Dallas Mavericks: Eduardo Najera

Ricky Ledo ready to prove himself

July, 20, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- By making a trade to acquire the 43rd overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Dallas Mavericks made Providence shooting guard Ricky Ledo their guy.

"We specifically grabbed that pick for Ricky Ledo and we feel pretty good about him," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said.

Ledo, 20, is considered to have big upside, but there is a reason he was available in the second round. He never played for Providence. After moving from high school to high school, the guard sat out his freshman year as a partial academic qualifier before declaring for this year's draft.

"Certainly, he needs to mature and needs time, but we really feel good about him," Nelson said.

It's a much different situation for him now compared to his time at Providence, when he wasn't able to travel with the team.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has been quick to note Ledo is still considered a project piece.

"Ledo is a very good prospect at the guard position. He's a very young kid and this is the beginning of a process for him," Carlisle said. "We know he has NBA ability and we like him as a person. We're going to work hard with him."

The team certainly has a decent foundation to work with in Ledo. He has a smooth shooting touch and is pretty steady in regard to his dribble penetration and ability to pass. There have been highs and lows with his performances in the summer league, but he's still trending in the right direction.

There were ups and downs through the summer league, as he averaged 7.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists, but Ledo continues to show promise.

"I like his progression over the last four or five days," Carlisle said. "Each day he was a little more confident, a little more poise, keeping things a little more simple.

"That's going to be the key for him."

It's a key for him because as a second-round pick, he doesn't have a single guarantee of making the roster. He will earn an invite to training camp, but that's all he is assured of.

(Read full post)

Eduardo Najera gets first win as Legends coach

November, 29, 2012
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The Texas Legends overcame a 20-point deficit in their home debut to defeat the Austin Toros, 99-87, to give Eduardo Najera his first win as a coach.

The Legends trailed by 17 going into halftime, but rode a 30-8 fourth-quarter advantage to the win. Chris Douglas-Roberts led the Legends with 24 points and had six rebounds. Sean Singletary tallied 19 points and six assists, and Christian Eyenga and Chris Roberts added 13 points apiece. Vernon Lewis sparked the team with four steals and six rebounds in 18 minutes of play.

Justin Dentmon led the Toros with 21 points.

Sources: D.J. Mbenga to join Mavs training camp

September, 11, 2012
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The Dallas Mavericks have a full 15 guaranteed contracts, but they're bringing veteran center D.J. Mbenga to training camp, according to team sources.

Despite the Mavericks' current lack of roster room, they are interested in adding one more center for depth even after the offseason acquisitions of Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.

The Mavericks have also been linked with Brazilian center Rafael Hettsheimeir, who plays in Spain, but they know Mbenga well after finding him in Belgium and bringing the 7-footer to the NBA during the 2004-05 season.

RTBF in Belgium reported that Mbenga turned down contract offers in China and Greece for the opportunity to try to convince the Mavs to shed one of their guaranteed contracts to make room for him.

Mbenga, 32, last played in the NBA with New Orleans in 2010-11 and was part of two championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers after leaving Dallas.

If Mbenga fails to make the Mavs' roster, his D-League rights will be held by the Texas Legends and make him eligible to play for former teammate Eduardo Najera, who was named last month as the Legends' new coach.

Can Eduardo Najera be catalyst for NBA into Mexico?

August, 24, 2012
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DALLAS -- Donnie Nelson said he would love to bring Eduardo Najera and the Texas Legends to Mexico.

Najera on Friday was officially introduced as the D-League team's new head coach after retiring from the NBA earlier in the week. Najera will also have a stake in ownership, as well as join Nelson, who is the Dallas Mavericks' president of basketball operations and Legends co-owner, in the Mavs' front office.

The hiring of Najera, beloved in his native Mexico, could very well push the Legends to seek to play games in Mexico.

"We would love to work with the NBA and figure out how we can increase our presence in Mexico and greater Latin America," Nelson said. "I think the uniqueness of the D-League is that we can be a little more flexible and easier to move around than an NBA team. The NBA’s had a long history of taking teams south of the border. I was involved in one in one of Eddie’s first couple years and they’re still talking about that.

"I think that the Latino, Hispanic community initiatives are going to take a new level with Eddie’s new position."

Could Najera also serve as the catalyst to deliver an NBA team to Mexico? Commissioner David Stern has long flirted with teams in Europe and obviously the Canadian market has fared well with the Toronto Raptors. For most of the teams in the Southwest and Pacific divisions, a trip to Mexico is a hop, skip and a jump, well shorter than traveling to the East Coast or Pacific Northwest.

