Dallas Mavericks: Marc Stein
Dirk Nowitzki will finally get some well-deserved down time now that he's back home in Wurzburg after his valiant attempt to qualify Germany for the 2012 Olympics didn't work out at the European championship in Lithuania.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein caught up with the NBA Finals MVP Sunday night. Dirk's immediate plans do not include -- at least not yet -- looking to play overseas as the NBA lockout lingers, and do include at least a two-year hiatus from international competition during the offseason.
Now 33 and on top of the world, Nowitzki is free to make any decisions he so desires. Last season was a nine-month, training camp-to-championship physical and mental grind-fest. After winning his first title in his 13th NBA season, his life became a whirlwind of parties, celebrations, ceremonies, handshakes and appearances. Then it was on to the European Olympic qualifier.
Nowitzki did not have a terrific tournament. His body simply couldn't muster up the energy needed and he admitted that to Stein:
"I thought that, by the second round, I'll be all right," Nowitzki said. "But for some reason it got worse. I never got into the shape that I needed to be in. Maybe my battery was empty."
Those words might be a bit worrisome to Mavs fans if not for the ongoing NBA lockout that, at this point, appears very likely to delay the start of training camp. The Mavs are scheduled to open camp in just 15 days on Oct. 4. Nowitzki made the right decision for all the right reasons. And he is going to get his rest, and maybe more than he could even want.
After the NBA season, I argued that Dirk deserved to do as he wishes, and if that's playing for his home country and trying to get it to a second consecutive Olympics after the long, grueling title run, so be it. I stand by that, even had it meant a tired Dirk coming to training camp.
His decision to now take a break from international play for at least the next two summers is also a prudent decision. Outside of the European scoring record, which Dirk needs just 28 points to capture, there is little for him to accomplish in international play. He will use these next few offseasons to manage his body as he heads into the latter portion of his career. Dirk has three more seasons left on his contract. He will turn 36 when it expires.
If he chooses to make one last run at the Olympics in 2015, again, so be it.
Game 2 is his latest chance to prove it after Blazers coach Nate McMillan unexpectedly played Roy for the entire fourth quarter in Game 1 … only for Portland’s former go-to guy to finish with a whopping two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Or is it? It remains to be seen how McMillan doles out crunch-time minutes for the rest of the series, after Roy was admittedly indecisive with his shooting and decision-making in the Mavs’ 89-81 triumph.
“I’m frustrated,” Roy admitted after the loss. “But I’m looking at the playoffs as a new season. Coming back to a team that has an identity now and trying to fit me back into it has been a little difficult. But I’ve got to keep trying to get my confidence back and take my shots when they come.”
McMillan benched center Marcus Camby in that fateful fourth quarter, preferring a smaller lineup that reunited Roy with new Blazers go-to guy LaMarcus Aldridge. But Camby wasn’t the only prominent absentee for the Blazers down the stretch; Roy’s presence on the floor also meant highly rated second-year guard Wes Matthews was also a spectator.
It seems safe to suggest that McMillan preferred Roy because of the damage he did in the teams’ last two regular-season meetings. Roy scored 21 points in 28 minutes in Portland’s home win over the Mavs on March 15 and was at the heart of another home win over Dallas on April 3, when Portland racked up 38 points in the second quarter while running its offense through the three-time former All-Star in the post.
Roy, though, hasn’t scored more than 11 points in any of his 15 games since the 21-point eruption in March and doesn’t dispute suggestions that he’s thinking too much when he has the ball instead of just playing.
The Blazers have nonetheless clung to the hope that Roy – with no back-to-backs in the playoffs – could still be a postseason X-factor.
“Something I’ve got to keep reminding myself is don’t get too down on yourself,” Roy said, insisting that his hesitation stems from the fact that he’s yet to find his niche as a role player as opposed to pain in his battered knees.
“As long as [the issue is] between the ears, I think I’ll be OK.”
And Roy, for the record, thinks that the crunch-time tightness was a team-wide issue in Game 1, not just something that affected his game.
“We almost played like we were the favorite and we had so much to lose instead of going out there and playing a little loose,” Roy said.
