Dallas Mavericks: Peja Stojakovic
There is an advanced statistic know as the “offensive rating” that measures a team's points scored per 100 possessions. Both Miami and San Antonio ranked in the top 10 during the regular season. Miami ranked first with an offensive rating of 110.3, while San Antonio ranked seventh at 105.9.
|ESPN NBA insider Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Mavericks news, Jason Kidd's interest in coaching the Nets and the NBA Finals. |
The three biggest ways Miami and San Antonio capitalize on offense: Spacing, ball movement and masking. All three require a high level of basketball IQ.
Both Miami and San Antonio ensure they have at least one or two guys on the floor who change the geometry of the floor with their ability to hit a 3-point shot. The threat of that forces opposing defenses to stretch themselves. That space creates an easy decision for the player driving to the lane, forcing the defense to collapse on them, and gives the ability to kick out to an open man.
Neither Miami nor San Antonio has one player on their roster that would be considered a ball stopper -- someone who gets the ball and doesn’t immediately do something with it, whether it’s dribbling, passing or shooting. The ball will always move faster than a player, so proper ball movement can eventually break an opposing defense down. Both of the teams in the Finals do a tremendous job of sharing the basketball and trusting everyone who is on the floor to do the right thing with the basketball.
Masking is a form of deception and misdirection. Deception is necessary now as advanced scouting allows teams to know specifics sets that will be operated against them. The masking forces the opposing defenses to believe a designed set is coming, only to reveal a hidden layer within the set. By the time the defense realizes the actual play, it’s too late. The deception is usually triggered by a player driving to the rim and having someone set a screen for a shooter on the weak side of the floor. As the driver gets to the rim, sucking in the defense, he dishes out the ball to the open man on the other side.
In regards to spacing, the Mavericks acquired Peja Stojakovic during the championship run after he was released from the Toronto Raptors because of his reputation for being one of the premiere perimeter shooters to ever play the game. At the time, Dallas was desperate to find a weak-side shooter to keep opposing teams honest and space the floor when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were on the floor together.
The Mavs’ ball movement during the 2011 title run was second to none. Nowitzki set the table for the ball movement with his unselfish plays either in the low, mid or high post. Since Rick Carlisle has been the head coach, the team has prided itself on crisp ball movement. The championship run was no different.
Finally, the Mavericks' deception was transparent, but still extremely effective. They clearly wanted to get the ball to Nowitzki. By making Nowitzki the screener, they were able to create space for him. Whether it was Jason Terry, Jason Kidd or J.J. Barea, they all waited to see how the defense would react to Nowitzki’s pick and pop motion. To keep defenses honest, the misdirection would come when Nowitzki would set screens for someone other than the ball handler. With the defense so focused on him, another teammate on the weak side would set a secondary screen for the last remaining player on the floor to where they could finish at the rim or along the baseline.
The spacing, ball movement and masking all work together. It’s worked to this point for the Heat and the Spurs. It certainly worked for the Mavs in 2011. With cap space, Dallas will need to reload with those three facets in mind.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.
The curious case of Kelenna Azubuike as a member of the Dallas Mavericks started March 22 when the club released athletic big man Sean Williams, who had spent most of the season with the D-League Texas Legends.
A week earlier, the San Antonio Spurs had traded for Stephen Jackson and were closing in on signing Boris Diaw to bolster their roster for a deep playoff run. What were the defending champion Mavericks up to in releasing Williams and opening a spot on the 15-man roster? Who was on their radar that could provide an immediate jolt one month from the true start of their title defense?
Last year, Dalllas signed veteran sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and the move paid off handsomely. At this point in the season, they could use someone like him. Three-point shooting -- heck, shooting in general --- had taken a significant dip throughout the truncated schedule and the Mavs would need firepower down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Could 3-point specialist Jason Kapono, recently released by the Lakers, be on his way? Maybe the 6-foot-7 Andres Nocioni? Sure, he was down on his luck, but still he was a 37.3 percent 3-point shooter throughout his career.
Turns out Kapono wasn't coming and neither was Nociono.
Who'd the Mavs have up their sleeve?
Azubuike, an intriguing shooting guard, oh, about three seasons ago before a torn patellar tendon put his career on indefinite hold.
And the Countdown ticks down to No. 10 ...
