for the Utah Jazz last season, the third time in four years that he shot better than 40 percent from 3. He averaged 10.1 points in 27 minutes per game as a starter for the Jazz, but the Mavs won’t ask nearly that much from him.

Lewis: At 34, Lewis hardly resembles the scoring threat the Mavs tried to steal from Seattle long ago. The two-time All-Star is a role player now who has the experience of playing in three NBA Finals, including the last two seasons with the Miami Heat. “We’re always looking for veteran players who are pros and know how to win playoff games,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He definitely fits that mold.” Lewis also fits the mold of a stretch 4, allowing the Mavs the luxury of having a legitimate backup for Dirk Nowitzki that doesn’t require completely changing the offensive scheme. The 6-foot-10 Lewis is a career 38.6 percent 3-point shooter and a quality defender, especially in pick-and-roll and isolation situations.

Smith: The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder, who was sent to Dallas in a salary-dump deal from Chicago, will replace Blair as the Mavs’ bargain-priced banger. “Our front line really needs a DeJuan-type presence,” Nelson said. “[Smith] is a thick-body rebounder and enforcer.” Smith, 23, had season-ending knee surgery in February, which the Mavs anticipate will be a “maintenance issue” this season. But there is hope that Smith can get back to his form from 2012-13, when he averaged 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game for the Houston Rockets.

Greg Smith 'happy' to play for Mavs

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
LAS VEGAS -- After completing the team physical, center Greg Smith joined the Dallas Mavericks' summer league team in Las Vegas.

Smith, who is coming off knee surgery in February, will not participate in the team's final game in the summer league. He is healthy, but the team wants him to focus on getting in shape and preparing for training camp. Smith said he's ready to prove he's 100 percent healthy once he gets to training camp.

[+] EnlargeGreg Smith
Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsGreg Smith says he will bring defense to the Mavs as he backs up Tyson Chandler.
"I'm happy. It's like going home," Smith said. "I'm happy to be in this situation. ... Playing for a team like the Dallas Mavericks, their organization is just wonderful. I'm happy to be there."

Smith's grandparents, mother and uncle all live in Dallas. Smith said he was pleased to hear that the Mavs were trying to acquire him for the past two seasons via trade.

"It's great to go somewhere that they want you," he said.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Smith averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game over the past three seasons with the Houston Rockets. The Bulls signed him through next season after Houston waived him in April.

"He's got a skill set that we need in our front line," Donnie Nelson, the Mavs' general manager and president of basketball operations, said earlier this week. "He's thicker and he's got the right combination of experience and youth. With Chicago it was kind of more of a salary dump to do a bigger deal. It didn't cost us anything.

"We think we got a really good young player that can provide us punch in our front line."

Mavs owner Mark Cuban had previously said Smith was someone the team has been trying to acquire for the past two seasons. Smith is slated to play more center than power forward and will back up Tyson Chandler.

"I'll bring a lot of defense," Smith said of his role. "I love playing defense. I'm going to learn being next to Tyson, and I'm excited to play with Tyson. I'll be a banger.

"I'll be that guy who is a stopper that won't allow anything inside."

Playing for Houston, Smith was teammates with Chandler Parsons. Smith is excited to be reunited with Parsons and says he believes Dallas will be pleased with what the versatile forward can bring to the team.

"He's going to bring so much to the team," Smith said. "People don't understand what he gave to the Rockets. He means a lot, and he'll bring a lot to the Mavericks."

The experience in Houston allowed Smith to bang and work alongside the likes of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik, two of the league's best defensive centers. Smith said that was a huge learning experience for him, and he plans to take what he learned from his time with the Rockets and expand on it in Dallas.

"I feel like I can showcase what they taught me and be able to play defense against anyone in the league," Smith said.

Mavs strike with aggression this summer

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
LAS VEGAS -- After pushing the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to a Game 7 in the first round, the Dallas Mavericks will return with a much different roster next season.

