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.

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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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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Thermodynamics: Week 23

Posted by Travis Wimberly on April 4, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

That’s all she wrote. While not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Mavs’ hopes of making the dance are all but dead. They came into this week with a discernible chance, but a 1-2 run against a slate of tough opponents changed all that. A loss to the top-flight Indiana Pacers put the Mavs on life support; another loss to the mediocre Los Angeles Lakers was the death blow.

To no one’s surprise, this will be the most downtrodden installment of Thermodynamics this season. But don’t fret. The Mavs won’t stay down forever.

Week 23 (Pacers, Bulls, @Lakers)

FIRE

1) Dirk Nowitzki (well, mostly)

In the first two games this week, Dirk was stellar. He scored 21 points on 10-of-20 (50%) shooting against the Pacers, and was essentially the sole reason a 25-point blowout wasn’t even worse. Two days later, in the Saturday matinee against the Bulls, Dirk turned in his best performance of the season: 35 points, an absolutely preposterous 14-of-17 (82%) from the floor, and a personal 8-1 run to end the game. That afternoon in Dallas, Dirk did what only a handful of players in the league can do — he single-handedly pulled a victory out of otherwise certain defeat, and he did so against a quality team. Nowitzki’s week didn’t end well, as he shot a poor 4-of-13 (31%) and was generally ineffective against the Lakers. Some will blame the team’s inability to consistently get him shots — “Well, of course he can’t shoot well if he only gets X shots in first half,” they’ll say. Although that complaint is indisputably valid as a general matter, as applied to Dirk’s shooting poorly in a particular game, it falls flat as an excuse.  Nowitzki is capable of shooting well on very few shots — in fact, he does it all the time. Exactly 125 times in his career, Dirk has shot better than 50% on fewer than 12 attempts. His poor shooting against the Lakers certainly didn’t cost the Mavs the game, though it most certainly didn’t help. Still, his week on the whole was vintage. The Bulls game alone has a firm spot in Dirk’s pantheon of greatness.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 81, Los Angeles Lakers 101

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 3, 2013 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-By-Play Shot ChartGame Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavericks’ season, for all playoffs-related purposes, ended on Tuesday night, and now we’re left to consider what this lukewarm, odd journey meant.
  • As a Dirk Nowitzki three-pointer failed to reach its intended destination late in the fourth quarter, I realized it would fall to me to essentially eulogize a tumultuous season of Mavericks’ basketball.
  • I thought about O.J. Mayo in the fall, Shawn Marion in the winter, and Dirk Nowitzki in the spring. I thought about the guarded hope of Brandan Wright’s line-drive hook shot, and I thought about the eager play of Bernard James. I thought about the managerial sense of Mike James, and the ever-hopeful exuberance of a Darren Collison drive. I thought about Vince Carter’s return to respect and the journey he and all of us are on, and I thought about the stoic stare of Elton Brand. I thought about all of this, and I sighed and considered all the different reasons that this sum of hope would now amount to nothing in a competitive sense. But a season is not nothing, no matter the result. It’s an emotional journey for those who (perhaps foolishly) choose to invest in its path. That path will lead longtime Mavericks’ fan somewhere unexpected this year – to a place apart from the playoffs. But disappointment does not erase the uniqueness of the journey, and another season and another path awaits in the not-so-distant future.
  • What I will write about tonight is the summation of a grimly typical occurence  - a harsh regression to realistic shooting performances, and a firm departure from the exalted three-point bubble  of glory that’s gracefully covered all of this team’s faults for the last month or so.
  • “In other words: If the jumpers stop falling, the Mavs could be in trouble.”
  • Zach Lowe wrote that sentence less than a week ago, and it’s prescience quickly came to fruition.
  • The Mavericks’ reliance on mid-range success was perhaps the most tenuous aspect of the team’s recent form, and tonight the team failed in that area entirely.
  • The only Maverick who succeeded regularly on offense was Chris Kaman (7-10 FG, 14 points, six rebounds), who turned in one of his better performances of the season.
  • Dirk has always defied defensive hopes with his dominance of the left-sided mid-range game, but that defiance counted for little against a hard-charging Lakers’ defense.
  • He shot and missed all four of his shots from 10-23 feet in that left region, and misses like these always ring loudly with foreboding for even the greatest of mid-range shooters.
  • And like so many nights this season, any hope for a defensive save collapsed after an especially rough second quarter.
  • Earl Clark (7-14 FG, 17 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks), once widely considered a draft bust and NBA failure, played a far more complete and Maverick-destructive game than anyone once would have guessed possible not long ago.
  • But it did happen, as Clark scored from any region possible and defended Dirk with all the aplomb of a young James Worthy.
  • Even more decimating was the play of one Kobe Bryant (8-18 FG, 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).
  • In the absence of Steve Nash, Bryant and the other Laker guards found Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard (10-20 FT) in the post all night, to the tune of a combined 38 points on 25 field goals (and 22 rebounds) from the pair.
  • I’d guess this kind of complete performance is what the overbearing contingency of Lakers’ fans always imagined when this team was first constructed – solid post play, tough interior defense, and a confident Kobe controlling tempo from the perimeter.
  • But such a performance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Mavericks, who simply appeared unable to generate a significant counter to the Lakers’ play.
  • The cornerstones of these Mavericks, mid-range and three-point shooting, dissipated with the rapidity of a changing wind, and an inability to capitalize at the rim (6-12 FT) closed the door definitively on any sort of courageous final comeback.
  • I have no doubt that the Mavericks, not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will go on fighting with the heart of a battling, worn down champion, as they have all season. This team does not lack for heart – it simply lacks for well-fitting parts.
  • Along with all the pain and struggle of an uneven season, the 2012-2013 Mavericks heaved forward, one three-pointer at a time, until the proverbial well ran dry and there was nothing left to do but keep fighting against a dooming reality. Playoffs may go, but beards are forever.

Asset Management

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on February 14, 2013 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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The trade deadline is always an interesting time for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has always said two things when it comes to that time of the year: the team will always be opportunistic and don’t believe what you hear or read when it comes to them. The team is at a crossroads. The chances of making the playoffs are slim and the team has to do what they can to ensure they don’t waste any more time off of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The deadline on the 21st is one way they can help build for the futre. How do the Mavericks assess things as the trade deadline approaches? Let’s look at the assets and what could be out there.

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