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 215
Experience: 5 years
Age: 28 (Dec. 16, 1983)
2011-12 stats: Played total of 18 minutes in three games
Contract status: Team option for next season
2011-12 salary: $280,192
2012-13 salary: $992,680
His outlook: The Mavs believe they have the best head athletic trainer in the game today in Casey Smith and an elite orthopedic crew headed by team doc T.O. Souryal. Azubuike will be three years removed from the horrific knee injury that put his burgeoning career in jeopardy and one that remains terribly difficult to watch on YouTube. But here's the hope for Azubuike: A second surgery in March 2011 was performed to fix the first surgery that wasn't done properly. Azubuike confirmed that fact on Twitter in March 2011, saying: "The 1st surgery in '09 wasn’t done right. Gettin it done right this time!” The Mavs' medical and training staffs have a track record with patellar tendon injuries after Caron Butler's awful injury on Jan. 1, 2011, in Milwaukee, which happens to be where Azubuike also blew up his knee. There's no guarantee that the the former Kentucky Wildcat will ever regain his explosiveness, but watching Butler this season with the Los Angeles Clippers has to be encouraging that he can at least be a productive player. At less than $1 million next season, Azubuike is low-risk and if he turns out to be high-reward, the Mavs will have made a shrewd move at a time when many were scratching their heads at the timing of the signing.
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Coming Tuesday
The offseason certainly arrived much sooner than anyone could have predicted, just like Lamar Odom's premature exit from the Dallas Mavericks.
The 6-foot-10 forward kicks off our offseason blog series that ranks the 2011-12 Mavericks roster in order of importance for the front office to bring back. Four of last season's six free agents found new homes with the exception of Peja Stojakovic, who called it a career after winning his first championship, and Brian Cardinal, who re-signed but made virtually no impact on the season.
Eleven months ago, the title team proved difficult to rank in importance and I started the Countdown with DeShawn Stevenson as the least important. It drew quite a few raised eyebrows from those wondering how I could possibly consider the defensive bulldog and surprisingly valuable 3-point shooter the least important member of the title team to bring back.
In retrospect, the choice probably violated the spirit of this series. I chose Stevenson not because I didn't think he was an asset and worthy of returning for a chance to repeat, but because the Mavs traded for shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, a move that, to me, signaled that Stevenson wouldn't be back. Who would have figured that neither Stevenson nor Fernandez would start the season with the Mavs?
This time around the lead-off man in these rankings is a no-brainer. Odom's career-worst season has to go down as the most disappointing season in the league and one of the more frustrating ones for a franchise in recent memory.
With that, on with the series:
Ht/Wt: 6-10, 230
Experience: 13 years
Age: 32 (Nov. 6, 1979)
2011-12 stats: 6.6 ppg (35.2 FG%), 4.2 rpg
Contract status: Signed through 2012-2013
2011-12 salary: $8.9 million
2012-13 salary: $8.2 million ($2.4 million guaranteed)
His outlook: Odom is actually under consideration for a spot on Team USA for the London Games because of the rash of injuries that have taken out star players like Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. Cuban actually said he'd love to see it, but only because he has such disdain for Olympic basketball, so he figures the two were meant to be together. Where Odom lands next season will be a far more intriguing story to follow. For starters, Dallas will try everything it can to dump him off on a team with loads of salary cap space such as Toronto or Sacramento and throw in $3 million to offset the $2.4 million guaranteed on Odom's deal next season. If the Mavs can't dump him in a trade, they'll waive him and be responsible for the $2.4 million, which will eat into their cap space this summer. Such a result will not please Cuban. No matter what, Odom will be long gone from this organization. A return to the Lakers is not likely since they can't add him to the roster for a full year after the date he was traded, Dec. 11. Could he land with the Miami Heat, one of his former teams that obviously will be a contender for years to come? Well, if he wants to sign for a fraction of his actual 2012-13 salary, then it's possible. Of course, no team might risk much more than a couple million anyway. How about the team with which he started his career, the Los Angeles Clippers? Possible. Caron Butler is signed for two more years at small forward, but Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans are free agents.
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Coming Tuesday
It's only two games and with a little late-game luck the Dallas Mavericks' 0-2 hole might have been a 2-0 cushion with the series shifting to Dallas for Thursday's Game 3.
