NBA PM: The NBA “Wild Card” Team?
A year ago at this time the Dallas Mavericks were preparing to defend their first-ever NBA championship, but with only a handful of the players who won that championship still on the team. Rather than jeopardize their 2012 free agency cap space the Mavericks chose to sign cheaper players to one-year deals and shoot for the stars the following summer. Mavericks fans forgave their team’s management because they could already envision the posters and banners featuring the new big three. Would it be “3D in Big D,” with Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard all in Mavericks blue?
Well, the dust has settled on free agency and training camp is underway, yet the Western Conference’s most star-powered lineup is in Los Angeles, not Dallas.
For the second year in a row, Mavericks franchise man Dirk Nowitzki is going to need a cheat sheet to remember which players are on his team, but this time around he is surrounded by hungry veterans who all have something to prove.
“There are a lot of new faces, lot of new players, it does take time to jell,” newcomer Elton Brand said as the team kicked off camp. “I think starting training camp early and going to Europe will give us a chance to jell and mesh and be beneficial for us. There are a lot of guys on one-year deals. I think they want to prove, not only to the rest of the league, but to our team that they can play and they want to fit in. There are a lot of veteran guys, we have a good mix of young guys who are hungry and want to get better, but we also have some veteran guys that also want to win.”
Brand is a well-respected NBA veteran, but being amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers gave him additional motivation in his quest to help his new team.
“Being amnestied from a team, being in the playoffs, getting to the second round, I definitely want to prove a lot, but in the right way, not individually,” said Brand. “I’m at a point in my career where I’m not worried about the individual stats, it’s just helping the team win and win big. That’s my goal and being apart of that.”
There are two ways to look at being on a new team with a one-year contract. One approach would be to want to showcase an individual game to earn the attention of a new team next summer. Brand points out that few teams will have as much cap space as Dallas, so the better way to approach the season might be to understand that a player who fits in and shares the bigger team goals might be in Dallas long-term.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” admits Brand. “There’s guys thinking that, ‘O.K., I need to audition, to show,’ but I don’t think there’s too many more teams with cap space than right here. If you want to audition, play right and play the right way and that’s fitting into the system and doing what ownership and the coaching staff would want, that’s what I would think.”
The Mavericks’ hope is that a new core group, including at least two and possibly three new starters, will take the latter approach. Nowitzki could help but be disappointed as he saw his team miss out on key free agent targets and also fail to bring back Jason Kidd and Jason Terry from the championship team. At the same time, as he saw the new pieces fall into place, he found reasons to be optimistic.
“I was obviously disappointed about the way July started, first Deron (Williams) didn’t come and then J-Kidd and Jet left, obviously two warriors that have been through a lot of stuff with me and we won the championship together, so they were like brothers to me. It was tough to see those two guys go somewhere else, and it’s going to be weird to see them in a different uniform, for sure. But then it settled in a little bit, I think (Chris) Kaman was the first guy to say he’s coming, which was a good move. I think Chris should be the best offensive center that I’ve played with here in my career. I’m not sure defensively, but I think offensively he’s good, scoring in the post, shoot 16-17 footers. I think we should be able to play fine off each other. I think getting Darren (Collison) was a big move. We definitely needed a point guard. He’s fast, he can create his own shot, he can push the pace for us, he can get into the lane and shoot a floater or find some shooters. I think we got younger, we got more athletic and that was always our goal around me, so that was good, and O.J. (Mayo), I think that came out of nowhere. I didn’t even know we were talking to him, so that was a great surprise because he is a young player, he’s already got some experience in this league, big-time shot maker. So I think all the new guys are going to be great, but we’ll see here in camp about how the team is going to look, but I’m looking forward to a good season, I feel good, that’s already a big chunk, if I feel good, we’re going to be O.K.”
Last season Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle had to throw a radically new team together in a lock-out shortened training camp. He sees this year’s camp, which is lengthened due to a series of preseason games in Europe, as a potential advantage.
“We had eight days training camp last year,” Carlisle recalled. “This year we have thirty one; you know one of the byproducts of being one of the Europe teams is you get to start earlier because you have to travel and those kind of things, so we will have thirty one days together before opening night in LA and, you know, the other teams start on Tuesday.”
Carlisle also believes that the understood expectation, that the Mavericks will compete for a championship, will help the new players get on his page quickly.
“They are going to find it out, if they don’t know it already,” said Carlisle. “My feeling is that people know what we are about as an organization and what our city is about and you show up and you are playing for a title. Regardless what people may or may not think about your roster or how many new guys you have or this, that or the other, we don’t care about that. We won the championship as kind of … in football or baseball we would be viewed as a wild card team. We were on the radar, but we weren’t prominently on the radar. I mean, you look at the last two super bowl winners, both wild card teams. Last year the cardinals won the world series; wild card team. I mean, there’s more and more parody in sports, and I think that’s something that’s going to continue to work its way into the NBA game with the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). Coming into this we feel that we are in the handful of teams that’s got a shot and we are going to approach it that way.”
There won’t be too many people picking the Dallas Mavericks as favorites to come out of the NBA’s Western Conference this season, let alone to win the championship. Still, Carlisle has a nice collection of solid veterans, a group of young players with good potential, and a perennial MVP candidate in Dirk Nowitzki.
To completely write this Dallas Mavericks team off would be a mistake.
Al Harrington: “Losing Is Not Acceptable”
The Orlando Magic held their media day this afternoon, and while many have already written off the rebuilding Magic, Harrington says losing is not going to be acceptable. He talks with USA Today Sports about his new team, being the underdog yet again, the mentality of the Magic this season and more in this exclusive interview:
Bone Bruise Sidelines Andrew Bynum
The moment Philadelphia 76ers fans have been fearing has already arrived, and training camp hasn’t even started yet. Newly-acquired center Andrew Bynum has already suffered his first injury setback and training camp hasn’t even started yet.
The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that the team will take precautionary measures with center Andrew Bynum and will withhold him from basketball activities for the next three weeks in order to maximize the therapeutic effects of the Orthokine therapy he received earlier this month. Bynum was examined by Dr. Jack McPhilemy of Main Line Health and was diagnosed with a bone bruise of the medial femoral chondyle of his right knee. During the aforementioned time frame, Bynum will continue participate in low-impact conditioning drills. The team will provide additional updates as they are available and appropriate.
This does not represent a major setback for Bynum, but it does mean he will miss all of training camp and perhaps all of preseason play. For a team with a number of new players, and with the plan being to run the offense through Bynum, it does mean the Sixers won’t be ready to hit the ground running when the season starts at the end of the month. Those precious early games that can dictate playoff position come April will be even more challenging, and that could spell trouble for Philly.
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews
The 2012-13 NBA season is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of early storylines emerging.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors are poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they seal the deal? Are the Dallas Mavericks toast, or will their new group of hungry veterans surprise us all?
The HOOPSWORLD team has these questions and more all covered and you can find season previews for all 30 NBA teams by following this LINK.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11 a.m. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston will hold down his weekly NBA chat at 3 p.m. EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats