Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban
“We’re going to keep working on our end-of-game stuff,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “but our best players are going to be touching it a lot.”
That means Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, a duo that combined to score the Mavs’ final 19 points in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats, final 14 points in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers and final 11 points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Would the Mavs like to be more balanced late in tight games? Not really. They’re just fine with a steady diet of Dirk/Monta until the opponent forces them to do something else.
“If we weren’t, you’d be like, ‘Well, shouldn’t we go to it more? That pick-and-roll is unstoppable,’” owner Mark Cuban said. “So that’s what we do. We go to it until it’s stopped.”
The Mavs are confident they can make it hard on opponents to pick other poisons by putting a couple of perimeter threats on the floor with their two best players. For example, the New Orleans Pelicans forced the ball out of the Mavs stars’ hands, and Jose Calderon made them pay by drilling a couple of clutch 3-pointers.
“We’ll be ready if they start helping on them,” Calderon said. “But if they don’t help and they can score, I’m good for that. So hopefully they can keep on scoring, but I think having Vince [Carter] on one side and me on one side, [opponents] have to make decisions. We have to be ready to make that shot if the pass is coming, but they’re making shots.
“They’re doing really good lately, so let’s keep it that way.”
It was tough enough for Dalembert, who was so excited to sign with a team he felt needed him this summer, to be stripped of his starting job. Bad got worse for the big man Saturday night, when he got a DNP-CD against the Milwaukee Bucks, the team he couldn’t wait to leave after last season.
Dalembert isn’t sulking and pouting about his individual situation. He’s trying to find solutions, which means putting in extra work. He was the last player to leave the Mavericks’ locker room after the win over the Bucks because he got in a postgame workout, and he returned to the American Airlines Center on the team’s off day Sunday.
This isn’t a case of another demoted starter taking a passive-aggressive approach, as Chris Kaman did last season, only to later moan about coach Rick Carlisle’s “mind games.” The problem is the results look awfully familiar at this point.
“I think Sam’s the exact opposite,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Sam is trying to figure out how to contribute. I think he’s disappointed with himself. I don’t think he thinks he’s playing well and he wants to get better. Chris was completely different. ... Sam will get better.”
If Dalembert doesn’t get better, he won’t get many minutes. That’s clear after the high-impact return of Brandan Wright, who had 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting and six rebounds in 19 minutes during his season debut, coming off the bench behind DeJuan Blair.
Dalembert said he was "surprised" by the benching. Brandan Wright’s season debut had a lot to do with Dalembert’s absence. In just less than 19 minutes of action, the center/forward scored 19 points and pulled down six rebounds. That’s not a bad effort in your season debut.
A good start was what the Mavericks needed, because they were without head coach Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki, who were both dealing with illness.
After a crushing loss to the Golden State Warriors to end their four-game road trip, the Mavs hit the ground running to start their three-game homestand. Jose Calderon started the game on fire from the perimeter, but Wright’s scoring and energy off the bench maintained a level of consistency throughout the rest of the period.
"It was great to see him out there," Mavericks assistant coach Monte Mathis said of Wright. "His athleticism on defense, on offense, all of those in-between shots that we know he’s really good at -- he showed us that again. He did a great job with the game plan, the schemes on defense. He’s just an experienced guy, so it’s great to have him back."
One might think a 9-for-10 shooting effort from the field is a nearly perfect launching point, but Wright predicted things will get better.
"I’m probably 65-70 percent in shape," Wright said. "It’s just the first game. I’ve got a long ways to go. We’ve got a lot of good practice time coming up. I should be even better on Wednesday."
“Decent,” is Dirk Nowitzki’s description for Dallas’ 12-8 start, followed by him grumbly about the game in Atlanta the Mavs let get away.
“I don’t take stock during the season,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to go day to day with this thing. It’s that hard. You’ve got to have that kind of respect for it. I’m not a big look back/analyze kind of person. Where are we right now? Where are we tomorrow? That’s what we’ve got to look at.”
It’s good enough to be seventh in the Western Conference standings at the moment. It’s rare that 49 wins wouldn’t punch a playoff ticket. The last time teams needed at least 50 wins to get in the playoffs was in the 2009-10 West.
As Carlisle said, however, the issue on the Mavs’ mind isn’t whether a 49-win pace would be good enough. It’s how they can get better.
