I’m a guy who believes in success based in merit. Call it a bit of sweeping Americanism in me; if you work hard and deserve something, you’re bound to get it. It’s the reason I’m sickened every time a former NBA player is handed a coaching or managing job he doesn’t deserve, or every time a player is given a roster spot or a role based on name and not on play.
But in this case, I can hardly afford to be so reasonable, and if you’ve been a fan of the Mavs for more than a decade, you should probably feel the same way.
Michael Finley, through some bizarre overestimation of his basketball value at his advanced age, asked to be released from the Spurs and was granted his wish. I’m not precisely sure what Fin thinks he can offer a team considering his career-lows in almost every, single category based on every, single standard, but Mike is on the hunt for a contending teams looking for his services. The Celtics are rumored to be interested in signing Finley for the rest of the season, and I’m sure that Fin will draw at least cursory interest elsewhere.
But should the other contending teams take a look and pass on Finley, the Mavs should do an old friend a favor.
There would be no reason for him to play, and in that regard I’m sure Mike would be disappointed. The whole point of this endeavor into free agency was to find an opportunity to contribute to a team, not just ride coattails. I’m just not sure that Fin’s capable of that anymore, and unless a team desperate for wing depth sincerely thinks otherwise, it’s entirely possible that Mike will only have playoff also-rans to choose from.
Finley deserves better. And should he come into that position, Donnie Nelson should sincerely rethink his stance on standing pat with his current roster. It has less to do with “mess[ing] with what [the Mavs] have,” or giving Finley actual minutes. But if Michael is faced with the reality of settling for a fringe playoff team that could use a veteran or free agent limbo, what’s the harm in using the final roster spot to bring Finley along for the ride? Nelson has already made it clear that he has no interest in signing D-League standout Dwayne Jones, or Timberwolves castoff Mark Blount. That’s fine, provided Nelson believes this team honestly has enough depth at center. But if the last roster spot is to remain open going into the playoffs, picking up Fin could be a nice gesture toward a franchise savior.
It would be filling out the roster by way of relatively useless spending, but this is Michael Finley. He helped to rescue the Mavericks from the dredges of the league and push them into the playoffs. He was an integral part of some of the most important Mavs teams of all time, and dropped countless memories along the way. He was a true professional, and though stepping aside to allow Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash take more prominent roles was never easy for him, his attitude was never the problem.
Mark Cuban cut Finley loose as a way of saving money with the one-time, Allan Houston exception. He went to the surest team to win a title, which at the time was the San Antonio Spurs. Since then, he’s hit shots, been booed in Dallas, been punched in the groin, won a ring, and now, has been cut loose to hopefully get the chance to win another. Should another opportunity present itself, that chance should come with the Mavs. Not because of an obligation or foolish notion that Finley can still produce on an NBA-level, but as a nod to one of the greatest stars this franchise has ever seen.