Dallas Mavericks: Antawn Jamison
There is about a two percent chance that a Mavs ping pong ball will pop up in the top three picks during Tuesday night’s lottery. Dallas has a 0.6 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who will represent the Mavs at the drawing along with assistant general manager Keith Grant, plans to do everything in his power to improve those odds. He plans to try to tempt the basketball gods by wearing his outfit from Game 6 of the 2011 Finals.
This is the first time the Mavs have had to attend the lottery drawing since 2000, months after Mark Cuban bought a team. They did have one lottery pick during the last dozen years, when Washington drafted Devin Harris fifth overall on the Mavs’ behalf as part of the trade that sent Antawn Jamison to the Wizards.
The Dallas Mavericks just looked awful, especially considering that this was the Lakers’ fourth game in five nights.
Give the Lakers credit for shooting lights out, but this was a defensive disaster for Dallas. The Mavs allowed 65 points in the first half – the most they have given up in any half this season – when L.A. made 8 of 10 3-point attempts.
This was a blowout before Kobe Bryant even scored his first points, a pair of free throws that put the Lakers up 30-15 with 3:00 remaining in the first quarter. He ended the game with 19 points.
By that point, Metta World Peace already had 13 points, almost equaling his season average (13.6) entering the night. World Peace scored the Lakers’ first 10 points, and the Mavs weren’t outscoring him until more than seven minutes into the game.
World Peace added only one 3-pointer in the second half to finish with 19 points, but the damage had long been done.
Antawn Jamison, the 36-year-old Lakers reserve forward who was averaging 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds this season, had a double-double in the first half. He finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Dallas also had a dreadful shooting night, hitting just 37.0 percent of its shots from the floor. It was an especially tough night for Darren Collison and Chris Kaman.
Collison had more turnovers (three) than points (two) and was 1-of-10 from the floor.
Kaman, who came off the bench after starting the previous five games, fouled out in 24 minutes. He had only four points and three rebounds and was 2-of-12 from the floor.
What it means: It’ll likely mean a long, painful film session Sunday for the Mavs. Coach Rick Carlisle was already concerned about the defense. With the loss, the Mavs fall back to .500, with the Lakers pulling even with them at 7-7. Dallas went 1-2 on its homestand. The Mavs have lost six of their past nine games since a 4-1 start. Dallas will be on the road for six of its next seven games.
Play of the game: Bryant made bad just a little bit worse for the Mavs just before halftime, drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the arc despite O.J. Mayo being close enough to smell Kobe’s breath.
Stat of the night: World Peace had 16 points at halftime, matching the Mavs starting five’s total.
No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers
Move along, nothing here to see. Yeah, right. Luxury tax be damned, the Lakers are must-see TV this season with their retooled roster that reads like an All-Star team or an Olympic squad or, if you will, a future Hall of Fame roll call. General manager Mitch Kupchak, who in 2008 acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis -- a deal long-ridiculed as thievery although the Grizzlies did get Marc Gasol -- finagled Steve Nash for draft picks. He then landed the most dominant defensive big man in the league, Dwight Howard, who has also averaged 20 points or more in four of the last six seasons. So the Lakers will roll out a starting five of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard. The Lakers were a middle-of-the-pack defensive team last year and that should begin to change the moment Howard returns from back surgery. Offensively, this should be a lot of fun with Nash running the show and making life super easy for Kobe, Pau and Howard. Move over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, a new Lob City might be taking up residence at Staples Center.
