DALLAS -- The Mavericks plan on aggressively pursuing superstars in free agency but will not make maximum-contract offers, owner Mark Cuban said.
The Mavs have approximately $26 million in salary-cap space after acquiring center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton in Wednesday's six-player trade with the New York Knicks. Dirk Nowitzki, the longtime face of the franchise, has repeatedly declared his intention to re-sign with Dallas on a hometown-discount deal that would still pay him well enough to feel "respected."
That is not expected to leave the Mavs enough cap space to make a max offer to LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, the two premier players available in free agency. Anthony is eligible for a contract with a starting salary of $22.46 million. James can be paid up to $20.02 million in the first season of his new deal.
"We're going to swing for the fences," Cuban said Saturday on 103.3 FM's "ESPN Dallas GameDay," his first interview since the Chandler trade. "I think some of these guys are opting out just to create leverage, and they'll go back. Then there's some that really want to go to different teams. We'll try to put ourselves in position to get them."
It isn't known yet whether the Mavs will get the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with James. Anthony, meanwhile, intends to visit the Mavs, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers once free agency begins July 1, sources have told ESPN.
The Rockets have agreed to trade backup center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a 2015 first-round pick to create cap space. Houston is expected to attempt to make a similar salary-dump deal to part ways with reserve point guard Jeremy Lin. Even after those moves, the Rockets wouldn't have enough room to make Anthony a full-max offer.
The Bulls would be in a similar situation even after using the amnesty clause to remove power forward Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million salary from their cap ledger.
The size of the Mavs' offer to Anthony or James could depend on the salary negotiated with Nowitzki, but Dallas doesn't plan on being in position to agree to a max deal for either superstar.
"You can come up with a different range in what Dirk is going to take and realize that for a player who has been in the league 10-plus years, he's not going to get a max contract here," said Cuban, who did not mention specific players due to NBA rules preventing teams from discussing free agents before July 1. "So coming in, he recognizes he's playing for less than max. That means there's some reason that he wants to talk to us. And if you look at the other teams, they're in similar situations as well.
"We've got to understand that most likely he's interested in winning championships and most likely he's seen over the course of time that coaching is a huge part of winning a championship."
The Mavs, who believe the trade for Chandler makes them significantly more attractive to free agents after they couldn't close deals with Deron Williams or Dwight Howard the past two summers, intend to make the franchise's championship culture and commitment to winning major parts of their recruiting pitches.
Cuban considers coach Rick Carlisle to be one of the Mavs' most important assets in their attempt to sign a star in free agency. The eighth-seeded Mavs pushing the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round of this season's playoffs provides a fresh example of the impact Carlisle can make, something Cuban said several agents have mentioned to him.
"Everybody thought we were going to get crushed," Cuban said. "That allows us not to say, 'Hey, we played them the best,' but allows us to say, 'Look, when it comes to the playoffs in particular, Rick has got the skill set and we've got veteran guys who know how to implement offensive and defensive strategies that really give us a unique opportunity.' That's something that very few teams can say.
"If you look at other teams with cap room and then you just look at their coach and if they've made the playoffs, you look at how their playoff runs went, you're not looking at them and saying, 'Wow, that team really ... .' I don't want to throw anybody under the bus, but their coaches are not as good as Rick Carlisle."