Will the Dallas Mavericks Change Their Philosophy?


At this time last year, the Mavericks were on top of the world and, at the same time, at a crossroads. They weren’t quite as sanguine about their chances of landing a big fish, then, as it would later seem—they did offer Tyson Chandler 20 million for one year, after all, and it must have been offered in good faith.

But we all know how it turned out. The Mavericks one shining moment turned into an actual "one" shining moment, and they became the first team, ever as far as I know though I look forward to your corrections, to completely dismantle a championship team because they wanted to rebuild.

We will never know what Tyson Chandler would have done for the Mavericks over the next few years., and it doesn’t bear thinking about, though sometimes it’s hard not to. But here’s the truth:

The Dallas Mavericks and a sizeable portion of their fan base jumped immediately into an attitude that is 100% unparalleled in my knowledge as if it were a completely intuitive way to feel---it’s time to prepare for life after Dirk.

It’s time, as Rick Carlisle said, to make Dirk the Mavericks second-best player.

At this time last year, the Mavericks were on top of the world and, at the same time, at a crossroads. They weren’t quite as sanguine about their chances of landing a big fish, then, as it would later seem—they did offer Tyson Chandler 20 million for one year, after all, and it must have been offered in good faith.

But we all know how it turned out. The Mavericks one shining moment turned into an actual "one" shining moment, and they became the first team, ever as far as I know though I look forward to your corrections, to completely dismantle a championship team because they wanted to rebuild.

We will never know what Tyson Chandler would have done for the Mavericks over the next few years., and it doesn’t bear thinking about, though sometimes it’s hard not to. But here’s the truth:

The Dallas Mavericks and a sizeable portion of their fan base jumped immediately into an attitude that is 100% unparalleled in my knowledge as if it were a completely intuitive way to feel---it’s time to prepare for life after Dirk.

It’s time, as Rick Carlisle said, to make Dirk the Mavericks second-best player.

Is it still time?

If you want my opinion,

This was an insane idea that was treated as a normal idea. I still don’t know why. Better player than Dirk? Deron Williams isn’t. While Dwight Howard may be a better piece to build around than Dirk, because he plays a traditional opinion traditionally, rather than Dirk who leaves the Mavs’ rebounding front a little thin, it’s very much arguable whether he is, or ever will be, better than Dirk.

And life after Dirk? Dirk was 33 years old when we decided we needed to do that. Tim Duncan is 36, one year younger than Dirk would be when Deron’s contract ran out, and Duncan led his team to two straight playoff sweeps before falling to the Thunder. Kevin Garnett is 36 and just signed a three year extension after leading the Celtics to within one QUARTER of the NBA Finals.

There was a future where Dirk and Tyson got to play together until Dirk was 37 and Tyson was 33, where the Mavericks paid the Jet their MLE for the next three years, and the Mavericks still had cap space because if you drop the Jet’s contract down to 5 mil from the 11 mil he made last year, and you lose Shawn Marion’s contract in 2014-2015, and you amnesty Hay, because you’ve got Tyson, and you drop Jason Kidd down from the 10 million he was making to, say, another 5 million one year contract, you’ve saved 29 mil AND Dirk’s still just 35 or 36, and you’ve competed for two more titles.

Obviously, this is no more real a future than Dirk and Deron or Dirk, Deron and Dwight. But it was an imaginable future, which would have necessitated a different direction. And it as more than partially achievable one that already had its pieces in place. At the end of that one, Dirk retires, there’s no Deron to carry on the legacy of good Dallas teams, and maybe even more importantly, there’s no talent to get a marquee free agent. It would have to be the draft, even more chancy than free agency where, as we’ll hopefully soon see, it’s possible to get something good even if you whiff on the first one—NOT true of the draft.

So it’s not a great future. But it is a future where the next three years are pretty good, and any of us might feel tempted to want that.

Now, with the Deron plan not coming to fruition, the Mavericks are again at a crossroads, and this time with significantly worse odds. Ask yourself why Dwight Howard wanted to come to Dallas, and you’ll realize it was two things. First, the possibility that he and Deron and Dirk could ALL play together, and second, because the Mavericks had just won a championship. Now there’s no Deron, and the Mavericks were just first round swept.

And this is the point. It's not just that Deron and Dwight were big free agent targets, it's that there were reasons that they were LIKELY targets for the Mavericks. Both had expressed some fondness for Dallas, and Dallas was a good team,. Neither Bynum nor Paul has said a word about Dallas, and Dallas will have to struggle to prove again it is a good team--a goal that directly conflicts with trying to keep their powder dry, as the saying goes.

The Dallas Mavericks front office is one of the smartest in the league and they no doubt know that part of the equation was not just having money, but having championship potential. Unfortunately, everyone’s free agency came one year too late for the Mavericks, and if they still have that potential it will be an uphill climb to prove it.

In other words, if the Mavericks’ hopes of getting the next Dallas superstar depended on a combination of the luster of the championship AND the SPECIFIC interest two superstars showed in Dallas, both sides of the plan now have to be considered sunk. There’s no reason Bynum or Paul will be interested in Dallas except for money, and if Dallas doesn’t perform well this year, there’s even less of a reason.

So the question is:

Will the Mavericks continue to believe that they need to prepare for life after their now 34 year old megastar, one year removed from a much-deserved Finals MVP, or has the math so changed in favor of that being unlikely that they will instead recalibrate to finding, not the next superstar, but simply improved talent.

If the first, we’re going to do this all again. If the second, you might even have a team you like next year after all.

The good news is, because the premise of this issue—that it was time to replace Dirk Nowitzki, a once in a lifetime talent who you only get through luck, and who Deron Williams will never be—was so stupid, the Mavs are not as bad as they seem. In fact, if they just end this offseason with a better scorer than Jason Terry which, given Jason’s performance last year, shouldn’t be too hard, there’s zero reason they can’t be AT LEAST better than they were last year. If Dirk has a bounceback performance next year, all the better—there’s nobody who can do what Dirk Nowitzki do.

Moreover, great as Deron Williams is it was especially important that he was YOUNG. Steve Nash is a few years removed from giving you Deron’s scoring, but he’s no slouch in that department and is both a superior passer and a superior jump shooter. And who knows what else the Mavericks can do? Can Brandon Roy give them something? What about their draft picks?

If the Mavericks are committed to the end of the Dirk Nowitzki era, we’ll know it soon enough. But if they decide they do want to win now, they still can—it all depends on what they want.

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