Marc Stein dropped the biggest bomb of the Mavs’ off-season thus far: barring a rapid advancement in the negotiations between Dirk Nowtizki and the Mavs over a possible extension, Dirk is expected to opt-out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
I know what it sounds like, but relax and take deep breaths. Dirk becoming an unrestricted free agent opens the door for a potential disaster this summer, but it’s far, far more likely that Nowitzki will remain a Maverick in 2010-2011 and beyond. The real motivations for Nowitzki’s potential opt-out are not to test the free agent waters or flirt with other teams around the league, but rather because of two potential economic benefits (as outlined by Stein) that Dirk can only access by signing a new deal this summer:
Opting out to sign a new deal, for starters, would lock in terms based on the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement through the life of the next contract. Under the league’s current system, Nowitzki is eligible for a four-year maximum contract from Dallas worth $96.2 million once he opts out. The most he could receive from another team is a four-year deal worth $93.1 million.
Signing a three-year extension to the last remaining season on his current contract, by contrast, would expose Nowitzki to potential after-the-fact reductions to his annual wage if league owners are successful in their attempts to lower the value of maximum salaries in the next collective bargaining agreement.
…Another motivation for Nowitzki to opt out as opposed to signing an extension is the ability to secure a no-trade clause in a new contract.
Only players with at least eight years of NBA service time and four seasons with the same team are eligible to have a no-trade clause in their contracts, but such clauses can only be added to new deals. NBA rules prevent major changes, such as adding a no-trade clause, to an existing contract or an extension to a contract, which is largely why Bryant possesses the league’s only active no-trade clause.
You can’t blame Nowitzki for wanting either of those things. It’s not necessarily selfish to act in one’s best interest, and in this case that’s exactly what Dirk is doing. By signing a new deal now, Dirk will lock himself into a more lucrative long-term contract than is likely to be allowed under the new CBA next season. It’s a no-brainer for him, and the possibility of adding a no-trade clause gives Dirk personal protection from being traded to an uncompetitive team in the future. This is how NBA players should protect themselves, and you can’t blame Nowitzki for doing just that.
Coincidentally, the move would actually help out the Mavs in ’10-’11 should Nowitzki choose to re-sign. As a player who’s been in the league 10+ seasons, the maximum salary Dirk could make in the first season of a new contract is equal to 35% of the salary cap, 105% of his previous salary, or $14 million, whichever is higher. Should Dirk re-sign with the Mavs on a new deal, his salary for next season would actually be just $20.8 million (105% of his previous salary), a bit less than his ’10-11 salary had he not opted out ($21.5 million). That’s only if Nowitzki pushes the Mavs to the max possible deal, which may not be the case. Dirk has already stated that he’s willing to opt-out and re-sign for a lower salary if it could help the team improve, and we could see Nowitzki sign for a sub-max contract this summer even if he’s worth max money.
That’s not going to clear any cap space for a team that will be well into luxury tax territory, but it does ease the burden on Mark Cuban’s wallet a bit. You’re looking at double the savings for Cuban and the Mavs next season after tax implications, which is a nice bit of financial relief for an owner already dishing some major shekels to keep the team competitive.
While there are plenty of teams around the league that would be interested in hiring Nowitzki at a competitive salary, this is a situation in which loyalty, personal relationships, and history all come into play, and Dirk’s long-term relationships with Nelson, Cuban, and the Mavs will certainly affect his decision this summer. On top of that, Dallas will likely field the most competitive roster among Dirk’s potential suitors, another factor which would give the home team the edge in contract negotiations.
This is a good thing, for both Dirk and the Mavs. Don’t neglect the possibility of the bottom falling out in this team, but signs from Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle, other GMs and coaches around the league, and Nowitzki himself all point to Dirk’s return. In all likelihood, Dirk will be a Mav next season, and the implications of his opt-out will only affect his and the team’s finances.
- Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson talks Mavs with Mike Fisher of Dallas Basketball.
- After Monday’s road win against the Clippers, the Mavericks will finish with a 27-14 record on the road, good for the best away record in the NBA (Cleveland can tie with a win tonight at Atlanta)
- Mark Cuban is building something massive in South Dallas: “Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is planning a massive development of corporate offices, homes, ball fields and an indoor sports facility in a declining area of east Oak Cliff that city officials say needs the spark such a plan could create. As envisioned, the development would include the corporate offices for some of Cuban’s businesses, although it is unclear whether that includes the Dallas Mavericks.”
- The Mavs will lock up the 2 seed tonight with a either a win over San Antonio or a Utah loss to Phoenix. As for first round match-ups, the Mavs will play either San Antonio or Portland. The Mavs will play San Antonio if: Dallas wins OR Utah loses and Portland wins OR Dallas loses, Utah wins, and Portland loses. The Mavs will play Portland if: Dallas loses, Utah wins, and Portland wins OR Dallas loses, Utah loses, and Portland loses. Out of the 8 possible outcomes of the 3 relevant games, 6 result in a Mavs-Spurs series and 2 result in a Mavs-Blazers series.
- Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas talks Mavs-Spurs: “All three meetings this season occurred prior to the Mavs shipping four players, including Josh Howard, to Washington as Dallas recast its team on the fly with Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson… The one constant in all three games? Nowitzki, who averaged 32.0 points and 9.7 rebounds and remains a nightmare matchup for the Spurs. So the final meeting at 7 tonight at the American Airlines Center ultimately is rife with the potential for another playoff series and numerous new storylines for two Texas franchises that have slugged it out for the better part of a decade.”
- Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News explores the Caron Butler-Tony Romo connection. Check out the picture from back in the day.
Maverick fans have endured plenty over the last ten years. They witnessed the rise of a Western power only to see it pale to the empires in San Antonio and Los Angeles. They grew to love and adore Steve Nash and Michael Finley, only to see both walk out the door. They’ve seen the Mavs go deep into the playoffs only to come up short. The last decade of Maverick basketball was graced with incredible successes but also unforgettable heartbreak.
The greatest shame isn’t that those heartbreaks occurred — though each instance tragic in its own way — but that too often we allow them to overshadow the greatest era in franchise history. Your Dallas Mavericks have won 50 games in 10 straight seasons, and though that may not compare to the singular joy of winning an NBA title, it speaks to the brilliance, commitment, and savvy that has marked the last decade in Dallas.
Only three teams in the history of the NBA — the classic Celtics, the Showtime Lakers, and the Mavs’ eternal foils in San Antonio — can claim such an honor, and that means plenty. Professional sports teams of any kind rarely experience this kind of prolonged success, as it takes an all-too-rare combination of terrific talent, smart management, and the right circumstances. The former two are what have allowed the Mavs to be so good for so long, but let’s not forget the important of the latter, especially since the importance of chance seems to be today’s theme. Dirk Nowitzki is no doubt the figure most central to the Mavs’ success over the last ten years, and during that period he has never played fewer than 76 games. That’s a testament to Nowitzki always keeping himself in incredible shape, but also to a phenomenal string of good fortune. He’s had no freak injuries, no lingering problems, no significant surgeries. We’re not celebrating the Mavs’ incredible accomplishment without Dirk as a nightly fixture, and thanks to his record of pristine health.
As I mentioned, though, this is a situation where the overwhelmingly influential factor is performance. Performance over a sample size so large that luck is rendered irrelevant. Nowitzki has been surreal over these last ten years, and the way he’s championed the Mavs year after year is nothing short of remarkable. This is truly an all-time great that we have the privilege of watching night after night, and watching him go to work at the elbow or in the low post should be nothing short of breathtaking. If nothing else, understand this: there’s never been anyone like Nowitzki and I’m not sure there ever will be. You’d think that if the NBA were to extend until the end of time, eventually we’d see a player in the Dirk mold, and from a strictly mathematical standpoint I can’t disagree. But the unique combination of everything that makes Dirk Dirk is so odd that I can’t imagine ever seeing it again in my lifetime. There may be a seven-footer that shoots like Dirk. There may be a seven-footer that can score like Dirk. There will not be a player who can do what Dirk does with his size, with his gifts, with his fundamental understanding of the game.
