The Dallas Mavericks, without even the slightest hesitation, have now executed the easiest and most predictable item on their off-season agenda. According to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News (and as confirmed by team release), a four-year contract extension for Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is now complete, removing even the slightest possibility that such a brilliant basketball mind could somehow stray from Dallas.
Calls don’t come much easier than this one; there’s only a small cut of NBA coaches who make a tangibly positive impact on their team’s play, and Carlisle happens to be one of them. While many coaches are tempted by the safety of formula, Carlisle finds — and ultimately succumbs to — allure in flexibility. Consistent roles are among the great red herrings of professional basketball, and its to Carlisle’s credit that he’s dispensed with that farce and pushed for basketball players to be basketball players, without worry or need for self-defeating promises. I’m sure many in the NBA would feel safe in knowing that their position on a particular team is never questioned, but Carlisle’s rotational philosophy is empowered by freedom.
If sitting a scorer for the sake of defense is called for, he does it. If playing his starting center just 12 minutes a night gives his team the best chance to win, he won’t hesitate. If an oddly constructed zone defense makes the most sense for his defensive personnel, he’ll thwart convention. Carlisle isn’t just valuable because he makes the right moves, but because he has the audacity to attempt all of the moves. He’s wrong plenty, but his desires to shift his lineups and manipulate the game aren’t at all misplaced, and his team is ultimately best served by his uncanny ability and unending willingness to change directions.
The Mavericks have a catch in Carlisle, and that’s no less true now than it was last June. He’s a premium commodity in a middle-heavy pool, and what he may lack in mystique, he more than makes up for in ingenuity.
Another day, another low-key signing by the Mavs with a potential payoff far greater than the risk. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas is currently finalizing a two-year deal for former New Jersey Net and Texas Legend Sean Williams. It’s not a spectacular acquisition, but Williams — who wore out his NBA welcome during his tour in New Jersey from 2007-2010 — steps in as an immediate impact shot blocker with the potential to be a more complete defender.
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Things…appear to have taken a bit of a turn.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the possible three-team deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers is now dead, and Lamar Odom — who was set to go to New Orleans as a part of the transaction — will instead be sent to Dallas in exchange for the traded player exception created by Dallas in the Tyson Chandler deal. Or, in a less convoluted way: the Mavs have turned the inevitable, gainless departure of a prized free agent into the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
No matter how you slice or dice that transaction, you’ll arrive at the same conclusion: that’s a hell of a move.
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The Mavs weren’t expected to make much commotion during this year’s abridged free agency, but they’ve already made one move in anticipation of another. The Knicks’ acquisition of Tyson Chandler — originally designed to be an outright free agent signing — has officially been processed as a three-team, sign-and-trade endeavor, scoring Dallas an $11 million trade exception, a protected second round pick (via Washington), and the imminently waivable Andy Rautins. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Mavs are already working to use that traded player exception to acquire Samuel Dalembert on a one-year deal via sign-and-trade with Sacramento.
It’s a lot of hustle and bustle (especially when coupled with Dallas’ signing of Brandan Wright, and likely acquisition on Vince Carter) for a team largely anticipated to stand pat, but it’s worth waiting for the smoke to clear before we take full stock in Dallas’ off-season haul. Trade exceptions, by nature, are transitory tools; they’re only worth what a team is able to gain with them, and we’ll have a better grasp of the yield from the Chandler sign-and-trade as soon as Dalembert makes his decision. The Mavs are hardly the only team pursuing him; Stein also noted that Houston was interested in acquiring Dalembert if the Rockets’ other options fell through, meaning the Mavs’ next play could lean on the reconstruction and upcoming review of the Chris Paul blockbuster.
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Before we begin, let’s all take a deep breath.
From Sam Amick of SI.com:
Orlando PR man Joel Glass calls to inform that D. Howard’s agent now has permission to speak w/ Lakers, Nets, & Mavs about possible trade.
Stop. Right. There.
Stop daydreaming over the thought of Dirk Nowitzki being paired with a frontcourt partner even more productive than he is. Erase the thought that the Tyson Chandler free agent saga — while unfortunate in its own way — could ultimately give way to the greatest era of Mavericks basketball yet. Toss away the notion that the Mavs are currently in legitimate running to net another superstar, be it Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams.
