Dallas Mavericks: Brandon Jennings

Mavs, Bucks not talking sign-and-trade

July, 3, 2013
There are no discussions about a sign-and-trade deal involving O.J. Mayo between the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein on Wednesday.

The sources said the Mavs are prepared to let Mayo leave and move on to other business. Mayo is close to agreeing to a multiyear deal with Milwaukee after averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists during his lone season in Dallas.

The Mavs had discussed sign-and-trade scenarios with other Mayo suitors, including talks with the Clippers that would have made ready-to-start 23-year-old point guard Eric Bledsoe a Maverick. However, the Clippers ended up agreeing to terms with shooting guard J.J. Redick instead, sending Bledsoe to the Suns in a three-team sign-and-trade deal.

All possible Mayo sign-and-trade scenarios were part of the Mavs' contingency plans if Dwight Howard doesn't decide to come to Dallas. The Mavs would have had to renounce Mayo's rights as part of the process of clearing enough salary-cap space to sign Howard to a max contract.

Monta Ellis, who opted out of making $11 million to stay in Milwaukee next season, is among the free-agent guards the Mavs have expressed interest in this summer. Those talks have yet to become "substantive," according to a source. The Mavs are in a holding pattern while Howard ponders his decision.

The Mavs are also intrigued by Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, but Milwaukee has made it clear that the intention is to match any offer for the restricted free agent.
It appears that O.J. Mayo’s tenure in Dallas will be one-and-done.

Yahoo! Sports reports that Mayo is close to agreeing to a multiyear deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mayo opted to test the free-agent market again instead of exercising the $4.2 million player option for next season in the contract he signed with the Mavs last summer. He was the Mavs’ second-leading scorer with 15.3 points per game and averaged 4.4 assists last season.

The Mavs had explored sign-and-trade scenarios with other Mayo suitors, but it isn’t clear whether they've had any discussions with the Bucks. Theoretically, the teams could agree to a double sign-and-trade deal in which Milwaukee would send point guard Brandon Jennings or combo guard Monta Ellis to Dallas for Mayo.

However, the Bucks have ample salary-cap space to sign Mayo and have indicated they intend to keep Jennings, a restricted free agent.

The Mavs have expressed interest in Ellis, but those talks have yet to become substantive, according to a source close to the situation.

Search for starting PG remains a priority

July, 1, 2013
The Mavericks remain in the market for a starting point guard after acquiring 18th overall pick Shane Larkin and agreeing on three-year, minimum-salary deal with Israeli star Gal Mekel.

Former Maverick Jason Terry joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss being traded to Brooklyn, Dirk Nowitzki and having his jersey in the rafters at the American Airlines Center one day.

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The Mavs want Larkin and Mekel to compete for backup minutes. They’ll continue to explore all avenues in finding a proven starter at point guard, a problem position last season in Dallas when Darren Collison lost his starting job to a pair of 37-year-olds who were unemployed at the beginning of the season before the Mavs allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Dallas attempting to initiate trade talks with Boston regarding perennial Rajon Rondo created a lot of buzz over the weekend, but it’s an extreme long shot at best that the Mavs and Celtics would make a deal involving the perennial All-Star point guard.

As a source told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, "Danny (Ainge) telling them that they're only interested in Dirk (Nowitzki) is his way of saying: ‘You don't have enough to get in the game.’”

Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.

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The only somewhat feasible scenario in which the Mavs have a chance to land Rondo is if the rebuilding Celtics try to dump a lot of salary along with him, with the Mavs using cap space to absorb the contracts if they miss out on Dwight Howard. A source said the Mavs might be willing to take Brandon Bass (two years, $13.35 remaining on contract) and Courtney Lee (three years, $16.35 million), but not Gerald Wallace (three years, $30.32 million).

Getting back to the realm of much more realistic possibilities, the Mavs are intrigued by Jose Calderon’s high basketball IQ and history of being an extremely efficient distributor and shooter. They’ve expressed that interest, but the Detroit Pistons intend to attempt to re-sign Calderon and several other teams have inquired about him.

USA Today reported that the Clippers, who met with O.J. Mayo in the early hours of free agency, could be interested in a Mayo sign-and-trade that would send Chris Paul's ready-to-start backup Eric Bledsoe to Dallas.

The Mavs will at least touch base with most of the veteran point guards in free agency, such as Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack and Monta Ellis. The Mavs could also reach out to restricted free agents Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague and Tyreke Evans, but the likelihood of the Dallas making an offer their teams would decline to match is slim.

A low-cost, stopgap possibility: 36-year-old Chauncey Billups, who credits coach Rick Carlisle for helping his career take off in Detroit and would be a tremendous mentor to the rookies.

Dirk: Mavs' summer not Dwight or bust

June, 28, 2013

FRISCO, Texas -- Realistically, there is one superstar available in the free-agency market, but Dirk Nowitzki says this isn’t a Dwight Howard-or-bust summer for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki and ESPN's Chris Broussard join Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the possibility of Dwight Howard joining the Mavericks and how Dallas should approach the situation.

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“Like last year with Deron Williams, our free agency can’t depend on just one name this year,” Nowitzki said before taking batting practice to prepare for his Heroes celebrity baseball game, which will be played Saturday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. “We’re not going to sign eight, nine one-year deals again. We tried that; it didn’t really work last year.

