This Too Shall Pass

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 13, 2009 under xOther | 17 Comments to Read

There are bad days, and then there are days where your prized free agent centers are pried from your fingers.  The latter is a bit more rare, but nonetheless accurately describes the maelstrom that has drowned the hopes of the 2009-2010 Mavs.

In a sense, Marcin Gortat would have been a luxury for the Mavs.  This team has no shortage in talent, and will even be able to bring a top-notch scorer off the bench as a sixth man.  There are two guaranteed locks for the Hall, two former All-Stars, and a serviceable center in the starting five.  The Mavs won’t fall to the bottom of the standings without Marcin Gortat, and frankly he’s not the type of player to single-handedly elevate the Mavs to contender status.

But when you evaluate a potential Gortat acquisition in the context of the rest of the summer’s moves (notably the Shawn Marion trade), the Mavs were positioned to make a serious run this season while assembling pieces as part of a long-term plan.  In Gortat, the Mavs had seemingly found a high-quality center at a perfectly reasonable price.  He was to be a Mav for the next half-decade, rocking rims until Erick Dampier was but a distant memory.  Marcin fit seamlessly into the Mavs’ future alongside point guard Rodrigue Beaubois, together forming a two-man foundation to one day relieve Dirk Nowitzki of superstar pressures.  Neither player is a sure-thing for stardom, but the Mavs had found “their guys” at the most difficult positions to fill on the floor.  That’s something.

Otis Smith apparently had other plans.  For the Mavs, the implications of Smith’s decision to retain Gortat are numerous and devastating.  Not only do they now have no established insurance policy for Erick Dampier, but face a huge hole if Dampier’s expiring contract is utilized in any sort of interesting way.  If the Mavs choose to cash in on Erick Dampier during the upcoming season, they’re faced with the harsh reality of relying on Dirk Nowitzki and likely Ryan Hollins for the majority of the minutes at center.  If, as discussed, the Mavs wait to move Dampier until the free agent gauntlet of 2010, then the current team is really only a slight upgrade over the previous model.  Adding Shawn Marion is a definite improvement, but with Josh Howard’s questionable ability to defend shooting guards on shoddy ankles and very little depth up front, the Mavs as currently assembled can’t claim to be in the running for anything notable.

From the Magic perspective, the move seems to make plenty of sense and absolutely none whatsoever.  Losing a free agent with no compensation can be crippling to a franchise, especially one just a few games short of a championship.  It’s not that Orlando needs Gortat specifically, but they may not be able to afford letting him walk.  The off-season arms race has seen the rich in both conferences get richer, and while the Mavs are trying to keep pace with the Spurs and Lakers, the Magic are fighting to stay with the Cavaliers and the Celtics.  I seriously doubt that Marcin will work into Orlando’s long-term plan (which is why he is “very, very disappointed,”), but this isn’t about what is best for Gortat.  This is about what’s best for the Orlando Magic organization, and you cannot fault Otis Smith for doing his job.

I’d still like to throw some less amicable names Smith’s way though, if only because these circumstances are so bizarre.  The Mavs and the Magic have essentially worked together twice this summer, first in the deal that brought Marion to the Mavs and a huge trade exception to the Magic, and second in the signing of Brandon Bass.  While the Mavs didn’t exactly grant Bass on a silver platter, it was incredibly clear that the Mavs’ position on Bass was largely contingent on acquiring Marcin Gortat.  One could certainly blame Donnie Nelson or Mark Cuban for counting their chickens before they hatched, but the whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Bass was looking to fill his pockets and log some floor time, and while the contract he signed with the Magic is certainly fair value for his skills and upside, I’d love to hear his take on this latest turn of events.  Bass was rumored to be coming off the bench prior to Gortat’s “return,” and now his role and minutes are likely to be decreased further by adding another big man.

