Dallas Mavericks: J.J. Barea

Here are four words that might confuse Dallas Mavericks fans: Darren Collison, playoff hero.

Collison, the scapegoat for many of the Mavs’ crunch-time failures during their miserably mediocre 2012-13 season, keyed the Los Angeles Clippers’ comeback from a 22-point deficit in Sunday’s series-evening Game 4 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, making several impact plays with his speed as part of a three-guard late lineup, including a couple of layups that were the Clippers’ last two buckets.

“Game ball goes to Darren Collison,” L.A. star Chris Paul said.

What a moment for Collison, whose one-season stint in Dallas was so disappointing. He arrived with hope that he’d have a chance to prove he could be a long-term solution as the Mavs’ starting point guard and ended up getting demoted for an elderly, off-the-street replacement ... twice.

Collison, who signed a two-year, $3.9 million deal this summer, has been a great addition to the Clippers. His stats (11.4 ppg, 3.7 apg) are actually down a bit from last season, but not nearly as much as the pressure on him.

L.A. didn’t ask Collison to replace a legend, as the Mavs did after scrambling to fill Jason Kidd’s shoes. They signed Collison to complement a perennial All-Star point guard.

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Crowder, James dominate in D-League

February, 27, 2014
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Call it the J.J. Barea Rule. If you want to make a case for earning minutes for the Mavericks, you better blow up if you get sent down to the D-League.

That’s exactly what center Bernard James and small forward Jae Crowder did in their cameo appearance for the Texas Legends on Thursday, putting up monster numbers in a 121-103 win over the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

James’ line in the box score looks like it belongs in a video game. He scored 38 points on 18-of-20 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked four shots. James had 28 points on 13-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds by halftime.

Crowder’s stats are almost as impressive: a 23-point, 18-rebound, 10-assist triple-double with two steals and a block. There were a couple of blemishes in Crowder’s box score line -- 1-of-5 3-point shooting and five turnovers – but he was physically dominant against a lineup that featured former first-round picks Terrence Williams, Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry.

Point guard Shane Larkin, the Mavs’ first-round pick, had a so-so performance. He scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, dished out nine assists, grabbed five rebounds and committed five turnovers.

The Mavs sent the three young reserves to Frisco to get them some playing time since they aren’t in Dallas’ rotation right now. They’re expected to be recalled for Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

OT: Catching up with '11 champions

February, 24, 2014
2/24/14
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Keeping the powder dry didn’t pan out for the Dallas Mavericks.

Breaking up a championship team wasn't a popular decision by the Dallas front office at the time, to put it politely. And the Mavs brass’ CBA forecast is still easy fodder for critics more than two years later, with Dirk Nowitzki still the lone All-Star on the roster.

But Mark Cuban and Co. were absolutely right about one thing: Keeping that roster intact would have only guaranteed a large luxury-tax bill. All due respect to Tyson Chandler, who the Mavs will see Monday night at Madison Square Garden, but it’s delusional to believe that Dallas was denied a potential dynasty.

Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd and Brian Cardinal have retired. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones can’t get NBA jobs. Brendan Haywood, an amnesty clause casualty in Dallas, is collecting checks in Charlotte while sitting out the season following foot surgery. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion -- who combine to make $32 million this season -- are the only 2011 champions who remain on the Mavs’ roster.

Here’s a look at what’s happened to the rest of the title team:

Tyson Chandler
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $55.4 million deal with the New York Knicks
Chandler was the finishing piece of the Mavs’ championship puzzle, but he’s an outstanding role player, not a star capable of being a centerpiece of a title contender. That’s evident by the fact that the Knicks, who feature a legitimate superstar in Carmelo Anthony, have won only one playoff series since signing Chandler in December 2011 and are a long shot to make the playoffs this season. Injuries have limited Chandler to 32 games this season, and he is averaging 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds, numbers that certainly don’t justify a $14 million salary.