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Happy Christmas from David Stern, The NBA’s owners, and the soon-to-be-reformed National Basketball Players Association.
From Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
While explaining his decision to participate in Chris Paul’s charity game in his home town of Winston-Salem, N.C., earlier this month, Wizards free agent forward Josh Howard joked that “people still want to see me play.” But being around that thrilling, high-flying environment convinced Howard that he should organize his own event in Dallas, the city he still considers home since being traded to the Wizards in the deal that shipped Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to the Mavericks at the trade deadline in 2010.
With the lockout wiping out the first two weeks of the regular season and more cancellations expected to follow after failed negotiations last week, Howard is taking advantage of the opening to host a charity game on Nov. 12. Players expected to participate include Howard’s Wizards teammates John Wall, Andray Blatche and Nick Young; his former Mavericks teammates Jason Terry, Marquis Daniels, DeSagana Diop and Quinton Ross; Portland Trail Blazers forward and Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge; New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack; Mavericks guard Corey Brewer; Minnesota forward Anthony Randolph; Toronto forward Reggie Evans; Sacramento Kings draft pick Isaiah Thomas; and former NBA player Damon Jones.
Marquis Daniels, ‘Gana Diop, Quinton Ross, and Damon Jones are semi-headlining a charity game hosted by Josh Howard in Dallas. Ain’t life grand?
According to the Associated Press, Rudy Fernandez’s deal with Real Madrid has finally been inked. With EuroBasket in the rearview mirror and the ongoing CBA negotiations at something of an impasse stateside, Fernandez found an alternative — but quite comfortable — home for the season to come.
That said, Fernandez’s contractual commitment to Real Madrid isn’t quite as significant as initially rumored. The AP report puts Fernandez with the club for the remainder of the locked out season with a mere option to return to the team next year. This is a significant departure to the rumored deal that would’ve locked up Fernandez in Madrid for the next four seasons (less whatever post-lockout NBA campaign exists). His momentum is no longer definite; gone is the wing with one foot out the door, and in is a free agent with a possibility of playing overseas. Those are two very different players and very different assets.
There remains a very strong possibility that Fernandez still bolts for Madrid at season’s end, but Dallas has been given the opportunity to convince him otherwise. That’s not nothing; the Mavericks are a first-class organization with luxurious player accommodations, a superstar player, fantastic systems on both ends of the floor, and a title to their name. They have a lot to offer, so long as Fernandez is listening. Perhaps he’s already decided in his basketballing heart of hearts to return to Spain — there’s nothing wrong with that, supposing that it doesn’t impact his NBA play this season as a result. But if there’s even the slightest chance that Fernandez remains in the NBA following the completion of his contract, I’d think that Dallas would be at least a bit alluring. Fernandez will have his options in free agency next summer, but the Mavericks are a good a fit as any.
Which, of course, supposes the Mavericks extended interest beyond this season. Perhaps Fernandez really was acquired as a contributing placeholder, meant to produce from the wing while Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Corey Brewer inch toward reliability. All three of those players are candidates for regular minutes on the wing a year from now, a glut which honestly does make Fernandez a bit expendable. His potential departure wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world; there is nothing Fernandez does that can’t be replaced with pieces on the existing roster or through affordable free agent additions, and though the Mavericks are better off with Fernandez on the roster, they aren’t exactly sunk with him off of it. The choice of whether to remain in Dallas will likely be his, but contrary to earlier reports, that choice hasn’t already been made. Fernandez hasn’t been signed away by Real Madrid for the foreseeable future. He remains a legitimate piece in the Mavs’ plans going forward, albeit a flexible one with his own free agency.
The Texas Legends are pushing hard for former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl to succeed Nancy Lieberman in Frisco, and are reportedly willing to make Pearl the highest-paid coach in the D-League’s history in order to woo him. That may seem a bit odd considering the NBA’s current financial situation and the pretty measly salaries afforded to the D-League’s players, but it’s understandable why Donnie Nelson covets Pearl; he’s precisely the kind of talented, charismatic leader who can make the Legends a better team while also turning their games into an event. Like it or not, the D-League still needs to be sold, and Pearl — with his unique sartorial choices and natural panache — could be just the guy to sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.
