Eddy Rivera from Third Quarter Collapse had me over to his place for for cocktails, Bugles, and some ball talk. Considering all that’s gone down between the Mavs and the Magic lately, there was plenty to discuss.
Check it out here…but you should really be reading TQC daily, anyway.
A bit thin again, today. Get used to it, Mav-heads; It’s summertime.
- Jason Kidd has had a triple double against 27 of the 30 teams in the league. I wouldn’t count on him going for the cycle, though.
- Check out the latest Podcast Paroxysm, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Mavs. Unless you count Brandon Bass, in which case it has a small link to the Mavs.
- This humble blogger wouldn’t dare tell real journalists how to do their jobs, but this article rubbed me the wrong way.
- Mark Cuban, via Gary Washburn of FanHouse, on the possibility of Dirk opting out next summer: “I’ve got a good relationship with Dirk…I’m not worried about [Dirk opting out] one way or another. You try to rebuild while you’re winning. You try to add a young piece here and a young piece there and see what happens. We’ve been doing this for nine years, 10 years now and every couple of years everybody say well it’s time to rebuild and we don’t, so we’ll see.”
- Cubes, via the same post, on Jason Kidd’s contract: “That’s just part of the drill. You don’t expect him to play at the same level all three years…You hope so, but at the same time, that’s just the way NBA contracts work. It gives us a lot of flexibility. But Jason’s a special athlete. And we have a young point guard so a lot of times you can add value beyond on the court.”
- The Jazz have decided to match the Blazers’ offer sheet for Paul Millsap, which means two things: The Mavs aren’t the only team left out in the cold on the restricted free agent market, and the Western rival Trailblazers aren’t adding significant pieces.
- Busting the myth that the Mavs overpaid for Shawn Marion.
- I think this is what they call “rubbing it in.”
- The usual pleasantries to Jared Wade and the newest TrueHoop Network blog, Eight Points, Nine Seconds. An explanation of the blog’s name shouldn’t be necessary for die-hard NBAers. As noted on TrueHoop, Wade also fills out the TrueHoop Network roster. Big ups to Kevin Arnovitz
- Bethlehem Shoals of The Baseline: “The Mavs have to be devastated, at least insofar as a franchise has emotions like a person. [Marcin] Gortat wasn’t the cornerstone of their new look, but he certained anchored it. Now that team has gone from improved, albeit out of necessity in the West, to a far shakier proposition. While Marcin Gortat isn’t a star, yanking him away just might ruin the modest renaissance on the horizon in Dallas.”
- Kevin Arnovitz names Rodrigue Beaubois to his Summer League “Halfway Home” Awards.
- Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram doesn’t pull any punches in his discussion of Donnie Nelson’s flub on Marcin Gortat: “For me it’s hard not to come back to Nelson on this. A guy who’s been in the league for most of his life shouldn’t have his pants taken down in public like this…Cuban or not, the general manager is supposed to be able to work the NBA buddy network, not get snookered by it. Before submitting an offer sheet, doesn’t a good GM weigh the original team’s intentions? If I were Nelson and Smith had openly misled me, I’d be telling the whole world about it. Since Nelson isn’t, however, we have to presume the same things that ESPN’s John Hollinger did, that this is a classic case of Lucy snatching the football from Charlie Brown. For Cuban to let that go with a shrug and a ‘We’ll just move to Plan B,’ is hard to believe…He probably won’t fire Nelson, not in the middle of a busy NBA summer and not without having someone ready to take Donnie’s place. But after this episode he’d better, at least, be thinking about it.” Look, I know this situation really, really sucks for everyone around the Mavs. But it’s not like Nellie Jr. lobbed a low-ball offer down there and waited for it to come back and hit him in the face. Nelson offered the most money the Mavs were able to offer, and the Magic decided to match. The situation with Bass was sorely and surely mishandled, but you don’t fire your GM over Brandon Bass.
- The Mavs are listed as having interest in Ike Diogu, another undersized 4 who could potentially fill the void left by Brandon Bass. Provided Diogu comes at a decent price, I’ve got no problem adding some frontcourt depth and some inside scoring.