“The good news is, regardless of what happens on this road trip and obviously I want to win all four, we have a chance to get a lot better as a team, a lot better, with practice and getting healthy,” owner Mark Cuban said.
The first month-plus of the Mavs’ schedule was tough in terms of the frequency of games. Only five other teams have played 20 games already, and the Mavs have played seven back-to-backs, which is especially difficult on a roster that relies heavily on so many dudes with a decade-plus of NBA miles on their legs.
“It’s crazy the schedule that we had here in November, basically playing every Friday and Saturday for five weeks,” said Nowitzki, a 16-year vet. “It’s been tough, but here in December, I think it eases up a lot.”
The Mavs’ depth should be improving significantly soon, as center/forward Brandan Wright and guard Devin Harris will likely make their season debuts in December.
That should provide scoring punch off the bench and address Dallas’ biggest flaw: a dreadful defense. Harris will be the Mavs’ best defensive guard, which admittedly is pretty faint praise. Wright can be bullied by brutish big men, but he’s a shot blocker and an adept zone defender. For the Mavs to be adequate defensively, they’ll have to mix in a lot of zone, which requires practice time.
“There’s nothing where you look at this team and you go, ‘That’s our weak spot. We can’t do anything there. We can’t get better,’” Cuban said. “It’s just, OK, we’ve got to get better as a team. We’ve got to get healthy. Guys play hard. Guys like playing together. There’s lots of good pieces there.”
There is no doubt, however, that the Mavericks expect more from Dalembert. Owner Mark Cuban said as much before the Mavs’ win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“We’ve got to get Sam playing better,” Cuban said.
The Mavs are particularly determined to get Dalembert to perform better defensively. They signed him to a two-year, $7.6 million deal with a partial guarantee for the second season because they needed a big man who could serve as a defensive anchor.
Dallas has a defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 103.3 with Dalembert on the floor and 103.8 when he’s on the bench. Over the last 10 games, the defensive rating is 106.8 with Dalembert on the floor and 104.4 when he sits.
“I think he gets down on himself sometimes and gets too protective,” Cuban said. “He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. When Sam is active, we’re better defensively. I think sometimes he just tries not to make mistakes. When a guy does that, that hurts him. When he’s active, we’re just better.”
You can’t blame Cuban for daydreaming about changing conferences. Put the Mavs in the East and they’re a lock to have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. In the West, they’ll probably have to fight to the finish just to earn a postseason berth.
But, as Cuban sees it, the conference imbalance isn’t all bad for the West teams.
“I think it’ll result in the law of unintended consequences,” Cuban said. “As unbalanced as it seems, worse teams will make the playoffs in the East, which means that hurts their draft position, which means better teams in the West will get better players in the draft since this is a good draft. So the law of unintended consequences comes into play.
“So many teams in the East weren’t really out there to be the best possible that they’ll win games against each other, have better records, get into the playoffs, which means they won’t be in the lottery, so it’ll end up hurting them.”
The upcoming draft, expected to be headlined by Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart, will be likely be the most hyped in a decade. It’s safe to assume that the loaded draft class influenced several moves that were made over the summer.
“I don’t even know who’s tanking or not tanking,” Cuban said. “But they only have two teams over .500 [in the East]. That says it all. Whether it’s intentional or not, that doesn’t really matter.”
It won’t pay off for all of those teams, either. The law of unintended consequences will come into play.
I don’t think I’ll come up with any solutions in this mailbag, but it’s always fun to kick around ideas.
As always, feel free to submit questions via my ESPN.com mailbag or on Twitter (@espn_macmahon).
John (Fort Wayne): Let me throw a trade scenario at you. Vince Carter and Jae Crowder to Brooklyn, Jason Terry back to Dallas. The numbers work, but is there even a remote chance that this could happen? Is this a terrible trade? Let's say JT gets healthy ... He showed in the playoffs last year he's still capable of great basketball, saving the Celts’ season for a game. And isn't this more of a natural fit for both guys?
All due respect, but if I’m running the Mavs, I wouldn’t consider pulling the trigger on this deal.
Then there’s the cap picture. Carter’s contract expires this summer. Terry is due to make $5.9 million next season. The Mavs are positioned to have significant cap space again this summer. It doesn’t make sense to sacrifice a chunk of it for a 36-year-old who has declined since he left Dallas a couple of offseasons ago.