@Lakers 73, Mavs 70
Lakers 96, @Mavs 91
Lakers 109, @Mavs 93
@Lakers 112, Mavs 108 (OT)
This season's games
Oct. 30: @ Lakers
Nov. 24: vs. Lakers
Feb. 24: vs. Lakers
Apr. 2: @ Lakers
Obviously, the marquee moves the Lakers made with Nash and Howard have everyone talking. But it's the ancillary acquisitions to bolster the bench that pushed me to hand L.A. my No. 1 ranking ahead of West champion Oklahoma City. Bringing in veteran forward Antawn Jamison and 3-point specialist Jodie Meeks to join guard Steve Blake and energetic young forward Jordan Hill gives the Lakers' second unit proven scoring and some muscle. There's lots of talk that the Lakers could challenge the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record 72 wins, but considering Howard will probably miss the beginning of the season recuperating from back surgery, the age of key stars such as Nash and Kobe and time needed to jell, that feat doesn't seem terribly likely. That's not the goal anyway. The end-game is fitting Kobe for a sixth ring to match Michael Jordan and getting Nash and Howard their first. The intriguing aspect is how second-year Lakers coach Mike Brown will handle this gift of talent and how he'll adjust offensively. For instance, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as time went on with Jason Kidd, relinquished most of the play-calling and allowed the offensive to "flow" from Kidd. Nash's presence as the primary ball handler will also be a major adjustment for Bryant, who can take on the role of a more traditional shooting guard playing off the ball. It should greatly benefit Bryant, who turned 34 on Thursday.
How the Mavs match up
The Mavs will get an early look when they open the season in L.A. in what should be quite a Hollywood scene. This Lakers squad brings just about everything: Star power, size, skill, strength, savvy and doses of athleticism that will be difficult for any team to match. Howard probably won't be ready to go just yet, but Nash will be primed for a big opener with his new club. As big a problem as Andrew Bynum was for the Mavs to handle defensively and on the boards (he averaged 17.0 points and 13.0 rebounds last season vs. Mavs) and as difficult as Howard will be, Gasol was a killer last season. Dirk Nowitzki is often saddled with guarding Gasol, arguably the most skilled 7-foot low-post player in the league. Gasol averaged 19.8 points and 8.5 boards in four games against Dallas and shot 55.9 percent from the field. Against teams Gasol played more than two times last season, he shot a higher percentage against only Houston and Minnesota. Chris Kaman will probably get Gasol in the opener, but when Howard's in the lineup, Kaman will have that nasty assignment with Nowitzki on Gasol. Shawn Marion will be happy to get help from newcomers Dahntay Jones and O.J. Mayo when it comes to guarding Bryant. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a tough matchup -- and the Mavs are lucky enough to try it four times this season.
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder
With the roster now appearing to be finalized -- barring any trades before the start of training camp in late September -- the re-tooled Mavs now know who and when they'll play as the NBA released the full 82-game regular-season schedule Thursday.
There's no Christmas Day game and no Martin Luther King Jr. day game. Dirk Nowitzki and his new pals won't be on national television at the rate that they were a season ago as defending champs. Still, the Mavs will have eight games on TNT -- including the opener at the Lakers -- seven on ESPN, seven on NBATV, one on ABC and two on ESPN Radio.
None of it means this won't be one of the more intriguing seasons of Cuban's ownership. At the moment, just about anything -- from being lottery bound to a top-four finish in the Western Conference -- seems possible.
We take a look at five games to circle, and why not start with the opener?
No. 1: Mavs at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 30
Not only will it be the first real game for a Mavs club that features five new key players around Nowitzki, but it will also be Steve Nash's debut with the Lakers. And for that matter, since we've already mentioned Jamison, he'll also be wearing the purple and gold for the first time. The big question as of July 26 is if Andrew Bynum will still be calling the Staples Center home or if Dwight Howard be manning the rim and playing alongside Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Nash?
No. 2: New York Knicks at Mavs, Nov. 21
Coach Rick Carlisle predicted that Jason Kidd would receive a standing ovation when he returns to the American Airlines Center. We won't have to wait long to find out if he's right -- and he probably is. Two-fifths of the Mavs' championship starting lineup will suit up for the Knicks as Tyson Chandler makes his second trip back to Dallas since the title. Kidd's last-minute departure to the Big Apple was stunning, but in retrospect it's allowed the Mavs to add a bit more shake-n-bake to their backcourt with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
No. 3: Mavs at Boston Celtics, Dec. 12
A trip to the Garden is always special, but now that Jason Terry will be writing ctc on his green and white sneakers, it's extra special. And don't think that Terry, who played eight seasons with the Mavs, won't want to drill about 15 buckets from downtown and send his former team out of town with a loss. Terry never wanted to leave Dallas, but he knew he was no longer in their plans. He'll try to fill the very large shoes of Ray Allen, who took his talents to South Beach. Terry won't make his Dallas return until March 22.