The Mavs declined to make Chandler a multiyear offer after the lockout, much less match the Knicks’ deal. That will always leave the Mavs’ front office open to a couple of second-guess hypotheticals: Could the Mavs have done a respectable job defending their title with Chandler anchoring the 2011-12 Dallas defense? By dangling Chandler, could Dallas have pulled off a blockbuster deal to land Dwight Howard instead of helplessly watching the Los Angeles Lakers use Andrew Bynum to get the league’s best big man in the summer of 2012?

Jason Terry
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $15.7 million deal with the Boston Celtics
Jet is a journeyman now, having been traded twice over the last eight months. His brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was an unmitigated failure, as the 36-year-old Terry averaged only 4.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting before being shipped to the NBA equivalent of Siberia. He’ll sit out the rest of the season instead of reporting to the Sacramento Kings. The hope is that focusing on rehabbing his left knee -- he apparently never fully recovered from summer surgery -- will allow Terry to contribute again next season. However, it’s painfully clear that Jet’s days as an elite bench scorer are over.

J.J. Barea
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $18 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves
Barea is a quality backup point guard, but that’s a steep price to pay for that type of player. Barea’s stats have dipped this season (8.7 PPG, 3.6 APG), but his contract is the primary reason Barea’s name was floated in trade rumors before the deadline.

Caron Butler
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers
This was a crazy contract to give a then-31-year-old who was coming off a serious knee injury that ended his 2010-11 season on New Year’s Eve. Butler is a high-character guy, but he’s a low-efficiency offensive player at this point of his career. The Clippers insisted on including him in the three-team deal that sent Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns and Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to the Clippers. The Bucks are stuck with an expensive part-time starter who is shooting less than 40 percent from the floor for the NBA’s worst team.

Corey Brewer
Dallas departure: traded to the Denver Nuggets along with Rudy Fernandez for a future second-round pick
The Mavs dumping Brewer’s reasonable salary before the 2011-12 season made little sense, considering Dallas needed all the energy and athleticism it could find on the cheap. The Mavs made creating salary-cap space their priority, but they could have easily found takers for Brewer the next summer if need be. However, the Dallas front office didn’t see a role for Brewer after signing Vince Carter. After a couple of quality seasons coming off the Nuggets’ bench, Brewer signed a three-year, $14.1 million deal to become the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting small forward.

Ian Mahinmi
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $16 million deal with Indiana Pacers
If the Pacers were confident in Mahinmi, they wouldn’t have rolled the dice on Bynum. Mahinimi is averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds and making $4 million this season.

Opening Tip: Can Larkin play the Barea role?

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle compared Shane Larkin to J.J. Barea and draft night and made sure that the first-round pick fully understood the reference in the months since.

“Probably every game that J.J.’s played in a Mavericks jersey, I’ve seen highlights of it,” said Larkin, who made his NBA debut Monday night after recovering from surgery to repair a fractured ankle suffered before summer league. “I’m looking at tape and just trying to become that type of player for the team.”

That kind of player is a pint-sized pain in the butt for opponents, a change-of-pace guard who creates problems for opponents by pushing the tempo and getting into the paint, often as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. Carlisle’s orders to Larkin: “Mess the game up.”

Barea filled that pest-off-the-pine role extremely well during the Mavs’ championship season and played an even bigger role in the NBA Finals, starting the last few games of that series at shooting guard.

Barea, the shortest 6-footer in NBA history, averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists in a little more than 20 minutes per game that season. It remains to be seen if the 5-foot-11, 176-pound Larkin can carve out that big of a role as a rookie, but the Mavs are impressed enough by his rare quickness and ACC player of the year pedigree to give him opportunities to prove himself worthy.

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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.

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Forget about Andrew Bynum’s bum knees for a few minutes. Do the Mavericks really want to bring another 2011 Laker to Dallas?

PODCAST
ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.

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Maybe the third time would be the charm. The first two members of that squad -- the two-time defending championship team that ended up being barely a speed bump in the parade route around these parts – who later joined the Mavs were disasters in Dallas.

