Dallas Mavericks: Lance Stephenson



The Mavericks had a two-year, $20 million offer on the table to Stephenson, contingent on the Houston Rockets matching their offer for forward Chandler Parsons. If Houston had matched, Stephenson would have signed with Dallas, sources said.

The two sides had a handshake agreement.

Instead, Stephenson is headed to Charlotte to play for the Hornets for the next three seasons. His contract is worth $27 million, league sources said.

The contract, which includes a team option for the final season, ends Stephenson's productive yet volatile four-year stay with the Indiana Pacers.

Mavs' dice roll pays off with Parsons

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
5:30
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The Dallas Mavericks’ front office can exhale now.

Its extremely risky roll of the dice did not come up snake eyes. Restricted free agent small forward Chandler Parsons is officially a member of the Mavericks after the Houston Rockets declined their right to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet to him.

[+] EnlargeChandler Parsons
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsThe Rockets had vowed to match any offer for Chandler Parsons, but fortunately for the Mavs changed their tune after missing out on All-Star power forward Chris Bosh.
At more than $15 million per year, the Mavs are overpaying for Parsons, but they are happy to do it, a luxury afforded by Dirk Nowitzki accepting a major hometown discount on his soon-to-be-official deal for three years in the neighborhood of $30 million. Other than proven superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the Dallas decision-makers considered Parsons to be by far the best option in this free-agency class to fill their need at small forward.

The Mavs bid high on Parsons, whose deal is just shy of a max contract, because they wanted to call Houston’s bluff as boldly as possible. The Rockets had vowed to match any offer for Parsons -- who would have been paid $965,000 next season if Houston didn’t decline the team option for the last year of his rookie deal -- but changed their plans after missing out on All-Star power forward Chris Bosh in free agency.

There was certainly some luck involved in the Dallas front office's success. The Mavs signed Parsons to the big offer sheet believing LeBron James would go to Cleveland, a domino that would cause Bosh to head to Houston. The Mavs' hope was that the Rockets would wince at paying the luxury tax, prompting them to let Parsons leave.

Well, that's not how it all turned out.

Dallas was right about the LeBron domino, but had the Rockets signed Bosh, they'd have kept Parsons as part of arguably the NBA's best starting five next season. Without Bosh, Houston general manager Daryl Morey apparently couldn't stomach the thought of sacrificing future cap flexibility to match the massive offer to the Rockets' third-best player.

So the Mavs' logic didn't end up being right, but they love the result.

Houston agreeing to a four-year, $32 million deal with small forward Trevor Ariza on Saturday was a good sign for the Mavs, but they still expected to hold their breath up until the 10:59 CT Sunday deadline. Houston let the Mavs off the hook about six hours earlier, informing Parsons that he wouldn’t be returning to the Rockets.

By that point, Dallas didn’t have a fallback plan it wanted. Ariza, Luol Deng (Miami Heat) and Paul Pierce (Washington Wizards) all signed elsewhere over the previous 24 hours or so. With all due respect to Shawn Marion, the Mavs wanted to move on from the 36-year-old as their starting small forward. Signing Lance Stephenson would have been an act of desperation for a front office that considered him untouchable due to character concerns when free agency opened.

The Mavs don’t have to worry about any of that now.

They didn’t accomplish their long-standing goal of signing a big fish, but they have hope that the 6-foot-9, skilled, versatile Parsons can grow into a star after averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his third NBA season. He’s a proven player with a lot of promise, giving the Mavs a foundation piece whose best basketball is to come.

For the Mavs, that makes Parsons well worth the price, especially after the rest of the board was picked clean.
The Dallas Mavericks might be in love with Lance Stephenson by Monday morning. Or maybe they'll rekindle the flame with Shawn Marion.

At that point, if the Houston Rockets exercise their right to prevent Chandler Parsons from leaving for Dallas, the Mavs could have that closing-time feel. When the favorite targets have left the dance floor, a sense of desperation kicks in and flaws are a lot easier to overlook.

The concerns about Stephenson's character caused the Mavs to consider him untouchable not too long ago. Now, he's at the top of their list of Parsons fallback targets, by process of elimination as much as anything.

The free-agent small forwards flew off the board Saturday. It started with Trevor Ariza signing a four-year, $32 million deal with the Rockets. Paul Pierce went to the Washington Wizards for $11 million over two years. And the Miami Heat are close to locking up Luol Deng to a two-year deal in the $20 million range.