“So there’s plenty of other options out there, I think. You can plug holes with really, really good players -- maybe not superstars but really, really good players -- and still be a playoff team. If that’s the route we have to take if Dwight says no, I’m sure Mark (Cuban) and Donnie (Nelson) will find the right mix of guys.”

Tim MacMahon joins Galloway and Company to discuss the NBA draft and where the Mavericks stand on getting Dwight Howard.

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When the Mavs’ front office decided that creating salary cap space was more important than keeping their 2011 title team together, they anticipated that three superstars would be available in the 2012 summer free-agency market: Williams, Howard and Chris Paul.

Howard and Paul didn’t opt out of their contracts, ending up moving to the two Los Angeles teams and delaying their entrance into free agency for a year. The Mavs swung and missed at Williams -- a half-hearted attempt by Cuban, who didn’t take part in the face-to-face recruiting pitch.

The Mavs’ hopes to convince Paul to leave L.A. for Dallas this summer essentially died with the Clippers’ hiring of coach Doc Rivers.

Former Maverick Jason Terry joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss being traded to Brooklyn, Dirk Nowitzki and having his jersey in the rafters at the American Airlines Center one day.

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“With them getting Doc, that’s pretty much a wrap,” Nowitzki said. “I think everybody knows that. So there’s already one free agent gone that’s a game-changer and Dwight’s obviously another and next.

“How do I feel? I don’t know. There were reports yesterday that we were in the lead, but I don’t buy into all that. You have to wait until he makes a final decision, and then I’ll get excited or be down.”

However, if Howard doesn’t come to Dallas, Dirk is determined not to be down for long. He mentions names like Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings, Utah center Al Jefferson and Denver swingman Andre Iguodala as examples of players who can help the Mavs return to the playoffs.

Putting together a playoff-caliber roster is apparently the face of the franchise’s standard for a successful summer.

Free-agent PGs: Search for Plan B starter

June, 24, 2013
The first in ESPNDallas.com’s position-by-position series previewing the free agency market that opens July 1.

Barring a one-in-a-million type of miracle, the Mavericks must move on to Plan B.

With Doc Rivers re-locating to Los Angeles, Chris Paul maximizing his money by re-signing with the Clippers is all but a done deal. There’s a steep drop from CP3 to the rest of the point guards available in free agency -- and maybe the Mavs acquire their starter via a trade – but upgrading this position ranks right up there with center among the Mavs’ top priorities.

A look at potential PG fits for the Mavs in free agency:

Jose Calderon: The Mavs were intrigued enough by the 31-year-old Spaniard to engage in trade talks about him with the Raptors before and during last season. Calderon, who has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.2/1.7, would give the Mavs a significant boost of basketball IQ and get Dirk Nowitzki the ball at the right spot and right time on a regular basis. Calderon can also consistently knock down open jumpers, as evidenced by his career percentages that are outstanding by point guard standards (.483 FG, .399 3s).

The concerns with Calderon: He’ll remind Mavs fans of the biggest flaws of the two best point guards who have played with Dirk. Calderon has never been a good creator or defender, and that’s putting it kindly. His hesitation/inability to penetrate is Kidd-like; his 0.9 attempts per game at the rim were the lowest among starting point guards last season, according to hoopdata.com. He’s a Nash-like liability at the defensive end, especially against explosive guards. Those issues aren’t going to improve as Calderon ages.

Nevertheless, Calderon could be the best fit for the Mavs in the market, assuming the price drops significantly from the $11 million he made last season. Estimated cost: three years, $18 million.


Which free agent PG would you like to see with the Mavericks?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,869)

Monta Ellis: He’s the most talented point guard in the market who isn’t a perennial All-Star. The problem: It’s a stretch to call Ellis a point guard. He’s a scorer first and foremost, probably best suited for a Jason Terry-type of role as instant offense off the bench.

The Mavs have major question marks about how Ellis would fit as the starting point guard alongside Nowitzki. Ellis is a premier penetrator in his prime, which makes him intriguing, but he’s never averaged more than six assists per game and is a high-volume, low-efficiency jump shooter. His 3-point percentage last season (.287) was the worst among any player with more than 170 attempts. He shot more long 2s than any point guard other than John Wall but hit only 34 percent of them, per hoopdata.com.

Ellis gets a lot of steals, but he’ll never be confused with a defensive stopper.

He’d give the Mavs the kind of athleticism they haven’t had at point guard since Devin Harris. Of course, you might remember Nowitzki lobbying hard behind the scenes for the Jason Kidd trade because he wanted a more cerebral partner at point guard.

The Mavs will pass if Ellis gets something close to the four-year, $40 million deal he’s rumored to be seeking. If he slips through the cracks like O.J. Mayo last season, the Mavs could be waiting with a short-term offer in the $6 million-per-year range.

Jarrett Jack: He excelled as the Warriors’ sixth man this season, often running the point next to Stephen Curry during crunch time. That’s a role that suits him well.

While he struggles to defend quick foes and isn’t a pass-first guy, there are reasons to be intrigued about the 29-year-old Jack’s potential as the Mavs’ point guard. He’s an outstanding midrange shooter (48 percent last season) and has a knack for knocking down floaters in the lane. Those are the kind of shots that come in bunches when running pick-and-pops with Dirk. And Jack has the type of tough-minded mentality that would mesh well with the Mavs’ vets and coach Rick Carlisle.

A four-year, $24 million deal for Jack would make sense for the Mavs. However, it’s a long shot at best that he’d leave Golden State for that kind of money. With Golden State’s ownership promising to spend to sustain success now that the Bay Area is buzzing about the Dubs, another team would probably have to overpay to get Jack.

