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MF Free Agency Tracker: Ellis to Mavs; Harris Out

by MavsFanatic on July 12, 2013 in Mavs 09 comments

BeFunky_FAtrackerEllis.jpg

Monta Ellis appears to be the newest member of the revamped Dallas Mavericks backcourt. Ellis joins Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Gal Mekel, Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo in a more than crowded fresh crop of guards.

UPDATE: Mavs and Devin Harris mutually shelve the 3-yr $9 million contract. The news on Harris reportedly quickly led to Dallas’ agreement with Monta Ellis. Ellis’ other options were Sacramento, Atlanta and Charlotte.

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Former Mavs guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo feel like a distant memory. Collison is officially a Los Angeles Clipper now and Mayo remains on course to land with the Milwaukee Bucks on a three-year deal worth $24 million.

The deal for Ellis, a 27-year-old scoring guard, appears to land in the three-year $25-$30 million range. Originally reports said the Mavs and Bucks could orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal to send Ellis AND Samuel Dalembert to Dallas, but with the Harris deal off the table Ellis’ signing will be straight up. The extra space will likely be used on a big man.

Ellis’ free agent market cooled after he turned down an extension with the Bucks worth $36 million over three seasons. He went on to fire his longtime agent Jeff Fried and switch to Dan Fegan.

Last season with Milwaukee, Ellis averaged 19 points and 6 assists. The negatives come in the form of Ellis’ inconsistent and ill-advised shooting. Ellis shot 42% from the field and a discouraging 29% from three.

With the new signing of Monta Ellis a few questions have been raised – Why another guard? How good will Ellis be? How will he benefit the Mavs?

Well as you know as a championship team, Mavs ran with three guards, so going small will not be a foreign concept. Now with the addition of Ellis, Mavs are looking just at that with the possible three guard line-up of Calderon, Harris and Ellis.

Now the question of how well will Monta perform, well he now has the help of Dirk Nowitzki who will open the floor and give Ellis plenty of space on the court. Something Ellis hasn’t really had. Also with the help of a true pass-first point guard in Jose Calderon, Ellis will be getting more quality shot opportunities.

In addition Monta’s career point average against the Mavs is 21.6 ppg, which is his highest average against any other Western Conference team. While playing at the American Airlines Center Ellis averaged 21.6 ppg, leading one to believe he really enjoys playing in Dallas.

It is in my honest opinion that adding Monta Ellis is a huge improvement to the already guard-heavy roster. Giving Mavs some depth, and most importantly adding back light to the end of the tunnel.

Expect Ellis’ player efficiency to improve in the Mavericks culture as he teams up with superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki and soaks in the coaching impact of Rick Carlisle.

Check out this video breakdown of Monta Ellis against the Mavs by Rob Mahoney in 2009:

Ellis’ 4th quarter takeover against the Magic:

More on the Monta Ellis acquisition to come, along with details of additional players changing places. Stay tuned!

Follow our newest team member and writer Kaomi Machelle’ on Twitter @TheMavsMistress.

Damian Jackson is a partner at Mavs Fanatic. Follow Damian on Twitter @thedfactor and like our site’s page on Facebook.

 

 

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Can Mavs Reel In Hometown Boy C.J. Miles Too?

by Ryan Wilson on May 12, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

This is how Shawn Marion said he would implore free-agent-to-be point guard Deron Williams to sign this summer with his hometown Dallas Mavericks:”Get your a– home. Home is where the heart is.”In less than two months we’ll find out which way Williams’ heart tugs.

There’s also another local lad, a free-agent-to-be who has all along thought the idea of playing pro ball in his backyard would be pretty cool. In less than two months we’ll find out how interested the Mavs are in bringing home C.J. Miles.

Drafted in 2005 by the Utah Jazz, the Skyline High School product has remained with the Jazz for his entire seven-year career, averaging 8.4 points in 19.3 minutes a game. At just 25 years old, Miles becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 for the first time in his career. Of course, Miles and Williams were former teammates in Utah.

During a May 2010 guest appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Galloway & Company,” the 6-foot-6 shooting guard made it clear he’d like to play at home. Here’s a snippet of how that conversation went:

“I definitely would want to do that at one point in my career. Just to have that feeling. That hometown feeling of having my friends and family behind me to see me play and see how I’ve grown. I definitely have that feeling sometimes.”

As for what it would take to make it happen?

“I don’t know. I guess I’d have to be free and, if they were interested, I’d definitely take it into high consideration.”

With Jason Terry hitting free agency, will the Mavs be in the market for a young, athletic shooting guard? Miles, who earned $3.7 million this season, isn’t exactly a sharpshooter, hitting for 38.1 percent overall this season and 30.7 percent from beyond the arc. His career numbers are just a few notches better at 41.9 percent and 32.9 percent, respectively.

Miles recently told the Deseret News that he is looking forward to exploring his options and that being reunited with Williams is an intriguing possibility.

“If that was an issue that came up I definitely would look at it. Who wouldn’t, especially with the way that team is built now,” Miles said. “They’re aging a little bit and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be looking for some guys that do some of the things I do.”

Would the Mavs be interested? So much depends on if Williams signs, which players remain on the roster after any trades to create additional cap space and how much money the Mavs then have to fill out the roster. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones both have a year left on their deals and Vince Carter will probably be returning. Delonte West joins Terry in free agency.

The Mavs shipped off athletic small forward Corey Brewer before last season, but there’s no doubt they want an infusion of youth and athleticism in their backcourt.

