The Thoroughly Unremarkable Death Of Plan Powder

Posted by Connor Huchton on July 15, 2013 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 8 Comments to Read


There is always a plan in the mind of the fan. There is always a plan in the mind of the analyst. There is always a plan in the mind of the GM. There is always a plan in the mind of the owner. There is always a plan in the mind of the player.

This much, we can know.

It is almost astonishing to consider how rarely these carefully laid plans of ours coalesce with the course of reality. Every NBA season ends with only one happy ending. The building of teams is no different. And yet, we strive forwards, expecting, hoping.

The reactions to the Monta Ellis signing, mine included, are filled with sentiments of exaggerated woe and disbelief. The Mavericks have now failed to sign Tyson Chandler (two seasons ago, and quite willingly) Deron Williams (last season), failed to sign Dwight Howard, failed to sign Andrew Bynum, failed to sign Andre Iguodala, failed to sign Nikola Pekovic, and failed to address most major team needs. They have however, signed several aging guards and now one Monta Ellis.

In the midst of so much disappointment and so little apparent effort to fix the issues that plagued the Mavericks last season, the franchise has offered instead a talented guard known only as a high-volume scorer and little else – to the tune of three years and almost $30 million. Had you asked any well-informed Mavericks fan who the least exciting marquee free agent signing this offseason could be, many would have spoken Ellis’ name aloud and shook their head with that special combination of misery and aversive hope.

The signing of Monta Ellis is not a fully discouraging one upon its own merits. He may be overpaid under the discussed terms of the contract, but there are many worse players than him in this association. He has flashed great talent and excitement in the past, scored aplenty, and passed quite well when it suited him. He’s a player with some potential within, some promise that an optimistic Mavs’ fan might convince themselves Rick Carlisle is just waiting to coax out into utter joy.

But despite this, despite the relative harmlessness of the Monta Ellis signing and what it will bring (a few overpaid wins, some fun nights, some dismal nights), it is very difficult to not finally despair. Everything this offseason and the last were supposed to be, everything the organization and its proud owner promised a zealous following these years would represent, every expectation – all of that seems well and dead now.

Plan Powder, one of the worst code name plans in the history of code name plans, has died a quiet, unremarkable death, and the only befitting eulogy I can think to offer is “Good riddance.” Good riddance, Plan Powder. Now be off to Jason Kidd rejections and that mercurial Rajon Rondo trade.

There is a certain entitlement that comes packaged in all this fan despair, despair which is, of course, mostly meaningless. The fate of the Mavericks’ franchise will not decide this world nor the fate of a Roland Emmerich-created universe. Destinies will (hopefully) not be entirely decided by the moves of an unsure front office. All things are lost in time, even disappointment.

But because we are foolish enough to be subjected to the course of sports in moments like these, the above referenced form of entitlement seeps into our aching, needy bones. The Mavericks have been a very well-supported, burgeoning franchise for more than a decade now. Modern Dallas fans are not used to tanking, not accustomed to middling days, not adept at staring mediocrity in its etched face year after year. To a tortured fan base like Charlotte, such woe must seem particularly paltry.  Who are Mavericks’ fans, they of the recent championship and long-sustained success, to cry out in such brief, formulaic darkness?

The answer, I suppose, lies within the scope of all Mavericks’ questions and answers – that is, within the greatness of Dirk Nowitzki. Oh, how that towering giant deserves far more than years and years of mediocrity to close a stunning, vital career. We all know this. We all know Dirk deserves better, past title secure or not. No genius should die in obscurity. One does not wish the fate of Nikola Tesla upon the basketball career of one of the twenty-five greatest players in NBA history, a beloved cornerstone, and by all appearances, a quite admirable person.

The fans of these Dallas Mavericks have lived and died upon the shoulders of Dirk for more than a decade, and, as go the illusions of fandom, we live and die upon his fate now. Save the Dirk Nowitzki, save the world, etc. You get the idea, I presume.

That plan so eagerly promised, the one expected to carry Dirk upon its wings into a final few years of competitiveness and blissful retirement, has failed miserably up to this point. Plan Powder, dare I speak its alliterative name once more, can now firmly be called a colossal loss, unless some sterling trade opportunity impinges itself upon the wind, a la Mark Wahlberg’s face in The Happening. But otherwise, the plan has gone the way of John Leguizamo in the second act.

And so I’d offer to you that we do not despair for the sake of Monta Ellis. It’s not about Monta Ellis, just as it’s not about O.J. Mayo, not about Chris Kaman, and not about Darren Collison. It’s about the harsh juxtaposition of what is promised and the swooping stark reality that crushes foregone dreams. It’s about Dirk Nowitzki. It’s about failure. It’s about watching the embers of a fading franchise flicker so weakly that you can hardly trace the light before dawn. Sunset is coming, and I have no hope that Ethan Hawke will be waiting on the other side.