Mo Williams: The 30-year-old Williams is really a score-first combo guard, not a pure point. He’s a good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter (.386 career) who also likes midrange jumpers off the dribble but isn’t much of a threat to drive. He’s an average passer (6.2 assists per game last season) and mediocre defender. And he’s injury prone, missing at least a dozen games in seven of the last eight seasons.

Williams would be a stopgap starter, not a long-term solution. The Mavs probably wouldn’t be willing to pay more than $5 million per year for his services.

Brandon Jennings: The Mavs had mild interest in Jennings before the trade deadline and he’s made it clear that he’d love to play in Dallas. Let’s hold off on the debate about how much the 6-foot-1, 169-pound, lightning-quick, low-percentage-shooting Jennings would benefit from playing with Dirk. Jennings, a restricted free agent, is expected to sign an offer sheet to play one more season with the Bucks before having the freedom to be a free agent with no strings attached. If he’s a Mav this season, it almost certainly means there’s been a trade. (Same goes with Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, but we’ll classify him as a shooting guard.)

Jeff Teague: There’s a lot to like about a 25-year-old who averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists while playing good defense for a playoff team, which is why Atlanta is expected to re-sign the restricted free agent. He’s only an option for the Mavs if the Hawks strike it rich in free agency and are forced to renounce Teague’s rights. You could do a lot worse than signing Teague to a four-year, $30 million deal.

Darren Collison: He clearly considers himself a starting point guard and will search for a team that agrees with him this summer. The Mavs do not. If he slips through the free agency cracks, the Mavs would welcome him back as a backup for the kind of money that reflects that role.

Devin Harris: There’s a lot of love in the Mavs organization for Harris as a person. However, he isn’t perceived to be a starting point guard at this point of his injury-prone career. He averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists as a part-time starter for the Hawks last season. The Mavs wouldn’t mind bringing Harris back to Dallas, but it’d have to be as a $3 million-per-year backup.

Nate Robinson: He’s like a turbo edition of J.J. Barea with baggage that has caused Robinson to bounce around to five teams in the last five seasons. He was arguably the best minimum-salary bargain in the league last season, averaging 13.1 points and 4.4 assists off the bench for the Bulls and starring in some playoff wins. How much did Robinson boost his value? The Mavs wouldn’t spend big on him, but if he’s in the $2 million salary range, he’d be a great fit.

Chauncey Billups: His career really took off during his season playing for Rick Carlisle with the Pistons, so there’s a strong tie there. But he’s 36 years old and wasn’t close to being the same player when he came back from a torn Achilles tendon last season. The Mavs might value his veteran savvy enough to offer Billups the bi-annual exception of a little more than $2 million.

Shaun Livingston: The 6-foot-7 former straight-outta-high school high lotto pick whose career was destroyed by a devastating knee injury wouldn’t be a bad, low-dollar backup. He’s not a good shooter, but Livingston is a solid defender, passer and rebounder.

Will Bynum: The 30-year-old, who averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists off the Pistons’ bench last season, is a poor man’s Barea. If he’s getting offers for the minimum, the Mavs should be interested.

Mike James: The 38-year-old who ended the season as the Mavs’ starter is an option as a minimum-salary backup.

Daniel Gibson: “Boobie” is a bench shooter who would pique the Mavs’ interest as a minimum guy.
The Mavericks’ backup plan if they miss out on a big fish apparently doesn’t recruit chasing restricted free agents.

At least, that’s what Mark Cuban indicated during his radio appearance Monday afternoon.

“I don’t know if there are any free agents that are requiring offer sheets that are on our radar right now,” Cuban said, pointing to the process of waiting for the player’s previous team to exercise its right to match as the reason.

The most intriguing restricted free agents: Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic, Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings and Sacramento combo guard Tyreke Evans. Hold off on custom orders for any of those guys in Mavs jerseys, no matter how well the burly Pekovic's low-post game might mesh with Dirk Nowitzki's shooting skills.

Of course, the Mavs radar can change at a moment’s notice once the free agency frenzy gets going.
One of the silliest things you’ll hear this summer is that free agents don’t want to come to Dallas.

That’s become a meme that’s often repeated in discussions about Mark Cuban’s bold plan to create ample salary cap space by stripping down the 2011 title team. Never mind the facts.

The fact of the matter is it’s difficult to sign free agents if you don’t have salary cap space. That’s not exactly unique to Dallas.

The Mavs whiffed on Deron Williams last summer, although Cuban’s effort in that recruiting pitch resembled some of Josh Hamilton’s final at-bats in a Rangers uniform. Being 0-for-1 doesn’t constitute a trend.

The point isn’t to predict that the Mavs will land Chris Paul or Dwight Howard this summer. The odds are against Dallas simply due to the rules that allow for their current teams to offer an extra year and larger annual raises.

However, from weather to a winning culture, Dallas’ attractiveness as an NBA destination is an advantage to the Mavs. Being a top-five market without a state income tax is a bonus. The days of Kiki Vandeweghe refusing to play for the Mavs are ancient history.

The Mavs have earned a reputation as a first-class franchise during Cuban’s 13-year ownership tenure. That’s why Jason Kidd’s agent helped orchestrate a trade to bring the point guard back to Dallas in 2008. That’s why Shawn Marion’s agent played a key role in making a complicated sign-and-trade deal go down the next year. That’s why Tyson Chandler was crushed when Cuban declined to offer him a long-term deal. That’s why Howard had the Mavs on his very short list of acceptable trade partners when he was forcing his way out of Orlando.

