It’s been a slow start to the NBA season for the Dallas Mavericks.
X-San Antonio Spurs 63-19 (2)
Last season saw the San Antonio Spurs win 67 games, but they were a team that most people were not talking about since the Golden State Warriors set an NBA single-season record for victories with 73. The Spurs were poised for another title run until they ran into the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals who knocked them out in six games. The loss to the Thunder signaled the end for power forward Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. For the last 19 seasons Duncan has been the face on Spurs franchise. With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs never missed the playoffs en route to winning five NBA Championships. But under the guidance of head coach Gregg Popovich, don’t expect the Spurs to slow down now that Duncan has retired.
In order to attempt to replace Duncan, the Spurs signed free agent center Pau Gasol. In 15 NBA seasons Gasol has averaged 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists as his skill set is an ideal fit for the Spurs system. Gasol is also a two-time NBA Champion and his leadership and knowledge of the game will be welcomed with open arms in San Antonio.
Gasol will team in the Spurs starting front court with small forward Kawhi Leonard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to give San Antonio one of the toughest trios in the NBA to match up against. In each of Leonard’s five seasons with the Spurs, his numbers have improved and he is becoming one of the best two-way players in the league. Last year Leonard averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals as he finished second in the NBA’s MVP voting. Leonard should once again be a force to be reckoned with this time around. As for Aldridge, his numbers were slightly down in his first year with the Spurs which was the result of the constant ball movement that is orchestrated in San Antonio. However you can pencil in Aldridge for another All-Star caliber season, and he should also benefit from playing alongside Gasol who is one of the better passing big men in the NBA.
Veteran point guard Tony Parker has seen his fair share of the NBA’s grind as he is set to begin his 15th season with the Spurs. And even at the age of 34, Parker isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as he is still one of better guards in the NBA when it comes to penetration. Veteran shooting guard Manu Ginobili is 39-years of age, but he will still be a vital member coming off of the bench for San Antonio, while shooting guard Danny Green is looking to bounce back after a subpar campaign last season from downtown. Power forward David Lee is set to begin his first season with the Spurs, and as he has averaged 14.2 points, along with 9.2 rebounds during his 11-year NBA career, he will be a valuable player coming off of the bench for the Spurs.
The Spurs are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, and being that they are led by Popovich, I don’t expect this team to take their eyes off of the prize as they will once again be a very formidable team when the playoffs roll around.
Y-Dallas Mavericks 49-33 (6)
The past five years have been a rough go at it for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks do have four playoff appearances over that stretch, but they’ve been unable to advance past the first round of the NBA Playoffs. After winning the NBA Championship in 2011, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been hell bent on getting back to the promised land. And after Cuban and the Mavs were spurned several times recently in free agency, they could be ready to re-emerge as a contender in the Western Conference.
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki is set to begin his 19th season with the Mavericks and he is still playing at a quality level. Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points per contest last season and you can expect another quality campaign from him due to the talent that has been assembled around him.
In four seasons with the Golden State Warriors, small forward Harrison Barnes saw his points per game average increase, but he was still under utilized. With the Warriors, Barnes took a backseat to shooting guard Klay Thompson and point guard Steph Curry. But after the Warriors signed small forward Kevin Durant over the summer, Barnes became an afterthought there. And once Barnes hit free agency, the Mavs welcomed him with open arms to the tune of $94 million dollars over the next four years. Barnes will definitely see more shots per game and he should be able to average at least 16 points per game in Dallas.
The Mavericks also landed another player formerly with the Warriors in center Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks acquired Bogut from the Warriors over the summer, and like Barnes, he saw a dip in his production there. Bogut won’t look to be a scorer in Dallas, but what you can expect from him is a solid rebounder, while he is also a quality facilitator from the center position.
The summer of 2015 saw the Mavericks sign shooting guard Wesley Matthews, but he spent his first season in Dallas attempting to get back on track after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the previous season as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. However Matthews is now healthy and he should able to contribute as a solid wing player; especially at the defensive end of the floor.
In 65 games with the Mavericks last season, point guard Deron Williams showed flashes of what made him a three-time NBA All-Star. And even at the age of 32, if Williams is once again motivated, it will be a huge plus for the Mavericks.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best in the business when it comes to dealing with different personalities while getting the most out of his team. And the Mavericks could be set up to have a very productive NBA campaign.