Of course it’s not just that Nowitzki has been unique, but that he’s been spectacular. Only players of certain skill sets and ability can survive as the focal point of an offense without having their game “solved,” but Dirk is one of those players. He’s never had to do it all on his own, but the Mavs have operated through Nowitzki over the last ten years, and he, and the Mavs, have performed brilliantly.
That last sentence is incredibly important, though. Dallas has experienced quite a bit of turnover since 2000, just like any other team, but Dirk was never on his own. The difference is that the Mavs are blessed with the greatest owner in sports. Mark Cuban not only is willing to invest heavily in the team, but also in finding and maintaining good coaches and good managers. Even the worst Mavs coach over the last decade — take your pick between Don Nelson, Avery Johnson, and Rick Carlisle — was excellent, and though the tenures of both Don and Donnie Nelson as managers of the Mavs were hardly unblemished, they both managed to build a contending roster year after year. Sometimes that roster included Antoine Walker or Evan Eschmeyer. Happens even to the best of ‘em. The important thing is that mistakes were always identified and rectified, as Walker was flipped for Jason Terry and Eschmeyer included in a swap for Antawn Jamison. The Mavs’ managers have always made calculated risks, and more often than not they paid off. The results kinda speak for themselves.
The last ten years have been an incredible ride. I know today is the perfect day for a trip down memory lane, and I’ll be diving pretty heavily into the nostalgia myself. The situation definitely calls for it. Keep in mind, though, today, tomorrow, and every day until the end of the Nowitzki/Cuban era in Dallas: this, what we have right now, is very rare. Cherish it. Appreciate the fact that Mavs fans have never in the last 10 years been biding their time in April waiting for the draft lottery. Appreciate that even the most dismal of the last 10 seasons have begun with plenty of hope. Appreciate that for all the times the Mavs have revamped and retooled, they haven’t missed the playoffs and they haven’t missed that 50-win mark.
In the grand scheme of things, 50 is just a number. That it may be, but 50 is also a prompt; it may not mean much on its own, but as a reminder deeply embedded in context, it means everything. It means that even without the championship, the Mavericks have been one of the most successful franchises in the NBA over the last ten years. That golden validation would have brought something special to an era of Maverick basketball that rightfully deserves it, but even with an empty spot on the shelf where the Larry O’Brien should have been, 50 wins reminds us of the heart, the hard work, and the triumphs that have made the last decade so worthwhile.
- Brendan Haywood on the differences in coverage between the Mavs and the Wizards (via Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News): “The difference for us a lot of times on a side screen-and-roll we used to call blue or icing, which means we tried to keep the ball on the same side of the court. They, I mean Dallas is more of a ‘show’ team. They’ll show on a screen-and-roll and try to impact the ball a little more. It’s a little different for me. That and zone coverages are different for me too.”
- Former Mav Jerry Stackhouse apparently reached out to Chris Douglas-Roberts to console him on the Nets’ losing ways. Stack was always kind of a complicated character; he was tough on the court and when receiving clear opposition, but by all means a caring individual capable of tremendous personal acts. It’s hard to reconcile all of that with the shot-happy near-burden he aged into (especially when considering his earlier stardom), but in spite of everything that happened at the end of Stack’s career with the Mavs, it’s important that we keep a full view of him and his exploits, both good and bad.
- SLAM’s Tzvi Twersky has a nice interview with Caron Butler up, with a lot from Caron on the Mavs and the city of Dallas itself. Here’s Butler on what he was told to do coming in by Rick Carlisle: “Coach told me to be as aggressive as possible. Told me to stay aggressive, to not switch up anything. He keeps telling me to remain aggressive at all times, to not second-guess anything. And that’s the type of encouragement you need from a coach. And we’re learning everything on the fly. I went out there and played— myself, Brendan [Haywood] and DeShawn [Stevenson]—after landing in the city and not being able to practice because of trade waivers and stuff wasn’t clear. So we just walked on the court and basically played pickup ball. So we’re learning the offense on the fly, and so far so good.”
- Mark Cuban doesn’t quite seem content with the current collective bargaining model.