That’s why there will be plenty of free agents who will want to talk to the Mavs in July, a list that perhaps includes the two biggest prizes on the market.

“Who wouldn’t want to play in an environment like this every night?” restricted free agent Brandon Jennings said during the Bucks’ trip to Dallas in February. “You’ve got an owner who’s so into his team and everything like that. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They’re about winning.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mavs will win this summer. But if they don’t, it’d be foolish to blame a mythical aversion NBA players have for joining the Mavs.

Mavs' top priority: Upgrade point guard

April, 19, 2013
The Mavericks will explore all potential avenues of improving the talent on their roster, but upgrading at point guard is the top priority.

While Darren Collison confidently declared Thursday that he believes he could start for any team in the league, the Dallas decision-makers clearly don’t share that opinion. After all, they opted to start Derek Fisher and Mike James over Collison in a season that president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson described as a “point guard odyssey.”

Donnie Nelson joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' season and the importance of this summer.

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The Mavs might welcome Collison back as a backup, depending on the price. They’ll search this summer for a long-term starting solution at a spot that coach Rick Carlisle calls “the most important position in the league.”

“We’ve been spoiled with Jason Kidd and Stevie Nash before,” Nelson said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3’s Galloway and Company. “I think the quarterback position is just a really, really important one. I’d say that that’s up there.

“That’s no disrespect for anyone. Darren Collison did a terrific job with a tough situation, and we’d certainly be open to the conversation of him coming back, but (upgrading point guard) has got to be in my mind first and foremost.”

The pie-in-the-sky scenario: Sign Chris Paul. Of course, the odds of him ditching a talented, young Clippers team to come to Dallas to play with a mid-30s core are awfully slim. As Mark Cuban recently said, he’ll be rooting for teams with free agents the Mavs might target to lose early in the playoffs. Would Paul consider leaving the Clippers if they flame out in the first round?

Rick Carlisle joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' disappointing season and what needs to happen for them to get back to the playoffs.

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Paul will be the perfect fit, but the Mavs must be prepared to find their point guard of the future somewhere else. They might be able to draft next season’s backup with the 13th overall pick, assuming they don’t get amazing lottery luck, but a team determined to drastically improve its basketball IQ isn’t going to hand the reins to a rookie to run the show for 30-plus minutes a night.

It’s time for the Mavs to find a proven veteran point guard to fill Kidd’s shoes.

“I don’t know exactly what style, but the guy’s going to have to be able to score,” Carlisle said on Galloway and Company. “The guy’s going to have to be able to come off screens and hit shots, because when you’re come off screens from Dirk, you’re going to be open because of the way guys play him.”

A quick look at some of the other potential long-term upgrades available in free agency:

Jose Calderon: The Mavs have been involved in trade discussions about Calderon, as recently as midseason, when he got dealt from Toronto to Detroit in the three-way Rudy Gay deal. Calderon, who turns 32 in September, is a pass-first point guard who is a very efficient offensive player. He has career averages of 7.2 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game and is an excellent shooter (.483 FG, .399 3s, .877 FT). His flaws: He doesn’t penetrate well and is a poor defender, especially against speedy point guards.

Monta Ellis: The 27-year-old is not really a point guard. He’s a scorer (career 19.4 ppg) who sometimes plays point guard. He’s dangerous off the dribble and trouble in transition, but Ellis jacks up a lot of long jumpers and doesn’t make very many. He attempted 328 3s this season despite hitting only 28.7 percent, the lowest of any player with at least 200 tries. The idea of Ellis running pick-and-pops with Dirk Nowitzki is intriguing, but can a guard who has never averaged more than six assists per game in a season be counted on to consistently deliver Dirk the ball in prime scoring situations? And Ellis doesn’t exactly have a great defensive rep, either, despite his high steals totals.

Jarrett Jack: Jack, who turns 30 in October, is coming off his best season, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists as the sixth man for a playoff team with Golden State. He’s an excellent midrange shooter and very effective hitting floaters off the dribble. He has a low turnover rate, the kind of strength and toughness Carlisle wants in a point guard and hit a lot of clutch shots for the Warriors this season. But Jack is really a combo guard who has never averaged more than 6.3 assists per season and struggles defensively against quick point guards. Like Kidd, he’s actually better defending shooting guards.

Brandon Jennings: Can the former lottery pick flourish under Carlisle’s coaching? Would it be worth offering enough to the restricted free agent for Milwaukee not to match? The 23-year-old Jennings, who has butted heads with his Bucks coaches, is on the record saying he’d love to play with Dirk and for Cuban and Carlisle in Dallas. His shooting percentage might soar in that situation, but the fact that it’s 39.4 percent for his career is a red flag. So is his slender frame (6-foot-1, 169 pounds). Oh, and so is the fact the Bucks have occasionally benched him during crunch time down the stretch this season. But Jennings (17.5 ppg, 6.5 apg this season) has shown enough flashes of brilliance to at least make him intriguing.

Jeff Teague: He’s a restricted free agent on a playoff team that has a ton of cap space, so the Mavs would have to overpay to get Teague. The four-year veteran is a quality young point guard, averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 assists this season, but it’s difficult to envision the Mavs throwing a ton of money at him.