- If there was a window for signing Lamar Odom, it’s wide open now. But write this down on a post-it and stick it in your pocket for later: the Mavs’ best chance of getting Odom (assuming of course, that their reported interest is legitimate) remains a sign-and-trade. That would require the Lakers having some semblance on a reason to play ball, and if Mitch Kupchak’s patience with Odom has truly worn thin, he may be an unwilling partner. So essentially, the Mavs’ chances of obtaining Odom hinge on putting together an attractive offer for the Lakers, or finding a team with ample cap space to play facilitator.
- For those of you interested in pointing and laughing at members of the Spurs, I guess you may be able to find some joy in the latest episode of Richard Jefferson’s personal life. Dude is as cold as ice.
The Magic may have left the Mavs Gortat-less and alone, but they also gave Dallas back their midlevel exception. All of a sudden the Mavs have all kinds of options in terms of available players, though none is a clear fit, fulfills a startling need, or comes at a price tag deserving of their talent level. The player that epitomizes all three incompatibilities is Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
Davis is a restricted free agent, a term which Mavs fans should be all too familiar with. As such, any offer designed to swipe Davis out from Boston would require enough of a contractual obligation that the Celtics would be crazy to match it. We’re talking well more than Davis is actually worth here, the bane of the midlevel exception. If the Mavs use their MLE on Davis, it will not be the same apparatus the once locked up Chauncey Billups in Detroit and almost brought Marcin Gortat to Dallas. It will be a weapon of evil, the likes of which we’ve seen in the money owed Beno Udrih and DeSegana Diop. The Mavs would need to pledge the average salary to a well below average player (career 10.9 PER) just to get him out of Boston, and that’s a move I simply cannot advocate. Or even give a thumbs up to. Or even do anything but wince when I read about it.
Most of my hesitation comes from the fact that Davis hasn’t yet shown himself to be that great of a player. The Celtics likely wouldn’t have gotten past the Bulls or kept up with the Magic if not for Davis’ efforts, but in the playoffs he performed at a level far above reasonable expectations. It screamed outlier more than progress, an abnormally efficient stretch of games in which Baby probably made his next contract. His stats jumped almost across the board from the regular season to the playoffs. His efficiency actually increased along with his usage rate, which is pretty unusual for an undersized four shooting more midrange jumpers than ever. His turnover percentage dropped while his shooting percentages increased, resulting in the quality rotation big man we saw against Chicago and Orlando. But just because that Glen Davis was the last thing to flash before our eyes does not mean we should expect anything similar.
The problem with Glen Davis last season was that he had trouble making his presence on the floor a truly positive one. He worked well as rotation filler for a high-level team with few other options, but that’s a far cry from a super-sub worthy of almost $6 million per year. According to 82games.com, Davis logged a negative net production (player production – opponent counterpart production) at both center and power forward. It wasn’t close (-3.5 at center, -4.8 at power forward). For comparison’s sake, Brandon Bass, a player deemed not worthy of the full midlevel by the Mavs, registered a +5.7 at center and a +3.9 at power forward. That’s a pretty startling drop-off in bench production, and one that would be damn hard to justify from a salary perspective.
On top of that, just as an item of interest, 82games indicates that 100% of Davis’ field goals in the 2008-2009 regular season were assisted. It’d be nice to have players on the floor capable of creating their own shots, especially when Jason Kidd is resting comfortably on the bench.
The real hole in the Mavs’ rotation left by the departure of Brandon Bass and the sudden denial of Marcin Gortat is not power forward, but center. Shawn Marion is more than capable of playing power forward when Dirk goes to the bench, and both Kris Humphries and Ahmad Nivins are capable of filling in the gaps. But as of right now, Erick Dampier is the only real center worthy of minutes on the Mavs’ roster, unless Nathan Jawai is much better than he showed in his first summer league game. Gortat would have solved this problem, and even Bass would have been a viable option. But Glen Davis? Is Davis really the Mavs’ plan to fill out the minutes at center? Offensively, Big Baby is a hustle guy with delusions of having a jump shot. On defense, he’s still very short to play center despite having the weight to throw down in the post. I’m sure he’d work hard and make every foul count, but you don’t pay players of Davis’ ilk considerable dollars to play center poorly. Not when you have a choice, anyway.