The Mavs have acquired center Tyson Chandler, small forward Chandler Parsons, point guard Raymond Felton, a young big man in Greg Smith and a veteran perimeter forward in Richard Jefferson. They have been incredibly aggressive this summer. As always, they've tried to stay opportunistic in the market, whether it be by trade or the free-agent market. To this point, they've done well.

[+] EnlargeRichard Jefferson
Brad Rempel/USA TODAY SportsRichard Jefferson will join his sixth team, having played for the New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Golden State and Utah in his 13-year career.
"Ideal would have been Carmelo and LeBron coming for the minimum, but that didn't happen," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told ESPN Dallas on Monday.

You can't fault Nelson for being ambitious or for his wit. The Mavs ultimately got the man they wanted in Parsons. It was a move that was priority No. 1 for Dallas.

"We targeted Parsons from a very early stage. We feel he can play 4, 3. He can shoot the long ball, he can get the ball into the gut and make passes," Nelson said. "He's also a team guy and he knows what to do without the ball. He can grab it off the glass and push the ball. He knows what to do without the ball and doesn't need the ball to be effective.

"Where do you stop? He's kind of a perfect, tailored guy for the Mavericks."

Looking around the league, a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to come out smelling like roses in regard to their summer spending. That said, you can't discount what Dallas has done as they've made big moves. Continuity was a big buzzword for the Mavs going into the offseason. Continuity is nice, but getting better talent is, well, better.

"We're doing well. We're changing the team, we're getting it better and improving," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas. "Those are all things that are exciting. We've got more spaces to fill and we've got more good prospects. We're going to keep pushing forward."


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The three members of the Mavs' brain trust -- Mark Cuban, Nelson and Carlisle -- likely will go on their own separate paths for the remainder of the week. While that might be the case, all three have been hovering around the gyms this weekend, watching the summer league team playing and spitballing ideas. Whenever visible, the three of them would have conversations with one another in corners of the arena, formulating ideas to finish out their roster.

Their last major asset left in terms of money is their $2.7 million exception. While they could go different ways with the money, one focus is on their mind.

"I think we're looking for the best player," Nelson said. "As long as we can get that, we're happy. There's lot of backup roles that are needed. We can go in a variety of different directions, from point guard to center. I think we're going to try to get the best possible player we can."

Whoever the final pieces to the puzzle are, they will put a nice shiny bow on a successful offseason. The challenge will then become trying to become successful in terms of regular season and hopefully playoff games.

Nelson: 'Overpaid' for Parsons' promise

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
Chandler Parsons fills up a box score like few others in the NBA, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love as the league’s lone players last season to average at least 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting better than 45 percent from the floor.

But the Mavs’ favorite Parsons number doesn’t appear in the box score. It’s his age, 25.


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“That was a huge part of this, the age factor,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He's a young player that's already kind of established in the league. It was really the perfect storm for us. It was the opportunity to get not only a high-caliber here-and-now player that can help us win playoff games. Here's a guy that is 25 and will continually get better.”

Parsons’ presence gives the Mavs a proven major foundation piece who has yet to enter his prime, something Dallas hasn’t seen since Jason Terry’s arrival from Atlanta.

The Mavs paid a premium price for Parsons -- $46 million over three seasons, making him the highest-paid player on the Mavs’ roster. The Mavs decided they’d rather spend $15-plus million per year on Parsons than $10 million or so on Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza, then held their breath when those fallback options signed with other teams before the Rockets’ declined their right to match Parsons’ offer sheet.

Truth be told, the Mavs pegged Parsons’ value at more like $12 million per year. The Mavs went higher than that to make the offer as hard as possible for Houston to match, pleased to pay extra for promise of an ascending talent.

“We did overpay by a little, but that was the spirit of which it was needed to be done,” Nelson said.

That’s the value of the Dirk Nowitzki discount deal. With Nowitzki underpaid by at least $6-8 million per year, the Mavs could afford to be as aggressive as necessary to get Parsons.