Y-Memphis Grizzlies 46-36 (7)
The past six NBA seasons have seen the Memphis Grizzlies be the little engine that could of the Western Conference. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs in each of the last six years, and although that they have been unable to advance to the NBA Finals, they continue to be a tough out in the postseason. But things are once again changing for the Memphis Grizzlies as after compiling a 147-99 record over the last three years, Dave Joerger was fired as the team’s head coach.
Joerger was replaced in Memphis by Dave Fizdale who has spent the last 14 years as an assistant coach in the NBA; most notably as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat for the last nine seasons. Fizdale has inherited a veteran team that he must find a way to keep healthy for the riggers of the long haul that is the regular season in the NBA.
A broken foot forced center Marc Gasol to miss 26 games last year, along with the playoffs. Gasol is a catalyst for the Grizzlies at both ends of the floor as he is an all-around player. In 2013, Gasol was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, while in each of the last four seasons, he has averaged nearly 4 assists per contest. Gasol has good court vision which can see him pass the basketball from the top of the key as well as in the post equally which always keeps an opposing defense on its toes.
Like Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph has been a recent fixture for Grizzlies basketball. In seven seasons in Memphis, Randolph has averaged 17.2 rebounds and 10.5 rebounds as along with Gasol, they give the Grizzlies one of the better front courts in the NBA. But at the age of 35, Randolph has 15 years worth of mileage on his legs from playing in the NBA. Fizdale understands that and he is looking to preserve Randolph which will see him come off of the bench this year, but he can still be extremely effective in that role.
Point guard Mike Conley Jr. has spent his entire nine-year NBA career with the Grizzlies and this past summer saw him become a very rich man as he signed a five-year, $153 million deal to stay in Memphis as it was one of the largest contracts in league history. For Conley’s career he has averaged 13.6 points and 5.6 assists, and now the pressure is going to be on him to increase those statistics due to the lucrative deal that he agreed to.
In two years with the Dallas Mavericks, a bad knee kept small forward Chandler Parsons from reaching his full potential. But if Parsons is healthy, he could have a big impact in Memphis due to his shooting ability which compliments the playing style of Gasol, and Conley’s ability to penetrate into the paint.
Small forward Vince Carter is 39-years of age, and although that he isn’t able to crank it up and thrown down thunderous dunks as often as he once did, he is still brings a tremendous skill set to the table, along with a plethora of NBA experience. And along with guard Tony Allen who is still a solid defender, Carter adds to the Grizzlies depth off of their bench.
The Grizzlies will be a work in progress as the season goes along, but once the postseason rolls around, they will once again be a tough out.
Houston Rockets 40-42
The past NBA season saw the Houston Rockets wilt under the lofty expectations that were thrust onto them. The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and there was hope within the organization that they could build off of that. But after a 4-7 start, the Rockets decided to part with head coach McHale. McHale would be replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff who was able to get the Rockets to the playoffs, but they could never rekindle the magic from the previous season.
The Rockets have now turned to Mike D’Antoni to be their next head coach. In 12 seasons in the NBA as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers, D’Antoni has a record of 455-426. D’Antoni has six playoff appearances to his credit as his teams have been known to very offensive oriented. The Rockets scored 106.5 points per contest last season which was fourth in the NBA, but they surrendered 106.4 points game which was 25th in the league. And being that D’Antoni is now running the show in Houston, you can expect that trend to continue.
When you think of Rockets shooting guard James Harden, you think of instant offense. Harden is always in the MVP discussion as he is one of the best scorers in the NBA. Harden averaged 29 points per contest last season, and in D’Antoni’s “fun and gun” offense, you can expect him to be off to the races. Harden averaged 7.5 assists last year, and you can expect him to play the point guard position more this season which should be very interesting.
But aside from Harden, the Rockets don’t have any other players that can step up and put the team on their back. Small forward Trevor Ariza is a solid defender, and guard Patrick Beverly plays with tremendous heart, but will that be enough to make the Rockets a playoff team for a fifth consecutive year?
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is a huge proponent of analytics to build his team from which hasn’t been produced as many wins lately and it will once again be put to the test this season. Seven of the Rockets first eight games will be on the road which includes two meetings with the Dallas Mavericks, along with games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs which won’t be a picnic.