The slighted Mavs, of course, would undoubtedly counter by pointing out that the Blazers did start the series as the favorite-elect given how folks have picked sixth-seeded Portland to upset No. 3 Dallas.
P.S. – For more on Roy, you are advised to read this killer column on the matter from the Oregonian’s excellent John Canzano.
Come daybreak, both will have their cell phones glued to their ears as the NBA trade deadline counts down to 2 p.m. As ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Wednesday night, the Mavs would love to pry defensive-minded forward Tayshaun Prince from the stubborn Detroit Pistons or long-range shooter and misfit J.R. Smith from the re-tooling Denver Nuggets. Neither will come easily.
The Mavs on for the 14th time in 15 games, and four in a row, after Wednesday's 118-99 victory over the reeling Utah Jazz. Mavs players seem to believe they've got everything they need after the recent addition of Peja Stojakovic, who scored 18 points and hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range against the Jazz, and the even more recent return of Roddy Beaubois.
Dirk Nowitzki has said the Mavs are "right there" among the league's top contenders. Jason Terry said a move is unnecessary.
But, what about coach Rick Carlisle? Does he believe the team he coached Wednesday night will look the same today at the stroke of 2 p.m.?
"Until somebody tells me different," Carlisle said. "There's always a lot of talk about deals. How often there actually are deals, you know how that goes. At the same time, I would never put anything by Donnie and Mark. If it's something that can help us, I'm sure they'd look at it."
So no Melo rental in Dallas, but what about the leftovers and the left out? ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported on Jan. 10 that the Mavs registered interest with the New Jersey Nets in bringing Devin Harris back. The Mavs were always planning to try to see if they could re-acquire the former fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft once they knew if Harris was or wasn’t in a Melo deal.
The Nets swung and missed and now the notion of a three-way deal with the Mavs, Nets and Nuggets that lands Harris in a Dallas backcourt with Jason Kidd and Rodrigue Beaubois, sources told ESPNDallas.com on Monday night, is a long shot.
At least the Mavs know they won't have to deal with Anthony in a potential playoff series. Melo killed the Mavs in the 2009 second-round series, and as this season gets back into swing after the All-Star break, Dallas is the No. 2 seed and Denver is No. 7.
Now the Mavs come into New Jersey following a physical beating by the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night and a long travel day Friday fraught with delays and detours. And guess what? The Nets, owners of the Eastern Conference's second-worst record at 12-31 and fresh off the Carmelo Anthony saga, are suddenly after their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Avery Johnson's Nets, led by former Mavs guard Devin Harris -- who ESPN.com Marc Stein reported was of interest to the Mavs had he landed in Denver via the Anthony deal that went belly-up -- dumped the Utah Jazz and on Friday beat those Pistons, who haven't won since defeating Dallas.
"New Jersey," Jason Terry said after the ugly 82-77 loss at Chicago, "is a must-win for us."
The Mavs were 2-7 without Dirk Nowitzki and his return has not sparked an automatic return to their pre-injury level, which illustrates the blow of losing Caron Butler for the season to a knee injury. With Dirk back, Dallas is 1-3 and his shooting struggles have led to debate regarding the health of the right knee he sprained on Dec. 27.
Dallas has dropped five in a row on the road after starting 12-2. After an 89-70 loss at Memphis, Nowitzki declared it "rock bottom." A loss to the woeful Nets would have to rank a notch below.
As ESPN.com's Marc Stein is reporting, the Dallas Mavericks are working out a trade to send Ajinca to the Toronto Raptors.
Because of the ongoing talks, Ajinca was sent from the United Center where the Mavs play the Chicago Bulls back to the team hotel to await word on his immediate future.
"We've sent him back to the hotel because there is a possibility that he will be traded," Carlisle said. "Nothing's happened yet. I'm not sure anything's going to happen tonight or anytime in the immediate future, but there is that possiblity."
ESPN.com's Marc Stein has reported that Stojakovic has given the Mavs a verbal agreement to join them once he clears the 48-hour waiver period. To make room for him on the 15-man roster, Dallas, in a separate trade, is shipping Ajinca, a throw-in last offseason in the Erick Dampier-Tyson Chandler deal, to Toronto.