- Rick Carlisle’s reaction to the news that Josh Howard will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL (via Tim MacMahon): “That’s terrible. Circumstances that happen in this sport and just the timing of things is crazy. I’m very disappointed obviously for him. He’s not deserving of that kind of luck at this point.”
- If Zydrunas Ilgauskas wasn’t determined to go back to Cleveland 30 days after his buyout is finalized, Dallas would probably have a decent shot of signing him — Z and Donnie Nelson have history from when Donnie was with the Lithuanian national team.
- Kelly Dwyer on the decidedly awful game last night: “This was one of Dallas’ worst games of the season, and somehow they still managed to win in a walk.”
Some potentially great news for those keeping close tabs on the soon-to-be Mavs D-League affiliate in Frisco: Del Harris, who was once tapped to be the GM of the Frisco team, has left his position as an assistant coach with the Nets. The very same position, you may recall, that took Harris away from Frisco in the first place. Below is the statement from Del himself, via Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger:
This is to announce that I have decided to return to my home in the Dallas, TX area after two months with the New Jersey Nets. Even though we have had a difficult time winning as many games as we had hoped to, I enjoyed very much my time with my good friend, GM/interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, the Nets players, organization and the local community. All were positive and helpful. I had not experienced such a losing situation since 1983, but because the players are such good people, the losing of games did not become the chaotic situation that has happened to so many teams who were locked into a total rebuilding year.
The reason for the timing of my return is that I came to help Kiki in his first venture into team coaching. I have seen Kiki go from a man who was trying to encourage a team that was down to one who has developed a good sense of coaching. I believe in these recent games there is strong evidence that the team has gotten over the hump and will be much more competitive the rest of the way. This experience will help Kiki in his role as general manager immensely. Every GM can gain from having the coaching experience.
My sincere thanks to Rod Thorn, Kiki, the Nets players and organization for the opportunity to experience the Nets and the good people of the New Jersey area. As difficult as this year has been for the Nets and their fans, I look forward to seeing the Nets capitalize on the moves they have made that have put them in a position to develop into an elite team over the next couple of years and on into the future.
Assuming that Harris will return to work with Frisco seems perfectly reasonable. After all, he left for New Jersey on the most pleasant of terms, and Donnie Nelson has wisely decided to wait on filling the position. After all, the team has no roster and no name, so is it really that pressing to have a general manager when other capable basketball minds are already on the staff? But now the opportunity has arisen to bring Harris to Frisco, and it’s entirely likely that Nelson and Harris are already a few steps ahead of all of us.
UPDATE: Donnie Nelson is, somewhat predictably, welcoming Harris back with open arms (via Tim MacMahon): “I told him the GM chair will be open…It’s there for him. We’re fully hoping and expecting he will come back.”
- As far as shoes go, I liked the look of Kevin Durant’s KD1s, and I’m particularly fond of the inside/outside colorways. But last night, Durant and the Thunder unveiled the truly awful, traffic cone orange “Dreamsicle” KD2s. It’s a definite downgrade, and although the kicks don’t make the man, I can’t help but feel that these shoes don’t do Durant justice.
- Last night’s game didn’t sit well with Royce Young of Daily Thunder: “…I’m not going to lie, I’m a little upset about this one. Not because OKC lacked effort. Because boy howdy, these guys busted it. But when it really mattered, the seasoned, veteran team took over and made the plays. The young, inexperienced group didn’t. In areas the Thunder are normally very good, they weren’t. An uncharacteristic 14-23 from the free throw line. A couple defensive breakdowns late. Poor shooting from their best players. Maybe it was the pressure of the night, the lights of ESPN or something else. But the fact is, Oklahoma City just didn’t perform.”
- Those of us who watch Dirk Nowitzki on a nightly basis are fully cognizant of his excellence. And for national columnists, it’s easy to overlook the footwork, the pump fakes, and the jumpers in favor of the more obvious talents of a LeBron James or a Dwyane Wade. All the more reason to appreciate Kelly Dwyer, who makes note of Nowitzki’s play almost nightly in his ‘Behind the Box Score.’ His words on Dirk’s performance last night were short and sweet, but to me ring with a sincerity and appreciation that’s not as easy to find among basketball scribes as one might think: “In the end, I think my favorite part of this game was listening to Hubie Brown slowly fall in love with James Harden. Either that, or the way you keep falling in love with Dirk Nowitzki’s game. Ten years later. Night after night. So glad this guy is still around, playing at a level like this.”