These rumors of a potential interest in Big Baby continue to surface not because of skills, or fit, or value. If the Mavs do sign Glen Davis, they’ll be motivated by something far more powerful: Desperation. If the Mavs react to their front-court losses with a sense of panic, Davis could very well be on the receiving end of some serious cash.
- Kevin Arnovitz dotes a bit on Ahmad Nivins: “Ahmad Nivins looks like a pro player – long, muscular, athletic, and coordinated. The but that usually follows this profile is … lacks fundamentals, or doesn’t have a post game. With Nivins, though, that doesn’t appear to be the case. He displays good footwork, moves around the floor with purpose, and is a beast on the boards. When you ask folks here why he dropped to No. 56 in the draft, you get a lot of shrugs, followed by a soft endorsement of his skills. He’s had a nice week thus far — 14 points and 6 rebounds per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the field. The only apparent drawback is that he looks waaaay too wound up on the court, and that intensity occasionally works against him.”
- Kurt Helin of Forum Blue and Gold has some high praise for the other star of the Mavs’ summer league team: “For those of you who were high on Rodrigue Beaubois — You were right. Much better in person than expected. Absolutely lighting quick off the dribble, can shoot the three, and most impressively made really smart decisions. Not just me saying that, I was standing next to a front office guy (not Lakers) who was saying ‘We didn’t know he could shoot like that.’”
- Brandon Bass in his new threads.
- What did Otis Smith have to say about matching Gortat’s offer sheet?
- And while we’re on a Magic-centric roll here: If you’re at all interested in following Brandon Bass in the future, I’d recommend starting here.
- Yes, I do realize that Lamar Odom is still on the market, and that Mark Cuban threw Odom’s name out there in an interview with NBA TV. He’s an incredible talent and a personal favorite of mine, but adding Odom would give the Mavs a whole lot of…something. I’m not sure that something could ever be combined in an optimal way without some accompanying roster moves. The available free agents and other trade candidates lack Odom’s intrigue and versatility, but I’d have serious concerns as to where the Mavs intend to find minutes for all of their forwards. That said, Odom is a good enough player that if available for a reasonable price, you pull the trigger and worry about everything else later.
- John Hollinger (Insider) reflects on The Gortat Incident: “When Dallas presented the offer sheet, Smith said he wanted all seven days to make up his mind and would have taken eight if he could have. But don’t believe him. He knew exactly what he was going to do all along. Every good team does — in preparation for free agency, it runs through all the scenarios of what another team might offer its players, and if so whether it would match. The Magic almost certainly knew on July 1 whether they were matching this deal; they just didn’t let everyone else in on the secret until today…it was a brilliant stroke, because it allowed them to get a second player at a discount price…By making Dallas believe that they wouldn’t match the offer for Gortat, they were able to throw the Mavs off the scent of Bass. At the time, the Mavs were thinking letting Bass go to the Magic would eliminate any chance of losing Gortat…Psych! This is Lucy pulling the football out from Charlie Brown, folks. Orlando created the impression that it was going to let Gortat leave, the Mavs fell for it hook, line and sinker, and as a result the Magic got to sign the player they coveted at power forward (Bass), in addition to keeping Gortat like they always knew they would…And in case you get any sneaky ideas, remember that Gortat can’t be traded until Dec. 15, can’t be traded without his consent for a full year, and can’t be traded to Dallas at all until next summer. So don’t think the Magic are holding Gortat for ransom — the rules on offer sheets are set up to avert those kinds of shenanigans. This is strictly a buy-and-hold maneuver…Meanwhile, the Mavs are left high and dry by today’s news. They had planned for Gortat to start at center and let Bass, last season’s primary frontcourt backup, leave because of it. Now Dallas has to scrounge through the free-agent leftovers because the Mavs basically lost two weeks waiting for the Magic to stick it to them. Wherever the Mavs go from here, they don’t look nearly as strong on paper as they would have if they had wrested Gortat from Orlando … especially since the Magic bluffed them out of Bass along the way. All that happy news I wrote last week about them rivaling San Antonio for second-best in the West is dripping in cold water right now; they still need frontcourt help and that’s the hardest help to find.”