New Orleans Pelicans 38-44
In 2015, it appeared as if the New Orleans Pelicans were destined for greatness until they shot themselves in the foot. The Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time in three years and they appeared ready for an upswing under head coach Monty Williams. But surprisingly, Williams was fired by the Pelicans and replaced with Alvin Gentry. Under Gentry, the Pelicans got off to a slow start last season with a record of 1-11 and they were unable to recover as they only managed to win 30 games. The Pelicans were also done in by injuries with their best player in center Anthony Davis missing 21 games. But as a new NBA season is set to begin, will the Pelicans be able to pick up their production in the Western Conference?
Any chance that the Pelicans have for a turnaround begins with Davis. Davis is one of the NBA’s rising stars and he will be the MVP of the league at some point. If Davis is healthy, you can pencil him in to average at least 22 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest while he makes the players that are around him better due to the attention that he receives. Last year Gentry had Davis take more perimeter shots, but if he concentrates on his post game, there won’t be too many defenders in the NBA that will be able to stop him.
The Pelicans will definitely miss the contributions of point guard Jrue Holiday who has stepped away from the basketball team to care for his wife as she deals with a brain tumor, and although that it won’t be easy, New Orleans will have to find a way to replace his production as he averaged 16.8 points and 6 rebounds last season.
With Holiday away from the team, Tyreke Evans should see more time at point guard this year, and getting the basketball to Davis early and often should be his main priority.
Shooting guard Buddy Hield was the Pelicans first-round past June and he should have an immediate impact. Hield comes to the NBA as a very decorated player which included him being the Naismith Player of the Year as the nation’s top men’s basketball player during the previous college basketball season as he averaged 25 points per game in helping the Oklahoma Sooners reach the Final Four this past April. Hield is one of the players that can heat up from behind the three-point line rather quickly and playing alongside Davis should see them help each other.
The Pelicans should be a little bit better than last year, but being that the Southwest Division is one of the toughest in the NBA, they will be fighting an uphill battle as far as making the postseason in the spring.
This summer has seen dollars handed out at an alarming rate in the NBA. The league’s new television deal has seen role players become multi-millionaires while making some superstar players appearing to be underpaid. We’ve also seen franchise players change addresses in the hopes of winning an NBA Championship and/or more money. After 13 seasons with the Miami Heat, shooting guard Dwyane Wade left as a free agent to join the Chicago Bulls. Wade was seeking $50 million over the next two seasons from the Heat which he didn’t receive and thus he bolted to Chicago. Like Wade, Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki opted out of his contract as he was seeking a pay increase. But unlike Wade, Nowitzki and the Mavericks agreed on a new two-year deal that is worth $50 million as this all but symbolizes that he’ll retire in Dallas. And it is a tale of how two NBA franchises approached their veterans players in different fashions.
Nowitzki was drafted ninth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998, and they immediately traded him to the Mavericks. But in Dallas, Nowitzki has gone on to be a rock as he is the best player in Mavericks franchise history. In 18 years with the Mavs, Nowitzki has averaged 22 points per contest while helping Dallas win their only NBA Championship in 2011 as he was named the Finals MVP. Nowitzki is the Mavericks all-time leader in nearly every statistical category, and he is closing in on becoming the first and only player in franchise history to score 30,000 career points.
Wade was the fifth overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft by the Heat and he would make an immediate impact as he averaged 16.2 points as a rookie in helping Miami reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In 2006, Wade would team with center Shaquille O’Neal to help the Heat win their first NBA Championship. Wade’s Heat knocked off Nowitzki’s Mavericks, and he would be named NBA Finals MVP that June.
Like Nowitzki, Wade is the Heat’s all-time leader in most statistical categories and he has become a cultural icon in South Florida to the point that some people refer to Dade County as “Wade County”.
In 2010, Wade took a backseat when the Heat signed small forward LeBron James and power forward Chris Bosh to make things work as he was all about winning championships. Like Bosh and James, Wade took less money in order to give the Heat cap flexibility to put a quality team around them which led to four consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals and a pair of championships.
But unlike Nowitzki, Wade has had trouble staying healthy throughout his NBA career as he has never made all 82 regular season starts in the league’s calendar year. This issue was front and center last summer when Wade was seeking a new long-term deal from the Heat which he was never received. Wade who was 33-years of age at the time was unable to persuade Heat president Pat Riley to give him that long-term deal and the two sides came to an agreement on a one-year deal for $20 million.
But this past NBA season it was vintage Wade as he averaged 19 points per game in leading the Heat to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However when it came time for both sides to talk turkey, Riley simply didn’t see Wade as still being a superstar caliber player which led a disgruntled Wade to taking his talents to the Windy City.