If Deng does commit to Miami, that leaves Stephenson and Marion as the starting-quality small forwards left in free agency, in the eyes of the Mavs. Of course, the 6-foot-5 Stephenson is really a shooting guard whom the Mavs would shift to small forward out of necessity in the Mavs' starting lineup. And the Dallas decision-makers have done everything in their power to replace the 36-year-old Marion, with all due respect to a man who has arguably earned the right to have his No. 0 hang from the American Airlines Center rafters in the not-too-distant future.

If denied Parsons, the Mavs probably will swallow hard and try to sign Stephenson, who has a five-year, $44 million offer on the table to return to the Indiana Pacers.

They'd be betting on the upside of a talented if erratic 23-year-old who joined Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Nicolas Batum as the league's only players to average at least 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists last season. The Mavs might try to minimize the risk by offering a higher salary on a short-term deal.

An offer for Marion, who has said he hopes to play two more seasons before retiring in the Dallas area, would obviously be short term. It probably would be in the range of $5 million per year, leaving the Mavs plenty of wiggle room under the salary cap, not that there are many appealing options left at any positions in the market.

Cuban talks LeBron, free-agent options

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
7:48
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LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James' decision to go back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers sent shock waves around the league. The city of Cleveland is certainly happy. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he thought James' decision was a positive one.

"I think it's great for the league," Cuban said as he was watching the Mavs' summer league team play. "As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, it's great to see the old-school cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, we're usually the brunt of the jokes and people talk about leaving.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsLeBron James' decision to return home to Cleveland resonated with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who is from Pittsburgh.
"It's always good when I go back to Pittsburgh and it's just that type city. It's a Pittsburgh city and Cleveland is very similar. It's great for the area and the city."

James took a massive public-relations hit in 2010 for his one-hour televised special announcing he would join the Miami Heat. Cuban says he believes that time has done wonders for James and his approach to his latest decision.

"It's obvious that LeBron has grown up quite a bit since 'The Decision,'" Cuban said. "How he handled it, his words, his approach were night and day. I think he deserves a lot of respect."

Here are other highlights from Cuban's chat:

Still in doubt
The clock continues to tick as the Houston Rockets have to decide if they're going to match the Mavs' offer for restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. The Rockets have until 10:59 p.m. CT Sunday to decide whether to exercise their right to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet Parsons signed with the Mavs.

"No," Cuban replied when asked if he had any inkling what Houston would do. "It's just a waiting game. I know what I would do. I don't expect them to do anything different."

Cuban wouldn't divulge what he would do in the situation.

(Read full post)

Cuban: Stephenson 'certainly on the list'

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
11:37
AM CT
Add Lance Stephenson to the list of the Mavericks’ targets if the Houston Rockets exercise their right to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet to Chandler Parsons.

Stephenson, who was considered toxic by the Mavs due to his character issues a couple of months ago, is somewhere on the top tier with Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng, a source told ESPNDallas.com. There is not a consensus opinion among the Dallas decision-makers about the rankings of those three unrestricted free agents.

"We're exploring a lot of options, a lot of different people," Cuban told reporters at the Las Vegas summer league later Saturday, after Ariza agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with the Rockets. "Hopefully, the Rockets won't match and we'll have Chandler and that changes what we're able to do but Lance is certainly on the list."

The 23-year-old Stephenson, who has balked at the Indiana Pacers' attempt to re-sign him to a five-year, $44 million deal, unquestionably has the highest upside of the Mavs’ options if Parsons returns to the Rockets. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the 56-win Pacers last season.

However, there are significant concerns about how Stephenson’s antics would affect the Mavs’ chemistry. His immaturity and tendency to rub his teammates the wrong way was cited as one of the factors for the Pacers’ slide in the second half of the season.

There are several examples of players who were considered character risks when the Mavs acquired them flourishing in Dallas. There are also cases such as Josh Howard and Lamar Odom, where character issues led to painful endings.

It's a matter of how much the Mavs are willing to pay to roll the dice on fire and ice.

At 6-foot-5, Stephenson played primarily shooting guard in Indiana but would start at small forward in Dallas.

It would not be ideal to pair 6-foot-3 Monta Ellis and Stephenson on the wings, making the Mavs a little undersized at both spots. But the rugged, 230-pound Stephenson is an upgrade over Shawn Marion as a rebounder – and Marion led the Mavs in rebounding the last three seasons. The Mavs also believe the presence of Tyson Chandler would minimize the defensive issues of being so short on the wings.

The Mavs also continue to be in contact with the agents of Paul Pierce and Marion, but they are on a tier below Ariza, Deng and now Stephenson.

What will Mavs do if Rockets match?

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
4:01
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DALLAS – What would the Dallas Mavericks do if the Houston Rockets exercise their right to match the three-year, $45-plus-million offer to Chandler Parsons?

The short answer: Keep searching for a starting small forward.

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“I tell you, we’ve got a lot of greaseboards in that office up there with lots of different scenarios,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “I can’t tell you which scenario is going pan out, but one of them is going to pan out. We will have a small forward with the Mavericks next year. Guaranteed.”

The Mavs will stay in contact with the agents of Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng, the two unrestricted free agents on Dallas’ Plan B tier of small forwards. They’ll also keep in touch with the representatives of Plan C small forwards Paul Pierce and Shawn Marion. Same with Lance Stephenson and so on.

Of course, the agents for those players will actively pursue deals with other teams during the three-day timetable the Rockets have to make their decision on Parsons. There are several teams in the market for small forwards, so there is a chance the market could be picked pretty thin by Sunday night.

Maybe the Mavs, with no leverage, are left to look through the leftovers Monday. The Dallas decision-makers will hope for the best with the Parsons situation and do everything possible to prepare to avoid the worst if that doesn't work out.

“We have some pretty good ones in the mix now, too,” Nelson said. “Our worst-case scenario is give young Jae Crowder an opportunity.”

Players have leverage in SF market

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
10:20
AM CT
Chandler ParsonsBill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons is a long shot because of the Rockets' intention to match any offer he receives.
One NBA front office executive compares free agency to watching frogs in a pond.

There are only so many lily pads for the frogs to hop onto. As those lily pads start getting claimed, the frogs tend to get a little more frantic, or at least more willing to negotiate deals that could be perceived as team friendly.

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Who is the most realistic option for the Mavs at small forward?

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Case in point: Monta Ellis, who settled for a lot less than his initial asking price last summer when the Dallas Mavericks were the lone lily pad left in the pond.

Could a similar scenario unfold in this summer’s market for small forwards? Don’t count on it. There are simply too many lily pads.

The Mavs are one of several teams who have ample space under the salary cap and a glaring need at small forward. Other teams on that list include the Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and the couple of teams competing for LeBron James, the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Several other teams hold cards because they own Bird rights or can match offers made to restricted free agents. That list includes the New York Knicks (Carmelo Anthony), Utah Jazz (Gordon Hayward), Houston Rockets (Chandler Parsons), Washington Wizards (Trevor Ariza) and Brooklyn Nets (Paul Pierce). And the Los Angeles Clippers are a contender determined to upgrade at small forward, via a sign-and-trade deal.

That’s almost half the league that’s looking for an upgrade at small forward or trying to keep their starter from last season. The Mavs consider only six small forwards to be Plan A or B options in this free-agency market.

(Read full post)

Lance Stephenson is no longer an untouchably toxic topic for the Mavericks’ front office.

Stephenson, the talented Indiana Pacers free-agent swingman with some significant character red flags, is by no means near the top of the Mavs’ board. However, the Mavs have registered mild interest in Stephenson recently, as ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported.

“He definitely needs to be on the list,” a team source told ESPNDallas.com. “You’ve got to look at all those guys. They’ve all got warts or they’d get max contracts.”

Make no mistake: the Mavs will not outbid the Pacers, who have offered Stephenson a five-year, $44 million deal that he considers far too low. Dallas does not intend to come close to that offer but could negotiate with Stephenson if the Pacers move on from him. For him to sign with the Mavs, a source said, the contract couldn’t be too cumbersome for the team to move on if it deemed necessary.

But if Stephenson tumbles through the cracks of free agency, like Monta Ellis last summer, Dallas is a potential destination for him if the Mavs miss out on the superstars and Plan B targets such as Chandler Parsons, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng.

The Mavs are operating under the assumption that they won’t land Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. Parsons is a long shot because of the Houston Rockets’ right to match any offer for the restricted free agent. There is an anticipation that Deng will sign with the Atlanta Hawks, making Ariza perhaps the Mavs’ most likely Plan B target.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Stephenson, who averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists while leading the league in triple-doubles as a 23-year-old last season, is far from a perfect fit for the Mavs. There are legitimate basketball issues, such as his tendency to over-dribble and the fact that he’d be undersized as a starting small forward. But his potential negative impact on the team’s culture is the primary reason the Mavs had been so cool on Stephenson, who repeatedly rubbed his Indiana teammates the wrong way long before his controversial antics drew so much attention during the playoffs.