Monta Ellis likens Parsons to Marion

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
Chandler ParsonsTroy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsMonta Ellis says that Chandler Parsons reminds him of Shawn Marion because of his versatility.
LAS VEGAS -- Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis had a huge impact in his first year with the Mavericks last season. Now, more help is on the way in Chandler Parsons. With Parsons and the Mavs' other moves this summer, Ellis is pleased with what Dallas' front office has done.

“I think it’s a great addition to the team,” Ellis told 105.3 The Fan on Monday. “I think we did a wonderful job on getting the right group of guys and the right team to try to get farther than we did last year. Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and then getting [Chandler] Parsons was an A-plus for us.


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"I'm looking forward to the season. He's a great player, and I think he's going to be a great asset to the team.”

Ellis said that he didn't stay too wrapped up in the timelines and countdowns with Parsons over the weekend, but he did exchange texts with Mark Cuban to stay in the loop.

In the end, he wanted to let Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson "do their job." While the front office wasn't able to get the big fish they've been trying to get over the last three seasons, the acquisition of Parsons is one of the final touches to the massive remodel the Mavs made this summer.

While the return of Chandler represents a true anchor in the middle for the Mavs, Parsons is an infusion of youth and versatility that could have a huge impact on their roster for the upcoming season and beyond. Ellis has seen Parsons as an opponent and views him as the real deal.

So who does Parsons remind Ellis of?

"Shawn Marion, but younger," Ellis said in regards to Parsons' versatility.

(Read full post)

DALLAS – There is strong mutual interest between veteran guard Mo Williams and the Dallas Mavericks.

Will Williams sign with the Mavs? As is often the case in free agency, it might come down to the money.

[+] EnlargeMo Williams
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs have had their eye on Mo Williams for years and are hopeful they might finally land him.
“Mo is just one of our favorites and certainly the kind of guy that we’d love to have in our locker room,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “[Williams has a] family of five that lives here and would be the perfect fit in a lot of respects.

“It’s just that he’s got some decisions to make in terms of really what he’s willing to take and what we can offer him and that kind of thing, but the discussions have really been ongoing. And we’ve been recruiting Mo for a few years now. Hopefully, this time we can make it happen.”

The Mavs committed all of their remaining space under the salary cap to the offer sheet signed by Chandler Parsons. The Mavs would have only the $2.73 million cap-room exception and minimum-salary slots available if the Houston Rockets do not exercise their right to match the offer to Parsons, a restricted free agent.

In that scenario, the Mavs hope to convince sixth man Vince Carter to re-sign for the cap-room exception, which would be a slight pay cut for the 16-year veteran.

“Vince has got all kinds of options and we’re happy to know we’re still on the list,” Nelson said. “We’ll just have to see how things pan out. He’s obviously not just a terrific basketball player, but a great person, and we’re going to do everything in our power to get him back to the Mavericks.”

If Carter isn’t willing to accept the cap-room exception, the Mavs would seriously consider offering it to Williams, who declined a $2.77 million player option to return to Portland next season.

If the Mavs' plans unfold as they hope, they’ll attempt to convince Williams to take the veteran’s minimum of approximately $1.3 million.

The Mavs consider Raymond Felton and Devin Harris to be a decent one-two punch at point guard. The 31-year-old Williams, who has career averages of 13.3 points and 4.9 assists per game and has shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range, could get playing time at both guard positions and fill Dallas’ need for backcourt shooting.

The Mavs' five-pronged pitch to Melo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Read full post)

Why Mavs make sense for Carmelo Anthony

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, about that max salary, Melo ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t that worth a superstar with a nine-figure net worth sacrificing a few million dollars? Hey, have we mentioned that Texas has no state income tax?

Felton has 'fresh start' with Mavs

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
Raymond FeltonRobert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsRaymond Felton had the worst stats of his career last season, averaging 9.7 points and 5.6 assists.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks sadly bid farewell to Tyson Chandler a few years ago because they had their eyes on bigger prizes, such as Deron Williams and Chris Paul, a pair of All-Star point guards selected with the third and fourth picks in the 2005 draft.