Just like Wade, Nowitzki took less money in order to make things work in Dallas which is what led to an NBA Championship in 2011. Nowitzki has continued to take contracts that were under his market value until now. And unlike Riley in Miami, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t have a problem in backing up the Brinks truck to pay the best player in his franchise’s history in order for him to remain in Dallas.
This is just another example of the business of professional sports and how two franchises chose to operate differently. Riley was reluctant to pay an aging player superstar money as he felt that he was no longer worth it. But Riley called Wade’s bluff when he was unwilling to offer the shooting guard more than $40 million over the next two years. Wade didn’t get the $50 million that he was seeking from the Bulls, but he received $47 million as Chicago simply made him feel wanted as Riley has publicly expressed regret over allowing Wade to leave South Beach.
Riley was looking at the long term for the Heat, but in the short team Miami is not a better team without Wade as they will sorely miss his leadership. And Riley knew that he made a mistake as soon as Wade signed with the Bulls.
Cuban on the other hand feels that he can still win a championship with Nowitzki if the right players are put around him while also making sure that the Future Hall of Famer retires in Dallas. But it was Cuban’s commitment to Nowitzki that has shone brighter than anything else.
Like Tim Duncan who just retired after playing 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki has never publicly criticized the Mavericks when it came to money, and you have never heard of any animosity between him and the front office in Dallas which is the exact opposite of Wade and Riley in Miami.
From Cuban’s first day as owner of the Mavericks, he has run a top-notch organization and he has treated his employees accordingly. For nearly two decades with the Heat, Riley has built the Heat into a contender, but two of the last three summers have seen him lose James and now Wade in free agency. Cuban didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of re-signing Nowitzki as he did what was best for business, while Riley will always have to face speculation as to why he let the best player in Heat franchise history as well as on the current roster leave town scot free.
The past few summers haven’t been kind to the Dallas Mavericks on the topic of free agency or upgrading their roster. After winning the NBA Championship in 2011, the Mavericks have been seeking to once again find that championship formula which has seen them focus on free agency. The prime example of the Mavericks struggles came last summer when they had a verbal agreement from center DeAndre Jordan to come to Dallas. But Jordan had a change of heart and he decided to return to the Los Angeles Clippers which left a void for the Mavericks. The Mavericks have continued to be a playoff team, but they’ve been unable to get out of the first round since winning the NBA Title. The Mavs do have a solid brain trust of owner Mark Cuban general manager Donnie Nelson and head coach Rick Carlisle that are determined and committed to putting a contender around veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki. And this summer that trio has to be happy with what the Mavericks were able to accomplish.
The marquee NBA free agent this summer was small forward Kevin Durant and his decision was going to have a ripple effect on the rest of the moves that would go down. On Independence Day, Durant would announce that he would not re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder as he was going to join the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s arrival in Oakland would mean that the Warriors no longer had a need for small forward Harrison Barnes. Prior to Durant agreeing to join the Warriors, the Mavericks had signed Barnes to a four-year offer sheet for $94 million. Barnes was a restricted free agent which gave the Warriors one week to match any offer from another NBA team.
Barnes was the seventh overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft and he has averaged 10.1 points per game for his NBA career. But Barnes is a scorer and his low points per game average can be attributed to the fact that he was not the primary scoring option with the Warriors as that honor went to point guard Steph Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and power forward Draymond Green. However with the Mavericks, Barnes is going to have an increased role in the offense and his points per game should drastically increase.
Like Barnes, center Andrew Bogut was a member of the Warriors squad that won the NBA Championship in 2015. And like Barnes, Bogut took a backseat to the stars on the Warriors in order to make things work.
Earlier this month the Warriors traded Bogut to the Mavericks, and although that he won’t be confused with a player that is going to score 20 points per game, he is going to provide Dallas with a body that can plug the middle while also being a facilitator from the center position that will definitely help the Mavericks next season.
The additions of Barnes and Bogut are not going to make the Mavericks a title contender as the writing is on the wall to see the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers get it on for a third consecutive year in the NBA Finals. But it shows that the Mavericks are trying to still be a player in the Western Conference as they have brought in some talent to put alongside veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is still showing that he can put the ball in the hoop consistently as he turned 38-years of age last month while also leading the Mavericks in scoring last season at 18.3 points per game last season.
Carlisle is still one of the best coaches in the NBA which is evident by his 661 career victories which are 20th all-time on the league’s win list for coaches. And the Mavericks have an owner in Cuban that is committed to winning which means that they should never be counted out which means that there should once again be excitement at the American Airlines Center in Dallas when the NBA season rolls around in October.
The Brooklyn Nets have released point guard Deron Williams which could pave the way for him to join the Dallas Mavericks. Williams has played in the NBA for ten years with nearly five of those seasons being spent with the Brooklyn Nets. In 2012, the Nets signed Williams to a lucrative five-year deal that was worth $98 million and he has failed to live up to it. Williams began his NBA career with the Utah Jazz where he averaged 17.3 points and 9.1 assists. But with the Nets, Williams’ numbers have slightly dipped as he averaged 16.6 points and 7.5 assists with them. Williams’ field goal percentage has also been down as he shot 42 percent from the floor with the Nets compared to almost 47 percent with the Jazz. Williams has seen his minutes per game average go down in every season with the Nets as injuries and his inability to perform in the clutch have made him a lightning rod of controversy in New York City. When Williams put his name on the dotted line with the Nets, there were high expectations, and if you are unable to deliver the mail in the Big Apple, the folks there will let you know about it.
With the Nets, Williams has been the typical player that wanted the money and the prestige from being on the big stage, but not the overall responsibility that is attached to it. When the Nets acquired Williams in 2011, he was in the midst of making his second of three consecutive appearances in the NBA All-Star Game and he was acknowledged as being one of the best point guards in the league which was evident by him being a member of the United States Men’s Basketball Team that won the gold medal in the Summer Olympics in both 2008 and 2012. But as soon as the Nets signed Williams to his extension in 2012, the real D-Will emerged.
All of a sudden Williams didn’t like the system that Nets head coach Avery Johnson was using. This was the same system that Johnson had implemented in which Williams played in for more than a year before signing his new deal. But now Williams envisioned himself as being made out of teflon and thus Johnson was fired. Williams has developed a reputation around the NBA as being a “coach killer”. During Williams’ time with the Nets, he played for four different head coaches and once you factor in that he ran Jerry Sloan out of town with the Jazz, he hasn’t built a quality reputation. This past season the Nets had a head coach in Lionel Hollins that wasn’t going to put up with Williams and his excess baggage which saw him benched in favor of backup point guard Jarrett Jack.
Williams is now 31-years old and with diminishing basketball skills, he still wants to show that he can get it done and a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered for both him and the Nets. If Williams does get his wish to join the Mavericks, he will be a part of an organization that has championship aspirations, but he would be playing for an owner in Mark Cuban and a head coach in Rick Carlisle that would not have a problem putting him in his place. Gone are the days where Williams can command a max contract from any NBA team as he has proven that he checks out mentally as soon as the ink dries on the big deal. And for the Nets at this point it is all about getting the stench of Williams off of them.
When Mikhail Prokohrov purchased the Nets in 2010, he vowed to build a champion in five years. Prokohrov is not afraid of spending the money, but he overpaid for players such as Williams and a high-priced player is not always a good one. The Nets are trying to remove themselves from paying a large luxury-tax bill to the NBA for a team that has to sneak into the NBA Playoffs instead of contending for a title. The Williams contract should be a lesson to Prokohrov, Nets general manager Billy King and anyone that calls themselves a basketball fan; that unless you’re team is signing LeBron James, there is no such thing as a quick fix in the current NBA.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is typically calm and calculated. But Cuban cannot be that way when someone pulls a fast one on him. When free agency began in the NBA on July 1, Cuban made acquiring center DeAndre Jordan his top priority. In seven seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Jordan has morphed into one of the NBA’s top rebounders and defenders. On July 3, Jordan and the Mavericks “verbally” agreed on a four-year deal that would be worth $80 million. Per NBA rules, new contracts could not be signed and made official until July 9 which paved the way for mass hysteria. Jordan began to have second thoughts about joining the Mavericks and yesterday a Clippers contingent that was led by team owner Steve Ballmer flew to Houston and went to Jordan’s home to meet with him. The Clippers vowed that they would not leave Houston without Jordan signing a contract to return to the team. Jordan did agree to re-join the Clippers and in the process spurned Cuban and the Mavericks.
Heading into this off-season the Mavericks had a clear game plan in order to once again become one of the NBA’s elite teams. Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki took less money on his current contract in order to allow the team cap flexibility to sign quality players such as Jordan. This off-season the Mavericks had their sights set on signing either Jordan or power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge did meet with the Mavs, but he would ultimately decide on joining the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavericks then used a full-court press on Jordan and they appeared to have their man in Jordan.
Jordan is now back with the Clippers as a result of a loophole in the NBA rules. Jordan gave his word to Cuban, but he never signed a legally binding contract with the Mavericks. And the time is now for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to change that. The NBA might not be able to prevent Jordan from going back to the Clippers, but something must be done by the league to ensure that something like this never happens again. Although players can give a “verbal” agreement to join a team, there should still be something in writing that officially takes that player off of the market. And the NBA has a situation where Cuban will more than likely become disgruntled and he has a right to be compensated by the league and the Clippers in some form or fashion. Cuban has been fined more than any other owner in the history of the NBA and in this instance he complied with the league’s rules on signing free agents and he has absolutely nothing to show for it.
The Clippers got their guy while the Mavericks got absolutely nothing and if Dallas had known that Jordan wasn’t going to join them, things would have been different in North Texas. After Jordan agreed to join the Mavericks, there was a domino effect as other quality big men such as Tyson Chandler and Robin Lopez signed with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks respectively and I am sure that Dallas would have been in play for either player.
To make matters worse over the past few days, Jordan never returned one of Cuban’s phone calls which is not the way to handle business. Cuban put the time and effort in for his sales pitch to Jordan who should have been man enough to speak to the billionaire face-to-face and tell him that he had a change of heart.
Jordan initially spurned the Clippers over his recurring problems with Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Paul was a part of Ballmer’s entourage that went to Houston to meet with Jordan. And at the meeting, Jordan’s agent Dan Fegan was not present as he allegedly “misled” Jordan into joining the Mavericks.
Jordan is a native of Houston, but at this point he might not be that welcome in his home state of Texas; especially Dallas. The Clippers and Mavericks have never really engaged in any kind of intense rivalry, but that will not be the case in the coming years as Mr Jordan is now public enemy number one in North Texas.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn’t fit the mold as your typical professional sports owner. Since purchasing the Mavericks in 2000, Cuban has been outspoken against the NBA as he has been fined more than any other owner in league history. Under Cuban’s stewardship, the Mavericks have only missed the playoffs twice and they won their first and only NBA Championship in 2011. The Mavericks have also become one of the most popular teams in the NBA.
Cuban is rarely seen wearing a business suit, unless it is during the taping of ABC’s “Shark Tank”. Cuban treats his players as men and thus you rarely hear any player in Dallas complaining about the front office there. As soon as Cuban took over the Mavericks, he changed the culture there. The Mavericks have called the American Airlines Arena in Dallas home since 2001 and it has been maintained as one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the NBA. One of Cuban’s initial quirks for the Mavs was to put a PlayStation 2 into each player’s locker in order to keep their mind relaxed. But Cuban isn’t all fun and games.
Cuban expects his Mavericks to contend for the NBA Championship every season and if Dallas isn’t going in a direction that he desires, the outspoken owner has now problem getting rid of players and coaches. In 2006, head coach Avery Johnson led the Mavs to their second 60-win regular season in franchise history and their first Western Conference Championship. The Mavs would go on to lose in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat that year. But the following season, Dallas would go 67-15 in the regular season as they were anticipating another trip to the NBA Finals. However the Mavericks were unable to keep up with the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs as they were upset in six games. Johnson would only last one more season in Dallas before Cuban fired him and he replaced him with Rick Carlisle who was able to lead the Mavericks to the NBA Title in 2011.
Cuban has a net worth of $3 billion as his fortune was built during the dot.com boom of the 1990’s. Like most billionaires, Cuban is self-made and he is accustomed to getting his way. And with that Cuban’s style tends to rub some people the wrong way while making believers out of others.
From day one with the Mavericks, Cuban was quick to question the authority of the NBA and former NBA commissioner David Stern which has gotten him into some hot water. Cuban always sits close to his team on the court and in the past he has even run onto the court during altercations which has left his wallet a little lighter. And when the NBA implemented a mandatory dress code for its players in 2005, Cuban was one of the few people that was against it due to the fact that he felt that the issue should be left to each individual team to decide. When Cuban took over the Mavs, he offered free Taco Bell Chalupas when his team scored more than 100 points at home games in order to get more fans to attend games. Aside from the NBA, Cuban is an entrepreneur and he can be seen periodically working at franchise chains such as Dairy Queen.