The only question is how much Stojakovic has got left. At 33, Stojakovic's All-Star days are well behind him and injuries are an ongoing issue. This was not a blockbuster deal but rather a small, but heady move to get a sharpshooter that can dial it in on any given night. He's dealing with a knee problem now that's kept him on the bench for all but two games in Toronto after being traded there from New Orleans in a salary dump.
If Stojakovic can get on the floor and stay there he is one of the great pure shooters in the league and provides the Mavs with an additional spot-up threat on the wing. He's played in just eight games this season -- six with New Orleans two with Toronto -- so it's questionable as to what kind of immediate help he can offer. Still, in his limited time, he's made 48.4 percent of his 3-balls (15-of-31).
The signing certainly can't hurt. After all, this a team that is now starting 10-day contract player Sasha Pavlovic at small forward so Shawn Marion can come off the bench where he's been extremely effective as a scorer and defender.
The 7-foot-1 Ajinca might one day amount to a role player in this league, but he offers next-to-nothing for a veteran team like Dallas with championship aspirations. He'll get some developmental time at rebuilding Toronto, while Stojakovic, knees allowing, can provide spurts of instant offense like he did on Nov. 15 when he hit 4-of-6 from the arc and scored 17 points in 19 minutes -- against the Mavs.
Thomas, 33, played just 18 games with the Mavs last season before leaving the team to be with his ailing wife. He never disclosed his wife's illness, but she is apparently doing well enough for Thomas to return to the league. Both sides handled last season's situation in good faith and want to continue the relationship. ESPN.com's Marc Stein first reported in late July that Thomas and the Mavs were working on a deal.
"If all goes well, we'll reach an agreement," Myers said Monday.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Thomas provides an immediate need for Dallas, which has no true power forward on the roster behind Dirk Nowitzki.
Thomas has career averages of 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13 NBA seasons. He is a career 36.9-percent shooter from 3-point range. Myers said Thomas is not talking with any other teams.
If the Mavs and Thomas reach a deal, Dallas' roster will hit 14, leaving one spot available.
The Bay Area native instead received the best financial offer in a late play from his hometown Golden State Warriors, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports, and is close to signing a deal. The Mavs, the only team to offer Lin a summer-league roster spot, and the Los Angeles Lakers, were two of three teams (the third believed to be in the Eastern Conference) that initially entertained contract talks. More teams became interested after Lin showed well last Thursday against No. 1 overall pick John Wall and even more after summer league wrapped up Sunday night.
Mavs president of basketball operations hoped to sign Lin and develop him with the Texas Legends, the Mavs' new D-League team in Frisco. Nelson did not immediately return messages. A few days ago, Nelson said of Lin: "He just makes things happen and he's a better athlete than people give him credit for."
More from Stein's report:
Sources told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the Warriors, by offering to guarantee more than half of Lin's potential first-year salary of nearly $500,000, have reached an agreement in principle with Harvard graduate.
The Warriors have a need for guard depth behind stars Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry after restricted free agent C.J. Watson signed an offer sheet Monday with the Chicago Bulls that resulted in Watson joining the Bulls via sign-and-trade.
A Western Conference scout said of Lin's play in Las Vegas: "He showed that he can be an NBA point guard. He showed us he can finish, defend and has above-average athleticism."
Lin is a lifelong Warriors fan and his signing, sources said, was fully endorsed by Golden State's incoming new ownership tandem of Boston Celtics minority partner Joe Lacob and Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, whose purchase of the Warriors from longtime owner Chris Cohan won't be finalized for 60 to 90 days.
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.
The veteran center would make be a logical addition for the Mavs with a portion of the mid-level exception as an insurance policy if nothing else. The Mavs' center position is in flux. Brendan Haywood is an unrestricted free agent and Erick Dampier is on the trading block.
The Mavs could ultimately retain both, one or neither. Grabbing O'Neal gives the Mavs a steady presence down low for a cheap price.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play 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.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.