Mo Williams: The 30-year-old Williams is best suited as a scoring sixth man, not a starting point guard. He’s a good spot-up 3-point shooter and knocks down a lot of midrange jumpers off pick-and-rolls, but he’s never been more than an average driver or distributor. Plus, Williams has major durability issues, having missed at least a dozen games in seven of the last eight seasons, including 36 with the Jazz last season, when he averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 assists.

There are, of course, other ways for the Mavs to acquire point guards. Hey, maybe Cuban can come up with some kind of multi-team deal that lands Rajon Rondo in Dallas.
As soon as Vince Carter ended a Dallas scoring drought of almost four minutes by drilling a 3-pointer, he turned to the Mavericks bench and twirled his right index finger.

The message: Keep the ball coming to him.

The Mavs did just that. And Carter definitely delivered, scoring 13 of Dallas’ final 17 points to carry the Mavs to the 115-108 win over the Bucks.

“I felt in a groove and the basket just seemed extremely big,” Carter told reporters after his 23-point performance. “I felt comfortable with my shot. I was just in the flow of the game.”

Correction: Carter dictated the flow of the game down the stretch. He was 4-of-6 from the floor in the final 5:31, including three 3-pointers and a high-degree-of-difficulty driving lefty layup.

“Vince was spectacular again,” Dirk Nowitzki told reporters. “The shots he made – the 3s, behind the screen, off the dribble, hanging-in-the-air, lefty, wraparound layup – just phenomenal down the stretch. He really took the game over for us and really won it.”

This sort of performance from the 36-year-old sixth man doesn’t come as a surprise. The Mavs count on Carter to put up the kind of numbers that could merit serious Sixth Man of the Year consideration.

Carter has five 20-plus-point performances in the last month. He’s hitting a career-best 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts this season.

His numbers during the Mavs’ season-best-matching four-game win streak: 17.8 points per game, 23-of-40 from the floor (57.5 percent) and 13-of-19 from long range (68.4 percent).

“It’s just phenomenal,” Nowitzki said. “I think every time he shoots the 3 now, it’s going in. That opens up his drives and he’s still got strong legs and he’s still got some hops and some hang time in there and can make unbelievable plays.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ win in Milwaukee:

1. Happy homecoming for Crowder: Jae Crowder had a bunch of big games at the Bradley Center while starring for Marquette. He made himself at home in his first NBA visit to Milwaukee, too.

Crowder snapped out of an offensive mini-slump with 14 points, one shy of his NBA high, on 6-of-9 shooting. He grabbed a season-best eight rebounds and played a productive 36 minutes, during which the Mavs outscored the Bucks by 14 points.

“I love this building,” Crowder told reporters. “I’ve played a lot of games here. I felt comfortable here and I felt comfortable with the game plan, and it just worked out for me.”

The love was mutual. The Bradley Center crowd welcomed Crowder back with warm applause when his name was announced with the starting lineup, as he filled in for Shawn Marion for the third consecutive game.

“He’s about all the right things – plays hard, into winning, team guy – so I was really happy for him coming home,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “I told him after the game that I wish we could play all the games here.”

2. On point: Mike James put up season highs in points (13), assists (7) and rebounds (6) as the Mavs improved to 4-0 with him in the starting lineup.

Rodrigue Beaubois made the most of some rare non-garbage playing time, providing a spark when Darren Collison briefly left the game in the second quarter to get his left eye checked. Beaubois had all of his seven points and three assists during that frame, igniting the Mavs’ 15-0 run that gave them the lead for good.

Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, a soon-to-be restricted free agent who has expressed interest in coming to Dallas, didn’t make much of a case for the Mavs to pay him big money. Jennings was held to four points on 2-of-7 shooting and five assists. He sat out crunch time, as was the case in the Bucks’ Feb. 26 win in Dallas, when Jennings had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting and six assists.

3. Mighty Wright: Brandan Wright’s streak of four consecutive games scoring in double figures was snapped, but he made a major impact on the win over Milwaukee.

Wright played 33 minutes, getting the bulk of the playing time at center after starter Chris Kaman was benched a little more than two minutes into the game. Wright had nine points, eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal. The Mavs were plus-17 with Wright on the floor.

Bucks' Brandon Jennings intrigued by Mavs

February, 26, 2013
DALLAS – Brandon Jennings will make his lone appearance this season at the American Airlines Center tonight, but it isn’t hard for him to envision Dallas as home.

Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about the possibility of Brandon Jennings joining the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki's future, a potential backup plan if the Mavs don't land Dwight Howard and how the organization feels about Derek Fisher.

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That could be a possibility this summer, when the Milwaukee Bucks point guard will be a restricted free agent and the Mavericks hope to use their ample space under the salary cap to acquire high-impact talent.

“Who wouldn’t want to play in an environment like this every night?” Jennings said after the Bucks’ shootaround. “You’ve got an owner who’s so into his team and everything like that. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They’re about winning.”

The Mavs had a level of interest in the Jennings before the trade deadline, but the Bucks never put him on the block. Milwaukee will have the right to match any offer Jennings gets after this season, so the mutual interest between Dallas and the dynamic 23-year-old point guard might not matter, as far as getting him in a Mavs uniform.

[+] EnlargeJennings
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsBucks guard Brandon Jennings has high praise for the Mavericks organization.
For now, Jennings is focused on getting the Bucks to the playoffs with Milwaukee sitting in eight place in the Eastern Conference standings. He’ll explore his options along with Mavs-friendly agent Jeff Schwartz this summer.

The 6-foot-1, 169-pound Jennings, who is averaging 18.9 points and 6.1 assists this season, calls the possibility of running the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki on a regular basis “crazy.” The Mavs are intrigued by Jennings’ ability to create.

“I just like his dynamic athleticism, his ability to get on big rolls as a player,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said, speaking generally about Jennings’ game, not about the possibility of the point guard playing for the Mavs in the future. “He’s an aggressive attacker and he’s very difficult to guard because he can both get into the paint and kill you there and if you want to go under screens, he can jump up and knock down four or five 3s in a row. He’s a load to deal with.”

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle joins Chuck Cooperstein to discuss the Mavericks' playoff hopes.

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The biggest flaw in Jennings’ game: He has a career shooting percentage of less than 40 percent. He is shooting 40.3 percent this season, numbers that were boosted by Jennings lighting up Deron WilliamsBrooklyn Nets for 65 points on 25-of-44 shooting in back-to-back games coming out of the All-Star break.

“I feel like I have to take shots on this team,” Jennings said. “There might be times that I do take crazy shots or shots that I have to take because the shot clock is low or things like that.

“But since the All-Star break, I’ve been really conscious of trying to take good shots and just take shots that are going to help the team. Now that we’ve got a couple of trades in, I feel like I probably don’t have to take too many crazy shots anymore.”

Could Jennings be an efficient scorer and playmaker playing in Carlisle’s system with Nowitzki? Depending on how the summer shakes out, we might find out next season.

Mavericks absent from trade rumor mill

February, 20, 2013

If the Mavericks make a move before tomorrow’s trade deadline, they’ve done a magnificent job of keeping it quiet.

As of now, the rumor mill roars without any mention of the Mavs.

There hasn’t really been any buzz about the Mavs since ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported last week that Dallas had a “level of interest” if the Milwaukee Bucks made soon-to-be restricted free agent point guard Brandon Jennings available. However, Milwaukee seems to have no intention of moving Jennings, instead aggressively shopping his backcourt partner, Monta Ellis.

The Mavs have never been in on the bidding for Atlanta’s Josh Smith, who has made it clear he wants a max deal but isn’t seen as a franchise centerpiece by the Dallas decision-makers.

Mark Cuban made headlines last month by declaring that the “Bank of Cuban” was open, but the Mavs always planned to proceed cautiously in this trade market. It would take a potential star – such as DeMarcus Cousins, whom the Sacramento Kings plan to keep despite offers from Dallas and others – for the Mavs to sacrifice the salary-cap space required to take a shot at Dwight Howard this summer.

With the Lakers' ongoing drama, Galloway & Company discuss the possibility that Dwight Howard could be headed to the Mavericks.

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There are plenty of teams that would be willing to dump salary in exchange for one or more of the Mavs’ many expiring contracts. There just doesn’t appear to be any of those types of deals that make sense for Dallas.

Veterans Vince Carter and Shawn Marion are arguably the Mavs’ most attractive trade chips. However, the Mavs are determined to make a playoff push, no matter the long odds. They’d rather hold on to Carter and Marion, who are under contract for next season and could be moved this summer, for the rest of the season than flip them for rebuilding assets.

There are no guarantees – well, other than Dirk Nowitzki's no-trade clause – until the deadline passes. It’d be a surprise, however, if the Mavs make any significant deal.

3-pointer: Dirk Nowitzki gets All-Star break

February, 14, 2013
DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki is due for some midseason rest and relaxation.

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Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki will finally get a break during the All-Star weekend.
It feels a little odd for Nowitzki not to be headed to the All-Star weekend. There wasn’t one during his lockout-compressed rookie season, and Nowitzki has been part of the last 13 – as a 3-point shootout participant in two before his 11-year All-Star streak.

Nowitzki didn’t merit that honor during this injury-marred season, so he’ll head to a beach instead.

“My whole career, that’s the only thing I know is going to the All-Star game, so this is something different,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ rout of the Kings. “I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it, as well.

“I always said the last couple of years I’m fine either way. I love to represent the Mavericks down there, and if that’s not the case I’m going to have some fun somewhere else.”

Nowitzki will lift weights and get some cardio work in during his vacation, but he doesn’t plan to touch a basketball until the Mavs practice Monday afternoon.

Nowitzki heads into the break in a nice little groove. He followed up his 24-point, seven-rebound performance in Monday’s loss to Atlanta with a 17-point, eight-rebound, six-assist, three-steal night. Nowitzki is 14-of-23 from the floor in the last two games.

“I’ve felt better,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve said it all the time – I’ve got to keep working. It was ugly there for a while. My stamina, I feel like my legs are getting better and better. I feel good.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ blowout over the Kings:

1. Collison keeps it up: Darren Collison claims he hadn’t heard about the Mavericks’ reported interest in Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings.

Collison insists he doesn’t care about things such as trade rumors that are out of his control.

“I can’t predict the future, so I can’t really comment on what trade rumors are out there,” Collison said. “All I can do is just play my game.”

Collison played his game awfully well Wednesday night, dropping 18 points and nine dimes in the Mavs’ rout of the Sacramento Kings. Collison established the fast tempo coach Rick Carlisle wanted and was extremely efficient, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the floor and committing only two turnovers.

“He’s an improved player and he’s improving game by game,” Carlisle said.

The Mavs might be hesitant to commit to Collison as a long-term solution, but the fact of the matter is that he’s been a solid starter ever since Derek Fisher decided to return to his rocking chair.