- Skeets and Tas loved the Mavs-Thunder game last night, even if Tas isn’t too fond of Dirk’s headband.
- As of yesterday, Kevin Durant was shooting just 30 of 80 (37.5%) in six games against the Mavs. As of this morning, he’s shooting 34 of 98 (34.6%). That, my friends, is a bonafide trend.
- Over their next fifteen games, the Mavs play the Lakers (twice), the Celtics, the Cavs, the Nuggets, the Jazz, the Spurs, the Blazers, the Rockets (twice), the Thunder, the Kings, the Grizzlies, the Pistons, and the Raptors. The total W-L of those teams (weighted appropriately for opponents that appear multiple times) is 225-150, or a .600 win percentage. That means that for the next fifteen games, the Mavs will play an average opponent of the Utah Jazz.
- In an “impromptu dunk contest” at practice today, Kris Humphries showed off some between-the-legs dunks, while assistant coach Darrell Armstrong tried his hand at the high-flying game…by doing a between-the-legs layup. It’s a sad reminder of Armstrong’s actual dunk contest appearance, which featured one of the worst dunks (or non-dunks) in contest history.
- According to Mark Cuban, there are four factors which have been instrumental in the Mavs’ success over the last decade: a dedicated fan base, Donnie Nelson, Dirk Nowitzki, and keeping a consistent core.
- Henry Abbott goes to work debunking the myth that Kobe Bryant is the best clutch player in the NBA, and goes to the numbers to reveal some clutch Mavs: “Every which way people slice and dice crunch time numbers — field goal percentage, plus/minus, you name it — Bryant is not the NBA’s best in crunch time. A glance at last year’s crunch time numbers on 82games.com makes clear Bryant shoots more than anyone else in the NBA in crunch time, but is he more skilled at making those shots? That’s what we’re trying to judge, right? In crunch time field goal percentage, last season Bryant finished 92nd in the League, right behind Michael Beasley. Others ahead of him include Kevin Garnett, both Gasols, Zach Randolph, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Eric Gordon, Brandon Roy, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kidd, Ben Gordon, and Chris Bosh. You can remember Bryant hitting all those clutch baskets, stat geeks say. But you’re forgetting all the misses. (And if you are learning about Bryant from highlights, then you’re not even seeing most misses.)” Emphasis mine.
- There was supposed to be another installment of Moving Pictures up this morning, but I’m having trouble uploading it to YouTube. Stay frosty, I’ll post it as soon as it’s available.
- Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching has pieced together a fairly conclusive scouting report on defending Dirk Nowitzki. Guarding Dirk is an unenviable task and a near-impossible one, but Sebastian does a fine job of pointing out a few of the things that tend to give Dirk trouble. It’s well worth a read, even if I don’t necessarily buy the notion that Sean Williams is a disciplined enough defender to draw the Dirk assignment. I’m not sure the Nets have better options, but Williams? On defense? Against an offensive player notorious for his footwork and ball fakes? I’ll believe it when I see it.
- Donnie Nelson will play the waiting game before hiring a new general manager for the Frisco job, mostly due to a potential return for Del Harris after this season’s conclusion. It’s a savvy move by Nelson, and I have a feeling that his patience on this won’t go unrewarded. Also, check out Matt Moore’s reaction here.
- Shaun Powell of NBA.com ranked the top fifteen off-season moves…and failed to include or even mention the Mavs’ acquisitions. I guess the integration of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden has been so seamless as to elude public perception entirely, despite the fact that both are helping their team (and looking more comfortable doing it) than just about everyone south of Jamal Crawford on that list. (link via a Fanshot by DOH on Mavs Moneyball)
- Let the Rodrigue Beaubois vs. Devin Harris debates begin!