A point guard who was the fifth pick in the 2005 draft is part of the price the Mavs paid to bring Chandler back to Dallas.


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Raymond Felton, who is coming off the worst year of his career on and off the court, wasn’t included in the six-player trade with the New York Knicks because the Mavs wanted him. The Knicks insisted on dumping Felton in the deal with Chandler.

The Mavs, however, are hopeful that the 30-year-old Felton can get his career back on track in Dallas.

“I think we’ve had a lot of success over the years in guys that went through a hard year previously,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “You look at Jerry Stackhouse when we acquired him. Here’s a guy that probably a lot of folks wouldn’t have touched. Nick Van Exel is another. You go down the line, we’ve done a pretty good job of bringing guys like that into the fold, having them buy in.

“Raymond has been through some tough times. It’s no secret that he’s made some mistakes and he wishes that he had them back. It’s no secret that he’s gone through some difficult times in New York. We certainly have the kind of locker room that has done good with those kind of players in the past.”

(Read full post)

DALLAS -- Tyson Chandler, the finishing piece of a championship puzzle during his lone season in Dallas, doesn’t think the Mavericks are far from being legitimate contenders for another title.

For proof, Chandler points to the Mavs pushing the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round, by far the biggest scare the eventual champions encountered in the playoffs.


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“If you can challenge the champs like that and be a play or two away from actually advancing, that means you're close,” Chandler said. “So I think this team is close.”

Chandler’s checklist of elements the Mavs were missing just so happened to be strengths of his game. He mentioned rim protection, finishing at the basket and offensive rebounding as areas that the Mavs needed to improve.

Of course, Chandler fully expects to fill those voids during his second stint in Dallas, much like he did during the Mavs’ 2011 championship march.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Chandler said. “That was my role when I was there. Watching it in years past, I think it was lacking. My job is to be even better than I was the year that I had there. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to providing that and seeing what we can do.”

The Mavs felt that center Samuel Dalembert was a good value signing last summer, considering his $3.7 million salary a bargain in the second half of the season. However, the Dallas decision-makers entered the offseason determined to upgrade at the position and jumped at the chance to bring Chandler back while putting only a minor dent into this summer’s cap space while improving the team’s financial forecast in the near future.

(Read full post)

Mavs not admitting mistake with trade

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
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 EllisRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesMonta Ellis emerged as a dynamic scoring sidekick for Dirk Nowitzki and the bar will be raised now.
DALLAS -- Monta Ellis exceeded all expectations in his first season with the Mavericks.

Remember that the Mavs’ original offer and Ellis’ asking price weren’t even in the same region until both parties became desperate. The Mavs needed a starting shooting guard after discovering that Devin Harris needed complicated toe surgery, and Ellis needed a team after discovering that the market for him was pretty dry, so they essentially met in the middle and agreed to a three-year, $25 million deal.

They fell in love after their marriage of convenience. Ellis emerged as a dynamic scoring sidekick for Dirk Nowitzki, averaging 19.0 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the floor, enjoying basketball as much as he has since his early seasons in the NBA. The Mavs firmly believe they found a foundation piece, impressed as much by Ellis’ relentless desire to win as his production.

But the bar will be raised for Ellis now.

“I just think Ellis is at a point in his career where he can still make some quantum leaps as a player,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

At 28 years old, Ellis is in his athletic prime after nine seasons in the NBA. The Mavs believe he will benefit from entering next season with “corporate knowledge,” as owner Mark Cuban likes to call it, and from continuing to play for one of the league’s elite coaches.

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DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki insists he hasn’t put much thought into what the numbers will look like on his next contract.

He just knows he’ll get a deal done to stay in Dallas, the only NBA home he’ll ever know.

