- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Think again. You're wrong.
Dealing for Chandler in the final season of the four-year deal he signed with the New York Knicks after the lockout -- and only months after he played a major role in the Mavericks’ championship run -- isn’t proof that Cuban regrets the decision to let the big man go in the first place. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for the Mavs now, when their financial picture looks completely different than it did in December 2011.
"It's apples and oranges," Cuban said via an email reply to ESPNDallas.com. "You couldn't get from there to here."
First and foremost, Dirk Nowitzki is no longer one of the highest-paid players in the NBA. He has committed to re-sign with the Mavericks for a drastically reduced salary, likely in the Tim Duncan-discount territory of $10 million per year, less than half what the big German made the past few seasons. In other words, Nowitzki’s pay cut next season will probably be pretty close to Chandler’s salary.
After studying the new CBA, Cuban’s fear was that the Mavs would become what the Brooklyn Nets are now, an old team with a bloated payroll and no real shot of winning a title and extremely limited avenues of upgrading the roster.
Cuban’s hope was that the Mavs could take advantage of their financial flexibility -- those might as well be curse words in Dallas now -- by signing an in-his-prime superstar to pair with Nowitzki. That didn’t happen, with Deron Williams and Dwight Howard declining Dallas’ recruiting pitches and Chris Paul committing to stay in L.A. without even listening to the Mavs.
In hindsight, would the Mavs have been better off keeping Chandler all along? Only if you think an aging team that made a surprising championship run was going to have a legitimate chance to repeat in a lockout-condensed campaign that was especially tough on old legs.
The potential reward was never realized, but it was big enough to justify the Mavs’ risk.
The Mavs are in better shape now with Chandler back in the mix than they would have been if he never left. With Chandler on board last summer, meaning the Mavs wouldn’t have hoarded cap space with Howard/CP3 hopes in mind, there wouldn’t have been any room for Monta Ellis on the roster.
That means the Mavs’ offense would still lack the dynamic dribble penetrator who blended so well with the big German and took pressure off the now-36-year-old Nowitzki.
Now the Mavs have a potent one-two offensive punch, a defensive backbone (again) and the salary-cap space to make at least one more major addition this summer.
No, Cuban’s grand plan didn’t work out as he hoped. Yes, Chandler is coming back to Dallas to complete the contract the Mavs weren’t willing to give him originally.
That’s proof that the Mavs’ front office is doing what it feels is in the franchise’s best interests now, not that Cuban & Co. are attempting to make up for a mistake from a few years ago.