No. 4: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Mavs, Jan. 18
It'll take a few months for the Western Conference champs to make it Dallas, which isn't a bad thing since the Mavs will need some time to break in the new rotation. Although Dallas is a drastically different team than the past two seasons, consecutive playoff series have elevated the Thunder to the top of the Mavs' rival list, or at least just notch below the Spurs. This game will show the Mavs how far they've come or how far they still have to go.
No. 5: Mavs at Brooklyn Nets, March 1
Who knows if the Nets will have Dwight Howard by this first meeting of the two teams, but this game is all about Deron Williams, who spurned his hometown Mavs to re-sign with the Nets as they move to Brooklyn. In the grand scheme of things, this game will mean little, but the free-agent process was emotional for Williams and the two teams, and that could make this the most intense Mavs-Nets game of all-time. Less than three weeks later, Williams will make his return to Dallas. He won't be staying.
The NBA Sportsmanship Award, designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, is voted on by NBA players. The NBA will announce the winner after the regular season.
The other regional winners are Cleveland’s Antawn Jamison, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, Miami’s Shane Battier, Minnesota’s Luke Ridnour and New York’s Jeremy Lin.
Former NBA players Greg Anthony, John Crotty, Antonio Davis, Eddie Johnson and Kenny Smith selected the six divisional winners from a pool of 30 team nominees. Each team nominated one of its players for this award.
The annual award reflects the ideals of sportsmanship -- ethical behavior, fair play and integrity -- in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league’s NBA Cares program efforts.
ALL-TIME NBA SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD WINNERS
Inaugural: Joe Dumars (1996)
1996-97: Terrell Brandon, Cleveland
1997-98: Avery Johnson, San Antonio
1998-99: Hersey Hawkins, Seattle
1999-00: Eric Snow, Philadelphia
2000-01: David Robinson, San Antonio
2001-02: Steve Smith, San Antonio
2002-03: Ray Allen, Seattle
2003-04: P.J. Brown, New Orleans
2004-05: Grant Hill, Orlando
2005-06: Elton Brand, Los Angeles Clippers
2006-07: Luol Deng, Chicago
2007-08: Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns
2008-09: Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets
2009-10: Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns
2010-11: Stephen Curry, Golden State
DALLAS -- All bets are off for the Dallas Mavericks if the remarkably durable Dirk Nowitzki suffers a significant injury this season.
The worst-case scenario is that they’ll be another version of the 2003-04 Mavs. That one-and-done playoff squad will always be remembered for the Antoines. Or the Antawns.
See, they couldn’t even get on the same page regarding the spelling of the shared first name for their two major offseason additions. Adding Antoine Walker and Antawn Jamison to the mix was a failed chemistry experiment.
The Mavs hope that isn’t the case with Lamar Odom and Vince Carter, a couple of similarly accomplished players who are a little further along in their careers.
“That’s fair,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “The problem with that is we had two guys who couldn’t pass. One wasn’t willing, and one wasn’t able.”
Nelson laughed as he made the point, but he’s not kidding when he says he thinks Odom and Carter have the unselfish mentality to mesh well with the Mavs, who became the symbol for the power of team basketball while beating the superstar-studded Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Another significant difference between these Mavs and their ’03-04 predecessors is that coach Rick Carlisle knows he has a starting-caliber center in Brendan Haywood. Don Nelson went the "mad scientist" route at center in that season, splitting time between wide-body Danny Fortson, creaky Scott Williams, 7-foot-6 stiff Shawn Bradley and various small-ball lineups. The result then was a defensive disaster, as the Mavs ranked second to last in points allowed.
The Mavs’ Tyson Chandler-led defense made a parade in downtown Dallas possible last season. If Haywood can step up to provide a stiff defensive backbone, the Mavs could be the team to beat in the Western Conference. If he can’t, the Mavs could revert back to one-and-done mode.
|Dirk Nowitzki joins Galloway and Company to touch on the Rangers, his hair and his unusual Halloween getup (Martina Navratilova). Oh, and his Mavs' opening win, too..
Dirk Nowitzki's 28 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday's season-starting victory over Charlotte marked his 196th 25-and-10 performance since 2000-01.
