Nowitzki’s knee tough twist in Mavs’ makeover
by Andy Friedlander, Special to USA TODAY Sports
DALLAS — First things first: Dwight Howard isn’t walking through the door. Neither is Deron Williams.
Actually, it’s pretty difficult to recognize almost anyone passing through the entrance to the Dallas Mavericks locker room these days.
Remember the Dallas team that won the NBA title two seasons ago?
Of the 19 players who reported to the Mavs training camp, two — forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion — were part of the playoff run that ended with a six-game victory against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
And 11-time All-Star Nowitzki won’t be ready for the start of the regular season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Friday. He could be out for as long as six weeks.
Owner Mark Cuban and the Mavs front office likely will open the season with eight newcomers, including center Chris Kaman, shooting guard O.J. Mayo and point guard Darren Collison, and without popular fixtures Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, gone via free agency to the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
“It’s part of business,” Marion said of the extreme makeover. “We knew it was bound to happen. One thing I can say is Cuban made sure he found pieces to put in and make a nice team. Now it’s about everyone coming together and jelling together and making it happen.”
Cuban broke up his title team, letting rugged defensive center Tyson Chandler, flashy guard J.J. Barea and ace defender DeShawn Stevenson go to clear salary-cap space. He made no secret of trying to land one or both of the premier free agents of this summer — Howard and Williams — to team with his star, Nowitzki.
That scheme crumbled when Howard honored his option for 2012-13 and was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Williams, who grew up in the Dallas area, snubbed his hometown team to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
With a year of planning wasted and the fan base panicking, the Mavs scrambled to make the most of what was left. They signed Kaman and Mayo, won the amnesty sweepstakes for two-time All-Star Elton Brand and … [For more on Dirk Nowitzki's knee tough twist in Mavericks' makeover, click here.]