The NBA has staged more than 20 games in Mexico over the last 20 years. The Mavs, with Najera on the roster in 2003, played a preseason game in Mexico City. Najera and the Denver Nuggets played the Golden State Warriors in Monterrey in 2006.

Najera, the first Mexican-born player to be drafted in the NBA in 2000 and now the first Mexican-born coach in the NBA or D-League, talked of one day bringing an NBA team to Mexico.

"I'm talking about five, 10, 20 years, but it will be something that I would like to support," Najera said. "That's the reason this makes perfect sense being part-owner of the Legends, being the head coach, working closely with Donnie with the Mavericks. It's sort of a great plan, and basically I can get the experience, and so when I go down to my friends, I can say, hey, this is the way you do things, and hopefully they can buy the idea and hopefully they can make it happen."

Eduardo Najera's Legends now Mexico's team, too

August, 24, 2012
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DALLAS -- In his home country of Mexico, they call him by one name, Lalo, a common nickname for Eduardo.

Yes, Eduardo Najera is beloved in Mexico and it didn't take a turnout of about 200 at news conference there earlier this week to announce his retirement after 12 seasons in the NBA to know that.

"Everywhere we go, he's like Elvis," said Del Harris, the longtime Dallas Mavericks assistant and D-League Texas Legends general manager, who joined Najera and Donnie Nelson in Mexico City for the announcement. "He goes by one name there. He's like Pele in Brazil."

On Friday at the American Airlines Center, Harris and Nelson, the Mavs president of basketball operations and Legends co-owner, along with Mavs owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle, all praised Najera as a hard-nosed player and endorsed him as the next head coach of the Legends. Najera will also have an ownership stake in the franchise and he will join Nelson in the Mavs' front office.

Those who have known Najera and coached him said as long as he brings the same passion to coaching as he did playing that he will be a success. That will be seen as he begins his post-playing career by jumping straight into the head chair. What is instantly known is that the Najera-led Legends are now Mexico's team, too.

"I think that the country is going to be following me now. They’re going to be following the Legends," Najera said. "At the press conference (in Mexico City), obviously they knew who the Mavericks were, but once they heard about the Legends, now it became a Latino thing, a Mexican thing. Now we are going to have their support, I know, because that’s who we are. We are very loyal to athletes and I think that we are going to have that support and hopefully I won’t let them down."

Najera also shared, a bit reluctantly at first, his grand vision to one day deliver Mexico an NBA team. If anyone can do it, it is Najera, who became the first Mexican-born player drafted in the NBA in 2000 and is now the first Mexican-born coach in the NBA or D-League.

"It means a lot. I’m so proud of my heritage, proud of being a Mexican, born in Mexico, obviously I lived there til I was 17," said Najera, who came to the U.S. to attend Oklahoma. "It means a lot. This is a lot of responsibility, I know, I understand, but I think that if I focus on just coaching, if I work really hard, I think that I’m going to represent my country the right way. They’re expecting my work ethic, all the the same things that I had as a player, they expect it to come in as a coach, and I’m going to do that."

Nelson hired Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman to coach the Legends a couple of years ago, making her the first woman to coach an NBA-level D-League team. After Lieberman stepped down to join the club's front office, Nelson attempted to make a splash by offering fired Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl a compensatory package unheard of in minor league sports, although Pearl eventually turned it down to remain closer to his children in Tennessee.

The hiring of Najera accomplishes a massive marketing initiative, but also gives a former and loyal Mavs player with lofty aspirations the opportunity to immediately get started on his post-playing days.

Positional breakdown: Adding a Brand name

August, 9, 2012
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Fourth in a five-part series examining the re-tooled Dallas Mavericks position by position.

POWER FORWARD
Have the Dallas Mavericks featured a stronger power forward combo since the days of Dirk Nowitzki and Eduardo Najera? Or Maybe it was Dirk and Kris Humphries or Drew Gooden? A Dirk-Elton Brand duo is a pretty nice tandem and arguably one of the most diverse and potentially productive pairings in the league. Nowitzki has plenty of motivation heading into the 2012-13 season. He's coming off his lowest scoring average since his first two seasons in the league and hearing questions about his durability, stemming from the early season right knee issues, as he enters his mid-30s -- Father Time, bro, will live on. ... Elton Brand gives the Mavs a 30-minute-a-night reserve who can score, rebound and play defense behind Nowitzki. Brand's time will also be spent at center, but Dallas has never had a backup 4 with Brand's pedigree and it should go a long way to managing Nowitzki's minutes. ... We're only guessing here, but it makes sense for Brandan Wright to see more time at his preferred power forward position than at center, the position the Mavs played him at last season even though it became painfully clear that his lean frame is not suited to go up against true NBA centers.