Monta Ellis answers the call. But do not despair, we whisper one last time. Maybe some mythical center will arrive under the quiet of autumn. And when he does not come, bearing 7-foot armor and a strong sense of team defense, what will we say? Will we look to 2014, hoping for some redemptive salvation of a plan gone wayward long ago?

I don’t know. And neither do you. But do you believe Donnie Nelson does?

  • jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

    The Mavs had to try to sign a big name. Had they not, your blog would be entitled “The Mavs not even trying to maximize Dirk’s last few years”. Monta Ellis is not perfect. But who, of the available players, would be a better choice for a team with about 75 points worth of scoring and 8 million dollars to spend? It’s easy to say the Mavs failed, but you failed to tell us what could have been done differently or should have been done differently.

    • Connor Huchton

      The thesis of the piece was more to elucidate a certain frustration that’s now permeating among Mavs’ fans, and less so to detail an exact plan for what should have been done or what should be done now. But to answer, I’d say that taking a chance on any of the young, available centers – Bynum, Oden, signing Pekovic to a slightly overpriced deal, trading for Robin Lopez when he was available – or even signing Jeff Teague to a long-term contract would have been more worthwhile risks than signing Ellis.

      That’s not to say I take any real issue with the Ellis signing on its own – I’m certainly lukewarm about it, as he’s a volume scorer almost in exclusivity and a historically poor defender – but I do have qualms about the larger plan and how it’s been executed. It’s fine to sign Ellis if you have the luxury of solid team defense, younger players with potential, or any type of consistent center, but the Mavericks have none of these things. They now have a roster that’s strength lies almost entirely on offense. It’s not the worst roster, sure, and I’m sure it’s capable of peaking around 45 wins as currently constructed – assuming Dalembert signs, who I like as a player, but who is yet another aging player and at best a short-term, fairly average solution.

      And I disagree with a strategy that aims for 45 wins as a peak, especially as long as Dirk is still around, capable of scoring an efficient 20+ points on an nightly basis, which he still very much is. The goal of Plan Powder, presumably, was long-term franchise viability. Part of that was supposed to be achieved via cap flexibility, and I suppose that part will work out well enough, but what makes an NBA team viable in the long-term is the acquisition of younger players with potential.

      The Mavericks have failed to do that at most turns, and seemingly have focused on addressing current needs with half-solutions. It’s understandable, and I realize the Mavericks are in a difficult spot, but I disagree with the aversion to any risk/potential move, especially as Dirk reaches his twilight years very quickly and time runs short for this era of Mavericks’ basketball. I can’t see the machinations of what exactly the outlook of the front office is, but from an external viewpoint, I have trouble agreeing with the franchise’s current plan.

      Maybe the team will make a move that surprises me and renders some of this frustration moot, but it seems unlikely, and it is fairly clear that the era of competitive, Dirk-led Mavericks is probably reaching its close. So if this is what Plan Powder sought to achieve, well then, I feel quite comfortable saying that it’s not a plan I feel was particularly well executed to this point, not at all. Hence, some frustration, and this article.

  • Zee

    I think it’s worth mentioning that we didn’t fail to sign Bynum — we never offered him a contract, so I presume we looked at his knees and said no thank you. Pekovic is RFA and Minnesota has expressed every intent on matching, and Iggy was collateral from the Dwight fallout that happened while we were waiting for him to decide.

    It’s important to point out that we’ve only swung and missed on Deron and Dwight, and that we don’t paint Dallas as a town that can’t land a FA.

  • nbacouchside

    On the plus side, the Mavs are reportedly talking with Greg Oden, who will likely be cheaper than even Bynum and might offer just as much, should he (don’t laugh) remain healthy. Plus, with Dirk, Calderon, and Monta in the fold, you’re sure to at least have a very good offensive group.

  • dude1394

    Plan powder will ( and should ) go down as one of worst GMing moves in sports history. I cannot think of another team which willingly threw away the best team in basketball, because of the arrogance of the smarter guys in the room.

  • Kate C

    Great article! Agree that the Monta signing on it’s own is not the issue… it’s the overall status of the team (and what it can reasonably

  • Kate C

    (whoops, inadvertently hit Send too soon!)

    Great article! Agree that the Monta signing on its own is not the issue… it’s the overall status of the team (and what it can reasonably expect from the future) that is sad for a team that has aimed much higher.

  • galemazuma

    Cuban failed to grow the brand of the Mavericks. That’s what it is. If he just have taken advantage of every milestone, especially the 2011 title, to market Mavs games and merchandise to every freaking customer as possible, then he could have the extra money to spend on getting the players that matter. Lakers’ TV deal, the Knicks’s NY brand, the Rockets’ China market. Anything that can add to the Mavs profitability outside of the team itself. With the “inaction” after the 2011 title, it was evident that the Mavs to Cuban is just a very expensive hobby that he didn’t want to dole out money anymore.