Late-game luck isn't the only difference in a postseason rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder that threatens to make the Mavs the first defending champs since the 2007 Miami Heat to go down in the first round. Dallas needs more of the unexpected, more of what the Thunder have received to take control of the series.
Serge Ibaka's 22 points in Game 1 was a season high. The last time he scored 20 in a game? Try Jan. 27.
Derek Fisher's 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in Game 2 -- after being invisible in Game 1 -- was his most efficient outing in 22 games with Oklahoma City and it tied his second-highest point total.
Kendrick Perkins' 4-of-5 shooting in Game 2 was the first time he had done that since Feb. 22, and he hadn't topped the 13 points he scored since March 25 with 16, his only game of the season with more than 13. Keep in mind that OKC's two wins have come by a total of four points.
"They’ve gotten better, no doubt about that," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, comparing this Thunder team to the won Dallas disposed of in five games in last year's Western Conference finals. "You've got to give them credit for the plays they made in this series and for the year that they’ve had. At the same time, we’re right there and we've got to make the plays coming back home."
The Mavs have received nothing out of the ordinary. Remember the championship run when a different Mavs player seemed to step up every night with something different? Whether it was Corey Brewer for eight minutes against the Lakers, or J.J. Barea putting up consecutive 20-point games -- one against the Thunder -- or DeShawn Stevenson twice dropping three 3-pointers in the Finals or Peja Stojakovic scoring 21, 21 and 15 points in the opening two series, it's the unexpected performances that carry teams to unexpected results.
The Mavs will need to get some punch-quiet sources on their home floor over the next two games to stay alive.
The most likely candidate for a breakout is Vince Carter. He's 7-of-23 from the floor. Delonte West had 13 points in Game 2 but is 7-of-17 from the floor and has yet to make a dent with the type of feisty defense he's known for, that the Mavs are counting on. Starting center Brendan Haywood has seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 30 minutes and was benched to start the second half of Game 2.
Fan favorite Brandan Wright has so far shown that the playoff pressure might be too big in his first postseason. In logging less than 13 total minutes, he hasn't come close to one of his patented dunks and had a case of butterfingers in five awful minutes in Game 2.
If the Mavs are going to survive, the expected performances from Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion that have enabled Dallas to have a chance late must be met by unexpected ones.
Just ask the Thunder.
Chicago's United Center is a different story. Nowitzki and the Mavs make their lone visit against the Bulls tonight, a game the 7-footer is fully expected to play in despite Dallas having clinched a playoff berth.
Nowitzki might not play his full allotment of minutes, but he will be looking to raise his shooting percentage in the Windy City. According the Elias Sports Bureau, Nowitzki has a .415 career field-goal percentage at the United Center, his lowest career field-goal percentage in any arena in which he has at least 100 attempts.
Other tidbits from Elias heading into tonight's nationally televised game on ESPN:
* Nowitzki has scored 24,095 points during the regular season, all with the Mavs. Only four players in NBA history scored 24,000 points while playing their whole career with one team: Kobe Bryant (29,458 with Lakers), John Havlicek (26,395 with Celtics), Reggie Miller (25,279 with Pacers) and Jerry West (25,192 with Lakers).
* Jason Kidd is not expected to play tonight, which leaves him with one final opportunity on Thursday at Atlanta to extend his streak of recording at least one triple-double to 18 consecutive seasons. He holds the NBA record of 17 seasons in a row. Kidd has had at least two triple-doubles in every season he has been in the NBA. He nearly got it done on April 12 at Golden State, but finished one point shy with nine points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
* Jason Terry has made at least one 3-point field goal in 78.7 percent of the regular-season games he has appeared in during his career (804 of 1,021). Only four players in NBA history have made a 3-pointer in a higher percentage of their games than Terry (minimum: 500 games): Ray Allen (89.0), Peja Stojakovic (85.2), Reggie Miller (80.1) and Chauncey Billups (79.2). (The NBA instituted the 3-point line in 1979-80.)
* The Mavs are 10-6 against Eastern Conference teams this season. With two games to go, they are assured of finishing with a winning record over the other conference for a 12th consecutive season. Only one other team has posted a winning record against teams from the opposite conference in each season since 2000-01: San Antonio.