That's tops in the NBA in that span, as confirmed by the following Elias Sports Bureau list:
196: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
182: Tim Duncan, San Antonio
177: Kevin Garnett, Boston
166: Shaquille O'Neal, Boston
120: Antawn Jamison, Cleveland
PS: Jason Kidd's 18 assists in the win enabled him to top the 15-dime plateau for the 87th time since his rookie season in 1993-94, tops in the league in that span. Phoenix's Steve Nash and the retired John Stockton are tied for No. 2 with 79 each; New Orleans' Chris Paul is fourth with 45 after recording 16 assists in the Hornets' season-opening home win over Milwaukee.
I believe that LeBron has always known he’s going to stay in Cleveland so long as the team improved its roster, front office and coaching situation. But there’s too much hype to push, junk to sell and web pages that need to be clicked for LeBron to spill the beans early. Why would the Cavs select a coach until they knew for sure that James approved? And why would Tom Izzo have such a hard time deciding where he was going to be next year if he didn’t feel good that LeBron was going to be there too? Everyone who seems to know something about Izzo would be shocked if he left East Lansing. Imagine if it was for the opportunity to coach an aging Antawn Jamison ... yeah, right. If James wasn’t a lock in Cleveland, Izzo would’ve put this to bed already. If Izzo waffles till July 1, I’ll reconsider my thinking here.
James will be a Cav, and here’s how he’ll get to play with Bosh.
Cleveland will acquire Bosh at “max money” and relieve the Raptors of that horrible Hedo Turkoglu contract (still owed about $44 million over the next four seasons) in exchange for Jamison, Delonte West, J.J. Hickson and Wally Szczerbiak in a Keith Van Horne-styled sign-and-trade that’ll net him about $3 million. I imagine Cleveland will fund that as well. I could also see a possibility of these teams swapping Jose Calderon and Mo Williams at Toronto’s insistence, but we’ll leave them out of this.
The deal is an obvious no-brainer for the Cavs. What does Toronto get for playing ball in helping Bosh get to Cleveland? For starters, they’ll get some financial flexibility, but not immediately. In fact, they’d save a little more money next season by simply letting Bosh walk, but the savings wouldn’t make up for getting nothing in return and still having the Turk for four more seasons. Jamison only has two years left and gives you better production. Plus, what team will embrace Jamison’s horrible D like Toronto? It’s downright heartwarming.
And you can count me as a big believer in Hickson. I love his athleticism and energy. He’s a nice addition. West has a $500K buyout. That’ll get used. And since only the first year of a sign-and-trade has to be guaranteed, Toronto will owe WallyWorld nothing after next season. He’s simply filler to make the numbers work. Though he’ll get a shot to make the team and jack up 3s. Remember this is the same GM that threw mid-level money at Jason Kapono.
Does any of this make up for losing Bosh? No way. Is it way better than just watching him walk to Chicago, New York or Miami? Of course.
Stamp it and consider it done.
Now back to your regularly scheduled offseason fantasizing. Since I’ve spent all weekend drooling over Paul George highlights, I guess we’ve got some work to do.
For Part III of our fantasy offseason series we’ll try and work some angles brought up by our homie Timmy Mac in this post on LeBron James.
The Basics #1: I’ve never been a Jamison fan, but he can still get you 20 a night. And even though he’s overpaid, his contract only has two years left on it. I don’t see him being as big an albatross as others might. In fact, if acquiring LeBron means the Mavs must give up Rodrigue Beaubois, as most have theorized, then I’d suggest that Mo Williams and his likely three remaining years is a bigger issue for Cleveland moving forward than Jamison.
The How #1: If the Mavs were to offer Erick Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract, Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson (final year of a deal with $4.1 million on it) and a future pick or two for James and the complete waste of money that is Daniel Gibson’s deal (three more years with almost $11 million guaranteed), then I’d think Cleveland would have to roll with that considering holding an empty bag is also an option.
The Why #1: I’d think Cleveland could still be competitive with this deal while they rebuild around Beaubois, JJ Hickson and cap space using Jamison, Williams and Andy Varejao to bridge to the future. If Cleveland demanded Caron Butler in the trade to get more value, then The Mavs would have to counter that Delonte West be included in the deal in place of Gibson since he’s only guaranteed $500,000 for 2010. But if I’m Dallas, I have James’ camp force the issue that he wants to play with Butler. Remember that Roddy B and picks beats nothing in return.