- Hollinger makes some salient points, including one that brought me to a particular conclusion: This wasn’t a last-minute back stab by the Magic, and history won’t remember it that way. If Orlando is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy next summer, the commentary will insist that Otis Smith pulled a fast one on good ol’ Donnie Nelson. And he did. As much as we’d like to cry shenanigans or claim underhandedness (myself included), there was no foul play here. There was certainly some behavior to be frowned upon, but Smith found a way to have his cake, eat it took, and then move on to the Mavs’ piece. That’s not the kind of thing that causes a shift in karma, but it certainly is the kind of thing that hangs over the heads of the entire Mavericks’ fan base.
There are bad days, and then there are days where your prized free agent centers are pried from your fingers. The latter is a bit more rare, but nonetheless accurately describes the maelstrom that has drowned the hopes of the 2009-2010 Mavs.
In a sense, Marcin Gortat would have been a luxury for the Mavs. This team has no shortage in talent, and will even be able to bring a top-notch scorer off the bench as a sixth man. There are two guaranteed locks for the Hall, two former All-Stars, and a serviceable center in the starting five. The Mavs won’t fall to the bottom of the standings without Marcin Gortat, and frankly he’s not the type of player to single-handedly elevate the Mavs to contender status.
But when you evaluate a potential Gortat acquisition in the context of the rest of the summer’s moves (notably the Shawn Marion trade), the Mavs were positioned to make a serious run this season while assembling pieces as part of a long-term plan. In Gortat, the Mavs had seemingly found a high-quality center at a perfectly reasonable price. He was to be a Mav for the next half-decade, rocking rims until Erick Dampier was but a distant memory. Marcin fit seamlessly into the Mavs’ future alongside point guard Rodrigue Beaubois, together forming a two-man foundation to one day relieve Dirk Nowitzki of superstar pressures. Neither player is a sure-thing for stardom, but the Mavs had found “their guys” at the most difficult positions to fill on the floor. That’s something.
Otis Smith apparently had other plans. For the Mavs, the implications of Smith’s decision to retain Gortat are numerous and devastating. Not only do they now have no established insurance policy for Erick Dampier, but face a huge hole if Dampier’s expiring contract is utilized in any sort of interesting way. If the Mavs choose to cash in on Erick Dampier during the upcoming season, they’re faced with the harsh reality of relying on Dirk Nowitzki and likely Ryan Hollins for the majority of the minutes at center. If, as discussed, the Mavs wait to move Dampier until the free agent gauntlet of 2010, then the current team is really only a slight upgrade over the previous model. Adding Shawn Marion is a definite improvement, but with Josh Howard’s questionable ability to defend shooting guards on shoddy ankles and very little depth up front, the Mavs as currently assembled can’t claim to be in the running for anything notable.
From the Magic perspective, the move seems to make plenty of sense and absolutely none whatsoever. Losing a free agent with no compensation can be crippling to a franchise, especially one just a few games short of a championship. It’s not that Orlando needs Gortat specifically, but they may not be able to afford letting him walk. The off-season arms race has seen the rich in both conferences get richer, and while the Mavs are trying to keep pace with the Spurs and Lakers, the Magic are fighting to stay with the Cavaliers and the Celtics. I seriously doubt that Marcin will work into Orlando’s long-term plan (which is why he is “very, very disappointed,”), but this isn’t about what is best for Gortat. This is about what’s best for the Orlando Magic organization, and you cannot fault Otis Smith for doing his job.
I’d still like to throw some less amicable names Smith’s way though, if only because these circumstances are so bizarre. The Mavs and the Magic have essentially worked together twice this summer, first in the deal that brought Marion to the Mavs and a huge trade exception to the Magic, and second in the signing of Brandon Bass. While the Mavs didn’t exactly grant Bass on a silver platter, it was incredibly clear that the Mavs’ position on Bass was largely contingent on acquiring Marcin Gortat. One could certainly blame Donnie Nelson or Mark Cuban for counting their chickens before they hatched, but the whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bass was looking to fill his pockets and log some floor time, and while the contract he signed with the Magic is certainly fair value for his skills and upside, I’d love to hear his take on this latest turn of events. Bass was rumored to be coming off the bench prior to Gortat’s “return,” and now his role and minutes are likely to be decreased further by adding another big man.