* The Mavs have posted a 10-6 (.625) record at the United Center since the Bulls began playing their home games there in 1994. That is tied with the Clippers (go figure) for the second-highest winning percentage among visiting teams, behind the Thunder (11-6, .647).
* Bulls 3-point specialist Kyle Korver is shooting only .344 from the field in the second half of games this season. Only three players in the league have a lower second-half field-goal percentage than Korver (minimum: 150 FGA): Toney Douglas (.313), Stephen Jackson (.330) and Lamar Odom (.335).
Since winning the championship in June, the Mavs have seen Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler leave via free agency. Peja Stojakovic retired and Dallas traded Corey Brewer (along with the Rudy Fernandez, who never showed up in Big D after being acquired in a draft-night trade in June).
New players include Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brandan Wright and Sean Williams.
Could there be one more coming?
"I have no idea," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "At this point there’s nothing imminent."
The one area of need remains at center where starter Brendan Haywood was not impressive in the two preseason games and none of his backups have extensive experience. Ian Mahinmi has never fulfilled a backup role and Wright and Williams have underachieved after being first-round draft picks.
The name that remains available is veteran center Joel Przybilla, who was injured last season and has at least entertained retirement. He has said that wants to get through the holidays before making a decision.
Stevenson joins former Mavs coach Avery Johnson and point guard Deron Williams, a native of The Colony near Dallas who is highly coveted by the Mavs when he can become a free agent this summer.
Four of the Mavs' six free agents from last season's title team are with new teams. Brian Cardinal re-signed with Dallas and Peja Stojakovic retired.
With Stojakovic announcing his retirement Monday after 13 seasons, he will leave the game having made 1,760 shots from downtown. However, he won't be staying at No. 4 for long. Five players behind Stojakovic and in top 10 are active and three -- No. 5 Chauncey Billups (1,735), No. 7 Rashard Lewis (1,674) and Terry (1,650) could all pass Stojakovic this season.
No. 9 Paul Pierce (1,578) and No. 10 Steve Nash (1,565) will move past Stojakovic if each plays two more seasons.
Kidd (1,795), just 35 made 3s ahead of Stojakovic, is safe for now.
The shortened 66-game schedule could cut it close for Terry. He needs to drain 111 3-pointers to pass Stojakovic. Terry made 127 from long range in 82 games last season. Three time in the past six seasons, Terry has finished with at least 162 bombs in as few as 74 games.
As for two sharpshooters as teammates, May 8, 2011 will live forever on You Tube. That was Game 4 of the stunning sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. Terry buried 9-of-10 from beyond the arc and scored a game-high 32 points, and Stojakovic was a perfect 6-of-6 for 21 points in the 122-86 rout.
That game would prove to be Stojakovic's curtain call of sorts. In the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, Stojakovic just couldn't keep up defensively and was a non-factor, making just five 3s in the last nine postseason games he would play.
But, in that monumental Lakers series, Stojakovic came off the bench to bury 11-0f-21 from deep and averaged 12.5 points.
New Mavs forward and former Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom recalled that game and the series, saying, "It was a barrage."
And Stojakovic was a prime gunner.
"I got to keep playing because Jet wants to now pass Peja on the 3-point list," Kidd joked Friday. "And I don’t want him to pass me."
Jason Terry is eighth all-time in 3-pointers made and sits 90 behind No. 4 Peja Stojakovic and 145 away from the No. 3 man in NBA history, Kidd. Terry is four years younger so it figures he has the upper hand by the time both call it a career.
Not so fast. Who's saying Kidd plans on calling it a career any time soon? After completing the first practice Friday of his 18th NBA season -- and final one under contract with the Dallas Mavericks -- Kidd said he wants to play 20 seasons.
"I would like to get to 20," said Kidd, who turns 39 in March. "I think that would be a great feat through everybody forgetting my name and always just calling me old. You can call me '20' at that point. I think it’ll be something. As a kid, you just think about playing. When you look back at it if you can go past eight years than your like, 'Man I had a great career.' Now it’s going on 18, so why stop now?"
Especially after the remarkable postseason run Kidd put together in winning his first championship. He was spectacular with the ball in his hands and he received widespread praise for his defensive chops against some of the game's best offensive weapons, some of whom entered the league a decade or more after Kidd was drafted second overall by the Mavs in 1994.