A week into free agency, the Mavs have at least become lukewarm on Stephenson. It’s still a long shot, but that’s a long way from the Mavs’ first stance against adding Stephenson entering the summer.

Free-agency preview: Shooting guards

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
8:00
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Avery BradleyBrian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesAvery Bradley could fill a hole for the Mavericks. But would the rebuilding Celtics let him go?
Shooting guard is not a priority position for the Dallas Mavericks.

It’s a safe bet that Monta Ellis will lead the Mavs in minutes for the second consecutive season. Wayne Ellington, a solid perimeter shooter and defender who played sparingly this past season, also remains on the roster.

There’s a good chance the Mavs re-sign both Devin Harris and Vince Carter. They get most of their minutes at other positions -- Harris at point guard, Carter at small forward -- but they’ll probably split most of the shooting guard minutes not logged by Ellis.

The Mavs have zero interest in Indiana’s Lance Stephenson, arguably the most talented unrestricted free agent in this summer’s crop. He could easily slide to small forward, but the Mavs simply aren’t interested in making a significant investment in a known knucklehead, particularly one who tends to dominate the ball by over-dribbling.

Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson often says you can never have enough shooting, but the Mavs don’t intend to get in on the bidding for gunners Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, either.

There are, however, a handful of shooting guards who might fit the Mavs, if they fall through the cracks in free agency:

Avery Bradley: As one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA, Bradley would directly address one of the Mavs’ most glaring weaknesses. But he’s a restricted free agent, and it’s hard to imagine Boston letting a 23-year-old contributor go if all the Celtics have to do to keep him is match a bargain offer.

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Rodney Stuckey: Remember when he was one of the NBA’s best young guards? His production for the Pistons plummeted the past couple of seasons (13.9 ppg, 2.1 apg, .436 FG in 2013-14), and he lost his starting job, but the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Stuckey is still only 28 years old and versatile enough to play multiple positions. He might benefit from a change of scenery.

Jodie Meeks: He’s a shooter who averaged a career-best 15.7 points per game for a terrible Lakers team this past season and made 46.3 percent of his field goal attempts and 40.1 percent from 3-point range. He’s never been confused for a lockdown defender, but he’s not awful on that end of the floor either.

C.J. Miles: The Mavs had talks with Miles, a 6-foot-6 lefty who grew up in Dallas, when he was a free agent two summers ago. He's a nine-year veteran but only 27 years old, he can play both wing positions, and he is a good perimeter shooter. He hit 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers this past season, when he averaged 9.9 points for the Cavaliers.

Thabo Sefolosha: The 6-foot-5 Sefolosha could be considered a bigger, more physical and more experienced version of Ellington. He lost his 3-point touch in 2013-14 (31.6 percent) after shooting better than 40 percent from long distance the previous two years. He’s a 3-and-D player who is strictly a spot-up shooter on offense, but he’s among the NBA’s better wing stoppers.

Why don't Mavs want Lance Stephenson?

May, 21, 2014
May 21
2:03
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Chris BoshMarc Lebryk/USA TODAY SportsLance Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Pacers this season.
For three quarters Tuesday night, Lance Stephenson was the best player on the floor in a game that featured a handful of All-Stars, including a couple of all-time greats on the other team.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took over in the fourth quarter, leading the Miami Heat to a comeback win over Stephenson’s Indiana Pacers. But Stephenson’s 25-point, seven-assist, six-rebound performance was still awfully impressive.

It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder whether the Dallas Mavericks should reconsider their lack of interest in Stephenson as free agency approaches.

There’s a lot to like about the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Stephenson. He’s only 23 years old. He stuffs box scores, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the East’s top seed this season. And he’s absolutely fearless.

But the Mavs’ front office doesn’t see Stephenson as a fit, particularly since they’d probably have to offer near a max contract to prevent the luxury-tax-fearing Pacers from matching it. (Stephenson is not a restricted free agent, but there’s no reason for him to leave Indiana if the money is equal.)

Then again, the Mavs’ interest in Monta Ellis was lukewarm at best at this time last year. We all know how that worked out, but the big difference here is that Stephenson isn’t desperate to escape his current situation and should have plenty of suitors in free agency.

(Read full post)

SAN ANTONIO -- This season cannot be described as a success for the Dallas Mavericks.

The franchise’s standards are far too high for that. As Dirk Nowitzki said after a scintillating first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs ended with the Mavs on the wrong end of a Game 7 rout, the standard was set in 2011, when the Mavs won a title.

So a 49-win season and pushing the West’s top seed to seven games can be a source of pride but isn’t a success in Dallas. However, it’s a big step in the right direction for a franchise whose arrow seemed to be pointing down after its dozen-year playoff streak ended last season.

The Mavs’ front office must make major strides this summer to give Nowitzki, an All-Star at age 35, a legitimate chance to chase a title during his golden years.

[+] EnlargeMavericks
AP Photo/Eric GayThe signings of Ellis and Harris, third from left, were among the Mavs' unexpected successes that the front office will look to build on this summer.
"I think if we keep this team together, we’re going to make a lot of noise next year," said Monta Ellis, last summer’s desperation signing, who proved a lot of people wrong by establishing himself as an electrifying sidekick for Nowitzki.

That’s the message owner Mark Cuban delivered to the Mavs in the AT&T Center’s visitors locker room after Sunday’s 119-96 loss. He stressed how much the Mavs value continuity after making major roster changes the past three offseasons.

The Mavs like their core. They want to keep it intact as much as possible and hope to re-sign Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Devin Harris, key role players who are entering free agency, to reasonable contracts. Oh, and Dirk, too, but that’s just a matter of agreeing to the details of a deal that’s likely to end up resembling Tim Duncan’s discount contract (three years, $30 million).

"Mark and [president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson] and I all agree that the more continuity we can have going forward, the better," coach Rick Carlisle said. "It’s one thing that [the Spurs have] done so well here for so many years, so we’ll work to get back as many of these guys back as we can. We’ve got a lot of free agents. I’d love to have them all."

But the Mavs’ front office, which will have more than $30 million of cap space when free agency opens July 1, isn’t fooling itself into believing that this veteran-heavy roster just needs a little time to develop into a legitimate championship contender. The Dallas decision-makers are well aware that the Mavs need major boosts of length and athleticism.

Time is of the essence, considering the franchise player turns 36 this summer.

"Ultimately, the year we won in 2011, that’s the standard now," said Nowitzki, the Mavs’ unofficial assistant GM. "We obviously have high expectations. The fan base does, the organization does. We want to get back up there. However we need to do it, whatever needs to be done, Mark and Donnie are going to probably do it. We’ll see what happens."

(Read full post)

Monta EllisAP Photo/Sue OgrockiThis season has been a case of right coach, right situation and right time for Monta Ellis.
We couldn’t ask for much better drama from a rebuilding Mavericks season.

Every game will matter with the regular-season finale deciding whether the Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies get the unenviable task of opening the playoffs in San Antonio.

Frustrating as the Mavs’ inability to hold leads might be, this is a fun team to watch. It’s one of the best offensive teams in basketball, featuring a historically elite shooter in Dirk Nowitzki, one of the league’s most relentless paint attackers in Monta Ellis and some beautiful ball movement in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow system. Sure, the Mavs are a subpar defensive team, but that’s entertaining, too.

Enjoy the ride. The odds of it ending with a parade through downtown Dallas are extremely slim, but at least Mavs basketball is fun again after one miserable .500 season.

On to your questions ...

I think it's pretty clear Dirk Nowitzki is best Mavs player ever. Who's the second? -- @JohnnyPablo_ on Twitter

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After Dirk Nowitzki, who's the second-best Mavs player ever?

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I can make cases for Rolando Blackman, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but I’m going with Mark Aguirre.

Aguirre’s Dallas departure was ugly, but the dude filled it up during his time with the Mavs. He averaged 29.5 points per game during the 1983-84 season, a franchise record that might never be broken. He averaged at least 22.6 points per game for six straight seasons.

We’re talking about one of the best 6-foot-6 post scorers to ever play the game. It’s too bad his No. 24 will probably never hang from the American Airlines Center rafters.

Is Monta Ellis having a great season due to him changing his game under Rick Carlisle or more of a testament to simply being surrounded by a better supporting cast like he was with the Warriors? -- Parker (Dallas)

It’s a case of right coach, right situation and right time of Ellis’ career. He arrived in Dallas sick and tired of losing, recognized the opportunity he had here and attacked it with an open mind.

It’s not that Ellis has changed his game as much as he’s simply played to his strengths. He’s always excelled at attacking the basket. He just settled for way too many jumpers in recent years.