Lamar Odom goes down as one of the greatest disgraces in Dallas sports history. He went from Sixth Man of the Year to scrub during the lockout, and his lack of effort for the Mavs was just embarrassing. The man stole Mark Cuban’s money for a season, continuing to cash checks after Cuban finally had his fill and kicked Odom off the team.

Oh, and the protected first-round pick the Mavs gave up to get Odom seemed like chump change at the time, but it’s handcuffing the Mavs as far as trade assets go (they can't trade future first-rounders) and indirectly helped deliver Dwight Howard to Houston. The Rockets, who acquired that pick from the Lakers, shipped it to Oklahoma City as part of the blockbuster deal to get James Harden, which made recruiting Howard a realistic goal.

And the Odom deal/debacle can get even worse for Dallas. What if the Mavs aren’t good enough to give OKC the pick while it’s top-20 protected through 2017? Can you imagine the Thunder getting a high lottery pick from the Mavs right as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are reaching the middle of their primes?

Derek Fisher's layover in Dallas didn’t cause a whole bunch of collateral damage, other than hurt feelings. At least he had the decency to stop being paid when he quit on the Mavs.

The 37-year-old Fisher lasted a few weeks as the Mavs’ starting point guard before deciding he wanted to spend quality time with his family. That, of course, was a politically correct way of Fisher freeing himself to wait for an opportunity with a contender to come up.

Can the Mavs trust Bynum to pack his heart if he moves to Dallas? Of course not. But it isn’t like there are better big man options available.

We are talking about a guy whose motivation was questioned many times during his stint with the Lakers. This is a dude who quit on Phil Jackson in the legendary coach’s last stand, a broom-waving blowout in Game 4 of the 2011 West semis at the American Airlines Center.

Mavs fans’ strongest memory of Bynum is of his cheap-shot body slam of J.J. Barea, guaranteeing that the big man could exit the Game 4 rout early instead of enduring the embarrassment for 48 full minutes. Who can forget Bynum ripping off his jersey like a pro wrestler as he headed into the tunnel while being hollered at by Cuban and 19,000 other fans?

Do the Mavs really want that guy on their roster? Do they want to test their luck with another 2011 Laker?

In ideal circumstances, the answer would be absolutely not. But Bynum represents the Mavs’ only hope to hit a home run this summer, so they’d roll the dice on his character if his knees don’t scare them away.
O.J. Mayo might help the Mavs bring back one of Dirk Nowitzki’s championship buddies.

PODCAST
ESPN NBA senior analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest developments in NBA free agency. The Rockets are a slight favorite to land Dwight Howard, but the Mavericks are in the running.

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With the Timberwolves among the teams recruiting Mayo, the Mavs have had discussions with Minnesota about a sign-and-trade that would net 2011 Finals hero J.J. Barea.

The Mavs don’t have the luxury of picking their trade partner in these sign-and-trade scenarios, which include the possibility of a package from the Clippers headlined by explosive 23-year-old point guard Eric Bledsoe. Mayo will pick his next team – and it’s a near certainty he won’t return to Dallas due to the market for him after he was the team’s second-leading scorer during his lone season with the Mavs.

Dallas decision-makers Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson are determined to explore all options involving him as a trade asset.

If Mayo chooses Minnesota, one of several teams who have shown interest in him, a deal that would bring back Barea and likely another piece might make sense, depending on how the Mavs’ shopping for a point guard goes. Barea isn’t an ideal starter due to his size but could be a stopgap who could mentor rookies Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel.

Due to make $9.2 million over the two remaining years on his contract, Barea could also have some trade value if opportunities present themselves in midseason. At the very least, Barea, who averaged 11.3 points and 4.0 assists off the bench last season, would add some juice to the Mavs’ pick-and-roll-happy offense.

And seeing Barea in a Mavs uniform again would certainly please some fans who never wanted to see him leave in the first place.

Larkin sees himself as 'Ty Lawson type'

July, 1, 2013
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Shane Larkin appreciates being compared to a former Mavericks fan favorite, but with all due respect to J.J. Barea, the first-round pick is setting his sights a bit higher.

No, that’s not a short joke, although their sub-six-foot stature is one reason for the Barea-Larkin comparison.

PODCAST
Mavericks top draft pick Shane Larkin joins Galloway and Company to discuss his future in Dallas.

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It’s just that Larkin strives to be an NBA starter. That’s why he prefers to compare himself to another vertically challenged NBA point guard.

“I see myself as a Ty Lawson type,” Larkin said during a conference call with Dallas reporters. “Just somebody that can go out there every night and make an impact with my speed and quickness.”

Larkin’s career path is pretty similar to Lawson’s to this point. Lawson was the ACC player of the year as a junior at North Carolina before being selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Larkin was the ACC player of the year as a sophomore at Miami before being selected No. 18 last week.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Lawson is thicker than the 5-foot-11, 171-pound Larkin, but Larkin is quicker and more explosive. Larkin has data from the draft combine to prove it, noting that he tested better than Lawson.

The proof:

PODCAST
ESPN NBA senior analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest developments in NBA free agency. The Rockets are a slight favorite to land Dwight Howard, but the Mavericks are in the running.

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*Larkin had a 44-inch vertical max vertical, the best combine measurement in DraftExpress.com’s database. Lawson leaped 36.5 inches as a draft prospect.

*Larkin was timed in the three-quarters-court sprint at 3.08 seconds, the fastest at this year’s combine. Lawson’s time: 3.12.

*Larkin’s time in the lane agility test was 10.64, the sixth-best at this year’s combine. Lawson was timed at 10.98 in 2009.

None of that guarantees that Larkin can be an NBA starter or even a rotation player, but his athleticism, pick-and-roll pedigree and perimeter shooting ability are among the reasons that the little guy thinks big. There’s also a healthy chip on the shoulder of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin’s son, who enjoyed hushing those who didn’t think he could play Division I basketball, much less star in the ACC.

"People are saying now that I can't be a starter, I can't be a successful player in the NBA,” Larkin said. “I'm just going to use that as motivation."

Larkin’s immediate goals aren’t too large, though. He simply wants to earn playing time and be productive as a rookie.

It’s a pretty good plan to continue following a similar path to the one traveled by Lawson, who primarily came off the Denver bench during his first two NBA seasons before emerging as one of the West’s better starting point guards the last two years.

That’s what Larkin is aiming for. If he ends up being the next Barea, that’s not bad, either.
Shawn Marion is still a Maverick … at least for now.

The deadline passed without Marion exercising the early termination option in his contract, according to a source, meaning the Mavericks need to create an additional $2.73 million of space under the salary cap to be able to sign Dwight Howard to a max contract.

PODCAST
Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.

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Marion is due to make $9.32 million in 2013-14, the final season of his five-year contract.

A best-case scenario for the Mavs would have been Marion, whose agent Dan Fegan also represents Howard, opting out of his contract and returning to the Mavs on a multi-year deal with a lower annual salary. However, NBA rules expressly forbid negotiating that type of deal before the player officially becomes a free agent, as the league office recently reminded the Mavs.

If Howard chooses the Mavs over the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets or other suitors, the most likely scenario is that the Mavs would trade Marion for no, or significantly less, returning salary.

Marion, the Mavs’ most versatile player and best defender, is Dirk Nowitzki’s lone remaining teammate from the 2011 title team. Other core players from that team, such as Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea, left via free agency when the Mavs opted not to make competitive offers because Mark Cuban wanted to create the kind of financial flexibility necessary to sign a superstar such as Howard.

“We’ll cross that bridge once we get there,” Nowitzki said this week of potentially trading Marion. “If Dwight really says he’d love to be here, he’d love to come and this is where he wants to play, then that’s something we have to address then. Now I don’t think we have to address that.

“I loved playing with all of my championship teammates. We had a great team and chemistry. I was sad seeing all of them go. It would be the same if we did part ways with [Marion]. We’ve been through a lot. We’re the same age and we almost came into the league together. We’ve seen a lot together in this league and we won the ring together. It’s been a great ride together. We’ll see how far we can still take it. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Mavs compare Shane Larkin to J.J. Barea

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
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Shane Larkin and Jose Juan BareaGetty ImagesMavericks coach Rick Carlisle likens Shane Larkin to J.J. Barea. "He'll be better in some areas and other areas he won't be as good," he said of the 18th pick out of Miami. "But we like him and feel like he can compete for playing time right away."

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks don’t envision Shane Larkin developing into the next Jason Kidd or Steve Nash.

PODCAST
Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.

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They compare the 18th overall pick to another ex-Mav point guard: J.J. Barea.

“I don’t think he and Barea are exact duplicates, but we’ve missed the last couple of years the element that Barea brought to the game here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Being able to get to the rim, being able to get it going from 3, the resourcefulness and some of those types of things.

“Shane’s going to bring some of those types of things.”

The coach said Larkin won’t be identical to Barea, and that’s OK.

“He’ll be better in some areas and other areas he won’t be as good," he said. "But we like him and feel like he can compete for playing time right away.”

Barea, who like Larkin comes up shy of being a 6-footer, played a key role as a change-of-pace reserve point guard for the Mavs’ 2011 title team before leaving for the Minnesota Timberwolves after the Mavs declined to make him a multiyear offer. Barea averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists in 20.6 minutes per game that season.

“[Larkin] comes in with that kind of a punch,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He’s able to get by the best of them. He’s about as quick as it gets. His ability to shoot the long ball and create, especially the way the game is played nowadays, is just really, really important.”

Other than size, the primary reason for the Larkin/Barea comparison is their pick-and-roll proficiency, which is especially critical for a point guard who will play with Dirk Nowitzki. As a sophomore for the Miami Hurricanes last season, Larkin averaged 6.4 points as the pick-and-roll ball handler, ranking sixth in the NCAA in that category.

“Our pick-and-roll game this past year was not at the level we’re used to, so we wanted to get better in that area,” Carlisle said. “Shane’s one of the best in college basketball at doing that. A lot of people try to go under screens because of his quickness and he shot behind screens very effectively. He’ll see a lot of different coverages in this league, and what we’ve seen is that he does a good job reading situations.”

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

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Carlisle repeatedly referred to Larkin, who led the Hurricanes to an ACC championship and the Sweet 16, as “a winner.” Like Barea, the Mavs believe Larkin has the kind of grit and mental toughness for a small guard to succeed in the NBA.

The Mavs envision a backup role for Larkin. At this point, they just don’t know who their starting point guard will be next season.

The Mavs were determined to address the point guard position in the first round after a frustrating, non-playoff season that had Darren Collison, Derek Fisher, Mike James and even Dominique Jones all start games at the position. Nelson said the Mavs were prepared to stay at No. 13 and pick Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum or Michael Carter-Williams if any of the draft’s top three point guards slid to that spot.

Once Carter-Williams went off the board at No. 11, the Mavs targeted Larkin, who has a 44-inch vertical leap and ranked among the fastest and quickest players in the draft during combine testing.

“This league now is a lot about playmakers and being able to make plays off the dribble, having a feel for the game,” Carlisle said. “Speed is important. He brings some of those dynamics and characteristics. We think he’s going to help us.”
The Mavericks aren’t in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, so we have to find something to fill the time this spring. Might as well keep up with the players from the Mavs’ title team who are scattered throughout the postseason. We planned to have updates as long as Mavs championship alums were alive in the playoffs, but frankly, Ian Mahinmi alone doesn't merit it.

Ian Mahinmi is the last member of the Mavericks’ championship team left standing in these playoffs.

With Mahinmi watching all but four minutes from the bench, his Pacers eliminated the Knicks in Game 6, ending a miserable series for two integral pieces of the 2011 title team.

