Archive for the ‘Mavs’ Category

Kidd in Play

February 20, 2008

After a week of losing sleep over it, I’m now fully on board with this deal.

Everyone had to keep their mouth shut until the damn thing was official, but now it’s clear how excited everyone in the organization is and how concerned they were with a team that had apparently stagnated on and off the court. Cuban used the word “malaise;” Dirk mentioned that Harris wasn’t great at finding the open shooter; Stack said he dreamt of catching passes from Kidd; and Avery talked about how Kidd can finish games. Is there any question that the team seems more energized than it has since Game 2 of the Miami series? In a word, no.

A few thoughts that seem to have escaped the millions of words written about this deal:

-Kidd’s exorbitant salary ($21 mil) comes off the books after next year. So the Mavs are actually getting a degree of financial flexibility from the deal. If the experiment works, they re-sign Kidd. Maybe, at 36, he even takes less than market value to keep running the floor for a contender. If the experiment doesn’t work, then they’ve got $50 million wrapped up in four contracts (Terry, Howard, Dirk, and Damp) and that’s it. With Harris on board, that number jumps to about $60+ million each year, and means you’ve got your primary 5 through 2011. That’s great if you’re sold on Harris, but it sure doesn’t sound like anyone in the organization believed that group to be a budding dynasty. At that point, they can either pursue another aging point guard (Bibby should be a free agent, although I don’t think he’d be a good fit) or try to land a young or expendable pass-first guy (come home, T.J.).

– Harris’s defense will be missed, but not that much. It’s true, of course, that he was one of the few guys with enough speed to keep Parker in front of him, but the Western 1s aren’t all Parker clones. How’d he do against Baron last year? Anyone think he can muscle up with Deron Williams or even Derek Fisher? I don’t exactly think Kidd’s an upgrade on D, but there are the big PGs and the little PGs in the West (and then there’s Chris Paul, who I don’t think anyone can guard), and I do think Kidd’s better suited to handle the bigs than Harris was, to say nothing of the wily tricks that come with being a veteran. The Mavs also have the luxury of switching their guards at the other end, where Terry can play some serviceable D at the point.

– The Mavs are born to run, damn it! People who are saying Dirk isn’t that type of player must have begun watching the NBA in 2004. How can you forget those legendary Dallas-Sacramento games where they just turned off the shot clock and the over/under was 450? Dirk was Don Nelson’s golden boy. He’s not a back-to-the-basket post player (see, for example, Playoffs – 2007). Howard will thrive on the break and Terry’s got some good moves in transition. And if they go small, Bass can probably outrun any 4 in the league (except maybe Tyrus…)

– A big body with six fouls shouldn’t be that hard to find. Maybe the Mavs can get one for a second round pick, but more likely we dip into the D-League or pull someone off their couch (anyone still got Kevin Willis’s phone number?). Here‘s what I’m hoping. Seriously. The Mavs haven’t had a veritable energy guy down low since Najera left. It’s easy to imagine the Birdman clogging the lane in spot duty — taking a charge from Shaq and bouncing right up, putting a hard foul on Bynum or trading elbows with Oberto. And he’s got league experience. So why the hell not?

– Harris is out another two weeks. That’s roughly 8 more games that we’d have Barea running the point, including games against New Orleans, San Antonio, the Lakers, and possibly Utah. In a playoff race as close as the West, that’s significant. The Mavs are 5-5 in their last 10. Right now, they’re a 6 seed and are only 3 games up on Golden State, currently the odd team out at #9. 4-4 over the next two weeks could put them down near the 8 seed, especially with Houston on a tear and Denver looking to add another significant piece. Wright was just talking today about how he’s getting worried about Parker for exactly this reason. Point being, nothing’s guaranteed in the West this year.

– This is the best thing Devean George has ever done for the team. Sure, it cost Cuban some extra money. Big deal. Not losing Stack for 30 days is worth it.

Alright, I have to go call my parents and see if they can find my first replica jersey in a box upstairs — “it should be blue, Mom, with Dallas in green and it has the number 5 on it…”


Cuban. Whistles. Crisis?

