Left to Wonder

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on June 6, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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The questions are the answers! Okay, maybe they’re not, but we have more questions that need to be answered. Based off the last set of questions, you have to look at the negative (likely more realistic) outlook of chasing the big fish. I also look back at the playoffs and determine who caught my eye in terms of potential targets for the Mavs.

Let’s go.

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The Rock and the Hard Place

Posted by Kirk Henderson on June 3, 2013 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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It’s been a slow and frustrating descent for the Mavericks and their fans since climbing the championship ladder in 2011. The quality of team play dropped as fan favorites left for different opportunities, while new faces mostly failed to live up to expectations. To recall how the Mavericks got to this point, it’s illuminating to look back to an email sent from Mark Cuban to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas on December 8th, 2011:

“The reality is that in the new system, cap room will have far more value than it had in the past…

The rules are different now, and while it makes it tougher this year because of the affection we have for many of the guys that are leaving, if we want the Mavs to be able to compete for championships in future years as well, it’s a hard decision, but I believe the right decision.”

Cuban has been consistent with his desire to construct a winning team within the constraints of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. During a May 28th radio interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM Cuban said, “If we don’t get the big name, we want to start building that base of a team that can start having some continuity of playing together.” Despite Dirk Nowitzki being on the final year of his contract, it’s been generally understood that the Mavericks are trying to build a team around or with Dirk, while also building a team capable of being successful after Dirk retires.

But there’s been an elephant in the room that has not been acknowledged: What if those goals are mutually exclusive?

Mark Cuban has been very careful in what he’s said to the media over the last few years, mentioning how important cap flexibility is in the long term while also giving attention to Dirk’s dissatisfaction with the last two seasons. If Cuban and Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson are able to land either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, then this point is moot. But what if they don’t?

The remainder of the talent in the 2013 free agent pool either doesn’t fit with Dallas’ plan, like Josh Smith, or represent risky gambles, like Brandon Jennings or Andrew Bynum. Signing one or more of the second tier free agents might benefit Dallas in the short term by making the team more competitive. However, it’s hard to imagine any 2013-2014 Maverick squad without Paul or Howard being a “championship” or “top-seeded team,” which Cuban insists is possible.

Any influx of talent might make Nowitzki happy as he heads into his final years in a Mavericks uniform, but at what point is doing something for Dirk detrimental to Dallas long term? He turns 35 on June 19th. Dirk’s offensive game remains amazing, but he’s also expressed a desire for someone to share the load. Do any of the non-superstar free agents really strike the Dallas front office as the kind of players they can build around after Nowitzki retires?

On the flip side, if Dallas elects to sign a roster full of project players and single-year contracts again, they’re essentially wasting a third straight year of Dirk’s career. For many Mavericks fans, Nowitzki is the alpha and omega when it comes to Dallas as a franchise, and putting together a competitive team while he finishes out his Hall of Fame tenure is an utmost priority. After all, when Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavs at a discount in the summer of 2010, he did so with the understanding that the front office would do its best to surround him with high-caliber players. The lockout and ensuing CBA changed the landscape drastically, and in the process limited Dallas’ team-building options. Yet another lost year for Dirk would be tough to swallow for all involved, even if such a course proves to be best for the Mavs’ greater efforts to construct a contender.

Nowitzki has long been a good soldier for the organization, despite playing with the least talented teammates of any superstar from his generation. While he’s on the record saying he’s willing to take a hefty pay cut when he re-signs after next season, another wasted season could change his internal calculus. Loyal though he might be, Nowitzki’s re-signing in that scenario would first require that he endure another year on the “mediocrity treadmill” without losing faith or interest in the Mavs’ rebuilding efforts. Dallas has been a step above bad for two seasons, held together mainly by Dirk’s brilliance. As he ages, he can’t be expected to carry a .500 team in a Western conference that only seems to get better each season. Nowitzki has seen the peak, and to trudge through the lowlands with a middling team through his slow decline would seem a painfully unfulfilling turn.

As the Mavs attempt to thread the needle in building a team for the future that will simultaneously make the most of Nowitzki’s twilight years, the front office is flirting with disaster. Despite all assurances to the contrary, Dallas’ plan seems to be to land Paul/Howard or bust. The Mavs are reportedly shopping this year’s pick for salary cap space, as has become something of a trend; Dallas traded away younger assets like Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton only to make cap space in the past, and the bid to have max-level cap room has left the Mavericks’ cupboard alarmingly bare. If Dallas strikes out with Paul and Howard, it’s quite possible the 2013-2014 Mavericks will be a bad team with a murky future. Despite trying to place themselves in the best possible situation for this off season, the Mavericks are left at the mercy of the decision-making of others.

It’s an uncomfortable situation with meager chance for positive resolution. Yet this is the lot of a team rebuilding around an aging star owed $22.7 million in single-year salary, left only to rely on the long-shot landing of Paul or Howard. For now, acquiring either superstar remains a vague possibility for a franchise in need of hope. Yet come July, the overwhelming likelihood is that both Paul and Howard will sign elsewhere, leaving Dallas to face difficult questions with few — if any — encouraging answers.

California Dreaming

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 31, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported late Thursday evening that Chris Paul is ‘angry’ for being cast as the villain in the firing of Vinny Del Negro as coach.

How much of an impact this will have on Paul’s decision to re-sign with the Clippers as a free agent is not clear, but the source conceded that Paul’s anger could lead him to look elsewhere.

“He’s angry right now and his anger is directed toward the Clippers organization,” the source said. “Chris is a man of principle and if he feels like you’ve gone against his principles, it will affect how he feels about you. He’s very agitated that his name has been put out there as the reason for Vinny’s firing. He had nothing to do with it.”

- ESPN

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Risk Aversion

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 28, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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A safe way to go through life is avoiding risks. You can’t lose when you don’t take a chance. But you can’t win much either.

That’s a way of life that many people go through as some can’t take losing or the realities of losing. Many fans were heartbroken last summer after going through the drama with Deron Williams only to find out that he was going to stay with the Brooklyn Nets, spurning the Mavs and the opportunity to play with Dirk Nowitzki. A new year of free agency is upon us and the Mavs will once again try to swing for the fences as they pursue Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

Many fans start wincing at the idea of the Mavs trying to pursue these big fish, remembering the feelings they endured through the entire process last year. (First off, you probably should avoid getting on the roller coaster in the first place.)

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Picture This

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 23, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Information is power. Getting seduced by information is dangerous. There is the clichéd saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, there were three photos that popped up last week that are very relevant in the Mavs’ universe. They provide information, two more interesting than the other.

The first one came on Friday morning as owner Mark Cuban reinforced his point to the fans that he is committed to making this past season as an aberration as opposed to the new norm.

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Deep Thoughts

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 17, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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I think. I probably think way too much. That’s just what happens when you have time on your hands. Again, I just sat and thought about random things revolving around the Mavs. Answers popped up, and this is the end result. Another batch of 10 questions and answers in regards to the summer and the future for Dallas.

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Size (Does or Doesn’t) Matter

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 16, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Point guard or center: Where do the Mavs focus their attention this summer? That is the question. Last week, we covered how both positions were clearly below expectations for the Mavs and that they need to replenish those positions with upgrades.

I posed the hypothetical question to ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon during one of our Bloom and Doom sessions during the year about whether Tyson Chandler or J.J. Barea would have been more valuable to Dallas during this season.

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Passing Thoughts

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 14, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Needless to say, there’s a lot of free time on my hands. I like to think when I have a lot of free time. I like to think when I do not have a lot of free time. With that in mind, I’ve sat and wondered about various subjects revolving around the Mavs. I went ahead and got my fingers working on the keyboard and came up with questions and answers about the Mavs. Here are 10 of the questions and answers now. I will share the other 10 later this week.

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Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 2, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Looking over Quoteboards allows you to refresh your memory over buzz comments that were made. There’s one that has stuck in my mind and has me wondering.

This is what Mark Cuban said when the front office has to decide the worth of perspective free agents versus years and money and deciding whether or not to pursue:

“We don’t try to win the summer. We don’t try to say okay, we’re going to give a guy a lot of money. He’s got to be worth the money. There are guys that are team difference makers and none of these guys that you’ve mentioned (like Goran Dragic) went to a team and that signed as a free agent and turned them around.  What kind of impact would he have on your team? End of story. That’s it. How many games can he win me, if at all? If he’s not going to be a difference-maker why would you do it (sign him to a lengthy contract)?

“I have to look at Donnie and Rick. Donnie’s going to say don’t do it and Rick’s going to say don’t do it. I’m going to say to Donnie, should we do it? And he’ll say no. Teams sign guys all the time that they end up having to get rid of all the time. And it’s just a different animal when you’re trading for him and you get off a guy and you have to take bad contracts to get a good contract. We’re wide open for whatever puts us in a position to get a difference maker and if we can’t then we’ll deal with whatever it is.”

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Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 109, Los Angeles Clippers 102 (Overtime)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 27, 2013 under Interviews | Read the First Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks had their most impressive victory of the season with a 109-102 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavericks moved to 2-8 in overtime games this season. They also beat a top-5 team in the West for the first time since they beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 12. Dallas must have gotten a blood transfusion leading up to the game as it appears they now have alligator blood running their veins. Breaking the rut that seemed to haunt them all season long, the Mavericks found a way to execute when they needed to and got clutch performances out of Dirk Nowitzki and OJ Mayo.

Nowitzki tallied a season-high 33 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds in 39 minutes against the Clippers (previous high: 30 vs. L.A. Lakers Mar. 24). Chris Paul, who finished with a season-high 33 points, hit a potential dagger basket with 5.3 seconds remaining in regulation. OJ Mayo got the ball along the baseline and had Paul defending him. Mayo spun away from the second defender and found daylight for an easy layup, forcing overtime. Mayo actually used Paul’s aggression against him as Paul over-committed and sacrificed the baseline and the easiest path to the basket.

Mayo went 5-of-15 from the field for only 11 points, but stepped up with some incredible defense on Paul. The point guard for the Clippers was still able to break through but he had to earn everything he got against the Mavericks.

Some notes before the quotes:

- Dirk Nowitzki passed Patrick Ewing (24,815) for 17th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a jumper at the 8:51 mark of the first quarter. The basket gave him four points for the game and 24,816 for his career. Nowitzki finished with 33 points against Los Angeles and now has 24,845 career points. Jerry West ranks 16th all-time with 25,192 career points.

- Nowitzki went 12-of-21 from the field against the Clippers on Tuesday. With his 11th field goal of the game (8,694th career) at the 4-minute mark of overtime, he passed Elgin Baylor (8,693) for 20th place on the NBA’s all-time field goals made list. Nowitzki now has 8,695 career field goals. Gary Payton ranks 19th all-time with 8,708 career field goals.

- Lamar Odom got the business from the fans. He was booed every single time he touched the ball.

- The Clippers went 10-for-22 on 3-point baskets through three quarters. They went 0-for-11 on three-pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime.

- With the win, Dallas is now one game back of the the Los Angeles Lakers for the 8th spot in the Western Conference. They are also one game under .500 for the first time since Dec. 14.

Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ potentially season-changing victory over the Clippers.

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