- Chris Sheridan on the newly christened Nets coach (and acting general manager), Kiki Vanderweghe: “Like those front office folk, Vandeweghe was attending the news conference because he had to. His ambition is to run his own NBA team from the front office — not from the bench. Thorn, who noted that all three of the coaches he has hired in New Jersey — the recently departed Lawrence Frank, Byron Scott and Vandeweghe — had no prior NBA head-coaching experience, said he spoke to six people regarding the position. Note that he didn’t say he interviewed six people, only that he spoke to six people, before informing Vandeweghe that the job was his. ‘Rod is a very persuasive guy, and much smarter than I am,” Vandeweghe said. “I want to thank Rod for not necessarily making it my choice.’ Vandeweghe was asked: Did you ever want to be a coach? “‘Not until Rod called me yesterday,’ Vandeweghe said. ‘But it’s a challenge, and you embrace the challenge. I’m sure all the coaches I’ve had are laughing at me right now.’”
- Donnie Nelson, reflecting on the Mavs prior to the Kidd-Harris deal (via Tim MacMahon): “The reality is that we had a whole lot of scoring and our best passer was Dirk…He’s the guy you want taking the shots, not creating shots for other folks. That was a group that was missing a quarterback in the worst way.”
The Houston Rockets visit the Dallas Mavericks
When the Mavs and the Rockets met in the 2005 playoffs, Houston appeared to be on the cusp of elite status. Not only did the wing-center combo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming make sense on a very basic, basketball level, but McGrady’s offense was an excellent counterpoint to Jeff Van Gundy’s Yao-anchored defense. The rest of the roster was appraised as paper-thin, but solid contributions from a stable of role players sopped up minutes like a Bob Sura-shaped sponge. Houston very nearly downed Dallas in the first round, before an improbable comeback (and a Game 7 dismantling) ended the Rockets’ run before it truly began.
But as people in the future are ought to do, we know now that it was never meant to be. Yao and McGrady have alternated breakdowns, JVG was chased from the head of the bench to the broadcast table, and the rest of the roster has been turned over in its entirety.
What’s even more tragic is that for the most part, the Rockets’ “downfall” was instigated by events almost entirely outside of their control. So much hinged on the knees and back of McGrady and the legs of Yao, and that’s a load those bones were not built to bare. A string of unfavorable and unlucky injuries dropped the ceiling on an entire franchise, left two star athletes in limbo at critical points in their careers, and likely cost Van Gundy his job.
Meanwhile, the Mavs have been to the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals. They’ve won 67 games and brought home an MVP award, a Coach of the Year Award, and a 6th Man Award. They defeated the older brother Spurs, took down deserter Steve Nash, and have yet to win less than 50 games. The Mavs have won and accomplished plenty, largely because Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, the linchpins of execution and chemistry in Dallas, have had sterling health over the last four seasons.
Trade the medical records of Dirk/Terry for that of Yao/McGrady, and the entire Western Conference is radically altered. Not only would the rosters of the Mavs and the Rockets be radically different, but titles would assuredly change hands, reactionary trade moves would be impacted, and who knows what would have happened to Ron Artest.
In spite of all of the injuries that have plagued the Rockets, they’ve won over 50 games in three out of the four years since those fateful 2005 Playoffs. That group of middling peripheral talent was swapped out for a more complete role playing cast under the careful, calculating watch (and maybe calculator watch) of Daryl Morey. The wacky world of advanced statistical analysis has built surprisingly competent teams in Houston, with this year’s outfit being no exception. Despite the fact that most players on the roster shouldn’t be considered a primary or even secondary offensive option, Houston is locked with Dallas for the top spot in the Southwest Division. That’s a hell of a rally for a squad missing their top two players, who also happen to be the floor generals for both ends of the court. With no McGrady or Artest to provide the scoring punch, the Rockets are STILL 8th in the league in offensive rating. And with no Yao inside, the Rockets are STILL in the top half of the league in defensive rating. Those are decent numbers for any team, much less one thought to fall out of the playoff race entirely.