“I have no idea honestly what it will be right now,” Nowitzki said. “I haven’t really thought about it since we just lost Game 7. That’s the brutal thing about a Game 7. When you win, you move on to the next round. When you lose, the season’s over the next day. Haven’t really put much thought into it. But like I said, Donnie [Nelson] and Mark [Cuban] were talking to me planning this summer and we’ll figure something out.”

Nowitzki verbally committed last summer to re-sign a two- or three-year deal at a significantly reduced salary after his four-year, $80 million contract expires this summer. He has never publicly discussed specifics about how significant that pay cut could be, but there has been a precedent set by two of his future Hall of Fame power forward peers.

Kevin Garnett signed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Boston Celtics in 2012. Tim Duncan signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs that summer.

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The Mavericks moved back a couple of hours on the clock and moved up a couple of spots in the Western Conference standings Wednesday.

Just another day in the wild, wild West.

We’ve got drama with seven games to go. The Mavs have a slim shot to finish as high as sixth and sit in a three-way tie for seventh place entering Thursday night’s road game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Will the Mavs make the playoffs or be hoping the ping pong balls bounce their way in the lottery? We might not know until their April 16 regular-season finale in Memphis ends.

Dirk Nowitzki
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIt's probably not the best idea for the Mavs to tank during Dirk Nowitzki's golden years.
On to your questions …

Q: After watching that heartbreaking loss to Stephen Flipping Curry and seeing the Mavs drop to ninth in the standings for the 76th time in the past week or so, I can't help but find solace in the fact that missing the playoffs allows us to keep our draft pick. I understand not wanting to outright tank away Dirk Nowitzki's final two or three years, but would it be such a terrible thing for us to miss the playoffs and draft a possible key player with the 14th pick? – Cole (Denton)

TM: I understand your logic, but the Mavs want to pay their bill (now owed to Oklahoma City) on the disastrous Lamar Odom deal as soon as possible.

First-round picks are among the most valuable commodities in the trade market, and the Mavs are handcuffed from even discussing dealing them because they owe a top-20 protected pick to the Thunder. That’s one reason to root for the Mavs to make the playoffs and unload that pick this summer.

Maybe a better reason: Think of the worst-case scenario. The protection on that pick runs through the 2017 draft. Imagine if the Mavs stay on the mediocrity treadmill during Dirk’s golden years – not good enough to get rid of the pick, landing in the late lottery or grabbing one of the West’s last playoff bids each season. Then Nowitzki retires in the summer of 2017 and the Mavs finally bottom out.

How sick would it make you to give the Thunder a high lottery pick smack dab in the middle of Kevin Durant’s prime?

Q: I read recently that Rudy Gay could possibly opt out of his contract. I see his reputation very similar to Monta Ellis. Any chance the Mavs would take another gamble on an "inefficient" scorer to team with Dirk and Monta? – Blake (Dallas)

TM: My initial reaction is that I’ll believe Gay walks away from his $19.3 million salary for next season when I see it. I doubt he could get that much over two years in free agency. You can point to Ellis as an example of a player who left money on the table to escape a losing franchise, but he thought he’d at least be able to get in the neighborhood of the three-year, $36 million offer he turned down from Milwaukee.

My next thought is that plugging in Gay as the starting small forward doesn’t address the Mavs’ biggest need, which is becoming a better defensive team.

Having said all that, never say never. If Gay opts out and doesn’t find much of a market for his services, maybe the Mavs could get him on a decent value deal.

Gay has a rep as a volume scorer, but he’s actually been pretty efficient since being traded to NBA Siberia, averaging 20.5 points on 48.5 percent shooting in Sacramento. He’s lit up the Mavs in their last two meetings with the Kings, and the Dallas front office has a history of signing players who have had success against them.

However, defensive issues aside, I don’t know how well Gay would fit with Ellis. They both need the ball in their hands a bunch, and neither is a good perimeter shooter. Spacing seems like it’d be a concern.