Now it’s all about how the dominoes fall.

Jeff Caplan

ESPNDallas.com

Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Stars and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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Cuban Must Do What Jerry Did Not

by Ryan Wilson on May 10, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Nearly 20 years ago, Jerry Jones lied to himself about the importance of having a quality coach.

Six coaches later, he’s still searching for the next Jimmy Johnson. Maybe Jason Garrett is the guy for the Dallas Cowboys. Who knows? It’s still too early to tell.

That brings us to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who often fancies himself the smartest dude in the room.

Most of the time, he is. But if he doesn’t sign Rick Carlisle to a new deal real soon, then he’s not as smart as we think.

Yo Mark, get it done. Pay the man.

Now.

There’s no need to wait a week or two. Carlisle is among the NBA’s best coaches — and he has a shiny championship bauble with glittering diamonds to prove it.

You’re not going to find a better coach. Phil Jackson ain’t coaching the Mavs. Gregg Popovich ain’t leaving the San Antonio Spurs. SMU just hired Larry Brown, and you don’t want Kentucky’s John Calipari.

So quit jacking with Carlisle and get a deal done, so we can focus on free agency.

We’ve all heard the same chatter. Carlisle loves it here. He loves working for Cuban and the Mavs. When two parties like each other, a deal gets done.

OK, so what’s taking so long?

We all know Cuban should’ve given Carlisle a new deal soon after the Mavs won the only title in franchise history, but we’ve been told Cuban doesn’t work that way.

Whatever.

As Jerry found out, every coach can’t be replaced. Sure, you can replace the man, but it’s considerably more difficult to replace the man’s intangibles.

Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is finding that out. He’s on his second coach, while the man he fired — Dave Tippett — leads Phoenix into the Western Conference finals.

And you’re fooling yourself if you think the Texas Rangers would be playing at the same high level without Ron Washington in the dugout. Washington gives the Rangers swag with his unbridled emotion.

Carlisle gives the Mavs an edge because he holds every player accountable. You don’t find that too often in the NBA, a league in which players often have more power than the coach.

 

Carlisle has figured out how to walk that fine line between earning respect from the players and letting them walk over him.

He’s benched Jason Terry and orderedJason Kidd to take a game off to preserve his health. But when he sees a guy like Brandan Wright working hard in practice and improving, he’ll give him minutes.

The players understand Carlisle’s mantra. “Be ready” is not just lip service. He communicates well — even if he’s having difficult conversations with players. What’s not to like about the way he handled the Lamar Odomsituation?

First, he praised Odom. Then he criticized him while telling the world that he needed to play, “like his pants were on fire.” At the end, Carlisle grew weary of answering questions about Odom.

That’s when we knew Odom’s days were limited.

Carlisle’s also not afraid to admit when he screws up, whether it was not getting Terry enough shots in the second half of the Game 1 series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder or failing to make a defensive adjustment on Brandon Roy in Game 4 of the Mavs’ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers last season.

See, Carlisle holds himself to the same high standard as the players. Not every coach does that because they’re too busy covering their own behinds.

Cuban also needs to consider that Carlisle understands how to coexist with the tempestuous owner. Carlisle doesn’t mind that Cuban sits next to the bench and occasionally yells at the players louder and longer than Carlisle does as they come off the court.

Remember, it was Cuban — not Carlisle — who had a locker room confrontation with Odom during halftime of a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that ultimately led to the Mavs making Odom inactive the rest of the season.

Essentially, Cuban fired Odom that afternoon. Some coaches would resent that. Carlisle remained focused on the season.

If he’s honest, Cuban knows he gave Carlisle an emotionally fragile and dysfunctional team after he gutted the roster to ensure the Mavs would have cap room this summer.

Carlisle probably should have received votes for coach of the year after guiding this team with eight players in their 30s to a 36-30 record.

The first step in becoming a contender again is for the Mavs to sign Deron Williams. It’ll be easier if Williams knows Carlisle is the coach.

This is no time for arrogance. Or petulance. Hopefully, Cuban will learn from Jerry’s mistake.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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In The Paint With Tony Clayton

by Ryan Wilson on May 10, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

As the 4th quarter started on Saturday, I sat and watched the game with an apprehensive state of mind.  Would the Mavs go out swinging and pick up at least 1 win in the series?  Or would they fold and let the Thunder storm back in it with a fury?  Well, we all know what happened.  Shortly after the final buzzer, I just sat still with the sound off.  My earlier yelling had scared my wife and she stayed in the bedroom so I had time for private reflection.

“They was a better team. They did everything right and everything bounced their way, and it’s frustrating when you’re sitting here thinking about, contemplating what’s the scenario, this or that. But at the end of the day, we have a lot of free agents on this team and we’re going to see what’s going to happen for the summer and go from there.”

My first thought was obviously anger.  I despised the fact that a player like Russell Westbrook was getting a chance to wrap the series up on our floor.  I was angry that so many Mavs “fans” let their tickets go to OKC fans.  I was upset that we blew a lead…..again.  But a part of me was happy that this Mavs team was put out their misery.  The whole season was full of heart break and disappointment.  But the final buzzer on Saturday night finally pulled the plug on this season that was on bed rest.

“Time goes by fast and it doesn’t seem like 11 months ago,” Carlisle said. But look, as great as the championship run was, there always comes a time when you have to look forward and that’s where things are at now. I look at this summer for this franchise as a summer of opportunity and excitement, and I don’t think anybody should look at it any differently.”

I keep a glass cabinet in my living room with my favorite pieces of sports memorabilia.  As I sat and replayed the game in my head I looked over and saw the few sports illustrated magazines and the championship hat from last year.  I couldn’t help but think about this time last year as we were finishing off the Trailblazers.  We had no idea what we were about to experience.  We had no idea of the amazing run that we were in for.  My mind shot back to reality and I see the Thunder celebrating a sweep.  My how things have changed in a year.

There are a lot of built in excuses for the Maverick’s 2012 Season.  We all know the loss of Tyson Chandler was an issue, especially in the playoffs.  We all know about the Lamar Odom situation and how it seemed to sabotage the season.  A shortened season was also a factor due to the limited practice time.  There’s also the fact that the Mavericks were the oldest team in the league.  But with our cautious optimism, we thought that veteran leadership and experience would get us past teams in the postseason.  “Just make the playoffs”.  That was our motto all season as this team made it through the regular season.  Well, we made the playoffs, but our Title defense wasn’t much of a defense at all.  Other than 3 hard fought “moral victories”, the Mavs were sent home in the worst way possible……sweep.

It almost seems unfair that this team wasn’t allowed a fighters chance of a repeat.  We lost important pieces of the roster before the season even began.  But it also seemed that starting the day after our championship; the media was out to get this team.  “Can the Mavs repeat?”  “The Mavs got lucky and caught a Heat team that played badly.”  Even during this season we had to hear Charles Barkley say that “Dirk is done.”  We most recently had to hear Colin Cowherd say that “Dirk isn’t an elite player.”  The Mavericks championship was tossed to the stack with the 2003 Marlins, 2006 Heat, 2000 Ravens, and other teams that got “lucky” or “one hit wonders”.  It’s as if the franchise or the city isn’t sexy enough for the media because Dirk shoots jumpers and because we don’t have a player that dunks over KIAs.  And don’t be fooled.  This Mavericks team was counted out even before we lost Tyson Chandler.  People still couldn’t believe their eyes as this team sent the Heat home in 6 games.  We weren’t talked about as contenders for 2012.

Although I despise fans that always point to past titles during a sports argument, its 100% allowable in this case.  Sometimes I feel that nobody understands or respects this team outside the city of Dallas and the few scattered Mavs fans throughout the nation.  Even Dallas’ very own media talking heads count this team out year after year.  A majority of them were guilty of it even last year.  That’s you TIM COWLISHAW!  If an “analyst” or “expert” or anyone else tries telling you that this team didn’t deserve last years title, or that we’re “one and done”, or that this team showed its true colors in 2012, be sure to remind them of one of the greatest playoff performances the game has ever seen in 2011.  Be sure to tell them about the legend of Dirk Nowitzki who has been counted out and been called “done” and “soft” to this day.

What the common person or NBA bandwagon fan (98% of Thunder fans) doesn’t learn from the media is that outside of the Lakers and Spurs, no other team in the Western Conference has been as dominant in the last decade as the Mavericks have.  They’ve had 12 straight playoff appearances which are second most to the Spurs and are one of only 3 Western Conference teams that have won a title since 1995.  The Mavericks were once one of the worst sports franchises of all time.  Dallas has dug itself out from the darkest basement to the top of the basketball world.   So it’s a bit disturbing to see this franchise constantly treated like they’re at the kids table at Thanksgiving dinner.  Always looking to sit with the big kids but getting patted on the head and being told to “run along” and play with the other franchises.

The Mavericks may look much different in November of 2012.  It’s highly likely that we’ll be without Jason Terry and Jason Kidd.  Oh, but what a ride it was.  There will be a number “31” and “2” in the rafters when it’s all said and done.  The Mavericks will have many new changes to the roster with the loss of free agents and with the acquisitions of new, younger talent.  As great as the past decade has been, the recent sweep of the Mavericks should not mean doom and gloom.  It’s only a speed bump on the road back to title town.  We should all just trust that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will make the best decision given the financial resources.  Its going to be a great off season.

 

So ends my first edition of “In The Paint” Hope you all enjoyed!

 

Stand tall and proud, Maverick fans.

 

May 10 , 2012

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Lamar Odom: A Costly Mistake

by Ryan Wilson on May 7, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Once Mark Cuban gave the go-ahead to gut the Dallas Mavericks‘ roster and let key players such as Tyson ChandlerCaron Butler and J.J. Barea sign with other teams, we figured the Mavs weren’t going to repeat as champions.

So fans tempered their expectations and prepared for an early playoff exit, though it’s doubtful anyone figured the Mavs would get swept out of the playoffs as the Western Conference’s seventh seed.

Still, when it was all said and done, the Mavs would have the salary cap room they needed to sign Deron Williams orDwight Howard this summer.

While it wasn’t the preferred method of doing business after winning a championship, fans understood the ground rules, whether they agreed with the concept or not.

Then Cuban and Donnie Nelson ruined it all.

They acquired Lamar Odom, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, for the equivalent of a couple of Wal-Mart gift cards and a pair of Air Jordans.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that adding Lam Lam, who had the epitome of a loser mentality this season, was the single biggest mistake Cuban and Nelson made this season because acquiring Odom gave fans hope.

They believed Lam Lam and his versatile skill set — passing, rebounding, scoring and defense — would make the Mavs contenders after all.

Now, of course, we know the rest of the story.

Cuban and Nelson were wrong about Lam Lam’s impact on the Mavs. All of us were wrong.

His addition was a colossal failure, the worst free acquisition in the NBA this season. The worse acquisition of its type on Mavs history.