"I feel great, so if I can survive this sprint of 66 games," Kidd said, "we’ll see how I feel come next year."
This season will be a unique challenge with the delayed start due to the labor strife. After a two-week training camp, one in which coach Rick Carlisle said he will tread lightly with his old-man at the point, the shotgun season takes off with an immediate back-to-back and no sympathy. There'll be 20 of those, plus a back-to-back-to-back and some wild stretches such as seven games in nine nights and nine in 12.
"You never know what happens in this league. You just play it out and hopefully my talent will stay at a respectable level that I can help a team out," Kidd said. "You know I would love to stay here and finish it out. I would like to get to 20 years. There's probably some individual goals there to be reached, some not to be reached, but we’ll see what happens."
Kidd won't get an extension this season, but there's no reason to believe that owner Mark Cuban wouldn't re-sign a still-effective Kidd for a 19th season and then even possibly to a 20th season when he would turn 41.
It would be quite a feat. Only Robert Parrish (21 seasons), Kevin Willis (21 seasons) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20 years) can claim 20-year NBA careers. This season Kidd will match Reggie Miller and Cliff Robinson at 18 seasons, and if he suits up for a 19th season he'll join Karl Malone and John Stockton.
As for individual records, Kidd is already second all-time in career assists and too far behind Stockton no matter how long he might play. He won't reach newly crowned 3-point king Ray Allen or Miller in second. However, Kidd is eyeing a move up one all-time chart and he won't need to play 20 seasons to get there. He needs just 38 steals to pass Michael Jordan for second all-time in steals. Kidd had 134 steals last season, plus another 40 in 21 playoff games.
"I have a good reference on this because I had Reggie Miller when he was 39 and at that point he was averaging 33, 34 minutes for us at Indiana and he was scoring 16 to 18 points a game and he was still big-time player," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Reggie chose to stop at age 39, he felt that was enough for him, but Jason Kidd is very similar to Reggie -- takes great care of his body, has great love and respect for the game and he’s adapted as the years have gone on, not only to the way the game has changed, but the way his skills have changed. And when I say his skills have changed, things he’s added to his game, not anything he’s lost. He’s a very unique person. You see guys like this about once or twice a decade."
Who knows how long Kidd can go? But, it is interesting that his goal of 20 seasons meshes with his 33-year-old teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who begins his 14th season with two more to go on his current contract.
"I would love to keep going," Kidd said. "I was joking with Dirk, I said we can retire together."
Ten players worked out with newly signed forward Brandan Wright the only newcomer to this point. Shooting guard Rudy Fernandez is still stuck in Spain waiting out visa issues. Jason Kidd looked to be in fit condition after a long offseason of playing some of this country's top golf courses and Rodrigue Beaubois took part in the full practice as he looks to make his way all the back this time from a second surgery on his troublesome left foot.
But, the bigger story Friday was who wasn't at camp. Tyson Chandler is gone, a free-agent signee with the New York Knicks. Caron Butler is with Los Angeles Clippers. J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic were all no-shows as they explore their free-agent options. At least Barea and Stevenson are not expected to re-sign.
It made for an interesting feel at the undermanned practice as the team leaves behind some big contributors and bigger personalities, and moves forward in this accelerated training camp period with the season opening in two weeks.
"We've got to worry about what’s in this locker room right now and wish them guys the best of luck wherever free agency is leading them," forward Shawn Marion said. "But, we’ve got to get ready for Dallas Mavericks basketball."
Coach Rick Carlisle said the roster is not complete. Currently 11 players are under contract. The Mavs will need to fill two more spots to reach the league minimum of 13 on the 15-man roster. A veteran point guard could be at the top of the list.
Carlisle, who kept the tone of the day forward-thinking, announced several obvious adjustments, starting with Brendan Haywood taking over as the starting center with Ian Mahinmi sliding in as a true No. 2 for the first time in his brief NBA career. Beaubois and Dominique Jones will both get plenty of work at point guard with the loss of Barea. The backup position will be critical this season to allow Kidd the rest he will be need to navigate through a 66-game schedule in 123 days, and with the playoffs starting on the 125th day.