How it came together
The Mavs pulled one over on the media, if not the rest of the NBA. Dallas was said to be putting together an "aggressive" bid for Philadelphia 76ers amnestied Brand and some estimates sailed to $5 million. One source said the Mavs were going to save the 76ers a bunch of money on Brand's $18 million salary for next season. Dallas had the high bid and won Brand's services in the amnesty bidding process, but that "aggressive" bid was a very pedestrian $2.1 million. That's the amount the Mavs will pay the veteran, giving Dallas easily the best value in the league for a backup power forward and center of Brand's stature. ... For the most part, the Mavs loved what they got from Wright, a former lottery pick who had been dogged by injuries. Even though Wright had a forgettable playoffs, he showed enough energy, athleticism and skill for Dallas to pick up the final year on a contract that will pay him less than $1 million.

[+] EnlargeElton Brand
Eric Hartline/US PresswireElton Brand gives the Mavs a 30-minute-a-night reserve who can score, rebound and play defense behind Dirk Nowitzki.
The upside
Nowitzki says he's got at least a couple more years of elite-level play in him and there's every reason to believe that he will come into training camp at the end of September in excellent condition. Everyone knows the story from last year -- championship run followed by the Olympic qualifying tournament, the lockout, the sudden resolution, the two-week training camp, the knee issues, the struggles and Charles Barkley, bro. Nowitzki has had a long offseason and one that seemed to be fun-filled, including his Heroes charity baseball game, Wimbledon, traveling Europe, a ceremony with fiancee Jessica Olsson in Kenya and perhaps even formal nuptials to close out the summer. So the 7-footer should be refreshed and focused. ... Brand acknowledged during an ESPN Dallas radio appearance that getting amnestied wasn't exactly flattering. So, he's got a thing or two to prove as well just as some are wondering how much he has left in the tank at 33 and coming off the lowest scoring average of his career (11.0 ppg) and his second-lowest rebounding average (7.2). Brand is in a contract year and should have no problem fitting in and can easily squeeze in 30 minutes a night shuttling between power forward and center. His solid physique, long arms and smarts make up for a lack of foot speed on the defensive end, where he's quite effective. ... If Wright moves back to power forward, it could help his confidence. If he can remain healthy, as he did last season for the first time in his career, it could be a breakout year for him. He has to impress early to get playing time behind some crafty veterans at either position.

The downside
So what if Dirk, and Brand for that matter, have lost more than we think? It's not Nowitzki's 21.6-point scoring average from last season that is of concern, but rather his 45.7 percent shooting percentage, down six points from 2010-11 and his low since his rookie season. Some of it was due to a terrible stretch early while he struggled through right knee stiffness and swelling. Other issues are Nowitzki's increased 3-point attempts and a decrease in driving -- again early on due to the knee issues -- a part of his game that had really taken off and was so effective during the championship run. In 62 games last season, Nowitzki took 212 3-point shots, his high since taking 220 in 77 games in 2007-08. He took just 168 attempts in 73 games in 2010-11 and 121 attempts in 80 games in 2009-10. While Nowitzki really thrived in canning 3s in transition, an argument can be made that Nowitzki's high long-ball total was partly due to the Mavs having few scoring options last season and him being forced to launch more 3s than he would like late in the shot clock. The Mavs would probably rather see more work more from his elbow, mid-range game and penetrations. ... Brand wasn't an offensive focal point for the 76ers last season and his scoring average dipped four points to a career low. He's a high-mileage veteran and at some point, the tank starts to run dry.
DALLAS -- Rodrigue Beaubois figured he knew the consequences if his flair backfired before he wrapped the ball around his back and soared for a SportsCenter-worthy slam dunk to finish a fast break.

“Oh, I’m out, for sure,” Beaubois said when asked what would have happened if he botched the showboat act.

[+] EnlargeRodrigue Beaubois
Glenn James/Getty ImagesRodrigue Beaubois scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.
That’s not necessarily the case, according to Rick Carlisle, the man who has emphasized the importance for Roddy B. to make being a competitor the priority over being an entertainer.

As long as Beaubois is competing, Carlisle can deal with the occasional flash. And Beaubois competed up to Carlisle’s standards during the second half of Thursday’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats, scoring eight of his 14 points and grabbing all four of his rebounds in the fourth quarter.

Carlisle demands intense defense and aggressive offense from Beaubois. Give the coach that and he’ll be cool with playing to the crowd a little bit.

“I had no problem with that because he was playing with great intensity at both ends,” Carlisle said. “He was competing hard at both ends. In the first half, he was out there, but he wasn’t a factor. He had no presence. I talked to him about that at halftime, and in the second half, he got in his stance and he made things happen.

“It’s one of the habits that he’s got to continue to develop, and that is the habit of keeping the motor going. It doesn’t come natural to some guys, and so it’s got to be things that keep you on, and we’ll stay on him about it.”

A few more notes from Thursday’s win:

1. Oh no, DoJo: The Mavs came dangerously close to blowing a 17-point lead in the final four minutes. Carlisle thought a 10-point lead was safe with 1:40 remaining an dpulled Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry from the game, but they were back in their five points and 61 seconds later. Reserve guard Dominique Jones especially stunk it up during garbage time, committing a careless turnover and compounding the mistake with a foul seconds later.

“I made the mistake of subbing too early,” Carlisle said. “I shouldn’t have put Jones in there. He went in there and half-stepped it.”

2. Matrix plays in pain: Shawn Marion’s left knee didn’t feel good despite taking Wednesday’s practice off. “Hell no,” Marion said. “I’m good, though. I’ll fight through it.”

Marion is the only Maverick who has played every game this season, but he didn’t play particularly well against the Bobcats. He had four points on 2-of-8 shooting, six rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes. Carlisle said that the Mavs wouldn’t let Marion play if there was any question about whether he would benefit from sitting out a game or two.

3. Dallas dumping grounds: The presence of three ex-Mavericks at the end of the Bobcats’ bench is evidence of what a miserably managed franchise Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are. DeSagana Diop, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera will combine to make $13.6 million this season. They combined to score four points and grab three rebounds in the Bobcats’ loss to the Mavs, with Carroll and Diop never taking off their warm-ups.

The Mavs shipped Diop to Charlotte months after making a massive mistake by giving him the full midlevel exception in 2008, getting Carroll and rental reserve center Ryan Hollins in exchange. Diop will make $7.3 million next season.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban somehow convinced Jordan to take the contracts of Carroll and Najera off the Mavs’ hands in what was supposed to be a Tyson Chandler salary dump. Najera comes off the books this summer, but Carroll is due another $3.5 million next season.

Even Cuban's wallet has threshold these days

February, 25, 2011
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DALLAS -- For years, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has spared no expense to acquire talent. It wasn't always money well spent, but it was money spent in the name of doing whatever it takes to put a winner on the floor.

The lone glaring exception, of course, was Cuban's decision to let Steve Nash walk for big cash in Phoenix. But, back in the summer of 2004, few media voices blamed Cuban, and most even agreed that Nash, who had yet to hit is two-time MVP form, was a health liability moving forward. Nash, of course, has made all those people look foolish, and ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline that the Mavs were interested in bringing Nash back if the Suns were ready to deal.

Money, and more precisely how it's spent, now seems to matter far more to Cuban. The obvious reason is the expiring CBA and the assumption that a hard cap is on the way. For years, the Mavs have ranked at the top of the league with the New York Knicks in payroll and Cuban has coughed up millions more each season in dollar-for-dollar luxury tax.

Looking at the 2011-2012 season (assuming all or at least a partial season is played after a potential lockout), the Mavs have around $57 million locked into eight players. The (soft) salary cap this season is $58 million and the Mavs' payroll hovers around $86 million. If a hard cap is enacted and is set at, say, around $60 million -- and it might not be that high -- taking on additional salary now can be extemely limiting over the next few seasons.

And, in particular, this offseason when the Mavs will pull out all the stops to keep center Tyson Chandler after he becomes the most sought-after big man on the free agent market.

We saw a harder financial stance taken by Cuban last offseason when the Mavs had Al Jefferson targeted in a potential trade with Minnesota, but balked at taking on Jefferson's three-year, $42 million contract without the Timberwolves helping out and taking back some of the Mavs' bad contrats. Charlotte eventually did, taking Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera off Dallas' books in the deal that sent Chandler and his expiring $12.6 million contract. Utah landed Jefferson because it didn't need to dump salaries back on Minnesota.

Money was again a factor at the trade deadline. The Mavs seem to have dug in regarding taking on salary, which is why seemingly difference-maker-type players such as Stephen Jackson, who has two more years at some $19 million left on his contract, never got a serious sniff despite the immediate impact he could have made offensively and defensively at the wing position. And why Tayshaun Prince, with an expiring contract, was much more palatable. Detroit, however, hung on to Prince.