Yes, worse than Antoine Rigaudeau and Chris Anstey. It was even worse than Tariq Abdul-Wahad. None of those players were supposed to help the Mavs defend a title. None of those players came with Lam Lam’s résumé. None of those dudes ratcheted up expectations, positioning fans to have their collective hearts yanked out by Lam Lam’s indifference on the basketball court.

Nothing is worse than false hope — fool’s gold, if you will. That’s Lam Lam’s legacy in Dallas.

That’s because he didn’t care about playing here or being a professional for whatever reason. All he wanted was some sucker to pay his salary this season.

You can blame an offseason filled with personal tragedy. Or you can blame Lam Lam’s indifference on heartbreak after the Los Angeles Lakers failed to dump him on New Orleans before sending him to the Mavs.

You can even blame his wife, if you choose, and her silly reality show, because it stole what little focus Lam Lam had from basketball.

Without the distraction Lam Lam provided, the Mavs would’ve maximized the talent on this team with the unselfish brand of play that’s become the norm under Rick Carlisle.

Who knows how many games they would’ve won? But we all know they would’ve performed better if they hadn’t spent so much time placating Lam Lam or begging him to play.

All the time they spent publicly and privately dealing with his issues and hangups and baggage sucked the spirit from this team.

In the end, Carlisle grew weary of even answering questions about Lam Lam. So did Dirk Nowitzki.

Too late.

By the time the Mavs told him to get lost for the rest of the season, his negativity had already infected the Mavs. Tell me, who’s surprised Lam Lam’s teammates reportedly voted not to give him a playoff share?

No one.

My opinion of Lam Lam has changed since he first arrived in Dallas. Everyone deals with tragedy differently, so I thought we should be patient as he sorted through his personal issues.

But when the reports came out that he was habitually late to practice and meetings and showed no inclination that he wanted to buy into Carlisle’s program, it became clear we’d all been played.

Then you read Lam Lam’s timeline on Twitter these days when he’s talking about running on the beach with his wife. Or planning to be a fashion icon like Diddy. Or working to be the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year next season.

Whatever.

All those tweets do is remove all doubt that he played Cuban, Nelson and the fans.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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Different Thunder This Time Around

by Ryan Wilson on May 6, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

For the fourth time in these playoffs, Dirk Nowitzki clambered onto the dais, dislodged the microphone from its stand and draped his left arm over an adjacent chair as he took questions about the multitude of problems caused by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

For the last time, too.

Four looks at Nowitzki’s signature routine at the postgame podium are all you’re getting this postseason, amazingly, after the Thunder ran the same pick-and-roll play an astounding 16 times in Saturday night’s fourth quarter to broom the defenseless defending champs right out of the first round.

The last team standing in 2011 became the first team eliminated in 2012 when Thunder coach Scotty Brooks, having lost Kendrick Perkins early and facing a 13-point deficit late, simply handed the ball to James Harden and watched him dice up Dallas repeatedly on a play called “Angle.”

With Harden rumbling for 15 of his 29 points in that final period and Nowitzki’s limited Mavericks fading at the finish, OKC surged from its double-digit hole to claim a 103-97 victory at American Airlines Center and seal the first sweep of a Dirk-led team.

 

 

 

“If you look at the team we just lost to, it was [Russell] Westbrook in Game 1 and Game 2, it was Durant [in Game 3], and today they just throw it to Harden and he goes off,” Nowitzki said.

“If you want to be an elite team in this league right now, you have to have at least two or three guys that can just go off at any time. I just thought they had more weapons than us. That was pretty clear.”

That’s apparently not all the maturing Thunder have, either.

“The thing that impressed me most about them is that they have a certain look in their eye right now,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Not just that they belong, but that this could be their time. They came at us like a buzz saw in the fourth quarter.”

It’s a gleam that Carlisle knows and remembers well. The Mavs had it this time last year and used that edge, along with their considerable experience and hunger, to boss the Thunder in the Western Conference finals in another deceptively short series, filled with close games like this one.

That, though, was last season … something else Carlisle knows better than anyone. Nowitzki (34 points) and Jason Kidd (16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the finale of his first season without a single triple-double) stubbornly tried to drag Dallas to a Game 5 in Oklahoma City on Monday night, if only for pride, but ultimately they couldn’t prevent a hasty end to one of the most bizarre, conflicted and ultimately disappointing title defenses in the history of North American team sports.

Of its key personnel, apart from bargain signing Brandan Wright, Nowitzki and Kidd are the only two Mavericks who know for sure that they’re welcome back in 2012-13. That even applies to Carlisle, whose original four-year contract expires in June and whose status as one of just three active coaches to have won a championship (alongside San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Boston’s Doc Rivers) hasn’t yet moved Mavs owner Mark Cuban to make an exception to his longstanding aversion to extending current contracts for anyone not named Nowitzki.

These are the circumstances that everyone in Big D at least understood, if not accepted, when the lockout ended in December and culture-changing center Tyson Chandler was sign-and-traded to New York. The failed gamble on Lamar Odom — billed as Dallas’ answer to a wild card like Harden for a season — realistically snuffed out any hope of a playoff run of any substance … which only strengthened the notion around the league that the Mavs’ primary objective this season was winning the offseason.

Only now the offseason has arrived faster than any Mav imagined even in their nightmare scenarios. Nowitzki, for starters, insisted from the interview podium that he couldn’t yet process the idea that title-team stalwarts such as Jason Terry and Shawn Marion might have made their final appearances in Mavs colors on Cinco de Mayo, despite Dallas’ well-chronicled intentions to clear as much salary-cap space as possible in July to try to steal North Texas’ own Deron Williams away from the Brooklyn Nets.

“The end kind of snuck up on us now,” Nowitzki said.

Carlisle tried to sound an optimistic note, comparing Chandler’s departure to Steve Nash‘s in 2004: “I remember when Nash left, everyone thought this thing was over. But Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban, they have a resourcefulness about them.”

The reality, though, is that, to use the local football parlance, Dallas has seen the goalposts move since letting Chandler go. Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com this week that the Mavs were convinced early on in their 2012 planning that having sufficient salary-cap space to be able to legitimately recruit Dwight Howard alongside Williams was the surest route to landing Williams. The problem there, of course, is Howard’s unexpected decision in March to delay his free agency to 2013 has left Williams solo on the Mavs’ list of “big fish” — to use a term both Nelson and Nowitzki have mentioned to local reporters — while they remain well shy of possessing the requisite trade assets to offer Orlando for Dwight via trade.

And it naturally doesn’t take a great leap from there to start asking yourself if a frontcourt duo of Nowitzki and Chandler, had Dallas independently elected to spend what it took to keep them together, might have appealed to D-Will more than any other potential tandem of teammates he’s offered this summer now that hooking up with Howard is no longer feasible.

We just don’t know yet.

I’ve believed from the start that Cuban, after delivering Dallas its first NBA crown and spending millions in luxury tax over his decade-plus in charge to get there, has more than earned the right to try to build a team any new way he sees fit. Yet the huge risk remains for him that Dallas has no fish of consequence to pursue if Williams chooses to stay with the Nets, who can offer one more season contractually than the Mavs along with added marketing opportunities because of their new address.

One source well-acquainted with Williams’ thinking told ESPN.com this weekend that the Mavericks, in their current state, have no better than a “50-50 shot” of getting D-Will’s signature in July … despite the fact that the Nets aren’t any closer to landing Howard than they are.

“We never had cap space [before],” Nowitzki said. “So they made the decision to go for that and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes out of that. We have no idea now. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the summer or the summer after that. We’ll just have to kind of wait and see who can we get, who’s available and who wants to come here. That’s going to be something we’re going to see in the future. We can’t make a judgment on that now.”

Not unless we bring it back to the Thunder.

It’s not like they’re not without their own dramas. They’ll need Perkins’ strained right hip to heal during this suddenly convenient wait for a winner in the Denver-L.A. Lakers series. And as Carlisle said of Brooks’ own expiring contract and Thunder general manager Sam Presti: “I hope Sam’s got enough money to sign him, because he’s going to be in high demand if they don’t get that done.”

Yet the focus, on merit, needs to stay on the floor after OKC closed the Mavs out with that finishing kick: 35-16 in the fourth.

Which only adds to the perception that one year of experience has made a huge difference in this case.

“Their role players look great,” Nowitzki said. “They have defenders and shot-makers and playmakers and a great shot-blocker [in Serge Ibaka].

“They look really good.”

Said Durant: “The Mavericks went on a nice little run in that third quarter and we didn’t crumble. I think that’s part of our team. We’re growing in that area.”

ESPN.com senior writer Marc Stein

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Cuban: No Regrets

by Ryan Wilson on May 6, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Even with his defending NBA championship team on the verge of first-round elimination, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had no regrets about his post-lockout decision not to retain the core of last season’s team.

“If you want to nail me for something, I’ll be the first to admit that it was a huge (expletive) that I didn’t fight for the new (collective bargaining agreement) harder,” Cuban said before the Mavs attempted to avoid being swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Saturday’s Game 4. “I said it before. I’ll say it again. It put us and other teams in a bad spot, and it was an overnight handshake deal that I should have fought harder. I’m the first to say that.

“That was my mistake, because once that thing passed, our hands were tied in a lot of respects. But within that, we did the best we could. And we’re not out of it yet.”

Speaking on the record for the first time during this series, Cuban maintained that if he re-signed center Tyson Chandler, the most high-profile of the free agents that left the Mavs after the lockout, he wouldn’t have had the financial flexibility to field a competitive roster this season.

Mavs guard Jason Terry, a free-agent-to-be for the first time in his career, was the most vocal critic throughout the season among the remaining members of the title team regarding Cuban’s dismantling of the club.

After the Oklahoma City Thunder completed a four-game sweep of the defending champs Saturday night with a 103-97 victory, Terry said Cuban knows the roster assembled wasn’t good enough to make a serious run at another title.

“Yeah, he knows it, the city knows, we all know it as players,” Terry said. “But with the team we have, the nucleus we have, the core group of guys, we feel like we can beat anybody; that’s just us as competitors. But, again, you have to have the personnel. You have to have the personnel to get it done.”

Terry said losing key players such as Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson, and replacing them with Delonte West, Vince Carter in the twilight of his career and Lamar Odom, whose emotional baggage got the best of him and forced Cuban to kick him off the team, made the Mavs a long shot to contend.

 

“If you look at our roster to a man, it was a long shot this year. But we still made the playoffs, but we just didn’t have enough.

– Jason Terry

 

“Every year I’ve been on the Mavericks team and we’ve had a realistic chance, it’s because of the personnel,” Terry said. “Look at your personnel and what they surround you with, your core nucleus and you can see if you have a realistic shot. For us, it was a long shot. Nobody’s going to downplay that at all. If you look at our roster to a man, it was a long shot this year. But we still made the playoffs, but we just didn’t have enough.”

Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki said after Game 3 the Mavs had taken a step back from last season. After the 103-97 Game 4 season-ender, he made perhaps his most definitive statement on the disappointment of the title not returning.

“Knowing as players, we were for sure disappointed in December in free agency when we didn’t get the same team back,” Nowitzki said. “That’s for sure.”

Prior to Game 4, Cuban bristled at the theory that he didn’t try to field as competitive a roster as possible this season, pointing out the Mavs went back over the luxury-tax line because of the failed Odom trade. He insists his decision-making process was intended to give the Mavs as good a chance to repeat as champions while “not destroying our future.”

“We went through it every which way we could and tried to figure out the best way to be successful,” Cuban said. “Given what happened, I think we put together a damn good team. Like I said, one break, one call, one bounce, we’re having a completely different conversation and you’re thinking how smart we are instead of saying how stupid we are.”

Mavs superstar and reigning NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who signed a four-year contract before last season at a discount rate to help Cuban chase free agents, said only time will tell if Cuban made the right decision not to keep the title team intact.

“We would have loved to keep the troops together as players,” Nowitzki said. “We would have loved to get the guys back and give it a true shot to defend, but Mark and [Mavs president of basketball operations] Donnie [Nelson], they made a business decision to really go for cap space for the first time really since I can remember being a Maverick. We never had cap space, so they made the decision to go for that, and we’ll just have to wait and see what comes out of that.”

Cuban, who was confrontational and critical of the media for not studying and fully understanding the complexities of the new CBA, claimed he hasn’t had any second thoughts after not offering a long-term deal to Chandler, widely recognized as the Mavs’ emotional leader last season. Chandler won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award with theNew York Knicks this season.

“Oh, hell no. No, no, no, nope,” Cuban said when asked if he has second-guessed himself. “Not even a millisecond. Because those that are talking otherwise haven’t read the CBA, like I know you guys haven’t, and are just talking out their ass without any foundation.”

Cuban also insists that, contrary to widespread speculation, he has not formulated a firm plan for how the Mavs will approach this offseason. He said the Mavs will study the market first and take a reactive approach.

That contradicts Nelson’s comments earlier this season about targeting a “big fish” — presumably All-Star point guard Deron Williams — in free agency. Dirk Nowitzki has also mentioned recently that the front office’s December decisions can’t be judged until it’s seen whether the Mavs land a “big fish.”

“I haven’t said anything about what our strategy is going to be,” Cuban said. “We’re going to do the same thing we try to do every year — build the best possible team we can.”

Nowitzki, having completed his 14th season in Dallas and a 12th consecutive playoff appearance, said the franchise’s future is as wide open as it is uncertain.

“We have no idea now. We don’t know what’s going to happen this summer. We don’t know what’s going to happen the summer after that,” Nowitzki said. “But we’ll just have to kind of wait and see who can we get, who’s available and who wants to come here. That’s going to be something we see in the future. We can’t make a judgment on that now.”

Jeff Caplan

ESPNDallas.com

Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Stars and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Tim MacMahon

ESPNDallas.com

  • Joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009
  • Covers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks
  • Worked at Dallas Morning News for six years

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Mavs Swept By Thunder

by Ryan Wilson on May 6, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Oklahoma City kept picking and rolling, and James Harden kept making plays.

Instead of giving in and being content going home for a Game 5, the Thunder now are waiting for their next series. Oklahoma City rallied for a 103-97 victory on Saturday night to complete a first-round series sweep of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Harden scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, including seven in a row and nine in the Thunder’s 12-0 run after they trailed by 13 points with 9:44 left.

“I got into attack mode,” Harden said. “I was determined to make plays.”

After the Harden-fueled surge over 3 minutes got the Thunder within a point, they finally took the lead — and kept it — when Russell Westbrook stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and passed to Serge Ibakafor a two-handed slam that made it 92-91 with 5:17 left.

“He beat us in individual drives, beat us in pick and rolls. He got up a head of steam and was great,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Harden. “We tried everything, five or six different coverages going. We needed to be better but it was more about how good he was.”

Dallas is the second defending champion in five years to be swept in the first round. After beating the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals, Miami lost in four games to Chicago the next year.

Kevin Durant had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Thunder, who will play the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver. The Lakers lead that first-round series 2-1 going into Game 4 on Sunday night in Denver.

“This goes without saying, I’m excited we won the series,” coach Scott Brooks said. “James had an incredible game. We ran pick and rolls at the angles. … He was making plays for himself or our shooters.”

Even when Harden bobbled the ball in the fourth quarter after Oklahoma City took the lead, Derek Fisherended up with it and drove for a layup to make it 96-91. Nowitzki then had a shot that hit the rim a couple of times before falling out.

Nowitzki had 34 points, including all six of his free throws after that. But he also missed a couple of shots in that span, all that were close but not good.

With their 20-something All-Star duo of Durant and Westbrook along with the late-season addition of Fisher, who won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder got the franchise’s first four-game playoff sweep since 1996.

That’s when they were still the Seattle SuperSonics and swept the Houston Rockets in a second-round series.

“If you want to be an elite team in this league, you got to have two or three guys who can go off at any time and I just thought they had more weapons than us,” Nowitzki said.

Oklahoma City finished off the Mavs without starting center Kendrick Perkins, who left the game with 4:09 left in the first quarter with a right hip strain. He had two rebounds, two assists and missed his only shot in his 8 minutes.

