Early Tuesday evening, the top Mavericks beat writers shared the following combination of information:
- Mike Conley is the Mavs top free agent on their list.
- The Mavs believe they have a shot at Conley due to his respect for coach Rick Carlisle.
- The Mavericks pitch to Conley will be themed "shared sacrifice" hinting at the sacrifices Conley would need to share with his fellow Dallas teammates to build a contender.
It's a lot to take in. For one, I honestly expected this summer to be relatively normal for the Mavericks. The free agent class is lacking in franchise difference makers and the few that are there are most likely staying put or rumored to head anywhere but Dallas.
While the first tier of free agents this summer is shallow, the second and third tiers are ripe with potential targets to reload the Mavs barren roster -- dudes like Ian Mahinmi, Festus Ezeli, Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Jeremy Lin and Kent Bazemore. Bring back Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons and add a couple of those names to the roster and the Mavs are at least stocked to be a competitive playoff team in Dirk's twilight years. That's all we really want, right?
Instead, the Mavericks appear to be shooting for the stars again. And again, they will likely miss the stars, slingshot back to earth, detonate upon impact and burn everyone to the goddamn ground. The sun rises in the East, sets in the West and the Mavs will never land a big-name free agent. That's how this works.
I even predicted a doomsday scenario back in April, but was mainly joking. Instead, it appears the Mavericks really are gonna put Deron Williams through the Tyson Chandler ringer, ask him to sit tight while they court another player to take his position in hopes he'll stick around when the Mavs inevitably fail to bring in Conley.
Oh, and they will fail. Not only are the Mavericks chasing Conley, they're doing so with the same Holier Than Thou approach that has led to the previous summers of death. The Mavs aren't pitching money, because Memphis can better them. They aren't pitching contention, because the Spurs (who are also interested in Conley) can beat them in spades. Instead, the Mavericks are pitching to Conley to give up some stuff to come to Dallas for the greater good.
Yeah, that's exactly what a player being recruited wants to hear.
No matter how deep the Mavericks plunge their head into the sand, they can never escape the truth -- the league works differently than they want it to. Sure, it'd be nice if free agents bought into two-year plans, culture, coaching and the like. In this dream fantasy world the Mavericks would snare every free agent.
That's not how this works. Free agents want two things -- money and a good roster. If one of those is holding back the other, they'll bend a bit. Did Dwight Howard consider the Mavs two-year plan to get a title, basically telling Dwight he wasn't good enough to lead the Mavs there by his addition alone? Nope. Did Deron Williams in 2012 see the Mavericks winning culture and coaching staff? Nope. Dwight saw a roster that could contend right away and so did Williams. It doesn't even matter if the Mavericks ended up right in the end, as Houston crumbled and Williams saw his older roster decompose before him -- it matters what the players think.
Conley will see the same thing as Howard did in 2013 and Williams did in 2012. He'll see a shooting guard coming off a busted tire, a 38-year-old who would be his second best player and a wing out on the perimeter who can't finish a season healthy and has had two knee surgeries in two years. I guess looking at it that way, the Mavericks have no other option but to pitch this sacrifice mentality -- it's not like they have much else to offer.
Even then, why should Conley sacrifice anything to come to a team that hasn't sniffed a first-round victory in over three years? Why should he sacrifice being a true floor general to have Carlisle tell him what to do every time up the floor just to scrape by with 48 wins and a seventh seed? Why should Conley be asked to sacrifice anything when the face of the franchise, Dirk, has sacrificed so much and seen so little since he was asked to be patient in 2011?
The Mavericks aren't the Spurs. They aren't the Warriors. They aren't the Cavs or the Thunder. They have no right to ask star free agents to sacrifice anything on their end for the greater good. Hell, the Mavericks themselves should be doing the sacrificing, doing whatever they need to accommodate a player like Conley and bring him into the fold. The audacity of the Mavericks to ask star free agents (who typically never leave their teams by the way) to perhaps give up some professional or personal comfort to play for a team of yahoos that have won five playoff games in five years is incredible. If the Mavericks are going to go hog wild and keep trying to rebuild through free agency, they should be bending over backward to give them whatever they want, tell them whatever they want to hear.
The insane part is they already have done this to woo a free agent! It was exactly what they did for DeAndre Jordan and sure, it didn't work out, but it was the closest the Mavs have ever been to reeling in a big fish. Did the Mavericks ask Jordan to sacrifice his touches or parts of his game for the greater good? Hell no! They told him HE COULD BE THE NEXT SHAQ.
SHAQ. DEANDRE JORDAN. SHAQ.
They told him they'd give him post touches! THEY TOLD DEANDRE JORDAN THEY'D GIVE HIM POST TOUCHES. Yet, when Mike Conley rolls around they're gonna give him less money than Memphis and ask him to be cool with never calling another play in his life. Sounds like a great pitch.
I understand how whiny this sounds. Conley, by all accounts, is the type of guy that might actually buy in to that culture and sacrifice nonsense and there's always a chance the Mavs do grab him.
But ... no. They won't. I've seen this movie five times in the last five years. It has the same ending. The Mavericks will open free agency by meeting with Conley. They'll ask Williams to be "loyal" and chill while the Mavericks publicly try to replace him.
Williams will tell the Mavs to suck a tailpipe and pounce on the first big-money contract that comes his way. As soon as Williams, Lin and the other free agent point guards agree to their contracts, Conley will come to a decision.
He'll decide to join a new team for the first time in his NBA career. That team will be from Texas.
It will be the Spurs.
Conley will cite not being able to pass up the chance to play for a burgeoning MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard and the greatest coach in the league.
Scrambling to fill the starting point guard spot, the Mavericks will see the landscape dried up. They will bring back Raymond Felton on a three-year deal and he will be your 2016 starting point guard. Williams will post a snapchat three weeks before the season saying the Mavericks are a hypocritical, clown organization.
Mark Cuban will say the Mavericks are better off without Conley and glad he has players that buy into their culture. Rick Carlisle will lead the team to 43 wins and an eighth seed as Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard lead the Magic to an inspiring second-round playoff run.
This is how it is and how it always will be.