In 24 games since regaining his starting job, Collison has averaged 14.2 points, 6.0 assists, 1.4 steals and only 2.0 turnovers per game. He’s been an alarmingly accurate shooter during that span, hitting 51.4 percent of his shots from the floor, 50.0 percent of his 3-point attempts and 95.6 percent of his free throws.

“I just think coach is doing a good job just letting me play,” said Collison, who averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 assists during the Mavs’ 3-1 homestand. “I’m just going out there and playing my game.”

2. Courting Cousins: There is a mutual admiration between the Dallas decision-makers and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.

Carlisle has raved about Cousins’ game several times, and the Mavs’ front office has made its feelings about the talented 6-foot-11, 270-pound 22-year-old known by trying to convince the Kings to trade him.

What’s Cousins think about the Mavs?

“I think it’s a well-run organization, definitely one of the top organizations in the league,” Cousins said after scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a losing effort.

Cousins, who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 season, clearly isn’t thrilled with his current team. He has butted heads with coach Keith Smart and said Wednesday that “a realistic goal is to win more than 25 games.”

3. Sad Sacramento: The worst defensive team in the NBA brings out the best in the Mavs’ offense.

Three of the Mavs’ four highest-scoring games of the season came against the Kings. Their 123 points Wednesday were the most this season other than a 126-point outburst against Charlotte in the third game of the season. The Mavs had 119 and 117 in their previous two wins over the Kings.
Could Brandon Jennings fulfill his potential in Dallas? The Mavericks are apparently intrigued by the possibility.

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Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsBucks guard Brandon Jennings fits Mark Cuban's description for potential trade targets.
Sources tell ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Mavs have a “level of interest” in Jennings if the Milwaukee Bucks make the restricted free agent-to-be point guard available before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

Jennings, 23, is averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 assists in his fourth NBA season. He arguably fits Mark Cuban’s description given for potential trade targets: a young talent who would immediately be a top-three player on the Mavs’ roster with the potential to develop into an All-Star.

“I’ll analogize it to Steve Nash,” Cuban said Monday, speaking in generalities about the type of player the Mavs would target. “Whatever we saw in Nash and (Michael) Finley with Donnie (Nelson]) back then, same type of thing. There’s been lots of players we picked up over time that weren’t All-Stars that turned into cornerstones. We’d take those.

The Mavs are reportedly interested in Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings. It's not a perfect trade scenario, but it has many positives. Ben and Skin say this could help Dallas land a "big fish."

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“They don’t have to be proven. They’d have to be someone we think it’s just a question of time or system or coaching or whatever.”

Darren Collison has put up decent numbers for Dallas this season, averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 48.2 percent from the floor, but it’s been evident that the Mavs don’t see him as their point guard of the future. After all, they demoted him to start Derek Fisher during the 37-year-old’s nine-game stint with the Mavs and had 37-year-old Mike James close a few games when he was fresh out of the D-League.

Jennings, however, comes with a couple of red flags. Like Collison, his size (6-foot-1, 169 pounds) often puts him at a significant disadvantage defensively. Jennings is also a volume scorer who shoots a poor percentage, hitting less than 40 percent of his shots from the floor this season and throughout his career.

The Bucks would likely want to dump power forward Drew Gooden in a deal, but that’d be a steep price for the Mavs to pay for a player who has fallen out of Milwaukee’s rotation. Gooden, who played 46 games for the Mavs in 2009-10 before being included in a blockbuster deal with the Washington Wizards, is due $6.7 million in each of the next two seasons.
The Dallas Mavericks are in superstar search mode, that's no secret. This summer's mission failed to reel in Deron Williams, and so the venture moves forward to 2013. The potential for three superstars -- Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum -- to hit free agency in 11 months has been well-documented.

But, there's no guarantee any of the Big Three make it to free agency. That's the risk of the overhauled Mavs strategy under the new collective bargaining agreement. Or, take Paul as an example: He could opt to enter free agency solely to gain the extra fifth season and more money that he can't get by signing an extension and ultimately stay with Lob City partner Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

So what if next July rolls around and there's simply no superstars to chase?

Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will have difficult decisions to make. This summer, they chose not to eat up next summer's cap space by not chasing players such as Goran Dragic (signed four-year, $34 million deal with Phoenix Suns). Instead, they loaded up one-year contracts that will expire and leave behind cap space to make a superstar pursuit possible in '13.

But if there are no superstars to pursue, then do the Mavs chase the next level of player who would, theoretically, snap up cap space in the summer of '14?

For instance, a tier below the Big Three next summer are potential free agents Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, David West, Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala (the latter two have early termination options).

It will also be an intriguing summer for restricted free agents. Those players can seek and sign offers from other teams and then their current teams have three days to match. The new CBA can throw a wrench into the negotiations as seen with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Both players signed offer sheets from the Houston Rockets, who used the "poison pill" option to increase the players' salary three-fold in the third year of the deal, going from $5 million in the first two seasons for both players to $15 million in the third.

The offering team, the Rockets, is allowed to pay the average of the total contract ($25 million in the cases of Lin and Asek) over the three years, so just more than $8 million per season. Ultimately, the New York Knicks passed on Lin and the Chicago Bulls passed on Asek because of the third-year balloon payment that would wreak havoc with their payrolls and potentially carry unwanted luxury tax repercussions.