The time for Jet to return to Dallas is the night the Mavs hang his No. 31 in the American Airlines Center rafters.
Jake (Philadelphia): How aggressive do you foresee the Mavs being around the trade deadline? Do you think they'll pull the trigger on anything?
The “Bank of Cuban” should be open for business again, but that doesn’t mean the Mavs get any deals done.
Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they don’t aggressively explore opportunities to make the Mavs significantly better -- for this season and for the long haul -- before the trade deadline.
That’s easier said than done, though. They have some chips, such as the expiring contracts of Shawn Marion and Carter, but remember that they’re handcuffed when it comes to trading first-round picks because of the protected pick they owe Oklahoma City, an asset that has bounced around the Western Conference since the Mavs gave it up to get the great Lamar Odom.
My hunch is that the Mavs will be mentioned in many, many rumors but the trade deadline will pass without them pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal.
Oh, and they happen to have the two highest salaries in the NBA this season.
That won't be the case a year from now. Even after taking a pay cut, Bryant will still be the league's highest-paid player, but Nowitzki has already vowed to re-sign for much less than the $22.7 million he's making in the final season of a four-year, $80 million deal.
As far as the details go, that's something for Nowitzki, owner Mark Cuban and Dirk's longtime mentor/de facto agent, Holger Geschwindner, to discuss in July.
"I don’t really want to look forward too much," Nowitzki said after Monday's loss to the Denver Nuggets. "I'm not going to extend obviously. I want to play the season out and then we can talk about the summer.
"I want to have a good season, I want to have an injury-free season, and then Holger’s going to take his leather coat and meet with [Cuban] in the bunker suite and we’ll go from there.
"But, for me, I want to go back to the playoffs with this team. We have a real shot at it and that’s really what I’m focused on."
The market for historically elite power forwards signing team-friendly deals in their golden years has been set in recent years by Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. They both signed three-year, $36 million deals a couple of summers ago, slashing their salaries approximately in half.
Owner Mark Cuban informed Nowitzki of Morey’s presumably sarcastic text message at the time, which was hours after Dwight Howard decided to sign with Houston over the Mavs and other suitors. Nowitzki, who has a no-trade clause and has made it clear that he intends to play his entire career for the Mavs, hadn’t really given the subject a lot of thought until he was asked about it Friday night following Cuban’s pregame revelation to the media.
“I wasn’t really worried about it much, to be honest,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs improved to 9-4—a game ahead of Houston in the West standings – with a 103-93 win over the Utah Jazz. “I guess it stays longer in Cuban’s mind. To me, it was kind of in and out.
“We were frustrated at the time, but I think then we did some great moves, signing Jose [Calderon] first and then [Monta] and the rest of the gang. So I didn’t even think twice about it and then kind of moved along my way. I guess Cubes doesn’t forget that easy.”
Dalembert’s dandy: Center Samuel Dalembert scored a season-high 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked two shots and made all eight of his shots from the floor.
“I just saw that,” Dalembert said when asked about his perfect shooting percentage. “I was surprised, too.”
It marked the most field goal attempts for Dalembert in a game without a miss in his career. He twice was 7-of-7 from the floor during his Philadelphia tenure.
Ouch: Dalembert was wincing and holding his side when he left the floor in the final minute of the game. He took an inadvertent elbow to the ribs from Utah center Enes Kanter.
Dalembert iced his ribs, which were already tender from an elbow a few games ago, for several minutes after the game. He said he’ll wear a padded vest for Saturday night’s game in Denver.
“I tried to go out there like Robocop,” Dalembert joked. “I’m going to wear a pad next game. I learned my lesson.”
Mark Cuban claimed the Mavericks ended up putting together a better roster for this season than they would have been able to had they signed Dwight Howard. Is he right?
Gutierrez: It's obviously going to be hard to suggest that not getting the superstar is better. The Mavs would have been front-loaded with Dwight Howard. They probably could have still gotten Jose Calderon, but I don't think they would necessarily have the depth that they have at the moment. Monta Ellis already has proven that he can be an impact player for the team. With Ellis and depth, the other side of the coin isn't looking so wrong.
Dirk Nowitzki better with his ability to run the pick-and-roll and get him easy shots. They also wouldn't have Jose Calderon, who also makes Dirk's job easier. No doubt, Howard is easily the better player, but his game wouldn't necessarily make Dirk's life easier or the Mavs a better overall team. Besides, Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair are averaging a combined 16.3 points and 14.3 rebounds in 38 minutes. The Mavericks are doing just fine at center without Howard.
