Frankly, I viewed the Mavs’ wooing of restricted free agent center Marcin Gortat as a bit of a lost cause. It’s not as if Gortat is a gem that shimmers and gleams in the national spotlight or a once-a-generation talent that’s nigh irreplaceable, but Gortat’s an intriguing enough player to pique the interest of more than a few teams…several of which have brighter futures than our fair Mavericks.
Then, through a series of happenings that no doubt involved Yao Ming’s fall from grace and some wicked courting by Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle, something delightful happened. Gortat reportedly has come to a verbal agreement with the Mavs for the full midlevel exception. Chivalry is not dead, ladies and gents; Carlisle must have pulled out all the stops in Orlando. I’m talking horse-drawn carriage, new cologne, and roses upon roses. As something of a sweetheart and a sentimentalist himself, how could Marcin resist?
It’s not all fairytale endings just yet, though. The Mavs can’t officially sign Gortat to an offer sheet for another week (free agency officially opens on July 8th), and once the ink is dry the Magic will have another week to match the offer. Oh, the perils of restricted free agency.
$5.5 million or so seems a paltry sum for a starting-caliber center, but Gortat means far more to the Mavs than he does to the Magic. I’ve heard grumblings of some genetically-engineered super soldier center with an adamantium skeleton that lives in the Orlando area. Meanwhile, in Dallas, we have a lumbering grizzly bear that never quite figured out how to use his mitts, a big fish in a small role and a short body, and an Erector Set creation that scrapes the sky with its spring-loaded legs, but lacks anything beyond a bare-bones frame. It makes for quite the sitcom at times, but such lovable, flawed types typically aren’t of championship mettle. I don’t mean to over-glorify Gortat, who still has plenty to learn and even more to accomplish, but Marcin remains the Mavs’ most realistic chance of netting a capable, high-quality center to complement the already existing core. His price tag is but a fraction of what Dampier’s was when he came to the Mavs. A potential deal with Gortat is even more reasonable considering the Mavs can ink him without poking holes in the rest of the rotation via trade, a damn near invaluable privilege for a team looking to vault back into contending status.
Signing Gortat isn’t a home run, but it should give Mavs’ fans plenty of reason for optimism this summer. Donnie, Mark, and Rick are working hard to get the roster into tip-top shape, and thus far have added a point guard of the future, a rebounding big man with rotation potential, and made serious head-way in potentially acquiring a new starting center. Not too shabby for a few weeks’ worth of work, especially when considering that the off-season is still young, and the best may be yet to come.