On top of complications with Bass’ situation, the Magic will also find themselves in luxury tax territory, which is especially notable because of Orlando’s relatively small market status. Orlando will need to shed salary in order to avoid paying some serious tax dollars, and will be virtually unable to trade Gortat due to his status as a base year compensation player. John Hollinger also noted that the Magic are unable to trade Gortat to the Mavs for a year. Lovely.
This is not easy to swallow. The Mavs have lost out on a quality center so that last year’s Eastern Conference champions could cut their losses while possibly betraying the trust of former Maverick Brandon Bass. As with all things, this initial disappointment will pass. The Mavs still have plenty of time to make the appropriate adjustments in their off-season playbooks, and proceed accordingly. But the ‘Gortat Incident’ may serve as a constant reminder that while the Mavs have plenty of things going right for them this off-season, those with wealth also have plenty to lose.
As per a report from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic will match the Mavs’ offer sheet to Marcin Gortat. More to come, obviously, so stay tuned.
FanHouse’s Tim Povtak with the latest logic-defying rumor from Magic land:
…Marcin Gortat has been hanging around the Orlando Pro Summer League this week, rubbing shoulders with various NBA people. And he doesn’t like what he’s been hearing. Gortat, a restricted free agent, was ecstatic earlier this week after signing an offer sheet worth $33 million over five years with the Dallas Mavericks, believing it was his ticket to both riches and a starting position in the NBA. Now he hears otherwise…”I have a feeling now they (Magic) are going to match it…That’s what I’m hearing, they will match. We’ll have to see, but I’m kind of down right now. Either way, I’ll end up on a pretty good team.” Although Gortat also could see time at power forward in Orlando — the Magic experimented last season with Gortat and Howard playing together — the signing of free agent power forward Brandon Bass on Friday would further limit his role. “I want to develop my game and become a better player,” he said. “I just don’t know if I’d be getting the same minutes to play here as in Dallas.” …Although Gortat’s contract would seem excessive for a backup, the Magic still view him as an asset, and there are plenty of teams looking for centers. They would have to wait at least 90 days before they could trade him. “I’ve said all along, I think the number (his contract) is a little high,” Smith said. “But that doesn’t change how we think. One thing (signing Bass) doesn’t have anything to do with the other (matching Gortat). I’m still working on a few other things, and until those transpire, it’s kind of premature to say what we’re going to do.”
Losing Gortat would be a huge blow to the Mavs’ busy off-season, and seems nonsensical from Orlando’s perspective. This isn’t the biggest of markets, and investing $34 million in a back-up center after just signing another frontcourt player is ill-advised at best. It could be a smokescreen, though I’m not really sure what the benefit would be. That said, if Otis Smith is convinced he can get something in a trade for Gortat, he may end up having the last laugh at Dallas’ expense.
EDIT: Some additions:
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel (via TQC): “While watching summer-league action at RDV Sportsplex, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard yelled at Marcin Gortat, joking, ‘Hey, get out of here. You don’t want to play for the Magic anymore.’ Gortat had just returned from a meeting with Magic General Manager Otis Smith and Gortat’s agent, Guy Zucker, to discuss the offer sheet he signed with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the first day that NBA free agents can officially sign contracts with their new teams. ‘Five years, $34 million,’ Gortat said, so happy with the Mavs’ offer that he broke an unwritten rule among players who never divulge the count and the amount…The Magic could match and trade Gortat to receive compensation this season. They would have to wait 90 days from the start of the season to deal him — hoping that he stays healthy until December — but that doesn’t appear to be on Smith’s agenda. ‘It’s doable,” Smith said. “But right now I’m still thinking the other way [not to match].’”
