Disbelief is a fitting word for the news that came out of Utah with Jerry Sloan's sudden resignation from the team on Thursday. Sloan had coached the Jazz for 23 years. There have been 247 head coaching changes in the NBA since Jerry Sloan took over in Utah on December 9, 1988. For a little perspective, John MacLeod, Richie Adubato, Gar Heard, Quinn Buckner, Dick Motta (again), Jim Cleamons, Don Nelson, Avery Johnson and Rick Carlisle have had the title of Head Coach for the Mavericks in the time Jerry Sloan coached the Utah Jazz. “I really marvel about how he’s been able to adjust to the game over that period of time," Carlisle said as he gave respect to Sloan's achievements. "His contributions to coaching and coaches have been gigantic. I’m one that really appreciates what he’s brought to the game.”
Mavericks fans can appreciate the longevity that Sloan showed, but those same fans are also wishful thinkers. With a changing of the guard in Salt Lake City, one has to wonder how much of a role Deron Williams figures to be in the future of the organization.
According to Brian T. Smith, The Utah Jazz beat reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, sources told Smith that Sloan had battled with Deron Williams all season, and had lost the trust of the team. He also mentioned that Williams and Sloan had at least three altercations, while many players questioned Sloan's handling of everything from playing time and rotational decisions to his insistence on sticking with his revered offensive system. That leads to a theory that a line in the sand was drawn and the organization went with Williams. It remains to be seen whether that is the actual case or not. It is just my opinion, but Sloan appeared to be the man caught in the middle. If Williams is ticked about the situation in Utah, he needs to be pointing his frustrating to General Manager Kevin O'Connor. He is the one that constructed the team and let Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver go over the course of the year.
Williams responded by saying that he and Sloan had had differences of opinions during his time in Utah. He denied a report that he had approached Jazz management saying that he wouldn't re-sign with the team when he's a free agent if Sloan was still the head coach.
It is a short-sided view of the situation as the team could just as easily get worse with a new coach, then what? Williams could grow tired of the situation and want to get out of town, leaving the Jazz without their franchise player and their one-of-a-kind coach. Williams' standing in the community is possibly going to take a hit, it is going to be interesting to see how he responds to the potential backlash.
So what does it all mean for the Mavericks? Williams has $14.9 million due to him this year, $16.4 million due next year and a player option of $17.8 million in 2012/13. As we have stated, no one knows what the future holds in terms of contract rules, given the looming labor uncertainty. If you go off of what is currently constructed as a template, it’s extremely unlikely that Dallas will have space to sign Williams if he opts out of his contract after next season. The Mavericks will have to go with their standard route when it comes to trying to acquire a big name player, the trade route. Williams could follow the blueprint of the "Melodrama" and explain that he is willing to look for greener pastures and the Jazz can look for a trading partner. You know that the Mark Cuban will make the necessary phone calls to kick the tires around the situation in Utah.
Let's say that Williams decides to fulfill his contract, then what? From the perspective of the Mavericks, they will only have three players locked up to guaranteed deals for 2012-13: Dirk Nowitzki ($20.9 million), Shawn Marion ($8.6 million) and Brendan Haywood ($8.3 million). All signs would seem to indicate that the team would pick up the $2.3 million option for Rodrigue Beaubois. It might not be as likely, but it is somewhat of a safe bet that they would also pick up Dominique Jones’ $1.3 million option. They would be under the cap, but the team will definitely want to keep Tyson Chandler in the mix and he should be a factor in their payroll around 2012-13. The wait-it-out theory still does not seem like a likely route for the Mavs to acquire Williams.
If you remember from this past off-season, the idea of Chris Paul and the Mavericks seemed like a match made in Heaven. Chris Paul and Deron WIlliams are in the same elite class at the point guard position. If that is the case, the Mavericks will throw everything towards Utah so they can get the kid from the Colony to come back home. Things are a little different now as the Mavericks would probably add a new piece to the untouchable list as Chandler has emerged as a dramatic piece for the Mavericks. Outside of Nowitzki and Chandler, everyone else would be available to get Williams.
Utah and Dallas have had bad blood in the past and the Jazz could possibly hold a grudge. There has been hatred directed towards Dirk Nowitzki. Jerry Stackhouse and Kirk Synder had a post-game fight back in the day and Stackhouse proclaimed that the Jazz play "Coward Basketball." Sources indicate that bad blood is a setback that could get in the way of Dallas trying to work with Denver in an attempt to acquire Carmelo Anthony. Could factors like that really affect negotiations if it ever gets to that point between Dallas and Utah? With Williams just entering his prime, it is realistic that half of the league could easily line up in an attempt to gain Williams' services. MFFLs will need to hope that the hometown kid wants to wear Mavericks white and blue.
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