Indiana’s Roy Hibbert dominated Tyson Chandler before the Knicks big man fouled out with 3:12 remaining. Jason Kidd was benched for the second half for the second straight game and went scoreless for the 10th consecutive game, dating to Game 2 of the first round.

Hibbert had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the series finale. Chandler had two points and six rebounds, limited to only 23 minutes because of foul trouble.

For the series, Hibbert averaged 13.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, compared to 6.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for Chandler. The Knicks were outscored by 23 points with Chandler on the floor in the series, including 17 in Game 6.

The 40-year-old Kidd had a historically horrible offensive performance during these playoffs. He averaged 0.9 points and shot 12 percent from the floor, the lowest postseason field goal percentage for a player with at least 25 attempts since 1947.

This might not quiet the outcry about Mark Cuban opting to break up the Mavs’ championship team – that’d probably require signing a superstar this summer – but it definitely deadens the angry mob’s factual ammunition.

Here is what Cuban feared: The Mavs would look a lot like the Boston Celtics or New York Knicks, veteran teams who weren’t good enough to be true contenders and have extremely limited avenues to improve because of their bloated payrolls and the restrictive rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Imagine if the Mavs paid the price to keep all of their championship pieces. Chandler, Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler will cost a total of $35.1 million next season, which would put the Mavs in luxury-tax territory, handcuffing them this summer. Only Butler’s $8 million salary would come off the books in 2014-15.

With a Dirk Nowitzki as the lone star surrounded by an supporting cast of players who are primarily also on the decline, do you really believe the Mavs would have been a threat to come out of the West?

You can make a strong case that it’d have been better for the Mavs to have kept the title core together and at least be a playoff team than the mediocre mess the franchise put on the floor this season. But this really isn’t a Chandler vs. Chris Kaman conversation. It’s a risk/reward discussion.

In Cuban’s opinion, the potential reward didn’t justify the risk of sacrificing roster flexibility if they kept the championship team intact. Finances were only a factor in the post-lockout decisions as they related to limiting the Mavs’ upgrade options.

Cuban decided to dream big, putting immense pressure on him to pull off a superstar acquisition this summer. That ultimately needs to happen to justify stripping down the title team as a good decision.

But if you think the Mavs broke up a dynasty, you clearly didn’t watch much of the first two rounds of these playoffs.
DALLAS -- Is it appropriate and accurate for Mark Cuban to shoulder all the accountability for the Mavericks missing the playoffs?

"Yeah, I mean, it’s not Tyson’s fault or the guys’ or J.J.’s," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Obviously, winning it all, they got a better deal somewhere else. You can’t fault the guys for going there where the money is. I guess that’s part of the business. We let the guys go and it is what it is.

"I said it all year long, that we can’t judge yet if it was a mistake or not. I think it’s going to depend on this offseason. If we end up empty-handed again, then maybe it was the wrong decision to let everybody go. But if we make a good move here with all this cap space, then maybe it wasn’t all bad. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what this summer brings."

While Nowitzki brought up the post-lockout decision not to make more than one-year offers to Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and other free agents from the 2011 championship team, Cuban maintains that he doesn't regret those decisions. However, the Mavs have yet to reap the benefits of the salary cap space created as a result.

Nowitzki's initial reaction to Cuban blaming himself for the 12-year playoff streak ending was to wonder what might have been if he hadn't needed to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in October, forcing him to miss the season's first 27 games.

"When we put this roster together, I thought we were solid," Nowitzki said. "I figured if I stayed healthy and didn’t need surgery, we would be fighting right around the playoffs, for a six, seven, eight, nine seed. I figured before the season that’s where we were going to end up. I didn’t think we were going to be a top four seed, but then obviously I needed surgery and missed almost two months and once I came back I wasn’t in the shape I really needed to be to be a factor out there. That’s where we’re at."

Darren Collison best suited as a backup?

