We’re a few good hours into free agency, and these are the things we know for sure:
- The Mavs want Dirk Nowitzki back quite badly, but they obviously haven’t agreed to terms, much less put pen to paper.
- They’re interested in some other guys too, but nothing is set in stone and free agency is young yet.
- Erick Dampier is requesting — nay, DEMANDING — that the Mavs give him the full mid-level, or he’ll leave.
Alright then. Good luck with that, Damp.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: under no circumstances will the Mavs offer Dampier the full mid-level. None. They would not, could not, in a house. They would not, could not, with a mouse. I could list reasons aplenty for that decision, but it really doesn’t seem necessary; under no conceivable criteria is Erick Dampier worthy of a full MLE at this stage in his career. Not even if he dresses up nicely and puts on that cologne you love so much.
That said, it’s no surprise that Dampier is reluctant to sign for a more reasonable salary. It’s been assumed all along that if Dallas wants to keep Erick in the fold, they’ll merely have to pay him something after his unguaranteed salary is completely voided. Damp clearly has other ideas. He is still a serviceable center after all, and if the Mavs are reluctant to pay him market value, he’ll simply ply his trade elsewhere. Without that $12 million contract hanging around his neck, Damp is actually a pretty useful player that can fill minutes at a position with limited alternatives.
Dampier is likely posturing for negotiations with the Mavs (or another team), or perhaps he’s simply more megalomaniacal than we ever gave him credit. Either way, Donnie and Mark will try to talk Damp down from this valuation and bring him back as the Mavs’ back-up center. Whether or not they’re successful depends as much on Dallas’ willingness to compromise as it does Damp’s, but re-signing him is a sensible and convenient way to establish the tail end of the center rotation.
Either way, it looks as though the Mavs will face a fair bit of uncertainty at the 5. Dampier is obviously asking for a bit more than he’s worth, even to a team that regularly sings his praises. Re-signing Brendan Haywood isn’t a given, as a center of his caliber is sure to generate legitimate interest from a number of suitors. Beyond that, Dallas would have to acquire a possibly ill-fitting center via trade by necessity (such as Al Jefferson), or try to lure in an over-the-hill vet (i.e. Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Brad Miller) or unproven big (Ian Mahinmi) by using their MLE. Fit — both in terms of skill and role — is ever-important, but with Dallas as just one possible center-hungry franchise in what seems like a sea of them, nothing should be taken for granted in these negotiations.
The games are just beginning, and Erick Dampier has started things off with a warning shot. It won’t make Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban think twice about trading him away (considering the magnitude of the trade chip and its expiration date, why would it?), but it does set an interesting atmosphere for Dampier’s impending negotiations with the Mavs.