On top of complications with Bass’ situation, the Magic will also find themselves in luxury tax territory, which is especially notable because of Orlando’s relatively small market status.  Orlando will need to shed salary in order to avoid paying some serious tax dollars, and will be virtually unable to trade Gortat due to his status as a base year compensation player.  John Hollinger also noted that the Magic are unable to trade Gortat to the Mavs for a year.  Lovely.

This is not easy to swallow.  The Mavs have lost out on a quality center so that last year’s Eastern Conference champions could cut their losses while possibly betraying the trust of former Maverick Brandon Bass.  As with all things, this initial disappointment will pass.  The Mavs still have plenty of time to make the appropriate adjustments in their off-season playbooks, and proceed accordingly.  But the ‘Gortat Incident’ may serve as a constant reminder that while the Mavs have plenty of things going right for them this off-season, those with wealth also have plenty to lose.

  • MarkJ

    Well I guess today would be the day for this to happen. David Thorpe tweeted that Beaubois went down and was helped off the court.

  • ufez

    Losing a free agent with no compensation can be crippling to a franchise, especially one just a few games short of a championship.

    Interesting choice of words. I’m guessing the subtle finger-point was intentional there?

    It sucks missing out on Gortat, but I have to believe that as the 09-10 season plays out and teams start to further position themselves for the batshitcrazy free-agent market next Summer, there will be a couple of opportunities for Dallas to land another servicable, if not outright solid, big man.

  • Cynthia

    This (as I know it does MANY MAVS fans) infuriates me! We help Orlando be able to sign and trade Turkoglu, they get Brandon and then they screw us like this. You mention Bass possibly not getting what he bargained for, well neither does Gortat. I know this probably sounds childish and vindictive, but I sincerely hope this comes back to bite Orlando (and especially Otis Smith) in their collective asses. Then maybe there will be a little bit of justice to come out of this. And just maybe the basketball gods will shine down on the MAVS and they get an even better player (probably won’t be a center) with the MLE.

  • Brian D

    There is justice in the universe. It may not happen for years, or Dwight may tear his ACL tomorrow. Who knows? But this is pure deception on that part of the Magic organization, and it won’t go unnoticed. Nothing ever does.

  • Andytobo

    What a bunch of (*@$#$holes (I have no idea what kind of holes have four letters). This is almost certainly a devious plan by Otis Smith to get both Bass and Gortat. At least it almost certainly won’t work out for them. First of all, I wouldn’t trade with the man after this. Second of all, Gortat isn’t going to want to play with them, is going to ask to be traded—and who’ll want him? Only the Mavs wanted him at that salary in the first place, and that was before they had to give anything else up.

    So enjoy that luxury tax, Orlando. Also, go eat a (#*%.

  • Dallas Fan

    I would not be surprised if Orlando turns around and trades Bass or Gortat before the season starts. From strategy perspective it makes sense for them to sign Gortat, and then trade him for something, rather than letting him walk, ala Nash with Mavs.

  • Brendan K.

    I’m just gonna say it: Fabricio Oberto is still available.

    Seriously, give me a call. I’M actually the best agent who would represent him…

  • Brayden

    I wonder if Camby or Kaman are still available now that the Clip show has already traded Z. Bo. Neither of them come as young, cheaply, or injury free (so far) as Gortat, but they are certainly better than what is left on the market for centers, especially if we want to cash in the Dampier chip sooner rather than later.

    Of course then the question becomes, what could we even offer. There is not much left on the roster that I would want to see us give up right now.

  • Charlie’s bro’s bro

    so did we ever figure out the rules surrounding a possible trade of gortat to the mavs now? i read one site earlier today that said that the magic may be doing this so they could demand a pick from us for gortat. they said that such a trade would be possible if all parties (magic, mavs, and gortat) agreed to void the original offer sheet and then agree to the trade.

    i have also seen (espn, hollinger) that such a deal is not possible. the magic are allegedly prohibited from trading gortat to any team for 90 days and to the mavs for a whole year.

    what’s the verdict?

  • dgatorr

    buckner and hollins for camby !

