Donnie Nelson, who was bound for the Rhineland, will instead head to a slightly more local destination: Dirk Nowitzki’s home. Nowitzki altered the initial plans and opted to meet Nelson in Dallas rather than have Donnie come to him, which could indicate a number of things. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem to be any kind of negative for the Mavs; while Dirk coming back to Dallas could actually make it easier for him to visit with reps from other teams around the league, there’s also something affirming about his homecoming.
Everything starts with Dirk. I know this, you know this, and rest assured that Donnie and Mark Cuban know this.
“If Dirk doesn’t stay, our whole world changes…There is no mix if there’s no Dirk in the mix,” [Nelson] said.
With him, Dallas is among the more intriguing free agent destinations and a viable candidate for a sign-and-trade. Without him, the Mavs are very questionable to make the playoffs at all, and could easily slip into the mid-lottery.
Mark Cuban is set to meet Joe Johnson in Los Angeles in what could be a rather futile endeavor. According to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Hawks are set to offer Joe every penny they can: a full max offer for six years (one more year than any other team can because they own his Bird rights). It’s a ludicrous move for a good but hardly elite player, and it could end the Joe Johnson bidding war before it ever really began.
If Cunningham’s source is correct, the Hawks are willing to go further than any other team in the league would or could. NBA fans of every kind can only hope that Johnson’s potential max deal doesn’t act as a free agent barometer; if other players measure themselves against Joe, we could be looking at even more overpaid free agents than anticipated.
Regardless of how things turn out, Cuban is ready to jet set across the country to hit the free agent trail, but his exact destinations are somewhat unknown. I think it’s safe to say that visits or talks or communication of some kind between Cuban and both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are scheduled, but the exact timing and nature of those discussions will only be revealed in the coming weeks.
Rick Carlisle is set to be on Brendan Haywood’s doorstep when free agency begins, which is both great news and odd news. It’s terrific that the Mavs are giving Haywood the royal treatment, because while he isn’t quite as essential to the Mavs’ future as Dirk, he’s not far behind. Dallas is lost without a real center, and considering that most of the off-season gameplan revolves around shipping out Erick Dampier, it’s imperative that the Mavs have someone reliable to man the middle next season. Brendan is as good of a choice as any, and although his time in Dallas thus far has been unremarkable, he can and will do better with more experience in the Mavs’ system.
The starting job is there for Brendan if he chooses to return. Here’s the team’s stance courtesy of Donnie Nelson, via Art Garcia of NBA.com:
“That’s just a natural progression of that position,” Nelson said. “Those two guys, as a one-two punch, are a pretty formidable center tandem, but I think it would just be, like I said, just a natural progression for Haywood to step into that role.”
However, given that his relationship with Rick Carlisle has never been all that sunny, I find the choice in delegation a bit curious. Obviously Rick and Brendan maintain a sense of professionalism in their interactions, but when we’re talking about an unrestricted free agent who is going to get competitive offers from other teams and is a crucial part of Dallas’ immediate future, I’d want someone a bit more endearing to Haywood on his porch. It’s probably a non-issue, but why risk it?
Free agency officially begins at midnight tonight (EST), and there’s sure to be a flurry of reports and activity. Everyone wants to know who is going where with whom and for how much, and the pressure to report that information first will be rather incredible. Consider sources. Read everything with skepticism. Don’t misunderstand silence for disagreement, and don’t think that every hesitation is worthy of panic. If Dirk wants to take his time to consider his options, it’s his right. If LeBron James wants to sit on his choice until the start of training camp, he can. No one can accurately gauge the pace of free agency until it begins, but I think it’s safe to say that everything won’t be resolved overnight.
Get comfortable for the long haul, because even the deals that are “done” aren’t, and the moves that are “a lock” are often anything but. There’s so much yet to happen and a lifetime before it all does, so be patient, stay tuned, and hope for the best.