The Portland Trail Blazers offered Indiana Pacers free agent center Roy Hibbert a max offer sheet of four years at $58 million. The Pacers ultimately agreed to match to keep their big man, but those decisions can be difficult when looking at the bottom line.

The list of restricted free agents next summer is tantalizing: James Harden, Serge Ibaka, John Wall, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, and Tyreke Evans are the headliners. The Mavs' own Darren Collison will also be restricted.

If the Mavs don't land a superstar in '13, they'll have to decide if they value any of the unrestricted or restricted free agents enough to make an offer, knowing that if they do they could jeopardize their ability to continue their superstar search in the summer of '14.

Mavs play with fire again, get burned

December, 14, 2010
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks coughed up a 20-point lead and then gave way to the Boston Celtics' 10-game win streak and the Miami Heat's nine-game streak.

Dallas' 12-game streak -- tying the San Antonio Spurs' for the longest of the season -- was buried unexpectedly under the quick feet of Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night 103-99, after the Mavs had plowed ahead by 20 points midway through the second quarter.

Perhaps the Mavs should have seen it coming. They got fast and loose with 20-plus-point leads in their past two home games to New Jersey and Utah, but hung on.

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AP Photo/LM OteroJ.J. Barea and Jason Terry combined for 20 points as the Mavs' win streak came to an end.
The Mavs couldn't get to win No. 13, however, despite leading 42-22 with 5:04 left in the second quarter against a Bucks team that looked as though it wasn't all that keen on playing. But a 28-12 run, which included an 18-8 dash to start the third quarter, got the Bucks back in it. Then a killer 14-0 run over a three-minute span late in the fourth quarter supplied just enough cushion.

Dirk Nowitzki had a chance to tie it with about 12 seconds left, but his off-balance 7-foot fallaway from the lane fell flat and hit off the front rim.

"They took it," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of the Bucks' effort. "We gave them opportunities and they took it."

The second-half stat sheet was ugly. The Bucks (10-13) -- last in the league in both scoring (91.5) and field goal percentage (40.7) entering Monday's game -- scored 60 points on a Mavs defense that ranks in the top five in scoring (92.6) and field goal percentage (43.2). Jennings outscored everyone, with 18 points. The Bucks' bench outscored the Mavs' reserves 30-18. The Bucks outrebounded the Mavs 22-19, and committed half as many turnovers.

Carlisle's assessment was blunt.

"They kicked our ass," Carlisle said. "I don't know any simpler way to say it."

And what does he make of the Mavs' recent theme of playing with fire in three consecutive games on their home floor?

"What I make of it is that we're not where we need to be yet," Carlisle said. "When you try to be a great team, taking care of home court and a take-care-of-business mentality is really important. We have yet to establish that on a consistent basis, and so there's going to be frustration until we get there. Look, we have work to do; it's as simple as that.

"I still have a great belief in our team. I know what our potential is, but this kind of slippage is something that we've seen all too often. I've got to coach harder. Players are going to have to be more conscientious."

At 19-5 and suffering their first loss since Nov. 19, the sky isn't exactly falling for the Mavs. Dallas recorded courageous wins with dominant fourth-quarter defensive efforts against Boston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Utah. Offensively, production came from all over. Nowitzki was scoring plenty, but on many nights he did so with limited shot attempts because others were stepping up.

That wasn't the case against Milwaukee. Nowitzki needed 24 shots to score 30 points. He scored 31 against Utah on 12 shots. But no other starter had more than 11 points, and Jason Terry continued his trend of scoring almost exclusively in the fourth quarter, with 10 of his 12 in the final period in the loss.

But it's the defense that Carlisle will keep a close watch on. He has done plenty of forewarning when it comes to defensive slippage. After allowing 100 points three times in the first 19 games, the Mavs have given up at least 100 three times in their past five games. Even owner Mark Cuban on Saturday expressed his concern with this team's curious habit of letting down.

"This one is very disappointing," said center Tyson Chandler, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. "It's one thing to lose a game [when] you battle and go back and forth. This was not one of those games. It was a game we clearly should have won."

Carlisle has continually reminded Dallas of the slippage that occurred last season after the Mavs got off to a 19-7 start and then stumbled around for much of the winter.

"We gave up almost two quarters of 30 points [32 in the third and 28 in the fourth], which is 60, which is obviously not what we want," Nowitzki said. "That's not how we've been winning. So the defense definitely had a collapse there. We couldn't get stops in man-to-man, couldn't get stops in the zone, so we were in trouble."

Jennings had a lot to do with that. He was unguardable. DeShawn Stevenson and Terry couldn't do it, and the Mavs' excellent zone proved penetrable. Jennings, whom Carlisle tabbed as the quickest guy on the planet -- and he looked like it Monday night -- finished with 23 points and 10 assists. He had 10 points in the comeback third quarter and 18 in the second half.

So now the Mavs finally get to see what it's like to play coming off a loss again. The most recent time didn't go so well, with the Chicago home loss following a close defeat at New Orleans.

The Mavs will close out their six-game homestand against Portland on Wednesday and Phoenix on Friday. They'll look to put this one behind them and do a little soul-searching as to why 20-point leads at home -- where four of their five losses have occurred -- just aren't safe.

"When you're at home and you've got a team down 20 points, you can almost smell the blood," Mavs forward Shawn Marion said. "But they hit a couple of shots and they get confidence, and you miss a few, and next thing you know you've got a single-digit game. Twenty points is a lot at times, but it can be small at times, too."



Dirk Nowitzki
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9