  • BK

    Mark Cuban has reportedly spoken with Lamar Odom’ camp. While he’s not a center, he is 6’10 and could help guarding big athletic guys. He isn’t leaving LA for the MLE, but it seems he and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak are not on the same page and Kupchak isn’t as hopeful as he was about signing him. played out a way that the Mavs could acquire Odom through a Sign and Trade, very similar to Shawn Marion.

    I’m disappointed we lost out on Gortat, but Odom would be a nice consolation prize. If only we could convince LA to give him up, and for him to come here. If things are as bad as they sound between the 2 sides though, maybe we have a chance.

  • BMH

    Why not give a shot to Glen Davis now? He was the big man for the Celtics on their playoff run this season, and due in part to his play, they went further than they really should have gone. He would be great coming off the bench, and I highly doubt the Celtics can afford to resign him after signing Wallace…

  • Chaz

    This has been beyond a bummer circumstance. Mavs aren’t completely sunk, but it really feels like moving Damp during this season won’t happen now.

  • Brayden

    Sounds like it would basically be a sign and trade of J. Ho for Odom if we want Lamar. I’m not so sure I’m thrilled with that. Are we really going to try and find minutes for Marion, Odom, and Dirk all in the same front court? I suppose if Odom wanted to come off the bench with Terry that could work. It would still leave us with a void at the 2 unless we make Ross a starter. Also, it has seemed like Odom has not displayed the same shot creating ability in recent seasons that Howard has. Dampier would still be the only legitimate center, and if we still want to cash in on his contract, we are left with Ryan Hollins to guard the Shaqs, D12′s, and Yao’s of the league (I’m assuming he’ll be back).

    I am not sure how I feel about Glen Davis either. I think we need more athleticism than brute strength. I want to see us with athletic wings, and then post players who can move their feet, play the screen and roll well, and provide some of the shot blocking down low that Dirk is just not meant to provide. This way our wings can really get after their men and tighten up on D knowing they have help to back them up. Gortat conceivably could have provided this. Glen Davis…not so much. Any major money or year committment to him just doesn’t seem right for us…

  • BK

    Maybe it wouldn’t have to be J. Ho for Odom if the Lakers are truly worried about salary. I mean, they just won the Championship and Odom was an important part and they aren’t trying too hard to bring him back or replace him. Buckner’s contract is like a mini version of Stack’s. Maybe there is some way to convince them. I’m only for it if it doesn’t involve Kidd/Dirk/Howard/Marion/JET and Damp (but only for the purpose of next summer for him and the huge hole he would leave).

    Maybe it would be hard finding minutes, but what a potent offense we would have as well as another step up defensively (think of a marion/odom duo for defensive lockdowns at the ends of games). I have no problem with getting talent now, and sorting out playing issues later. This summer is a chance to give ourselves a run, and make ourselves appealing for next offseason to a FA.

    Oh well, I’ve said enough I just like the idea of adding more talent for nothing even if there aren’t infinite minutes. We still have the MLE and BAE by the way to add something more.

  • Brayden


    In theory I agree with you on all accounts.

    I will say that the memory and the pain of the Antoine Walker/Antawn Jamison season still stings though. That was a stockpiling of talent season that just never got sorted out right.

    Then again, this would be a completely different situation with more versatile talent, Jason Kidd to maximize everyone’s individual strengths, and a coach who is much less stubborn than Nellie or Avery.

  • Rob Mahoney

    @BMH: I certainly hope not. Davis is alright, but he’s not going to be worth what it would take to pry him away from the Celtics. He had one good playoff run, but don’t forget the rest of his career.

    @Brayden: Odom’s shot-creating ability is far superior to Howard’s as far as I’m concerned, and his ability to run an offense from the second unit would be a huge asset. The problems would come from the still shallow pool of players capable of playing center and the lack of options at the 2. We obviously don’t know at this point how Howard will be able to defend shooting guards with the current squad, but he’s obviously a better option than Terry or Ross for various reasons. That makes him pretty valuable, possibly too valuable to swap for Odom.