Cuban’s style has forever changed professional basketball in North Texas. The Mavericks were born into the NBA in 1980 and for their first two decades in the league, they were a joke as they did nothing but become a graveyard for basketball careers. But now through Cuban’s vision, the sports scene is Dallas no longer simply belongs to the Cowboys of the National Football League.
Cuban’s business savvy and outspoken style have made him a cultural icon and he has attempted to purchase other professional sports franchises. Cuban has attempted to purchase both the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. Cuban even offered more many than the investment groups that purchased each team. But it was clear that former Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig didn’t want Cuban’s outspoken style in his league as he was never a fan of people that challenged his authority. Cuban has also spoken out against the NFL against how they do business. And in spite of the fact that there are mainly self-made billionaire like Cuban operating NFL franchises, they tend to all be on the same page when it comes to their thought process and with that, Cuban would stick out there like a sore thumb. Cuban has also spoken out against the NCAA and their lack of effort to compensate “student-athletes” for their work as he has always believed that happy employees equal motivated employees because they are compensated properly.
But the best way to describe Cuban is that he is a man of action and his actions speak louder than words. It is proven that teams don’t win championships as it is more the organizations. And the reason why Cuban has continued to be successful is that his style and personality are infectious. Even though Cuban’s Mavericks aren’t participating in the 2015 NBA Finals, he is still one of the most talked about figures in basketball. Generally in this world you have to be different to get ahead. And Cuban has been a trailblazer and an icon which has made him one of the greatest sports figures going.
After taking the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs to the brink of elimination last spring in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, there was a bit of optimism this season for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks began the season as a veteran team and with the signing of small forward Chandler Parsons and the acquisition of point guard Rajon Rondo, Dallas believed that they were once again ready to contend for the NBA Championship. But unfortunately for the Mavs, things have not gone according to plan.
The Mavericks did go 50-32 in the regular season, but that was only good enough for seventh place in the brutal Western Conference. Rondo has never been on the same page with Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and a back injury has all but ended his brief tenure in North Texas. A troublesome knee has put Parsons on the shelf as the Mavericks are now on the brink of elimination from the NBA Playoffs and they have yet to solve the riddle that is the Houston Rockets and their shooting guard James Harden. The Mavericks are now on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
After years of attempting to reach the summit, the Mavericks were able to find that innate level of team chemistry, ability, and toughness that resulted in the franchise’s first and only NBA Championship in 2011. The Mavericks were the ultimate losers of the NBA’s Lockout that year as with the new collective bargaining agreement, they were unable to maintain the majority of their core players. For Carlisle and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, they have attempted to re-tool as opposed to rebuilding their team. It has helped the Mavs that veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki has opted to take less money in order to allow the organization more flexibility to sign quality players. The Mavericks have been attempting to do that as they had a good team this season, but the move to acquire Rondo hasn’t worked out.
Rondo helped the Boston Celtics win the NBA Championship in 2008 and he has been one of the better point guards of this era. But at the same time Rondo has been a handful for his head coaches. In Boston, former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was on the verge of trading Rondo on several occasions before cooler heads prevailed. And when Rondo was traded to the Mavericks earlier this season, he was looked at as being the missing link to Dallas’ potential title chain. Rondo has never been on the same page with Carlisle which has threatened to destroy the Mavericks chemistry. Carlisle consistently benched Rondo in late game situations as he has been a player that has not elected to play within the realm of the Mavericks offense. Rondo is a pending free agent and you can all but eliminate the Mavericks as being a landing spot for his NBA home for next season.
The Mavericks already have more than $44 million committed to player salaries next season and there will still need to be some moves that will have to be made on their part if they want to be serious contenders.
Center Tyson Chandler was one of the top rebounders in the NBA this season and he has always been a favorite of Cuban. Chandler came up big for the Mavericks in 2011 when they won the NBA Championship before leaving town after that season to join the New York Knicks. Chandler was traded back to the Mavs last off-season and it was almost like he never left town. In two seasons with the Mavericks, shooting guard Monta Ellis has been a pleasant surprise and he has played within the realm of Carlisle’s offense as he has also been one of the team’s top scorers. Ellis does have a player option for next season of $8.72 million and he could opt-out as at the age of 29, he’ll be looking for a big pay day.
Chandler and Ellis will be priorities for the Mavericks as will the pursuit of a quality point guard; either through the NBA Draft, a trade, or free agency as they need to upgrade their point guard position. Chandler is only 27-years old as he is looking to recover from his knee injury and when healthy he can be a solid wing player. The Mavericks also must get their defensive intensity back as they were 25th in the NBA this season in points allowed which is not going to cut it if they want to entertain any thoughts of winning another NBA Title.
More than ever you need to have a complete team if you’re going to advance in the Western Conference Playoffs as it is extremely difficult to navigate there even with a solid squad. Nowitzki will be 37-years old in June, but he has shown that he can still get it done on the offensive of the floor in a very effective way. Carlisle is still one of the best head coaches in the NBA and Cuban is one of the best owners in professional sports as far as giving the people that work for him everything necessary for them to succeed. After tasting championship gold in 2011, the Mavericks are eager to once again reach that pinnacle and this summer will go a very long way in determining how long that it will take them to get back there.
It is no secret that throughout his NBA career, point guard Rajon Rondo has been a handful for opponents and on his head coaches as well. During his time with the Boston Celtics, Rondo would clash with former head coach Doc Rivers over his attitude and his inability to stay within the realm of the team offense. After eight-plus seasons with the Celtics, Rondo was traded to the Dallas Mavericks this past December. Rondo was expected to be the missing link that would once again turn the Mavericks into contenders for the NBA Championship, but he instead has become a cancer.
In 25 games with the Mavericks this season, Rondo is only averaging 9.0 points and 6.2 assists per contest. Rondo is only averaging 28 minutes of game action and he is someone that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has had no problem benching in late game situations. Like Rondo, Carlisle once played for the Celtics and he won an NBA Championship there as a player in 1986, but he has established a reputation as being a player’s coach while also paying attention to detail. Carlisle needs a point guard that he can trust to run his system, but so far Rondo hasn’t been up to the challenge as he tends to do his own thing. The tension between Rondo and Carlisle reached a feverish boiling point this past Tuesday when the two had to be separated on the Mavericks bench. Both men attempted to downplay the incident, but Rondo was suspended for the Mavericks Wednesday night affair with the Atlanta Hawks for conduct detrimental to the team and it was a move that had to be made as Carlisle needed to maintain his position of authority over his squad.
Regardless of whether or not that Rondo agrees with the basketball philosophies of Carlisle or not, he cannot afford to get into a public confrontation with his head coach. Rondo is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he is costing himself some money as no NBA team that is looking to contend for a title will take a chance on a player that is not going to do what a head coach wants him to do.
In spite of winning an NBA Championship in Boston, Rondo had run-ins with Rivers which led him to nearly being traded on several occasions. And now Rivers who is currently the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers can sit back and say,”I told you so” after seeing Rondo’s recent issues with Carlisle. When a player like Rondo tends to clash with his head coach, you can attribute it to the fact that there needs to be a veteran presence around him. But the Mavericks have veteran leadership on their team in the form of power forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler and in spite of that Rondo is still acting up. And if the issues with Rondo don’t get addressed soon it will greatly hinder the Mavericks chances to win the NBA Championship this season.
The situation with Rondo has reached the point where there are only two things than can be done. Carlisle and Rondo more than likely will need to have a face-to-face meeting in order to clear the air. And if that is the case then Rondo needs to understand and respect what Carlisle needs from him. Eventually for this marriage to work Rondo will have to conform to Carlisle’s system, but this is a classic example of buyer beware. The Mavericks were in need of an elite point guard, but they should have done more homework before making the move to acquire Rondo if he is unwilling to conform to their system. Carlisle was the Mavericks head coach when they won the NBA Championship in 2011 and he also has the backing of team owner Mark Cuban which means that Rondo is fighting an uphill battle if he wants to have things done his way in Dallas.
If the Mavericks are going to make the NBA Playoffs and navigate their way through the Western Conference, they need everyone to be on the same page. Luckily for the Mavericks they have another veteran point guard in Devin Harris. Harris was expected to be Rondo’s understudy, but he understands and plays within the realm of Carlisle’s system. Harris doesn’t have the ability of Rondo, but he is someone whom Carlisle trusts. This is a dicey situation which will test the mettle of both Carlisle and Cuban, but it could ultimately be remedied if Rondo simply does what his asked of him.