Jason Kidd, the Mavericks’ 39-year-old point guard, had 16 points and eight assists.Jason Terry had 11 points in what might have also been his last game in Dallas.

Westbrook and Fisher had 12 points each for the Thunder.

Dallas led 86-73 on a 3-pointer by Terry before Harden scored seven in a row — on a three-point play and two other baskets. Durant then made a 3-pointer, and after Nowitzki was short on a 14-footer, Harden drove for a powerful two-handed slam that got the Thunder within 86-85.

The game was tied at halftime before Nowitzki had 12 points and Kidd made three 3-pointers in the third quarter, when the Mavs scored 34 points to take an 81-68 lead.

Dallas had never been swept in a best-of-seven series. And the Mavericks hadn’t lost four playoff games in a row since the 2006 NBA Finals against the Heat, when they took a 2-0 series lead before losing the rest.

Now they are the oldest team in the NBA, and vastly changed from last year’s championship squad.

Still, the Mavs looked like they were ready after halftime to at least force the series back to Oklahoma City, where they opened the series with two losses by a combined four points before losing by 16 at home in Game 3 on Thursday night.

Nowitzki drove around Ibaka for a tiebreaking one-handed reverse layup less than a minute into the second half, and the lead was up to 64-54 when Shawn Marion had a slam dunk.

The closest the Thunder got the rest of the third quarter was six points, but Kidd stretched that back out with another 3-pointer.

Carlisle had talked during the off day about the Mavericks controlling their emotions after his outburst in the first quarter of Game 3. He had to be held back by an assistant coach when he charged onto the court and was pointing and screaming at an official because of what he said were three missed calls on one possession, ending with Oklahoma City scoring on what appeared to be basket interference.

Before the end of the first quarter Saturday night, Carlisle was mad again — and for good reason.

Kidd had bad pass that went out of bounds, but officials missed that the ball was deflected in the air by Harden. Replays showed clearly that Carlisle had a gripe and that the loud boos were warranted.

Fisher then made it worse by hitting a 22-foot jumper when play resumed. But Vince Carter made a 3-pointer to get the Mavs within 26-24 before drawing a charge from Harden near midcourt.

Game notes
This was Dallas’ 23rd best-of-seven playoff series. The only time the Mavericks had been swept in the postseason was in the a first-round series in 1990 when they lost a best of five against Portland. …. Ibaka fouled out with 2:14 left. … Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls for the Cowboys, sat in a front-row seat near midcourt.

 

 

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Rolling Thunder Have Defending Champs On Ropes

by Ryan Wilson on May 4, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

When Kevin Durant finally found his postseason shooting touch for Oklahoma City, the young Thunder were off and running.

And now they are already only one victory from knocking the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs.

Unlike the first two games in Oklahoma City, Game 3 wasn’t even close. Durant got the Thunder off to a quick start and they never trailed on the way to a 95-79 victory Thursday night for a commanding 3-0 series lead.

“Kevin is going to stay confident,” said fellow 20-something All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook. “Tonight, he was just his regular self. He kind of surprised everybody else, but to us he was his regular self.”

Even though Durant missed the first shot of the game, Serge Ibakaturned that into a putback basket. Durant then scored nine points in an early 3-minute span, including two 3-pointers and a 17-foot fadeaway, as Oklahoma City took a 14-7 lead.

Durant finished with 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The three-time NBA scoring champion was a combined 15 of 44 in the first two games of the series, though he had a game-winning jumper with 1.5 seconds in the opener.

“He was jumping over us and making shots,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.

Westbrook added 20 points while Ibaka had 10 points and 11 rebounds, whileJames Harden and Derek Fisher both had 10 points.

Now the Thunder get a chance to put away the best-of-seven series in Game 4 Saturday night in Dallas.

“We know we haven’t done anything yet,” Durant said.

OK, so they haven’t won the series yet. But they have put the Mavericks in a hole that no NBA team has ever overcome. None has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

The Mavericks have a nearly impossible climb to avoid being the first defending champion knocked out in the first round of the playoffs since Miami five years ago. After beating Dallas in the 2006 NBA finals, the Heat were swept in four games by Chicago in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs the next season.

“Our mistakes we weren’t able to overcome. Their high-level play, we weren’t able to overcome either,” Carlisle said. “It’s really tough to go down 0-3. We’re going to keep fighting.”

Dirk Nowitzki had 17 points to lead Dallas, which lost the first two games by a combined four points.

“We played two solid games in OKC. Tonight, we picked a bad time to put a stinker out there,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to win a game. … We’ve got to show some pride on Saturday.”

Oklahoma City had a 16-7 lead less than 5 minutes into the game after Durant’s alley-oop pass to Ibaka for a layup. The Thunder pushed ahead with 16-5 runs in both the second and third quarters, the later spurt clinching the game.

When Kendrick Perkins had a tip-in of Harden’s miss with 4 minutes left in the first quarter, Carlisle was so irate that the field goal wasn’t disallowed for basket interference that he had to be restrained by one of his assistant coaches.

Carlisle went ballistic, charging onto the court screaming and pointing at official Marc Davis. Replays showed Carlisle might have had a good argument, but he got called for a technical foul and Westbrook’s free throw put the Thunder up 21-11, their first double-digit lead.

“There’s been frustration with officials, but we’re not going to make it about officials,” Carlisle said.

A couple of minutes later, Durant made his third 3-pointer to stretch the gap to 28-13. Durant had 15 points by the end of the first quarter.

