Last week, Deron broke the hearts of Mavs fans everywhere by giving the Mavericks their best possible chance for their risky strategy to pay off--all other marquee free agents, forever and always, will be less likely to come to Dallas than Deron Williams was--and then deciding for Brooklyn. We thought the heartache was over, but it isn't, because Williams can't stop telling us how close it all was.
This is the quote from a Jeff Caplan story:
"I was really close to going to Dallas. I actually thought that's where I was going to go. I had the meetings and it kind of changed my mind because once I got out of the meeting with Dallas and saw the way they were going and the team they were putting out there and I saw that we just made a trade for Joe Johnson and I felt like that team for a longer time would be the better team."
The good news is, all those assholes who thought it was a complete formality that Deron was meeting with Dallas were 100% wrong because, before free agency opened, the team Deron was leaning towards was DALLAS!
You may all stab yourselves in the leg, now.
The problem is, for those of us who have been critical of Cuban's approach, there's literally nothing surprising about this. No, no one with a lot of perspective on the subject could say Joe Johnson is a better player than Dirk Nowitzki, and I wouldn't sign off on Joe's defensive abilities like that. But Joe, unlike Dirk, had a better year last year than the year before, and is 31 to Dirk's 34--and, most importantly, while the Nets were stocking up, the Mavs were stripping down.
The long-term merits of each approach have been debated at length here between the Cuban-Donnie loyalists and those who think they screwed the pooch so hard the pooch needs more than a couple cigarettes, and I've very much enjoyed it--but let me just say that if anyone thinks there is a single thing surprising about Williams choosing a team that was trying to get better, damn the costs, over a team that was trying to get worse because of the costs, whatever the future costs of the former approach, well---let's just say that I wasn't, and amn't surprised and leave it at that. Here's another fun quote, from Caplan:
"Joe got me over the hump, I've never played with anybody like him, a guy on the wing that can get his own shot and also get me involved and is a great defender. We could be one of the top backcourts in the NBA for sure."
Basketball players don't read and understand the intricacies of the CBA? Basketball players don't have the same evaluations of talent that GMs do? Basketball players, overall, do not spend much any time thinking about the stuff that consumes you and me? Santa Claus isn't real? *Gasp*!
It's worth asking what could make Cuban change his mind--that is, that he can convince some free agent that signing with his currently crap + Dirk team is better than signing with a currently good team because of "the future", as if winning in a few years counts less than winning today--if the most marquee free agent of the summer, the one most likely to choose Dallas, the one who was leaning Dallas hard prior to free agency doesn't, but let's be clear here:
Now that it's happened, we definitely do NOT want to get Villanueva'd, and sign somebody just to sign them, and there definitely ARE ways for the Mavs to field a more competitive team than they fielded last year without outlaying all that much. So it's not panic time. With Elton Brand, with Ramon Sessions, if the Mavs get either of those guys, with a bounceback year from Dirk, there's no reason the Mavs can't win more games than last year and still have cap space to make some moves. And, to be fair, the Nets were at MUCH more liberty to add talent to entice Deron since they held his Bird rights, and could go over the cap. Even if the Mavs had wanted to, they couldn't have added a big talent AND Deron. AND, its not like the Nets are going to be great next year, because it's not like anybody ever said "this Nets team--all they need is Joe Johnson".
Still, the Mavericks were clearly punished by the basketball gods for not trying to have a competitive team, and for being the only team, ever, not to give their fanbase a chance to enjoy a championship defense, and there's actually something that would feel sort of right about that if I weren't A) a Mavericks fan and B) too busy weeping into my Tecate.
Nevertheless, there's brighter times ahead. D-Will can't rebound or defend the rim, and one dribble-penetrator isn't going to do the trick--who knows if what they're doing will work out better in the long run?