I’d like to think that in the bizarro universe I’ve painted for you, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would be able to accomplish the same, or at least a comparable product. Like Morey, both Cuban and Nelson are known for the ingenuity. Combine that innovative side with a willingness to pull the trigger on potential deals, and you have the ingredients necessary to assemble a scrappy, underdog squad. There’s no way of knowing whether Josh Howard and Erick Dampier (and Devin Harris?) could lead a team to the playoffs with a Rockets-esque cast, but I have no hesitation in saying that it would be difficult to put the Mavs and Rockets in better hands.
- Interbasket.net sat down with Nathan Jawai for a little Q&A, and Jawai proved to be quite the brown-noser when asked about his favorite players: Ibn: Who are your favorite players? “Well, a range of players for their specific fundamentals they bring to the game. Dwight Howard’s aggressiveness at the post and his D. Now going back to the old-timers in Australian NBL, Andrew Gaze commitment and leadership. Though mostly the biggest influence on me has to be, (Dirk) Nowitzki. His current leadership and hints to me have totally influenced me on how to improve my game in every way. Oh, he’s gonna like that…”
- Shawn Marion suggests that the Mavericks may exist on a plane where ‘position’ is merely passing fancy.
- Spotted: what we can only assume is a Mavs fan donning the jersey of one of the franchise’s most beloved role players. EDDIE!
- Hey, remember that time Russell Westbrook lit the Mavs up for a five-point play? Yeah…good…times…
- SLAM Online’s Joey Whelan names the addition of Marion as the Southwest’s Best Long-Term Move: “This one may come a as a surprise pick for some given that the UNLV grad is coming off a significant down year statistically, but Marion has landed in a perfect situation to get back to being a major force. This addition gives Dallas a slew of offensive weapons to surround aging point guard Jason Kidd with for what should be the final three years of his career. While this may not suddenly thrust the Mavs into the race for Western Conference supremacy, it does put them right on the heels of the Lakers and the Spurs in regards to the pecking order.”
- This time, a Ball Don’t Lie two-fer: Donnie ranks among the top GMs, and the top two point guards…well, isn’t it obvious?
The Mark Cuban-Don Nelson Chronicles are water under the bridge. Though that water may never flood, it looks like raw sewage and smells like something that’s passed through the system of a sick old woman. No matter how much we try to ignore those past events and continue on our way, the stench that lingers around the franchise is undeniable.
After all, the rift between Nelson and Cuban influenced more than a few personnel decisions, the direction of the franchise, and a certain 2007 first round playoff exit by our fair Mavs. Gulp.
There’s no real point in boiling things down to a personal level; this is more a disagreement between two gents than it is a true basketball headline. But deep within the court transcripts are testimonies of events from both perspectives. It’s a glimpse into the machinery that once powered the Dallas Mavs, and though it’s undoubtedly skewed by the parties involved, at the very we flesh out some of the details.
You can view the entire transcript here thanks to the Dallas Morning News, and they’ve chopped down two sections of interest (the story behind Steve Nash’s departure and Don Nelson’s exile) for your reading pleasure. If you take the time to read the entire thing, some sections certainly come off as petty. There will be more than a few arched eyebrows. But when you’ve got a personal, working relationship between two guys that has been utterly destroyed by millions in “blood money” owed, harsh words on both sides, and possibly some hexes, curses, or voodoo dolls involved, things are going to get a little emotional. Things get to be a little…much. (Hat tip on the DMN link to Tom Ziller at FanHouse.)
But for those of you that don’t enjoy cramming in 800 pages of legal testimony over your weekend, I’ve pulled a few things that I found interesting:
Nellie expounds on the beginning of the end of his relationship with Mark Cuban (p 131-134):
Nelson: …I think it was in game three in the playoff series, we are in the finals for the West. We had our best team, and I had a really legitimate chance to beat them. And it was game three, I believe, and it was in our place. And Nowitzki dislocated his kneecap in a very dangerous injury…you dislocate your kneecap, it’s a very difficult injury…I had that particular injury, Elgin Baylor had it when I played with the Lakers the year that I was there, and so I am familiar with the injury. And so had a practice day, he couldn’t practice, he had some swelling. And we played the next day, and there was no way that I could see him playing in that next game. And he wanted to play, and he was out shooting on the court. He could stand there and shoot, you know, shots; but if you asked him, which I did, I went down to the court and asked him to run and move, he couldn’t do it. Well, basketball is a pretty fast game…Mark came into the – into my office and wanted him to play. And I said, I just couldn’t play him. There is just no way he could play in a playoff game or an NBA game. And he argued his point and sent the doctor in.