- Jason Kidd may have been closer to New York than we thought (transcribed by Tas Melas of Sports Radio Interviews): [Host, Dan Patrick:] Was anyone else interested in you other than Dallas and New York? [Kidd:] ‘Those were the two teams – to have the opportunity to play in New York, in the sense of the Garden. (Host: How close were you to going to New York?) I was very close, New York did everything right in the sense of the three-year contract, but Cuban and the Mavs stepped up, and I think we’re pretty close to competing with the Lakers, and the elite teams, Denver, in the western conference. So, I thought it was best for me to stay.’”
- An excellent break-down of the Mavs’ summer league team (via Ridiculous Upside).
- If you think the Mavs are paying too much for Marcin Gortat or Shawn Marion, you clearly haven’t seen the contract the Cleveland Cavaliers just gave to Anderson Varejao.
- This is a damn travesty.
- Don’t forget about Quinton Ross, who should slide into Antoine Wright’s shoes.
- Brendan K. O’Grady, author of 2nd Round Reach, crosses paths with Dirk in his very interesting analysis of Pau Gasol’s role in the league as a “Euro” in a guest post at FreeDarko: “As the best player of the 2006-2007 season, Dirk Nowitzki was poised to become the greatest Euro in history. His Mavericks were a confluence of players with complimentary and very American styles (as presented by Stackhouse, Jason Terry, and especially Josh Howard) yet all were molded around Dirk’s singular, distinctly foreign presence. He brought an alien skill set, and altered the course of the NBA’s season with the effect that only a 7-foot white shooting guard masquerading as a power forward could have on the game…And for prolonged stretches in that year, Dirk’s Euroness was synonymous with the strength of granite mountains, and no longer spoken of with the superficial novelty that once would have come in the same breath as the words “Nikoloz Tskitishvili.” After the first such sustained period of brilliance from the caste’s greatest hero, no more demoralizing a moment could have existed for the Euro than when a shattered Dirk, all sunken-eyes and vacant smile, shook hands and posed with Stern as he accepted his MVP trophy, just a week after being eliminated from contention during the anarchic Warriors’ impossible paroxysm against reality.”
- Anthony Parker appears Cleveland-bound, so cross him off your biannual exception wish lists. Should be good times for the Cavs.
- Interestingly enough, the Shawn Marion trade has temporarily stalled the Zach Randolph-to-Memphis deal. It shouldn’t be anything more than a hiccup, but Clippernation is still holding its collective breath. (via Clips Nation)
- Bethlehem Shoals of The Baseline: “It’s worth noting that, before [Steve] Nash, [Shawn] Marion put up nearly identical stats with [Stephon] Marbury as the Suns point guard, which means The Matrix is either more independent than we thought or Marbury deserves a little credit for something. He’s also 31, which matters more for him than Dirk since his game is premised on athleticism. But it’s not like the Mavs have an option other than to load up now, try the best they can to win a championship in Dirk’s later years, and then start over. While Marion’s far from ideal, with a more up-tempo offense he might get some of his groove back, and it doesn’t hurt that he once played with Kidd (and Kidd’s good at making life easy for his kind of player).”
- Marcin Gortat, on advice he’s received regarding his first big contract (via Eddy Rivera of Third Quarter Collapse): “Yeah, I’ve had a chance to talk to a couple of guys. They all told me that I have to stay humble and just don’t forget about the stuff that I was doing the last two years. I’m talking about being the first in the gym, working on my game, improving every part of m y game so like I said, it’s going to be a huge opportunity for me. I believe I’m going to get more playing time and my role might be bigger next year so I’m just going to try to show that I’m a better basketball player.” More with Gortat here.
- Avery Johnson is no longer in the running to be the head coach of the Pistons. I’m incredibly sympathetic.
- The Avery-less Pistons also have some interest in Brandon Bass, apparently. If Bass is looking for playing time, I’m not sure the place is behind Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell.
- Marcin Gortat, via Tim Povtak of FanHouse: “I think I’m ready to be a starting lineup guy…I’ll have to fight for that spot, but Dallas has all the pieces. Jason Kidd is a great point guard. Dirk Nowitzki is the best power forward in the game, and I just want to help them win.” (Emphasis mine.) Oh Marcin, you shouldn’t have!
- Tim MacMahon’s take on how Marion fits in with the Mavs.