The Mavs were willing to take on Devin Harris and his remaining $18 million only because they viewed him as a gateway to possibly acquiring Deron Williams.

Mavs president Donnie Nelson said after Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline passed with the Mavs standing pat, that the organization did not draw a line in the sand regarding taking on salary.

"No. I think that in a couple years there's certainly an argument for having some room," Nelson said. "But, again it's talent first, second, third. So, if there was a talented player that went into that cap space we were willing to look at that."

Instead of adding big money, the Mavs signed Peja Stojakovic on the cheap after the Toronto Raptors bought out his eight-figure salary on the final year of his deal. And the return of Roddy Beaubois the week leading into the All-Star break provides what the Mavs hope will be a super-impact player at the bargain-basement price of $1.2 million.

Inside Skinny: Roster upgrade thoughts

January, 6, 2011
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Most Dallas Mavericks fans are focused on some sort of vintage Cuban-era, headline-grabbing trade in the wake of Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury. I guess it's what we've come to expect. In this case, however, I'm not sure it's what makes the most sense.

Ace homie Marc Stein did a nice job of laying out the trade landscape. Unless the Mavericks are acquiring a young stud, I don't see the point in completely changing the dynamic of this team for an older player. While Stephen Jackson remains a seemingly good fit if the price were right -- right being expiring contract, pick and cash -- I wouldn't mess with my chemistry too much if I were the Mavs. And be realistic, they probably don’t have the trade assets to get a young stud who can do what they need anyhow.

What they need is a healthy Roddy Beaubois. Mavs Nation was abuzz Wednesday that Beaubois was actually shooting jumpers. I know that sounds ridiculous to get all excited about the idea that a guy many of us thought would be back by Thanksgiving is just now leaving the floor during casual shooting, but we're starved for what he could deliver. He's the guy to break down a halfcourt defense with his effortless penetration and money jumper.

[+] EnlargeOmri Casspi
Greg Ashman/Icon SMIOmri Casspi is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings this season.
Aside from everyone’s personal feelings for Butler, from a team perspective, it wasn't devastating that Dallas lost its current #2 scoring threat to Dirk (when does he return again?). It was devastating that someone as good as Butler was probably going to be the third scoring option behind Beaubois come May. And JET was the spark off the bench. Put that picture in the frame along with the Mavs' stellar D and Jason Kidd's guidance and you have the makings of a deep playoff run. But without Butler and with the uncertainty of Beaubois' situation and, well, it looks like the Mavs are going to need a bigger boat.

But don't put me in the boat with those that think the Mavs need to immediately start shopping. I like the idea of what Stein is reporting as the most likely plan, which is to try and buy a couple of fancy life rafts. The target team that intrigues me the most is Sacramento. Them boys are bad. Not Run DMC bad. I mean hard to watch bad. It's disappointing really, considering I kind of dug what they were doing last year. But this season has definitely been tough sledding. Stein has mentioned that Omri Casspi and Carl Landry are both movable at the right price. I'd love to get both, if that seems a tad unrealistic, but it's worth work-shopping in this here space.

Acquiring Landry seems easier to pull off. He's in the last year of his $3 million dollar deal and highly unlikely to resign there. What's the point of the Kings keeping him around? Doghouse be damned, he shouldn't be getting any of Jason Thompson's minutes. That dude needs to be a positive for them. And if Thompson is going to get back on the right developmental path, he needs as many minutes as he can get. It makes sense to ship Landry elsewhere. Why for the Mavs? Because he's a solid scoring option. Not in the same ways that Butler was, but he can stick the ball in the basket. He's crafty in the paint and just plain goes hard. If he's soaking up all the power forward minutes that Dirk isn't, then Shawn Marion plays exclusively at small forward for the remainder of the season. That's better for him defensively anyway, even if it doesn't suit his offensive game.

What would get it done? According to the superbeast salary resource ShamSports, the Mavs have a $3 million dollar trade exception from the Eduardo Najera deal that would allow them to take on Landry’s salary without sending another player back. If they send back cash plus a future first-rounder and a future second-rounder then that's a pretty nice financial swing for giving up a player that in no way helps their rebuilding efforts. Is that enough to get it done?

[+] EnlargeCarl Landry
Craig Bennett/Icon SMICarl Landry is averaging 11.8 points this season with Sacramento after averaging 18 points in 28 games after joining the Kings last season.
How about the whole enchilada? Getting Landry and Casspi? You could offer a second deal of another future first-round and second-round pick and seldom used but immensely intriguing former first rounder Alexis Ajinca -- who makes right at the same dough as Casspi. Before I saw Ajinca on a regular basis, I thought he was a total bust of a pick for Charlotte. Now I realize he'd just been Larry Browned there. He's got a nice feathery touch from the outside and he's a solid athlete for his 7-foot frame. I think he may have a future, he just needs playing time to develop. That ain't gonna happen here, son.