March 22, 2007

Note: I’m pretty sure somebody else has used a variation of this title somewhere, but whatever. There’s never going to be a pun that fits together quite so perfectly, so let’s just say the shoe fits and move on. Nothing like a little plagiarism to kick off a blog anyway, right?

So it’s official: last summer David Stern pushed Mark Cuban to the brink of leaving the NBA altogether, but couldn’t quite shove him over the edge.

“I told Stern, I told other owners that I was out,” Cuban said. “Given what happened in June, there were a lot of things that I wasn’t comfortable with.”

My guess is that the conversation wasn’t quite as civil as that sounds. I see Cuban walking into Stern’s office and cutting loose a string of about eighteen expletives for each of Dwayne Wade’s flops. Stern probably pursed his lips into a little smile, softly stroked the cat he cradled in his arms, and said, “Well, Mark, I really have no idea what you’re talking about. The better team just won.” At which point Cuban snapped and basically put the team on Ebay.

However it went, the rift between these two couldn’t be cleared by Evil Knievel at this point. Don’t forget that when the season opened, Cuban insisted on including the phrase “David Stern University” in every sentence he uttered to reporters, and even wore those DSU shirts on national TV. Personally, I think each of them are seething right now, and Cuban’s as driven as anyone on the Mavs to stick it to Stern by hoisting the trophy in Dallas this year. And I imagine that’s what Dirk told him the Mavs were going to do in the conversation that Cuban says changed his mind. Has there ever been such open hostility between an owner and a commissioner not named Vince McMahon? Has there ever been a team, from the owner to the ball-boy, so hell-bent on exacting revenge on the league as a whole? (Eric Neel shrugs.)

But what if this isn’t the year? What if the Mavericks get the Warriors in the first round, Nellie figures out how to take it 7 games and then Baron Davis shoots 25 free throws and Golden State moves on? Substitute Spurs/Ginobili or Suns/Nash, and I think Cuban up and sells. In protest, if nothing else. He already said it would have felt great to get some things off his chest last summer. How much longer will he wait to do that if he feels like his team gets screwed again?

I should admit at the outset of this thing that I have my own love-hate relationship with Mark Cuban, similar but slightly different from the one I have with Jerry Jones. Sometimes watching Cuban feels like watching your little brother subtly soil the family name: the overboard antics, sarcastic comments, and the choice of attire (the hybrid football jersey) make my eyes kind of dart around as I laugh nervously and pray in my head for the camera to cut away. But the fact is that Cuban took a franchise that had become a laughing-stock and turned into this 56-11 juggernaut.

Unless you were a Mavs fan under Don Carter (with whom I shared a suburb growing up, incidentally)–or maybe if you’re sporting a Grizzlies jersey as you read this–you can’t really understand the complete lack of passion that pervaded the organization before Cuban arrived. Nellie was already laying the groundwork, but Cuban came in, changed the logo, pledged to spend money, and made the average fan feel like there was some hope for the future. Carter was a nice guy, by all accounts, and the big cowboy hat he wore to the games matched the one that used to hang cock-eyed over the M at center court, but no one believed it was going to happen under him. (Telling story: My next-door neighbors scored some second row seats at one point–not too hard in those days–that happened to be right behind Carter’s. As the story goes, their little six-year old daughter tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he could take his hat off cause she couldn’t see around it. And I think he actually did. But I think he left in about the third quarter too.)

So what happens if Cuban sells? The Mavs either get the inept, old rich guy (see Donald Sterling, Larry Dolan) or they get the ownership-as-hydra model (see the Atlanta Hawks). The league gets another quiet bean-counter, there’s no real pressure to tighten up the officiating (the single biggest problem facing the NBA in the next fifteen years), and no real impetus for other owners to innovate. And Dallas fans get somebody who may or may not care if they slide back into the basement. Or, even worse, they get a couple guys who know a little too much about how to lose in Big D…


UPDATE: Well, the worst-case Golden State hypothetical became a reality, and Cuban didn’t sell.  The difference, I think, was that no one in the Dallas organization felt like they got robbed by the league/refs last year.  Although Cuban doesn’t exactly think it was fair and square