As the General Manager and president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson provides a different perspective of how the season went for the Mavs. He also gives a different vantage point of how the offseason will have to be observed.
Here is the exit interview with Donnie Nelson.
Opening remark: “We weren’t expecting this. This time of year, we’re gearing up for the playoffs, so this is an out of body experience for all of us. We’ve got some work cut out for us. We’ve got a big summer, moving forward. We don’t expect to be here in the same situation next year at the same time.”
Do you still feel like you need a rim protector and someone who can create shots for themselves? “We’ve been spoiled with guys like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Those are certainly big shoes to fill. I think the quarterback position is one we’re going to look very, very hard at. We’ve always liked players that are veteran, that are smart. Having the ability to raise our collective IQ is something that is important to us. We’re always into rim protectors, shot-blockers. That certainly makes life a lot easier for everyone on the floor. We’ve got six guys under contract. We’ve got three veterans and three young guys. In pretty short order, we’re going to try to address all of those available positions … We’ll turn over every rock in attempt to get to where we need to be, which is not where we are right now.”
Should we expect another season with eight or nine new guys on the roster? “I don’t know the answer to that. Like anything else, it depends on what else is out there and available. You guys are familiar with the free agent drill. It depends on what unveils itself and what doesn’t. We want to be flexible, we want to be opportunistic. Those are things that have played well for us in the past. We do like a lot of the guys in the locker room. Yes, there are guys that we’d love to have back, but we’re in an upgrade league. That’s what we are. It all depends on what’s out there.”
How would you describe the personality of that locker room? “A great group of guys in terms of veterans. We’ve got some young guys that have shown some promise. If we had a little bit more runway (games left), I don’t think we be sitting here right now. We do like those kinds of guys in our locker room. Those are the kind of professionals and character guys that we’ll look to build with.”
On O.J. Mayo exercising his player option and if there is an interest in bringing him back: “When you’re on a one-year deal, there’s a lot of pressure. Rick has done an amazing job in a very tough and difficult situation. It really comes down to the character of the player. I think all of our guys, whether they are long term or short term, have really expressed the desire that they like what we’re doing. They would like to be back. If the situation is right, we would certainly like for them to be back as well.”
What do you take away from Mayo’s season? “It’s like a lot of our guys. It’s the professionalism. We’ve all been through the ups and the downs … The professionalism by which they’ve handled themselves, not just by the veterans, a lot of the younger guys too and OJ is front and center. These are guys that aren’t finished products. They’ve gotten better. I think a lot of those guys has really helped themselves in terms of their upside. There’s guys that have had learning years and have gotten better and have put themselves in a great position for the future. I think the thing that jumps out is the c-word, character. Even in the end when we were mathematically eliminated, you had a group of guys that stepped up, finished strong and finished on a high note. Those are things we can take into the summer.
Why wasn’t the team able to get into the playoffs? “I think we ran out of runway. Look, nine new faces, injury to our best player, those aren’t excuses but they are factors to where we’re at. If you take our last chunk of the season, if we had a little smarter play we could have finished some of those games. I think a lot of the things that went in the right direction during the championship run went in the wrong direction. Maybe it’s the law of averages. I don’t know. I do know that we’ve got a bunch of character guys that gave it their very best. We didn’t get the job done. We will not be back with the same exact team, but there are some gems in there that I think we would absolutely welcome back on this team.”
Will you go after a big name free agent to make Dirk the second best player on the team? “Again, we’ll be opportunistic. We’ll be very aggressive and that’s already started. Our hope is whether it’s many or one or two or three, we’ll be able to raise the level of talent on this team and put ourselves in a position like we’ve been used to in the past.”
Message to the fans: “We don’t plan on being here long. Mark is second to none in terms of doing whatever it takes to bring a championship back to town. With their support and their help and their faith, we’ll be able to pull through this is in hopefully pretty short order.”
Is the goal to get more guys in with longer deals as opposed to one-year deals? “The length of contracts or the status really depends. Flexibility has its place in the market. A situation like this past year isn’t ideal, but it has put us in a position where we’re flexible to be able to go out and be a major factor and player in this market. There aren’t any perfect situations out there. You can’t just script it to where you can have your cake and eat it, too. It depends on the player on whether or not we do more of a short term or long term type of situation.”
Are you starting to see the impact of the CBA starting to have an influence on how teams operate? “I think it’s clear that if they’re not already belt-tightening, there’s a high level of interest in that area. I think you’ll continue to see folks be more fiscally responsible which I think is a good thing and a healthy thing for the league.”
Participating in the lottery is rare spot for this organization. Do you take a different approach with the draft this year? “We’re still waiting to see who is going to be there come June. My gut is that we’ll be as aggressive, if no more so than we’ve ever been. Whether that’s us drafting, acquiring free agents, trade, we will turn over ever rock, believe me.”
Can Dirk help as a recruiter? “Yes. We’ll certainly lean on the big German in that light … Given the way that we are, we’ll be leaning a lot more on Dirk, Mark and Rick to see what we can come up with this summer.”
What is the value on how important this summer truly is? “They’re all important. Every year that we go to construct a team it’s the same thing. Whether it’s Dirk in the beginning of his career or Dirk towards his mid or now where he’s still in his mid, right? You build a championship team, a team that contends to go deep into the playoffs to the best of your ability every year. We’ve got some different challenges. It’s not like the good old days where there’s all kind of financial freedom where you can sign checks into the wind. There are soft and medium and hard situations that are going to be restrictive. But again, that’s a good thing for the league, overall. We’re looking forward to putting everything to the test this summer because it is going to be a big summer for us.”
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.