Dallas did cut the deficit to 32-26 by the end of the first quarter after Vince Cartermade two free throws, had a driving one-handed dunk and ended the quarter with a 3-pointer in the final 1:34 for Dallas. Delonte West started the second quarter with two free throws.

But the Thunder were again up by 15 after consecutive 3-pointers by Fisher and Westbrook.

Harden made a cross-court pass to Fisher in the left corner in front of the Oklahoma City bench. Then after a wide-open Shawn Marion fumbled the ball out of bounds under the Dallas basket, Westbrook hit a 3-pointer for a 48-33 lead that led to a timeout by Carlisle.

Dallas got a slam from Ian Mahinmi and a driving layup by Kidd in the opening minute of the third quarter to get within 50-45.

But the Thunder then had their second 16-5 run, and was back up 66-50 when Thabo Sefolosha made a 3-pointer. The Mavericks never got closer than 11 points after that, finishing the third quarter only 4-of-18 shooting with four turnovers.

“We can’t get frustrated. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They kicked our butt in every facet of the game,” Mavs guard Jason Terry said. “We’ve got to come out with pride and execute our game plan. We haven’t done that in this series.”

Game notes
Harden was added earlier Thursday to the list of finalists for the 2012 USA Basketball National Team. Thunder teammates Durant and Westbrook are also finalists for the 12-man U.S. Olympic team roster that will be announced later this year. … Dallas was assessed four technical fouls. Nowitzki got called for one in the first quarter, and West was called in the third quarter when he reached out and grabbed the wrist of official Greg Willard when questioning a call. There was a double technical early in the fourth against Brian Cardinal and Durant.

 

 

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Mavericks Won't Go Down Without A Fight

by Ryan Wilson on May 2, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

What a short, strange trip this season has been for the Dallas Mavericks.

It started with the post-lockout stripping of a championship roster, and it now appears on the verge of ending with a first-round elimination. The mediocre Mavericks team from this crazy, lockout-compressed season will be mostly remembered for the divorces with two players (Tyson Chandler and Lamar Odom) who weren’t anywhere near Oklahoma City as Dallas dug an 0-2 hole against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Unless the Mavs manage to pull off a miracle.

That’s what it would take for the old, slow Mavs to rally to beat the young, fast Thunder in this rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals. The record of teams that fall behind 0-2 in best-of-seven series in NBA history is 14-226.

“We’ve got to win one to get in the series,” said Jason Terry, the hero of the 2005 first-round series when the Mavs overcame an 0-2 deficit to defeat the Houston Rockets. “We’re not even in the series yet.”

Miracles do happen. The Mavs’ previous postseason trip to OKC provided proof of that. Dallas became the first team in 15 years to rally from a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes for a playoff victory, essentially crushing OKC’s hopes with that Game 4 win. The Mavs also pulled off wins after trailing by at least 15 in the second half of games in Los Angeles and Miami en route to chugging $90,000 champagne and dancing with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in Club Liv.

There are all kinds of reasons that the Mavs were such dominant closers a year ago: the clutch shotmaking of Dirk Nowitzki and Terry, the smarts and savvy of Jason Kidd and Rick Carlisle, the in-your-face attitude and defensive presence of Shawn Marion and Chandler. Oh, and more than a little luck.

A year later, this team can’t seem to catch a break.

“It’s kind of the way our season’s been going,” said Nowitzki, who watched his fadeaway in the final minute roll around the rim and out a couple of nights after seeing Oklahoma City’sKevin Durant get the shooter’s roll on the game-winner. “They get their bounce the last game. We don’t get it, so that’s frustrating. But gotta keep coming.”

 

Maybe the basketball gods got mad that owner Mark Cuban opted for future financial flexibility instead of keeping the championship core together, allowing Chandler and others to leave in free agency after offering only one-year deals.

Cuban has been accused of mailing in this season, but that makes no sense considering the luxury-tax dollars he spent to add Odom in a salary-dump deal with the Lakers. What seemed like a coup blew up in Cuban’s face, forcing him to finally admit that Odom’s lazy, chronically late antics were sucking the life out of the locker room.

At least the Mavs got a playoff slogan out of Odom’s disgrace of a tenure in Dallas: “Are you in?” That’s what Cuban shouted at Odom in the locker room at halftime of an April 7 loss to Memphis, when Cuban decided to just pay Odom to go away.

OK, enough about the regular season’s scapegoat. The Lam Lam saga has nothing to do with the Mavs’ playoff problems.

There is no doubt that the Mavs can answer the all-in question in the affirmative. They proved they have a champion’s heart, if not the body, by battling back when the Thunder opened a 16-point lead and the deafening roar from the crowd that calls itself Loud City threatened to blow the roof off the building.

The one promise the Mavs can make is that fighting spirit is a sign of things to come in this series.

“You’ve just got to keep competing,” said Nowitzki, who was part of a comeback from an 0-2 hole to beat the Utah Jazz in a best-of-five series during his first taste of the playoffs back in 2001. “If you do that, you put yourself in position to get those bounces. I don’t know what else to tell you. We’re not going to lay down. We’re going to compete.”

The Mavs still have enough championship swagger, enough stubbornness to believe that this series can turn around if they continue to compete. They still think they can beat a Thunder team that has tremendous talent and has dominated Dallas during crunch time all season.

Hey, stranger things have happened this season. Just not in the Mavs’ favor.

Tim MacMahon

ESPNDallas.com

  • Joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009
  • Covers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks
  • Worked at Dallas Morning News for six years

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