So final tally after swapping, Dallas receives Casspi and Landry to address depth at the three and the four, and Sacramento receives Ajinca, a positive plus $5 million dollar swing, and two probably late first-round picks and two second-round picks.

Is that enough for both players? Hard to know what Sacramento is getting offered for Casspi but my instinct says its borderline at best. Most indications are that Sacramento is asking a lot for Casspi. The move that has a better chance to get the deal done would be for the Mavs to send Butler, J.J. Barea and Ajinca (or one of those guys if Sac wants) plus a pick for Landry, Casspi and Beno Udrih -- all three years and plus $20 million dollars of him. While I think it's a fantastic talent grab for Dallas, I think the Mavs would be way against Udrih's contract and even more reluctant to move the extremely well-liked Barea. And as Tyson Chandler pointed out Wednesday on the Ben and Skin Show, Butler is still very much a part of this team and still emotionally invested as a teammate. And seeing the way these guys have fought for one another this year, I think that'd be a tough move for the front-office to make and one that would disappoint "the room."

Not sure if I'd do it or not. I do think the roster would be upgraded. It’s a big expense financially and emotionally, and I'm not sure it’d put them close enough to the top. It's definitely intriguing.

PF: Dirk Nowitzki is the one and only

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
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Fourth in a five-part series breaking down the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks. (Previous installments.)

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty ImagesAfter another summer away from the game, Dirk Nowitzki should be fresh to start the season.
Position: Power forward

Personnel: Dirk Nowitzki (7-0, 245), Shawn Marion (6-7, 228), Tyson Chandler (7-1, 235)

Outlook: Nowitzki is coming off another stellar regular season (25.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) in which he was again required to carry the team offensively. After opting out of the final year of his contract and then re-signing in early July for four more years at a discounted rate of $80 million, Nowitzki won't have the help of a superstar as he had hoped to share the burden. Instead, he remains optimistic that Roddy Beaubois can step up. Otherwise, Nowitzki, by re-signing, has agreed to be patient and wait for a trade opportunity to present itself. As for the position, Nowitzki is the lone true power forward on the roster. The Mavs lost out on free agents Udonis Haslem and Al Harrington, and when they traded Eduardo Najera to Charlotte in the deal that netted center Tyson Chandler, Dallas got rid of its one down-and-dirty, blue-collar worker on the front line. The Mavs will rely on small forward Shawn Marion and the 7-foot-1 Chandler to handle some backup duty as coach Rick Carlisle looks to reduce Nowitzki's minutes, which climbed to 37.5 per game last season. Dallas is reportedly interested in signing Tim Thomas, who played 18 games for the Mavs last season before leaving the team to care for his ill wife.

Most likely to step up: Nowitzki decided not to play for Germany in the FIBA World Championships later this month, a move that surely pleased owner Mark Cuban. Nowitzki said he felt much fresher at the start of last season after not playing for Germany a year ago, so he's primed for another fast start.

Most likely to step back: With no other true power forward on the roster at the moment, this category is not applicable.

For Najera, easy come, hard to go

July, 13, 2010
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When Eduardo Najera returned to the Dallas Mavericks mid-season for a second stint, he couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

"I love it [being back in Dallas]," Najera said. "I always kept a home here even when I was gone, so I was never really gone, gone. During the summer I was around the city, around the people, so deep down when I was gone I was hoping that I would actually come back."

Now, he's gone again. Najera was included in Tuesday's Erick Dampier trade-chip deal that also sent Matt Carroll to Charlotte for centers Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca.

Dallas drafted Najera out of Oklahoma in 2000 and he spent the first four seasons of his career with the Mavs. He'll go down as the lone player involved in the trades that brought Dampier to the Mavs and saw him go. In 2004, Dallas sent Najera, Christian Laettner, two first-round picks and the draft rights to two others to the Golden State Warriors for Dampier, Dan Dickau, Evan Eschmeyer and the drafts rights to another player.

The Mavs will miss the edge Najera brings, which was on full aggression-mode in the playoff series against the Spurs. With the Mavs needing to flex some muscle, Najera picked up a Flagrant 2 for a hard takedown of Manu Ginobili and he added another flagrant while enforcing his "no layup rule" on Tony Parker.

Najera will take that toughness to Charlotte, his fifth team and sixth stop as he heads into an 11th NBA season.

Bigger plans than just Chandler and project

July, 13, 2010
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Clearly this is part of an on-the-fly master plan moving forward because relinquishing the coveted $13 million Erick Dampier trade chip for Charlotte Bobcats centers Tyson Chandler and underachieving 2008 first-round draft pick Alexis Ajinca would seem a move solely to create financial flexibility.

Headed to Charlotte with Dampier is the Dallas Mavericks' lone backup power forward Eduardo Najera and, interestingly, bench-warmer Matt Carroll, who returns to his previous team the day after Minnesota general manager David Kahn killed a Mavs trade proposal for Al Jefferson by refusing to take on Carroll's remaining $11.7 million over the next three years.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that the Mavs are now looking to shore up the power-forward position by signing Al Harrington, a strong, physical presence and a good scorer, starting at the full mid-level exception of $5.8 million next season. Harrington made $10 million last season and averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds for the New York Knicks, but with a shrinking market, the MLE will likely be his best offer. The 12-year veteran was part of the Golden State team that took down the No. 1-seeded Mavs in the 2007 playoffs.

Stein also reports that the trade was made to create as much financial flexibility as possible to keep pursuing a major deal, such as New Orleans' Chris Paul if the struggling franchise, as remote as it would seem, reverses field and decides to part ways with its star.

Among Chandler ($12.6 million), Caron Butler ($10.8 million), DeShawn Stevenson ($4.1 million) and J.J. Barea ($1.8 million), the Mavs currently hold nearly $30 million in expiring contracts.

The Bobcats will waive Dampier and reap the $13 million savings (although Stein reports Charlotte might try to shop Dampier first to fill another void). Dampier will then become an unrestricted free agent and it is not expected that he will return to Dallas, a source with knowledge of Dampier's thinking said, which would end his six-year stint with the franchise.

The 7-foot-1 Chandler, who played so well for New Orleans, blocking shots and slamming lob passes from Paul during the 2008 season when the Hornets ousted the Mavs in the first round, has dealt with multiple injuries, but has said he's eager to show teams that he is healthy again as he enters a big contract year.

Chandler, at $12.6 million in the final year of his contract, becomes the highest-paid of four 7-foot centers now on the roster. Brendan Haywood was promised the starting job before he signed a six-year, $55 million deal. The other two centers are both projects from France, Ajinca, and Ian Mahinmi, who was signed on Monday to a minimum contract.

This should also finally put to rest any further speculation that Shaquille O'Neal is or ever was a Mavs target.

As badly as the Mavs and their fans wanted to see a significant free-agent splash come from the Dampier chip, it became obvious that it just wasn't going to happen. This trade, at best, gives the Mavs a second athletic center in Chandler, who, if healthy, can be an intriguing piece, as well as keeping the door open with additional financial flexibility to wheel-and-deal and further re-make the team moving forward.

Which free agents left worthy of the MLE?

July, 12, 2010
7/12/10
5:03
PM CT
Udonis Haslem would have been a terrific free-agent addition to the Dallas Mavericks. But, not suprisingly, Haslem will take less money to stay in Miami and play with the Superfriends.

Finding a capable power forward or center remains a top priority for the Mavs, who are determined to reduce Dirk Nowitzki's minutes (he averaged 37.5 mpg last season). Behind Nowitzki is only Eduardo Najera. At center, Brendan Haywood signed a six-year deal with the Mavs, Erick Dampier may or may not be back and Ian Mahinmi, who agreed to terms Monday, is a project.

But, who in free agency is left that is worthy of paying and producing at the full mid-level exemption of $5.8 million starting next season?

Scan the free-agent list and the pickings are slim. How does Brad Miller sound? Al Harrington would be strong, low-post addition, but he'd be taking more than a 40-percent pay cut if he signed for the MLE.

Of course, Shaquille O'Neal remains the largest name on the market.

The options are so thin in free agency, that the Mavs might look to split the MLE among two or more players. Suns unrestricted free agent center Louis Amundson played for the minimum last season. He's more marketable now and he has several teams interested. Former Spurs center Fabricio Oberto is out there. So is former TCU star Kurt Thomas, as is Garland's Ike Diogu.

There just isn't much to throw good money at, which is why the Mavs are taking a long, hard look at using the Dampier trade chip in a possible deal for Minnesota's Al Jefferson. Right now, he's the best it gets.

Heat's Udonis Haslem will have a choice

July, 11, 2010
7/11/10
11:42
PM CT
Earlier Sunday, we pointed out here that the Dallas Mavericks have been interested in power forward Udonis Haslem, who has spent his entire seven-year career with the Miami Heat.

