DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was the first to re-sign with the team when he agreed to a four-year contract extension in mid-May. Ten days into July’s free agency and he’s still waiting for someone to join him.
On the day the Mavs introduced their three draft picks, the story line of most interest Tuesday afternoon at the American Airlines Center was a busted free agency period that’s seen the remaining core of the 2011 title team, specifically franchise stalwarts Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, chipped away.
Speaking for the first time publicly since the Mavs lost out on No. 1 free-agent target Deron Williams a week ago, Carlisle said he has accepted the loses of Kidd and Terry, and suggested that the team's "flow" offensive style could change depending which players the Mavs eventually sign to round out a stripped-down roster that has just seven players under contract.
"With Kidd not being back and Terry not being back, those are two guys whose numbers are going to be hanging in the rafters here, so things will change a little bit," Carlisle said. "But we're going to wait and see exactly how much before we decide what things to tweak in our system."
Carlisle rarely deviates from his stoic posture, but it was evident that the loss of Terry, whose daughters attend school with Carlisle’s daughter, and Kidd's unexpected change of heart to join the New York Knicks, hit hard.
"It's important to say right up front that we're very grateful for everything Jason Kidd and Jason Terry did for us," Carlisle said. "Jason Kidd, he's a once-a-generation-type player. For me, the opportunity to work with a guy like that for four years, you can't replace that. When he comes back here he's going to get a thunderous ovation in appreciation of everything he did for us, so we look forward to that. And look, he made a decision to pursue something else that he thought would be better for him and he's certainly earned that right, so we wish him the best."
Carlisle often talked about Terry's selflessness, such as his willingness to come off the bench, and how he set the tone early on and carried through, helping to win the franchise’s first championship in Carlisle’s third season.
"Jet, he's like a family member to me," Carlisle said. “Our daughters are best friends in school, so that’s a tough one; that’s a tough one on a lot of levels. But, again, with everything he’s done here in eight years, you’ve got to wish these guys absolutely the best and be thankful they’re in the East. We only have to see them twice a year instead of four times."
Those key veteran losses follow the Mavs’ decision last December to allow defensive anchor and leader Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and others from the title team leave in free agency in order to clear cap space to pursue a max-contract free agent this summer, a pursuit that has ultimately failed.
Tyson, in Las Vegas for Team USA training camp, told reporters that he felt sorry for Nowitzki and the coaching staff, suggesting the Mavs appear to have gone from a title to rebuilding in 13 months.
The Mavs have yet to make a roster move since the free agency period started on July 1, and it could be a long, grinding process to fill out the roster before training camp opens on Sept. 28, less than a week before the club travels to Germany and Spain for a pair of exhibition games.
Carlisle said he has faith in the creative front office team of owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson that they can still surround Nowitzki with quality talent for the coming season, one that could elicit the lowest expectations for a Mavs team in more than a decade.
Said Carlisle: "We knew this was a time of change and to what level you never know for sure, but we’re going to have to continue to look this summer and work and see what other opportunities are there."