The doctor said it would be okay to play him. He couldn’t hurt it any more, and it would be okay to try him in the game. And I told the doc that I couldn’t play him. You know, I was here to look after Nowitzki. His dad when we signed him as a rookie told me that I was his American father and to look after him. And so I didn’t want to jeopardize this great young player’s career for a basketball game, no matter how important it seemed at the time…I never thought [our relationship] was the same after that.
Nellie was apparently miserable his last year in Dallas. According to Nelson, he had no say in the signing of free agent center Erick Dampier (though that’s the kind of signing anyone would try to wipe their hands clean of) and wasn’t the biggest fan of Damp as a player (p 144):
Nelson: I let [Avery Johnson] coach a few games while I sat next to him and helped, and then he took over for me when I missed some games because of surgeries. And that was the enjoyable part of the season. Nothing else was enjoyable. We – we didn’t have Nash. We had kind of a new team. We had players that I didn’t really identify very well with, Eric Dampier, for example, the money that – even more money than they were going to pay Nash, I think Dampier signed for more than we were even talking about Steve Nash. And I considered him to be a very doggy player that they totally overpaid.
Perhaps the most alarming testimony to fans of the franchise is the indication that Donnie Nelson intended to take Pavel Podkolzin, everyone’s favorite oversized Russian and NBA irrelevant, with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft. Nelson (the elder) claims that he personally talked Donnie out of picking Pavel at 5, even after being wronged by Mark Cuban and the franchise as a whole (147-148):
Nelson: …And the following year, I assumed I was in charge of the draft. Little did I know, no one told me that changes had been made, and I went into the draft and my son was in charge, and I didn’t know that.
So I was conducting my normal business, talking to my scouts, and Donnie was there. And Donnie wanted to draft this big Russian, I forgot his name. He’s a seven six guy from Russia. We had the fifth pick, and Donnie wanted to take him number 5. And I watched a lot of film of this kid, and [blacked out].
Donnie wanted to draft this guy number five. And we had just lost Steve Nash. We needed a point guard. We had Jason Terry, but – coming in, I think, but he wasn’t a point guard. So it was clear. There were three good point guards in the draft.
And I said, Donnie, I cannot take that Russian five. And he asked me if I would go in the men’s room. I went in the men’s room with him and he informed me that I wasn’t in charge of the draft. And I said, oh, really? Well, who is? He said, I am. And I said, well, it’s nice of somebody to tell me.
And I said, well, if that’s the case, then as your father I’m asking you don’t draft [blacked out] and Donnie didn’t. He took Devin Harris, and then he got another pick and took this big Russian.
The very idea that the man currently at the Maverick helm once dreamed of squandering the return value of the Antawn Jamison trade (much less the potential drafting of Devin Harris) on Pavel Podkolzin is equally shocking and distressing. Saying that Pavel was a non-factor is putting it nicely. Not. Good.
And finally, one completely out of left field: Golden State Warrior Kelenna Azubuike was apparently on the track to becoming a Mav, until some shady dealings described by Mark Cuban pushed him the Warriors’ way. I’m not sure if these dealings are actually dealings or if they’re even shady to begin with, but the picture is definitely painted in a way that would implicate Don Nelson as some sort of prospect thief (p 179):
Cuban: During that season Donnie had helped, and I think Nellie may have participated as well, Sydney Moncrief get a job as the D-league coach for our D-league affiliate. And Donnie had come to me and said, look, there’s kid that we’re going to put in the D-league to help get some experience named Kelenna Azubuke, and we really like this kid. You know, we think he can contributed, maybe not be a starter, but be a second team player, second unit player, and – at the minimum, but let’s see how he plays in Fort Worth. And we did that. And Nellie had a better relationship than we did with Mr. Moncrief, I guess, and Mr. Azubuke went to play for the Warriors.