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
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DALLAS – Darren Collison is one of the NBA’s best backup point guards.

That’s a backhanded compliment to a 25-year-old who entered the final season of his rookie contract determined to prove that he was a solid starter in this league.

That, however, is the reality of Collison’s role right now and most likely for the rest of the season. The Mavs are 5-3 since 37-year-old journeyman Mike James became the starting point guard, and coach Rick Carlisle has indicated on several occasions that he believes Collison’s game is best suited for coming off the bench.

Collison accepts his role. That doesn’t mean he embraces it – and it isn’t the ideal situation he’ll search for in free agency this summer.

“In my heart, I know I’m a starter,” Collison said. “I know what I’ve done. As of right now, I’m just trying to help the team win.”

Carlisle emphasizes that he still considers Collison, who was demoted for Derek Fisher earlier this season, to be as important to the team now that he’s a reserve than he was as a starter.

"Even though he’s an off-the-bench guy at this point and time, I view him as one of our starters," Carlisle said. “Much like Jason Terry was for four years here. Jet was one of our better players, but he came off the bench and gave us a lot in that role. We need Darren to do the same thing."

J.J. Barea is probably a better comparison, but you get Carlisle’s point.

Collison’s minutes haven’t seen too steep of a drop since he stopped starting. He averaged 31.1 minutes in 51 starts, compared to 24.8 in the last eight games.

Collison’s production isn’t drastically different in the reserve role, either. He has averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor in the last eight games. As a starter, Collison put up 12.6 points and 5.7 assists per game, shooting 46.7 percent from the floor.

The biggest difference: Collison's plus-minus has been plus-51 in the last eight games; it’s minus-101 in his 51 starts.

“I think he’s in his wheelhouse right now,” sixth man Vince Carter said. “He’s very comfortable. And I think he gets the opportunity to kind of analyze the game before he plays it now. The game slows down and he’s playing at a really high level.”

Collison acknowledged that there are some benefits to coming off the bench. He gets to study the flow of the game for the first five minutes, and he typically tries to use his speed and quickness to increase the tempo. Plus, he feels that he has a little more freedom as a reserve.

“As a starter, you kind of want to get everybody involved the first five minutes,” Collison said. “When you come off the bench, everybody’s kind of already had their touches. You want to be a little bit more aggressive coming off the bench.”

Given the choice, Collison wants to be a starter. But that’s not an option in Dallas right now. Whether it is somewhere else will be determined in the free-agency market this summer.

3-pointer: Elton Brand delivers big off bench

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
9:00
AM CT


DALLAS -- Raise your hand if you thought Elton Brand was done.

You were wrong.

PODCAST
Elton Brand joins Ben and Skin to talk about the current state of the Mavericks. Ben lets Brand know about his Mavs' mediocre nightmare becoming a reality, and Skin talks about Brand's roller-coaster season.

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Brand admittedly had a tough transition to being a bench player after arriving in Dallas via amnesty waivers and getting off to a slow start as a starter, but he’s settled into his role recently, redefining it along the way to suit his ability and the Mavericks’ needs.

The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Brand knows he earns his minutes because he’s a banger and smart, physical defender. But he firmly believes he can still be an efficient scorer, a point he’s proving.

Brand’s season-high 20-point performance in Monday’s win over the Timberwolves was his fourth double-digit scoring effort in the last six games. By comparison, he had five double-digit nights in his first two months and change in a Mavs uniform.

“I had to change the role a little bit,” Brand said. “I looked at it as, OK, come in, play some good defense on their big, be a presence in the post against their defenders and don’t worry about the shooting as much. It worked out early on, but then we were losing. So it’s, OK, I need to find a way to be a threat, help out this team, get buckets and do what you need to do.”

Brand is averaging 10.8 points over the last six games, which isn’t exactly eye-popping for a man with a career average of 17.9 points. But he’s done it on 66.7 percent shooting, hitting 30 of 45 shots from the floor.