"I’m big on what’s going on today and right now and getting our guys geared up to make our situation right now the best that it can be and we’re going to do that," said Carlisle, who enters his fourth season as Dallas' head coach. "We had some guys that did some great things for us here that are probably not going to be back, but that’s part of the circle of life in the NBA. And, we’re all going to adjust, guys are going to step up into some opportunistic situations and we plan on defending our crown with a lot of pride."
The Dallas Mavericks' plan for the 2010-11 season came into focus last Wednesday when Tyson Chandler told ESPN.com that he didn't think he would be back. Perhaps that plan should have been identified back in July when Chandler expressed disappointment that the Mavs didn't extend him before the lockout.
But, it was easy to explain that away. With a new collective bargaining agreement yet to be hammered out, but promising a harsher set of salary cap rules, how could the Mavs possibly offer a contract without knowing the rules?
It was still assumed in almost every precinct that Chandler remained the Mavs' No. 1 priority. Or maybe he never was. Whatever, the plan looking toward the future is now in full motion. Chandler is close to an agreement with the New York Knicks. Caron Butler has agreed to three-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. J.J. Barea will be heading elsewhere soon. As for DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic, they might be back if a one-year deal is to their liking.
The clues were there for a week week now, but today it became official: The title team will not return.
"As a player, you've won it once and you'd obviously love to have the same crew back and defend our title that way," Dirk Nowitzki said. "But, we understand that it's a business. So, we're just going to have to wait and see what happens."
Don't be surprised if Barea's departure is next.
As for key arrivals? Mark Cuban is banking that happens starting July 2012.
For Dallas Mavericks fans still holding out hope that Mark Cuban would bring the team back to defend its title, J.J. Barea became the latest to likely extinguish that hope.
"It’s not looking good here in Dallas, I don’t think. I’m disappointed. I wasn’t expecting this," said Barea, who added, "It’s disappointing they’re not going to do what needs to be done to bring back the team."
It certainly appears that Dallas is prepared to let Chandler -- who first announced his belief that he will be playing elsewhere last week -- Butler, Barea and perhaps also DeShawn Stevenson walk. Such a scenario would set a plan in motion to get below the salary cap next summer to be able to make a serious run at potential free agents Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard -- assuming any of the three reach the open market.
Howard and Paul could be traded before this season even starts with the Mavs lacking impact pieces that would probably be needed to entice New Orleans or Orlando to send their stars to Dallas.
"It’s going to be very interesting to see how things unfold," Mavs forward Shawn Marion said prior to a workout Tuesday morning with a handful of teammates at the American Airlines Center. "But, we’ve got to stay optimistic and stay positive and hopefully we’ll be able to keep most of our team intact. That’s the positive side of it, hopefully we’ll be able to, but you never know."
Dallas has 10 players under contract and if the Mavs don't re-sign their free agents it would seem logical that they will seek to fill remaining rosters spots (13 minimum on the 15-man roster) with one-year, minimum salary veterans. Brian Cardinal would seem to fit that bill, as would Peja Stojakovic.
A few players on the Mavs' radar might be able to get better deals elsewhere. Agent Bill Duffy said Tuesday that power forward Jeff Foster, who played four of his 12 seasons at Indiana under Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as well as several other clients, possibly centers Francisco Elson and Joel Przybilla, and guard Earl Watson, have received interest from the Mavs, but are entertaining more aggressive overtures elsewhere.
"With whatever roster we come back with, your core nucleus is intact and you have a lot to be excited about," guard Jason Terry said Monday. "Again, we’re still a contender. We’re right there whatever happens."
Chandler is believed to be the No. 1 choice of Golden State, and Butler is visiting with at least four teams this week.
It certainly has been an interesting week starting last Wednesday when teams were allowed to begin speaking to player-agents. Many believed the Mavs' top priority was re-signing Chandler and then bringing back the others to make a run at a repeat. They'll make that run, but apparently without some key pieces, and with both eyes fixated toward a risk-filled summer.
As ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Sunday, center Tyson Chandler plans Tyson Chandler plans to meet face-to-face this week with officials from the New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets.
The Mavs have five other free agents that can also begin to meet with other suitors. One of those is DeShawn Stevenson, who has upward of a dozen teams express interest in signing the veteran, hard-nosed shooting guard. To begin the paring-down process, Stevenson will engage in a series of conference calls with interested teams throughout Monday, agent Mark Bartelstein said on Sunday. The Mavs have made their interest in re-signing Stevenson known through Bartelstein.