[+] EnlargeSamuel Dalembert
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs could explore other options at center during the offseason, but don't count out Samuel Dalembert as the starter next season.
Q: The Mavs have no chance signing Marcin Gortat in the offseason. Who is best starting center can Mavs sign or trade for next season starting center position? I personally like Mavs to sign Emeka Okafor or trade for Anderson Varejao. Have one of the guys as starting center and Samuel Dalembert as backup center. Mavs can have one of best defensive center combo in the league best season. What you think, Tim? – Jason (Dallas)

TM: Why don’t the Mavs have a chance to sign Gortat? They’ve already successfully recruited him once when he was a restricted free agent, but the Orlando Magic surprised everybody by exercising their right to match the offer.

Are you assuming that he re-signs with the Washington Wizards? That’s probably a good bet given that the Wizards made great strides this season and have plenty of cap space, but it’s ridiculously premature to rule out the Mavs getting Gortat, who is by far the best big man realistically available in free agency.

Okafor? Is he ever going to play again? He’s not worth more than a minimum-salary flyer at this point. I’d be interested in dealing for Varejao despite his own injury history, but I have no idea what the Cavs would ask for him.

Don’t rule out Dalembert starting again next season.

Q: Was it too soon for Donnie Nelson to assure Dalembert of his place with the Mavs next season? Sam was probably playing for a contract in the past month or so, thus putting in tremendous effort (with results). He could either go back to the lax mode like he was in a few months ago, or full gear the way Vince Carter did last year when Mavs refused to trade him. Your thoughts? – Gnosys (East of Seattle)

TM: Well, first of all, it’s not like Nelson’s comments were legally binding. The Mavs can always change their minds, but I don’t see that happening unless they really need the roughly $2 million in cap space that cutting Dalembert would create.

I also don’t buy Dalembert being motivated that much by his contractual situation. The dude has made more money than he ever dreamed of and has been played on one-year deals the previous three seasons. It certainly didn’t motivate him last season in Milwaukee.

Q: Lance Stephenson is being called selfish publicly by his teammates and got into a push fight with George Hill during a timeout. Is he still the man you want the Mavs to target this summer with a big contract? – Tony (Dallas)

TM: Some homework certainly needs to be done before offering him a long-term deal with eight-figure salaries, but I still see Stephenson as a talented, versatile, 23-year-old quality starter with star potential.

I'm not sure the Mavs are that high on him, but one rough stretch for the Pacers shouldn't prevent a team from bidding aggressively on Stephenson.

First, I haven't read or heard anyone singling out Stephenson as selfish. I saw Roy Hibbert make a comment about "some selfish dudes in here," but he didn't attach any names to it. I'd guess that was intended primarily for Paul George, who rise to stardom might have increased his hat size.

Stephenson isn't shooting the ball more often since the Pacers' season suddenly turned south. His assist totals have plummeted, but I'd say that's probably a symptom of Indiana's major offensive issues.

As far as the heated sideline interaction with a teammate goes, that stuff happens. It's not ideal, but it's at least a sign that a guy cares when things aren't going well for his team.

Remember Jason Terry and J.J. Barea going after each other in a Mavs huddle? Considering they played key roles in a title run months later, I'd say the Mavs made the right call by not rushing to get rid of either guy.

Would it be the right call to give Stephenson the kind of deal (four years, $44 million?) it'd take to pry him away from the Pacers? I'll admit that Indiana's struggles give me some pause, but I still believe the Mavs should seriously consider making a pitch to Stephenson.

QL With his improvements this year, could Brandan Wright become a larger part of this team in the next two seasons? Is he improving enough on defense? – Jared (Richmond, Va.)

TM: It's pretty evident that Rick Carlisle has a clearly defined role for Wright, and it isn't as a starter or a guy who gets the majority of the minutes. It's a safe bet that Wright will be a valuable member of the Mavs' bench as long as he's in Dallas. Carlisle doesn't trust Wright enough defensively to expand his role.



Dirk Nowitzki
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9