On Sunday night, sources close to the situation confirmed to ESPNDallas.com that the Mavericks have extended a multi-year offer to Haslem that starts at the full $5.8 mid-level exception.

One source added that Haslem – one of Miami's most effective defenders on Dirk Nowitzki during the 2006 NBA Finals – is giving Dallas' pitch strong consideration despite the fact that the Heat are lobbying him hard to stay for less money and play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The 6-foot-8 Haslem has averaged 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds in his career. Haslem, 30, made $7.1 million last season. The newly star-laden Heat hope to keep him but will be limited to offering Haslem just over $4 million a year after signing the mega-free-agent trio and completing the expected signing of sharpshooter Mike Miller.

Although Dallas can clearly outbid Miami, Haslem's strong ties to the area – especially to his close friend Wade – hurt the Mavericks' chances of actually landing him. It's also possible that New Jersey could join the bidding for Haslem as well.

Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle have said the club's top free-agent priority is to sign a power forward or center. The Mavs have secured new deals with Dirk Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood, but depth is lean behind them with only Eduardo Najera and Erick Dampier on the roster.

Fantasy GM: Draft-day wheel & deal redux

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
12:19
AM CT

Since Part VI of our fantasy offseason series was crushed when OKC swooped in and acquired Daequan Cook and the No. 18 pick in the same fashion we suggested that Dallas should, we figured we’d take another stab at some draft day wheelin’ and dealin’. Target: Some dynamic youth courtesy of Nawleans.

The Basics: The Mavericks will alleviate New Orleans of the financial burden that leads people to speculate that Chris Paul might be available -- possible but very doubtful. But the financial burden is real, it just seems that the Hornets can resolve that issue without giving up one of the best players in the league. If the Mavericks are to do this, they deserve a lot in return. If not, why bother?

The How: Dallas will use their Kris Humphries trade exception to acquire Julian Wright and his two buckets a night production at the wing position as well as New Orleans No. 11 selection in Thursday’s draft. Obviously they key for Dallas is the pick since Wright has done very little to suggest he’ll ever even approach Stacey Augmon heights.

Dallas will also send J.J. Barea, Eddie Najera and Jason Terry and cash considerations to the Hornets in exchange for Darren Collison, Darius Songalia and James Posey.

The Why: For Dallas this move is about getting younger and more athletic. Plain and simple, Darren Collison is a stud. Collison and Roddy Beaubois coming off the bench together for Dallas would be absurdly dynamic. And the idea that Dallas would ever have to worry about Jason Kidd piling up ridiculous minutes as he did this past year is gone. There’d also be no pressure on Roddy to learn the point. He is a natural scorer, but if he does develop into a true lead guard, then Collison will have great trade value. But truth be told, Roddy’s minutes should really be coming from JET’s stash, not J Kidd’s. It also eliminates the inevitable unfortunate scenario of having to reduce the role of a guy who has meant so much to the team in the past. As for the pick, there should be a player with vast potential at No. 11. Whether it’s Paul George, Ekpe Udoh or Greg Monroe, someone worth having will be there.

For the Hornets, this is all about saving money. There’s no way they want to give up Collison (though Barea would soften that blow somewhat as a solid back-up to CP3), but they need the financial relief. Their hope would be that perhaps JET could give them some of the same-combo guard bench production they got from Janero Pargo in the '07-08 campaign. Plus, they could monitor JET’s minutes so that only $5 million of his contract is guaranteed for 2011-12. They won’t miss Posey, and Najera could somewhat approximate what Songalia does if New Orleans doesn’t opt to release him and save an additional $500,000 this upcoming season.

And how much does New Orleans save for 2010-11 if they agree to all this? The difference in salary is in the neighborhood of $3 million plus whatever Dallas would be willing to pay them in the deal. If it is the league maximum of $3 million and you factor in likely luxury tax numbers based on New Orleans' bottom line and what last year’s threshold was (approximately $69 million), you’re talking about a $9 million dollar swing.

The Bottom Line:

Dallas gains some much needed youth and a dynamic playmaker in Collison. He played like a lottery pick last year. They also pave the way for Roddy to become a scoring juggernaut off the bench in the old JET role and they jump into Thursday’s lottery fray without touching any of their main trade assets (we’ve mentioned them a million times -- Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract, Haywood S&T, Butler expiring deal, etc) . It would only be the beginning to what should be a very active summer and jump-start some excitement for a team trying to distance from a past of playoff letdowns.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9