“I know where my looks are coming from,” Brand said. “They know where I like my looks. We kind of worked it from there. It’s tough when you’re getting two or three shots a game, four shots a game, and you’re expected to shoot at a high clip. I forget what I said (in November) -- I’m not a firecracker or something like that -- but now I’m getting a lot of touches and sharing the ball.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ third consecutive win:

1. Hangin’ with Collison: Darren Collison capped a 23-point, nine-assist performance with a pretty, two-handed dunk on a fast break. The 6-footer was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim after the dagger dunk in the final minute.

“I think that’s the first tech of my career,” the mild-mannered Collison said. “I can’t remember getting one at all.”

If you’ve got to get T’d up, that’s a pretty good way to get one.

2. Barea’s big return: Former Maverick J.J. Barea tried his best to keep the Timberwolves in the game during his first action as a visitor at the American Airlines Center.

Barea, who got a nice applause from the crowd when he checked in for the first time, led Minnesota with 21 points and dished out five assists. The Timberwolves were plus-3 in his 26 minutes.

“I have a lot of good history here,” Barea said. “This is where it all started and where it all happened, so I’m always going to love coming back to Dallas.”

3. 20/20/20 vision: The Mavs, who never trailed in the game, had three players score at least 20 points for the first time all season. Collison scored 23, and O.J. Mayo and Brand added 20 each.

It’s the first time since Jan. 30, 2012, that three Mavs not named Dirk Nowitzki scored at least 20 points in a game. Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Delonte West each had 20-plus points in a win over the Phoenix Suns that night.

Buzz: J.J. Barea ponders what could've been

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
7:25
PM CT
DALLAS -- This will be the first time J.J. Barea plays at the American Airlines Center since Game 5 of the 2011 Finals.

If it were up to him, he'd still have a stall in the home locker room here.

That's not how it happened, however. Barea, who has been injured during the Timberwolves two previous trips to Dallas since his departure from the Mavs, didn't get a multiyear contract offer from the then-defending champions, like the rest of the Mavs' post-lockout free agents. He wasn't willing to make the immense financial sacrifice of turning down Minnesota's four-year, $19 million offer to take an offer from the Mavs that looked tiny by comparison.

No matter how badly Barea wanted to stay with the Mavs, he felt he had to leave, a situation he admits bothers him to this day.

"No question, that crosses my mind every day," said Barea, who is averaging 10.9 points and 4.5 assists this season. "What could have been? We're never going to find out. But it's just something that you've got to live with and let it go."

Mavs owner Mark Cuban has nothing but appreciation for Barea, saying he feels a "special connection" with the fiery, undersized point guard he signed as an undrafted free agent out of "Never, Never Land," aka Northeastern University. Barea spent his first five NBA seasons with the Mavs, carving out a significant role in the last few seasons.

"I know he wanted to stay," Cuban said. "Look, I'm disappointed, too. I didn't make up the rules. I'm just trying to figure them out."

Barea, who still keeps in touch with several of his former teammates and members of the Mavs' support staff, will surely be greeted with a warm welcome.

He's also sure to hear a familiar line from Cuban, who will be in his usual baseline seat: "Who let that baby on the court?!"

That was a Clipper Darrell classic, shouted in a dead-quiet Staples Center during a Mavs rout of the Clippers. It became one of the favorite punchlines for the 2010-11 title team.

When the Timberwolves came to town last season on the night of the Mavs' ring ceremony, a high chair was waiting for Barea in the visitors' locker room, a gift for the son his former Miss Universe girlfriend soon delivered, with a little double meaning.

A Timberwolves uniform was waiting on Barea this time, and he readily admitted he has a little extra motivation.

"You know he'll be throwing up 3s and trying to take over the game," Cuban said. "J.J.'s a great guy. He's just a really, really good guy. Other than when he plays us, you always want him to do well."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
19.1 4.2 1.9 33.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.4
AssistsR. Rondo 6.3
StealsM. Ellis 1.9
BlocksT. Chandler 1.2