It's uncertain if J.J. Barea or Caron Butler will have face-to-face meetings with any of their suitors. Barea has drawn interest from the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings, according to a source close to that situation. Butler has interest from at least a half-dozen teams, including the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets.
The Mavs' other two free agents, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic, will both likely be veteran minimum deals. Cardinal has a strong chance of landing back in Dallas.
Everyone knows by now the uphill battle the Dallas Mavericks face to re-sign center Tyson Chandler to a deal that also keeps them in play for the free-agent class of 2012. Chandler made that clear Wednesday night.
How the Mavs proceed with their other five free agents could depend greatly on whether Chandler returns or signs elsewhere.
So, here's a quick breakdown as the free agency period is in its infancy, just day two in which teams can talk to player-agents to discuss potential contracts. No agreements, oral or written, can be consummated until Dec. 9.
* J.J. Barea: The Barea front, headed by agent Dan Fegan, has been rather quiet ever since the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China extended him a contract offer. Barea earned $1.8 million last season and that number figures to increase by a healthy amount. But, just how healthy? Would a team drop its entire $5 million mid-level exception on the career backup? The Mavs need a quality backup to help keep Jason Kidd's minutes in check, and Rodrigue Beaubois might not be ready to handle that role. If Barea leaves, it would seemingly put Dallas in the market for a cheap replacement.
* Caron Butler: It certainly seems as though Butler is headed elsewhere. There was surprise from his camp that Dallas was not among the early callers Wednesday. Six teams did make contact and today the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Bulls are favored by Butler. The story quoted one source close to Butler as saying: "I hope I don't have to leave." Butler has been working out in Chicago for much of the offseason and he is from nearby Racine, Wisc. Along with the Bulls, the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets also made contact. It is believed that Butler, despite coming off the serious knee injury, could command a $5 million starting salary. Butler has maintained that his No. 1 destination is Dallas and the Mavs have said they still have interest. On Wednesday, Butler told ESPNDallas.com: "I'm just in Chicago ready to defend the title or go get one."
* DeShawn Stevenson: The veteran certainly played himself into a good spot by being a total team player last season and then producing big-time throughout the playoffs. He had the undying respect of his teammates and brought a bull-dog mentality to defense and showed he could bury 3-pointers at key times. That's why his agent on Thursday said more than a dozen teams, including the Mavs, have shown interest in the shooting guard. Stevenson made $4 million last season, a number that wouldn't figure to go up and could be hard to match. When the Mavs traded for Rudy Fernandez on draft night, it seemed to have spelled the end for Stevenson in Dallas, but the Mavs have maintained that they would like him back.
* Brian Cardinal: "The Custodian" also proved to teams that he can still play some ball and serve a role on a championship team. He'll likely sit back and see who calls, but ultimately he's a perfect fit for the Mavs, who will place a premium on veterans they can sign to one-year, minimum deals. Dallas has put in an early call to show their interest in bringing Cardinal back.
* Peja Stojakovic: The sharpshooter said he wasn't interested in retiring after winning his first championship last season. Like Cardinal, Stojakovic is likely a minimum-salary player that the Mavs can decide to re-sign if they want to keep a dead-eye shooter on the bench for key moments.
The NBA's free agency period is officially on the starting grid. The NBA has eased lockout restrictions and starting Wednesday morning teams can contact agents and begin contract talks. Top priority for the Dallas Mavericks' president of basketball operations is making sure that the 7-foot-1 Chandler is in a Mavs uniform on Christmas Day.
While talks can take place, no agreements, oral or written, can be made.
Chandler is considered one of the top three free agents along with Denver Nuggets center Nene and New Orleans Hornets power forward David West.
The Mavs have five other free agents: J.J. Barea, Caron Butler DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic.
Players can return to their teams' practice facilities on Thursday. They will be allowed to workout under the supervision of team strength and conditioning coaches, but the coaching staff and front office personnel will still not be allowed to be present.
The labor deal that was tentatively agreed to by the league and the players on Saturday still must be completed and ratified by both sides before the lockout will be fully lifted. That is also when teams will be allowed to sign free agents and make trades. Dec. 9 is the target date.
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Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.