Yes, the reported $500k salary package is ridiculous, and there are undoubtedly other capable coaches who could take over the Legends for a much more affordable cost. But Pearl has become Nelson’s very public preference, and the fact that the two hosted a press conference together without any official announcement to be made tells us plenty about the motivations of this particular courtship. Nelson — and the Legends — want to make a splash, and it’s hard to to find fault in that motivation. Pearl could conceivably attract a lot of attention to the Legends organization, and really, he already has. Whether that attention can be converted into actual profit remains to be seen, but Pearl’s involvement with the Legends would certainly make the franchise more attractive to prospective sponsors and fans.
Pearl is a talented coach; he wouldn’t be considered for the position if he were strictly a showman. Yet the advantages gained from Pearl’s potential involvement with the Legends would seem to help the actual basketball product more indirectly than they do directly. The interest, revenue, and branding gained by his possible hire could pay off immediately and even carry over into the next few seasons, and subsequently feed into the overall infrastructure of the team as a result. Of course, the gains from Pearl’s potential hiring could just as easily fail to cover even the costs of his salary alone. Pearl would fit in well as a D-League coach, but he’ll have to do more than that. In order to legitimately justify this kind of expenditure, Pearl would have to be both coach and commodity, and take the Legends brand much significantly further in the coming year than it was able to during the team’s inaugural season.
The Mavericks have acquired Rudy Fernandez (and the draft rights for 2007 selection Petteri Koponen, a footnote which may or may not have relevance) in exchange for the 26th and 57th picks in yesterday’s draft. As far as draft day trades go, this one isn’t horrible; the Mavs aren’t the Kings, who somehow talked themselves into acquiring John Salmons while losing Beno Udrih and trading down in the draft at the same time. But if you’re looking for the logic in a move like this one, I see little.
It all comes down to what Dallas surrendered. Selected with the 26th pick was Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton, a player who can functionally perform a lot of the same roles that Fernandez can. He doesn’t come without his own faults (Hamilton looks at the rim almost lustfully with each catch on the perimeter), but Hamilton eclipses Fernandez’s utility while still holding that infinite potential of youth.
In Rudy, the Mavs have acquired a streaky shooter who, for the most part, comes up errant. Fernandez shot 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three last season, and though 2010-2011 was without question the worst campaign of Fernandez’s three-year NBA career, he doesn’t exactly have a healthy body of work to rule that year as an aberration. We know Fernandez can be better (particularly from three-point range; Rudy connected on 40 percent of his threes during his rookie season), but there should be legitimate concern over whether he’ll be able to return to his previous shooting marks.
Unfortunately, that kind of pessimism is what clouds discussions of Fernandez’s basketball strengths. Offense is supposed to be the side of the ball where Fernandez makes his living, and yet over the last two seasons, his offensive performance has been wholly underwhelming. Things only get worse on the defensive end, where Rudy scrambles plenty without accomplishing much at all. He has a pretty worrisome gambling problem; he’ll abandon good defensive position in a second to chase a pass he has no business chasing — and that’s when he’s even in the right defensive position in the first place. Fernandez isn’t a replacement for DeShawn Stevenson, but an even more limited stopgap, capable of possibly replicating Stevenson’s three-point shooting while falling well short of his defensive performance. Fernandez just isn’t anywhere near the defender that Stevenson is, and though Jordan Hamilton is similarly lacking in defensive ability, he’s 20 years old, long, and athletic. I have more hope for Hamilton finding religion as a defender than Fernandez, and while that hope could ultimately prove to be misplaced, I think the “he is who he is,” perspective on Fernandez is tough to refute.
Plus, Fernandez withered when he wasn’t handed the minutes he expected and was forced to compete for playing time in Portland. Based on Rick Carlisle’s rotational habits, why exactly should we expect any different result in Dallas? Fernandez has a fresh start, but he may find that Carlisle and Nate McMillan share in some particularly inconvenient elements of their coaching philosophy. “Stay ready,” which became the mantra of the Mavs’ role players last season, doesn’t quite seem to fit with Fernandez’s understanding of the team concept.
Maybe Fernandez will find new life in Dallas, but at best he’s an active offensive participant, a three-point threat, and a defensive liability. Couldn’t Hamilton be capable of the same, while giving the Mavs another interesting piece for the future? Dallas is rightfully looking to maximize on their current core, but the drive to acquire veterans has led them to one who holds all of the weaknesses of the prospect they could have had without any of the potential long-term strengths.