Of course, he never had a teammate that had anything close to the kind of gravitational pull on defenses that Dirk has. Ellis has much more space to operate in Dallas than he did in Milwaukee or Golden State after he became the go-to guy. Carlisle has done a great job putting Ellis in situations to play to his strengths, and Ellis has responded with a season that the Mavs front office considered a best-case scenario when they signed him.

(Read full post)

Mavs mailbag: Magic number is three

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
12:14
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Vince Carter Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsWill eight-time All-Star Vince Carter be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day?

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mavericks can almost smell the playoffs.

“It’s just fun to be a part of,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who wasn’t a postseason participant for the first time in 12 years last season. “The preparation and adjustments from day to day in the playoffs is a blast. It’s actually very taxing mentally and physically, but it’s also the most fun.

“Hopefully we can get back there.”

The Mavericks’ magic number is three. Any combination of three Mavs’ wins or Memphis Grizzlies’ losses clinches them a playoff spot.

Dallas has the tiebreaker over Memphis because the Mavs won the first three meetings of the season. There’s a decent chance that the Mavs’ trip to Memphis for the regular-season finale will either be meaningless for the visitors or Dallas will have only seeding at stake, not a playoff ticket.

That will likely depend in large part on the outcome of the Suns’ April 12 visit to the American Airlines Center. The Dallas-Phoenix tiebreaker will be at stake in that game after the Mavs and Suns split the previous two meetings this season.

That covers several of the questions in this week’s mailbag. On to some others ...

Is Vince Carter Hall of Fame to you, Tim? -- EricHorneOK on Twitter

Absolutely. It’s not a hard decision. As Rick Carlisle pointed out, eight-time All-Stars are always Hall of Famers. Carter is 26th on the all-time scoring list, and every single eligible player above him has been honored in Springfield, Mass.

There are plenty of fans and media members who feel that Carter didn’t maximize his immense potential, but that’s not a good enough reason to consider not inducting him into the Hall of Fame. He’s also helped his case -- and maybe changed the perception of him in some minds -- by unselfishly embracing the sixth man role and excelling in it the last couple of seasons in Dallas.

(Read full post)

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.

Mavs mailbag: Time to sit Dirk?

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
12:00
PM CT
Dirk NowitzkiAP Photo/Tony GutierrezWould it be wise for the Mavs to rest Dirk Nowitzki down the stretch as they fight for a playoff spot?

DALLAS -- The Mavericks have lost two of the last three games. Dirk Nowitzki looks old. If the playoffs started today, the Mavs would be back in the lottery.

Last week’s feel-good mailbag seems so long ago. At this point, it seems most MFFLs are awfully worried about this playoff push or already looking forward to the summer.

On to your questions ...

Do you think the Mavs may try to rest Dirk down the stretch? He's looked noticeably exhausted the past few games. -- @ItsaThomasThing on Twitter

I got several versions of this question this week. One faithful reader, @RamiMichail, went so far as to suggest sitting Dirk on Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings.

I’ll be absolutely stunned if that happens. It’s simply a luxury the Mavs can’t afford while fighting for their playoff lives.

Rick Carlisle said the subject hasn’t even been broached internally this week, adding that he talked to Nowitzki at length yesterday and was told that the big German feels fine physically. I’m not sure I buy that, especially after playing a pair of overtime games in the last week, but the Mavs don’t believe Nowitzki is at a point where he absolutely requires a game of rest right now.

“I don’t think he’d agree to sit right now anyway,” Carlisle said. “I think he’d fistfight all of us to keep playing.”

By the way, if Dirk is going to get a DNP-CD (OLD), I wouldn’t do it against a bad team. I’d sit him on the road April 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers, a game the Mavs aren’t likely to win anyway and the front end the only back-to-back left on the Mavs’ schedule.

What effect do you think the loss of Dwane Casey to the Raptors has had on the Mavs D since champ season? Any at all? -- @emptyflare on Twitter

Casey is one of the best defensive minds in the NBA. He’s also a Coach of the Year candidate this season, as his Toronto Raptors team that was supposedly tanking is in third place in the Eastern Conference. I can’t completely dismiss the impact his loss might have had on the Mavs’ defense, but I do believe Dallas defensive coordinator Monte Mathis is a good coach who has kept all the schemes and principles he learned while working under Casey.

This is much more of a personnel problem than a coaching issue. The Mavs knew they’d have major defensive challenges after putting the roster together this summer. They’d have to overachieve to be average defensively. Unfortunately, they’ve lived down to expectations on that end of the floor, ranking 22nd in defensive rating.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

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