The How #2: Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract, Butler in the last year of his deal and Matt Carroll’s descending contract (very much in the Boobie Gibson realm) and two future picks for Jamison/LeBron. But NO Roddy B if you have to take on Jamison.
The Why #2: Jamison is a completely useless player for the Mavs at his salary and really hurts the finances of the team. If Dallas has to take him on, then they shouldn’t have to come off of Beaubois, too. Butler will give the Cavs similar production to Jamison at about $18 million less. Honestly, Cleveland would be better taking the first incarnation of Deal 1 and then sending Jamison, Williams, West and Jamario Moon to Philly for Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Kapano and the #2 pick. They take a financial hit this season, though they wouldn’t come close to luxury tax territory and then they’d rebuild around the undeniable backcourt of Roddy B and Evan Turner with over $20 million in cap space next summer. Now that’d be fun to watch.
The Bottom Line: The Mavs can get LeBron if he wants to come here. Who knows if Dallas is even on his radar. But if Cleveland plays it right, they could be competitive quickly. Which is all you can ask when you lose one of the best players in the world in his prime.
That has nothing to do with Mark Cuban’s recent comments indicating his intention to recruit LeBron, which will likely result in the league slapping our billionaire buddy with a fine.
When the playoffs started, I expected King James’ Cavs to win the title. They didn’t get out of the second round, significantly increasing the odds that he’ll opt to leave Cleveland.
The Nets have long been speculated as one of the most likely teams to land LeBron. You have to think New Jersey’s chances took a hit during the lottery, when they missed out on the first and second picks. The Nets aren’t nearly as attractive without John Wall or Evan Turner as a long-term running mate.
You can make the case – and Cuban certainly will – that the Mavs represented LeBron’s best chance to win a ring right away. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd are a couple of future Hall of Famers who would willingly let LeBron take the lead and have games well suited to play with him.
ESPN.com stat geek John Hollinger crunched the numbers and determined that only Chris Bosh would be a better fit than Dirk among the stars who could potentially be paired with LeBron. How do you defend a LeBron-Dirk pick-and-pop? While it’s possible that Bosh and LeBron could decide to play together for the Knicks, they wouldn’t have a point guard like Kidd to make their offensive lives easier.
Kidd has flaws at his advanced age, but he excels at two things that mesh well with LeBron’s phenomenal skills and athleticism. Kidd can get LeBron easy transition buckets in bunches. And Kidd can consistently knock down weakside 3-pointers to make opponents pay for doubling LeBron.
Yet many national media members refuse to even consider the Mavs as a possibility. After all, they have no cap space.
“Despite Mark Cuban's open courting of LeBron, we purposely omitted sign-and-trade possibilities, because for the Cavaliers that's either the ultimate last resort or no option at all,” ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard writes before ranking LeBron’s five most likely landing spots. “In the unlikely event the Cavs open themselves up to a sign-and-trade, then Dallas, Houston and perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers could enter the discussion. But the Cavs know there would be no way to bring back equal value in a sign-and-trade, and they'd kill their future cap flexibility in the process.”
No doubt that Dallas can’t offer equal basketball value for LeBron, but Cuban can offer a package that improves the Cavs’ finances and future cap flexibility.
The key, of course, is Erick Dampier’s contract. The Cavs would never have to pay a cent of the big man’s nonguaranteed $13 million salary if he’s included in a sign-and-trade deal, assuming they cut Dampier. Package that with Roddy Beaubois and his rookie deal, some Cuban cash and a couple of future draft picks and the Cavs could actually make money on the deal.
The Cavs could really free up some cap space if they decide to go into total rebuilding mode and insist on the Mavs taking another big contract off their hands. For example, with LeBron gone, would Cleveland really to pay Antawn Jamison more than $28 million the next two seasons? The Mavs have the expiring contracts (Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea) to expand the sign-and-trade package to provide the Cavs that sort of salary relief.