MacMahon: I get what Cuban was trying to say -- as clumsily as it came out, from a PR perspective -- and Ellis' early impact with the Mavs makes this a more interesting discussion than anticipated. Would the Mavs be better off with Howard in the middle instead of Calderon and Ellis in the backcourt? Maybe they would have shipped Shawn Marion off in a salary-dump deal and still signed Calderon, but Ellis would not have been in Dallas if Howard accepted the Mavs' max offer. The Mavs would be a much better defensive team, but they'd be counting on 35-year-old Nowitzki to carry the offense every night. Either way, the Mavs would have been one of several teams fighting for one of the last few playoff spots in the West.
Rick Carlisle referred to the Mavs' big three as Nowitzki, Ellis and Vince Carter. What do you make of Carter being included in that group?
Taylor: Carter still has his moments, but he's scored more than 20 points just twice this season and his game is so perimeter-based these days that his offense can be inconsistent. I'd lean more toward Marion with his all-around game being more important to the entire team than Carter. Marion can impact a game with offense, defense or rebounding. He's the best all-around player on the team, which is different than being the best player. Carter only impacts the Mavs on offense.
MacMahon: It's an awfully optimistic projection, considering that it's been five years and three teams since Carter last averaged 20 points per game. To his credit, Carter has embraced the role of a sixth man who plays about 25 minutes per night in his golden years. It's probably a stretch to include him in Sixth Man of the Year discussions, but not too much of one. It's certainly a stretch to still call him a star, although he's still capable of the occasional scoring spree.
Should Shane Larkin jump ahead of Gal Mekel on the depth chart, now that the first-round pick is cleared to play?
Taylor: Larkin's play will determine how many minutes he gets. Carlisle demands accountability, which is why he's one of my all-time favorite coaches. If Larkin plays better than Mekel, then he'll get minutes. If he doesn't, he won't. But he must earn those minutes in practice and then play well, when given an opportunity. Mekel has done a solid job overall in limited playing time. It's up to Larkin to demand more minutes with his performance.
MacMahon: Let's find out how good Larkin can be right now. His electrifying quickness and explosiveness can change games. Mekel doesn't have those traits. I'd love to see Larkin get a legitimate shot to prove he can be productive in J.J. Barea's old role. (Disclaimer: I'll be hesitant to criticize the way Carlisle handles the rookie guards regardless of their roles. Call it the Roddy B. Reflex.)
That didn’t keep the Mavs from crumbling in their first crunch-time opportunity of the season.
Give LeBron James credit for carrying the Miami Heat to the 110-104 win Friday night. He shredded the Dallas defense in remarkably efficient fashion, scoring a season-high 39 points on 14-of-18 shooting. But the Mavs boarded their private jet for the brief flight to Orlando feeling like they let one slip away.
As they should have. This had all the makings of a classic performance by Dirk Nowitzki, one of the premier NBA closers of his generation, until the Mavs couldn’t figure out how to get the grooving German the ball with the game on the line.
The problem: Dirk knocked down that shot with 2:31 remaining. He barely touched the ball the rest of the game despite the fact that he had the hot hand, having scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“Dirk’s No. 1 thing is he wants to throw the daggers,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said before the game, according to The Dallas Morning News, downplaying concern about the need for Nowitzki to wear a rubber sleeve on his left knee. “He wants to be the guy at the end of the game hitting that shot. If he could, he’d wait to the end of the game and go in and do that. He wants to be able to produce when the pressure’s on, period. End of story.”
Nowitzki’s body was clearly able Friday night. There’s no doubt that he craved the chance to hit daggers in Miami, which would have conjured up sweet memories of the champagne-soaked 2011 title celebration.
The Mavs just didn’t feed their beast when it mattered most.
Nowitzki got one touch the rest of the game, and that lasted for less than a second. With Dallas trailing by three points the possession after his step-back jumper, Nowitzki caught a cross-court pass on the left wing outside the 3-point arc with Miami guard Norris Cole within breath-smelling distance and immediately gave up the ball. He never got it back, with that possession ending on a turnover when Dwyane Wade tied up DeJuan Blair on a pass in the paint from Jose Calderon.
