The Mavericks, last night, lost the chance to move past the Lakers, win the tiebreak, and for the second time in three games, finally get back to .500. Nothing surprising about it--tough team they don't match up with well, would have been nice to face a cupcake, so it goes, so it goes, so it goes.
Meanwhile, a team starring Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd, with an offensive superforce at the four showed that they still match up with Miami better than anyone else out there, even not entirely at full health.
It's indisputable that the Mavericks made the wrong call on Tyson Chandler, in 2011. Maybe justifiable given what they knew at the time, maybe good policy, but wrong--particularly because by next year, the Mavs first chance to not be disappointing since Tyson left, he'd only have two more years left on his contract.
The real problem, as always, is the "for what"? What did they give him--and by extension Kidd--up for? Let's say it's Deron Williams. Does anyone really think his 18-7, on 43% shooting, with 3 turnovers a game, would have changed the Mavericks fate more this year than Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd? Or just Chandler?
And if not Deron, then the Mavericks gave him up so that they could what looks like 15 million in cap space next year.
Okay. The point is not to rehash the Tyson Chandler Fiasco, as satisfying as it was. The point is to shine a light on the kind of moves the Mavs aren't making for the sake of the moves they imagine they'll make. Take Steve Nash, for example.
Would he and his 9 million dollar cap hit for three years have been a good pickup for the Mavericks? Well that depends. Obviously his durability is a big question mark, and obviously that's a lot of money to pay someone of diminishing skills if you're not ready to win now.
But would Steve Nash, on the days when he took the court, solve nearly every problem the Mavs have except interior defense and rebounding? Of course. And of course he'd be a fan favorite and of course you and I would love watching him and Dirk would love playing with him and Carlisle wouldn't have disappeared up his own butt trying to outthink the mediocrity that is the Mavericks lot.
Instead he went to a Lakers team that can't use him because they have the world's most ball-dominatingest 2-guard ever.
Probably for the best, but the dirty little secret about being bad in the NBA is that the only thing you get out of it is one draft pick, unless you're bad for a long time, in which case you get a lot of draft picks. But this is also something we don't need to rehash--what will be, will be. If the Mavs do get lucky with their higher-than-usual pick this year, it'll make a big difference.
But here it is. Al Jefferson was all set to go to the Mavericks a couple of years ago for Erick Dampier and two draft picks, but the Mavs turned it down because it would have meant an end to financial flexibility. It turned out to be the right move, as later in the summer, they flipped Damp for Chandler--but a major part of the reason the Mavs GOT to make The Chandler Mistake is that they got Chandler specifically because he had a big expiring contract, which they preferred even more than the player.
That this is the case is obvious since within 365 days they had chosen to let the contract expire rather than keep the player. But would Al Jeff, who just got the Western Conference Player of the Week award over Dirk, look good right now in a Mavs uniform?
Uh, yeah. But the team is waiting for the perfect move, with the perfect salary, a combined salary-cap-and-draft-pick approach which does not consider the fact that there was never any chance they could offer much salary cap space before the summer of '14 or get bad enough that the draft pick would be worth it without being too bad that the pick wouldn't matter. What about someone like Reggie Evans, whom the Nets got for a second round pick and five million? What about watching Jason Terry finish out his career in blue for a measly 5 mil each year for three years?
The Mavs do not make "good" moves. They do not pick up "good" players, not unless they come with expiring contracts, or take a weird player option (OJ Mayo) or come via a one-time salary cap saver like the amnesty (Elton Brand), or an attitude dump (Odom). That's the truth about them. They are permanently waiting. And after two years of their fans watching a team that was much worse than it had to be, it will be a make or break summer for that strategy.
During the Presidential election, Cuban wrote what I thought was a very perceptive column on Mitt Romney's campaign, as it entered its later stages. He said that the reason Mitt wasn't offering a lot of specifics for his plans was that Mitt is a brilliant business man and that the missing ingredient, which he could not mention, was himself. He had, Cuban suggested, supreme confidence in his ability to make a deal, to get people to the table. After all, he'd made hundreds of millions of dollars doing just that, his whole life.
Obviously, Mark was also giving some serious insight into his own mind. We know how personally competitive he is, as Dirk pointed out, he keeps arguing with Donald Trump for god's sake. We know he loves deal-making so much, he started a TV show based on it which, famously, he missed the Deron Williams meeting to work on. There doesn't seem to be any real doubt that his desire for cap space exists partially because of his business instincts--that given room to make a deal, he can do it better than anyone else.
To get that room, he and Donnie have passed on good contributor after good contributor, jettisoned young talent after young talent, and failed to put an oar in that would last longer than a year, for two miserable seasons now. They don't make good moves, they're waiting for the juice to try to make a great one.
Here we are at the end of another miserable, ugly, discombobulated, and most of all completely unnecessarily painful season. Let's hope they're right.