Not that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert would be excited about such an offer, but it’d be a heck of a lot better than letting LeBron stay in the Eastern Conference and getting nothing in return. Make no mistake, the only way the Mavs can pull this off is if LeBron presents a Dallas-or-Chicago/New York/New Jersey/Miami ultimatum.
The tough part is convincing King James that his best option is to come to Dallas. Cuban would have no problem putting together a package to make losing a legend-in-the-making as painless as possible for the poor Cavs.
When Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to counter with an offer anywhere close to the $65 million the Suns put on the table, Nash quickly made his call. The Big Three, one year removed from the West finals, was no more. Nash returned to Phoenix, Dirk Nowitzki lost his best friend and coach Don Nelson lost his point guard, and later would admit lost his enthusiasm to coach the new-look Mavs.
"It's exciting, but it's also bittersweet," Nash told ESPN.com at the time. "I'm really sad to leave my teammates, but I'm glad to be going somewhere where they really wanted me."
Cuban, who had not been shy in spending big money to acquire players, said no this time. He contended that Nash's body couldn't endure another five or six years playing the break-neck style that had come to define his game. At the time, it seemed many fans agreed.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson got to work and acquired streaky shooting Atlanta Hawks guard Jason Terry to run the point. He would join rookie guard Devin Harris. Veteran center Erick Dampier and ornery swingman Jerry Stackhouse came aboard via different trades.
The club thrived to win 58 games. The final 16 game under Avery Johnson, who took over when Nelson abruptly stepped down on March 19. The Mavs reached the second round, but in the end, it was Nash who got the last laugh, at least for one season, and set the stage for his double MVPs to come.
Coach: Don Nelson (64 games)/Avery Johnson (18 games)
Record: 58-24 (2nd, Southwest Division)
Playoffs: defeated Houston (4-3), lost to Phoenix (4-2)
Team payroll: $91.9 million*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($14.6 million)*
In-season transaction: Dec. 3, 2004: Traded Dickau and a 2005 second-round draft pick (Marcin Gortat) to New Orleans for Darrell Armstrong; Feb. 24, 2005: Traded Calvin Booth and Alan Henderson to Milwaukee for Keith Van Horn.
The high: The Mavs finished the season on a 9-0 run under Avery Johnson but lost their first two playoff games at home against Houston. Dallas rallied and won Game 7 at home by 40 points, the largest margin of victory in a Game 7 in NBA history. Dirk Nowitzki put together a remarkable regular season, averaging a career-best 26.1 points and 9.7 rebounds that would see him finish third in in MVP voting and make him the first Mavericks player to be named All-NBA first team.
The low: Nash did it all in the West semifinal series against his old team, putting up the best numbers of his career. Nash averaged 30.3 points, 12.0 assists, and 6.5 rebounds a game. He recorded his first playoff triple-double and scored 48 points in Game 4, then followed it up with 34 points in Game 5 and 39 points in the series-clincher. In that Game 6 on the Mavs' home court, Nash hit the biggest shot of the series, nailing a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 5.7 seconds left with Jason Terry -- who poured in 36 points -- drifting off of him to force overtime. The Suns had trailed by 16 points with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Nash 3-pointer to tie led Nowitzki to verbally berate his first-year teammate Terry on the court, a rare scene from the frustrated 7-footer. Losing Nash, then losing to Nash, did not foreshadow what was to come next for the Dallas Mavericks.
F Dirk Nowitzki (26.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg)
G Michael Finley (15.7 ppg, 40.7% 3FG)
G/F Jerry Stackhouse (14.9 ppg as sixth man)
F Josh Howard (12.6 ppg, team-high 116 steals)
G Jason Terry (12.4 ppg, 42.0% 3FG)
F Keith Van Horn (12.2 ppg in 29 games with Dallas)
C Erick Dampier (9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
G/F Marquis Daniels (9.1 ppg)
G Devin Harris (5.7 ppg, 19 starts in 76 games)
G Darrell Armstrong (2.3 ppg in 52 games with Dallas)
F Alan Henderson (3.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 15.4 mpg)
C Shawn Bradley (2.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 11.5 mpg)
C Calvin Booth (2.4 ppg in 34 games with Dallas)
G Dan Dickau (played just four games)
C DJ Mbenga (played just 15 games)
C Pavel Podkolzin (played five games)
The Dallas Mavericks were fresh off an exciting run to the Western Conference finals and motivated by the belief that had Dirk Nowitzki not suffered a knee sprain in Game 3, they would have defeated the San Antonio Spurs and advanced to the franchise's first NBA Finals.
But, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made wholesale changes that he would later say were a mistake. The Big Three of Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley returned along with Shawn Bradley and Eduardo Najera.
The rest of the roster received a major makeover, namely with two lanky, head-band wearing rookies and two big-name acquisitions named Antoine, er, Antawn.
All-in-all, the 2003-04 season would prove to be a disappointing watershed year for Nash, Nowitzki, Don Nelson and the franchise as a whole.
Coach: Don Nelson
Record: 52-30 (3rd, Midwest Division)
Playoffs: Lost to Sacramento (4-1).
Team payroll: $76.5 million*
Highest-paid player: Antoine Walker ($13.5 million)*
Offseason transactions: F/G Josh Howard (drafted in first round, 29th pick); G/F Marquis Daniels (rookie free agent); G Travis Best (free agent); traded Evan Eschmeyer, Avery Johnson, Popeye Jones, Antoine Rigaudeau and Nick Van Exel to Golden State for Antawn Jamison, Chris Mills, Danny Fortson and Jiri Welsch; traded Raef LaFrentz, Mills, Welsch and a 2004 first-round draft pick (Delonte West) to Boston for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk.
In-season transaction: Jan. 30, 2004: Signed Scott Williams (free agent).
The low: The new lineup some called the 'Fantasy Five' just didn't click. After winning 60 games the prior season, the Mavs dropped by eight wins and settled for the No. 5 seed. Nelson often liked to go with a small lineup with Walker at center -- in fact, Nelson made Walker agree to play center in the final 10 games just for him to get on the floor -- but that didn't stop Walker from hoisting 305 3-pointers, (he made 82 of them) second on the team behind Michael Finley's 370. Nash received heavy criticism for his defense on Sacramento guard Mike Bibby in the five-game, first-round loss. Bibby outscored Nash in the series, 23.6 to 13.6, and went off for six 3-pointers and 36 points in the Kings' series-clinching victory. Nelson, as well as many of the Mavs players, ended the season with a cloudy future. To be sure, an offseason of change was on the horizon again, but no one saw the biggest change of all coming.
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 21.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg)
G Michael Finley (18.6 ppg, 40.5% 3FGs)
F Antawn Jamison (14.8 ppg, 53.5% FG)
G Steve Nash (14.5 ppg, team-leading 8.8 apg)
F Antoine Walker (14.0 ppg, 26.9% 3FG)
F/G Josh Howard (8.6 ppg, 23.7 mpg)
G/F Marquis Daniels (8.5 ppg, 18.6 mpg)
G Tony Delk (6.0 ppg)
F Scott Williams (3.0 ppg in 27 games with Dallas)
F Danny Fortson (3.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
C Shawn Bradley (3.3 ppg, 74 blocks in 66 games)
F Eduardo Najera (3.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg in 58 games)
G Travis Best (2.8 ppg, 1.8 apg in 61 games)
Drew Gooden has played for nine teams in eight seasons and sees the inevitable.
Gooden had just delivered his best individual performance of the season -- 26 points and 20 rebounds -- in the Los Angeles Clippers' 106-96 loss to the Mavericks, slamming home precisely why Dallas was so hopeful of re-signing him after Gooden was packaged with Josh Howard, Quinton Ross and James Singleton to Washington in the Feb. 13 trade that netted Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.
Had the Wizards reached a buyout with the veteran power forward, as they later did with Zydrunas Ilgauskas after acquiring Big Z from Cleveland in the Antawn Jamison deal, Gooden would almost certainly be back with a previous employer for the first time in his career. As he said many times before and after Tuesday's homecoming game at American Airlines Center, Gooden never wanted to leave Dallas and still hopes that the Mavs will consider re-signing him this summer.