Nowitzki, defended by James, was a high-profile decoy on the next possession. With the Mavs still trailing by three, Monta Ellis caught the ball on the right wing with seven seconds remaining on the shot clock and ended up launching a low-percentage, off-the-dribble 3-point attempt that wasn’t close.
Determined to get Dirk involved, coach Rick Carlisle called for the Mavs’ bread-and-butter play on the next possession with Dallas trailing by five. The high pick-and-pop with Ellis didn’t exactly work as planned, with Ellis leaving his feet in the paint and throwing a prayer of a pass back to Nowitzki at the top of the arc. James, who never left Nowitzki’s side on the play, came up with the steal for the Mavs’ 24th turnover of the night.
Three critical possessions in crunch time, two turnovers, one low-percentage shot and only one brief touch for Nowitzki.
Not exactly what the Mavs envisioned with their new, improved, experienced backcourt during winning time.
"It's fun to compete at the highest level against the champs,” Nowitzki told reporters. “We've just got to be a little better."
Nowitzki couldn’t have been much better offensively. When he’s in that kind of groove, the Mavs have to get him the ball with the game on the line.
“There’s no player that’s ever played in this league that wouldn’t be a better player if he’s on the floor with Dirk Nowitzki because of how the game changes when he’s out there,” Carlisle said.
Well, actually, there are at least two. For whatever reason, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman just didn’t work with Dirk last season.
Fortunately, that isn’t an issue with their replacements. Nowitzki and shooting guard Monta Ellis have been the Mavs’ most efficient two-man tandem in terms of plus-minus, as Dallas has outscored opponents by 49 points in 162 minutes with that duo on the floor. The team’s next best tandem: Nowitzki and center Samuel Dalembert (plus-25 in 120 minutes).
The Mavs were outscored by an average of 2.2 points per 48 minutes with Mayo and Nowitzki playing together last season. It was even worse when Nowitzki paired with Kaman (minus-5.8 per 48 minutes), which is why Kaman quickly fell out of favor with Carlisle.
It certainly helps that Nowitzki is healthy after dealing with knee problems last season, but the Mavs acquired free agents who are much better fits with him than the fill-ins last year.
In the case of Dalembert, his strengths are suited to fill the roles the Mavs need from their big man next to Nowitzki. He’s a rim protector and rebounder whose role offensively is pretty much limited to setting picks, crashing the boards and occasionally catching (or fumbling) and finishing. Kaman, on the other hand, is a lead-footed defender who operates offensively in some of the same midrange space as Nowitzki.
Ellis is at his best as a pick-and-roll initiator and is thriving with all of the space created by defenses’ concern about Nowitzki. Mayo, who put up big numbers while Nowitzki was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, simply wasn’t a good enough decision-maker to do well in that role.
“Basketball IQ,” Mark Cuban said. “Some guys play off athleticism. Some have a specific skill. Some guys just know how to play.
“Watching Monta watch a pick, get set, waiting for it, seeing that the angle isn’t right, stepping back out and having the patience to do that, we didn’t see that once the entire year last year. And he does it two or three times a game. That’s just a night and day difference.”
Not coincidentally, so is the plus-minus.
The Mavs want Ellis attacking even more often.
"We’re going to get him attacking as often as we can,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re going to get him moving towards the rim. His attack-the-paint game is one of the most difficult to game plan for because there’s just some unpredictable things about the way he attacks.
According to the NBA’s advanced player-tracking statistics, Houston’s Jeremy Lin is the only player with more drives than Ellis this season. Ellis is averaging 11.3 drives per game entering Tuesday night’s matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Those are often productive plays even when they don’t end with an Ellis bucket or assist. He’s shooting 46.2 percent on drives so far this season, but a missed shot can be as good as an assist if Ellis draws defensive help, making it easier for a teammate to get a tip-in. The Mavs are averaging 13.3 points per game on plays featuring an Ellis drive.
Ellis’ poor field goal percentage in Milwaukee last season resulted in him getting a bad rap as one of the league’s least efficient scorers. However, owner Mark Cuban noted the positive impact of some of Ellis’ misses while weighing the risk of reaching an agreement with the guard this summer.
“Once the money got there, we had to do a little bit more homework, and that’s when we started to see the things that we liked,” said Cuban, who eventually signed Ellis to a three-year, $25 million deal. “Because you think you know a player, but until you really watch a lot of tape, you don’t really know.
“Even then, I don’t think last year he got a chance to show what a good passer he is. At least, we didn’t see it. We knew he could pass. We knew there were things he did in terms of getting to the basket that would open things up for other players that he wasn’t getting credit for that we gave him credit for. But it did take some warming up.”
The Mavs hope Ellis is just getting warmed up as far as attacking off the dribble goes.
Cuban's public shots at opposing players are never accidental. Cuban, who takes pride in being a master manipulator of the media, always has incentive when he makes inflammatory statements about superstars.
That was true during his long-running verbal sparring matches with Shaquille O'Neal. It was true when Cuban casually mentioned last year that the Los Angeles Lakers ought to consider using the amnesty clause to dump Kobe Bryant. And it was true when he opined that Dwight Howard made an immature mistake by deciding to sign with the Houston Rockets instead of the Dallas Mavericks this summer.
How many millions of dollars' worth of free marketing have Cuban's Mavs received over the years due to the media firestorms he's started with his digs? Heck, he's given Friday night's Mavs-Rockets game some big-time national buzz and stole some attention from Jerry Jones' circus locally.
That doesn't necessarily mean that Cuban's headline-grabbing jabs are good for the Mavs.
The memory of Kobe's "Amnesty THAT" performance -- a 38-point, 12-rebound, seven-assist, one-tweet masterpiece in the aftermath of Cuban's helpful suggestion -- is still fresh in the minds of Mavs fans. (Conspiracy theory: Cuban's primary reason for opening up the "amnesty Kobe" can of worms was to plant seeds of doubt about the Lakers' long-term future in a certain free-agent center's mind.)
It's probably not coincidental that Shaq averaged more points against the Mavs (26.4 per game) than any other team during his career, although Dallas' difficulty finding a decent center surely had something to do with that.
Why would it be any different with Dwight? Well, Howard doesn't exactly have a reputation for extraordinary mental toughness.
Marketing might not have been Cuban's sole motivation in this instance. Maybe he thought he could get into Howard's head, cluttered and confused as it might be.
Or maybe I'm giving Cuban too much credit. Maybe he's just mad that his sales pitch didn't sway Howard. If that's the case, the grapes would really be sour if Howard responds as well as Cuban's most notable previous superstar sparring partners.
However, Nowitzki was pleased with the Mavs' contingency plan, which consisted of signing a crop of free agents headlined by guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.
"It was tough," Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com about missing out on a proven superstar after Cuban essentially opted to sacrifice wins for salary-cap space. "First, it was Chris Paul. We didn't get him and then obviously went for Dwight. We went all-out. We all flew out there. Cuban put a suit on, so that already showed us how bad we wanted him.
"But hey, it is what it is. We didn't get him. I was frustrated there for a while, not knowing what we were going to do. Are we going to sign nine one-year deals again? But obviously Mark decided to go a different route. The first signing I think was Calderon, who I always liked as a point guard. I think Monta was probably a surprise to everybody. I didn't see that coming. I always thought he wanted a little more money somewhere else. He did. I was fired up to play with him, even though I didn't know how he was going to fit in here, but I was excited about the possibility of playing with him.
"I think as a franchise, we've moved on. We didn't go for the whole cap space deal again, like we did last year, so I was obviously pleased to see that."
The Mavs definitely aren't done with their roster remodeling, but Nowitzki believes the new backcourt can be part of the foundation for the future. Calderon signed a four-year, $29 million deal. Ellis signed for $25 million over three years, although the last season in his contract is a player option.
Nowitzki noted that the Mavs could be active before the trade deadline, especially if the first half of the season doesn't go as well as hoped.
The Mavs are set up to have ample cap space again next summer, when the contracts of Nowitzki ($22.7 million), Shawn Marion ($9.3 million) and Vince Carter ($3.2 million) all expire. Nowitzki has committed to re-sign a two- or three-year deal at a significantly reduced salary to be determined.
"I don't see us as being stuck," Cuban said. "I see us as a team that can and will get better. We're good and we can get a lot better."
Added Nowitzki: "We're still not done building. ... Our goal obviously since 2011 hasn't changed. We're not happy making the playoffs. We want to compete for the championship."
That would have been easier to do with Howard on his side, but as far as Nowitzki is concerned, hope is still alive.
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.