The Wizards, though, didn't buy Gooden out. Instead they routed him to the Clippers as part of the three-way Jamison swap before the league's Feb. 18 trading deadline. And there would be no buyout in L.A. because the Clips, looking to bolster a front line weakened by rookie Blake Griffin's season-ending knee injury and the trade of Marcus Camby to Portland, told Gooden immediately that they needed to keep him for the rest of the season.
"It wasn't as easy it was last year for me with Sacramento," Gooden said, recalling how the Kings quickly bought out his contract after acquiring Gooden from Chicago at the deadline, enabling Gooden to sign with San Antonio for the stretch run.
"I think everybody knew that once I got a buyout that I would want to go back to Dallas and help [the Mavs] out even more. I think there [were] teams that didn't want Dallas to have their cake and eat it, too.
"I miss Dallas. I miss those guys over there. I committed myself to this team and left something on the table that was unfinished business for me. But that's the business."
The solace for Gooden is that his play with the Clippers isn't exactly discouraging the Mavs -- or prospective team No. 10 -- from keeping the 28-year-old in their offseason thoughts. Gooden is averaging a healthy 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in 16 games with the Clippers, which would represent the highest averages of his career in both categories if sustained for a full season.
"I've got to make sure I don't take for granted the opportunity I have now," Gooden said. "Even though, let's face it, we're not going to be a playoff team this year, I'm getting an opportunity to play and I'm going to do well.
"I do feel like I'm playing my best [basketball]. Maybe I don't jump as high as I used to, but my mental game is so much stronger than when I first got into the league. Even though I've been on a lot of teams, playing a lot of different roles, I've gotten better within those roles."
Asked if the Mavs miss Gooden's contributions off the bench, Dirk Nowitzki said: "Hell, yeah."
Oklahoma City's Kevin Ollie -- another Mavs alumnus -- has played for 11 teams, so Gooden isn't even No. 1 among active NBA vagabonds. The people who track such matters at the Elias Sports Bureau, furthermore, say Gooden doesn't get credit for making a stop in Washington because, even though he was issued a No. 90 jersey from the Wizards, he never played in a game for them.
Ollie, though, is 37. He's running out of time to get to 12 teams.
"I was a victim of basketball [business]," Gooden said of the deal swung by the Mavs to get Butler and Haywood, which materialized about a month after Gooden and his partially guaranteed one-year contract in Dallas at $4.5 million was offered to Utah in an attempt to swipe Carlos Boozer from the Jazz.
"I was never locked into a long-term deal," Gooden continued. "I was always a guy that was talked about at every trade deadline, no matter if I was playing well or not. But there's been nothing bad about what happened for me, playing on a lot of different teams."
He was quickly schooled on the business of basketball as a rookie, when Memphis -- after taking Gooden with the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft -- traded him to Orlando before his first season was finished.
"That was a situation that I kind of liked [being traded]," Gooden said. "All the other times that I got traded, I didn't want to get traded. But it wasn't the right situation for me in Memphis. I was playing small forward and I felt like I was more of a power forward playing out of position."
Gooden's selection by then-Grizzlies president Jerry West in West's first draft in Memphis is one of the few second-guessed picks of West's storied front-office career, since the Grizz already had Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift on the roster.
"I didn't think I was going to have that Memphis hat on long that night that I got drafted," Gooden said. "But Jerry West always said he was going to take the best player available."
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com and is a frequent contributor to ESPNDallas.com.
"I know he's probably real excited to get going," Jason Kidd said. "I'm just excited to see him back and healthy."
Kidd expects to have his hands full with Arenas in Tuesday night's season opener. Actually, Kidd is one of several Dallas Mavericks that will take turns trying to slow down the Wizards' explosive point guard. Expect Quinton Ross, who will likely start in place of rehabbing Josh Howard, to guard Agent Zero to open the game.
The Mavericks witnessed firsthand that Agent Zero, who played only 15 games over the last two seasons, can still fill it up and effectively run the offense. He had 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting and nine assists in 21 minutes during the Mavs' preseason trip to Washington.
"He looks great physically and I think emotionally and spiritually, too," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He looks revived. He's a guy that can beat you basically single-handedly. We're going to have to be ready to deal with him."
The Wizards will have to rely more on Arenas' scoring ability than they would like early in the season. Forward Antawn Jamison is expected to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury.