NBA PM: The Dallas Mavericks’ Master Plan
Few teams had as much riding on the 2012 NBA offseason as the Dallas Mavericks, who mortgaged one championship team in the interest of building another, more sustainable one. One of the results of that decision was that draft night was more important for Dallas than it has been in recent years, and therefore the summer league team competing in Las Vegas last week was of more than usual interest to President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson.
“This is their first real taste of what it’s like to go up against NBA size, NBA athleticism,” Nelson told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s our first chance to get our hands on our draft picks and free agents who we like, to kind of teach them the Maverick way and get to know them. It’s a nice little first step on a long NBA journey.”
Dallas maneuvered their way into several picks in the 2012 NBA Draft, but none may be more interesting than Bernard James. James is an Air Force veteran who has done multiple terms of duty in combat zones, and he never played organized basketball until he got into the service. He’s a 26-year-old rookie, but plays more like a seasoned veteran in the low post.
“I tell you, he’s such a well-put-together young man,” Nelson said. “When you’re overseas and you’re defending the American dream and in uniform and you come back and have a chance to, after that kind of experience, become one of the premier college players in the country and then get drafted, it’s just a unique deal. He’s great for us because he blocks shots, he rebounds, and he runs the court. True professional in every sense of the word. We like him because he’s a little bit older. He’s 26 going to be 27. He’s a perfect fit for us.”
In every sense of the phrase, there has been a changing of the guard in Dallas this offseason. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, who were incredibly important to the Mavericks’ championship team a year ago, are no longer in town. The Mavericks traded Ian Mahinmi to the Indiana Pacers in a move that landed the talented young Darren Collison, which Nelson saw as necessary in his rebuilding project.
“First of all, you don’t fill those kind shoes; it’s impossible,” Nelson said. “One’s a Hall-of-Famer and the other one’s probably going to … they’re probably both going to have their numbers retired at some point in the American Airlines Center. My gut is that we’ve got to turn the page. We’ve got some really nice young players that can give us some athleticism, some punch in the backcourt. Collison, here is a guy that went deep into the playoffs as a starting point guard. He’s not some young, new guy to the league. He’s gotten better every year and we’re really looking forward to him running the show for us.”
One of the more intriguing acquisitions of the summer for Dallas is that of Elton Brand, who was amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers. Brand gives Dallas a legitimate threat behind Dirk Nowitzki, one who can handle significant minutes and help Nowitzki stay fresh for the postseason. He can also spend some time at center and, given head coach Rick Carlisle’s penchant for using players at multiple positions, he should fit right in with the Mavs.
“We felt good about our positioning and when we finally got him it was just terrific,” Nelson said of Brand. “He plays a little four, a little five. Again, the leadership component is really important to us. To have someone that can come in and back up Chris Kaman and back up Dirk, that’s a real luxury. He’s got the ability to score off the box, a little seventeen-footer, as well as an established low for us, block shots and rebound with the best of them, so we’re really looking forward to having him in the frontline.”
There is a harsh reality to be faced in Dallas, of course. Nowitzki isn’t getting any younger, and while he still has a couple of years left in his prime, the team around him won’t inspire many to put the greatest European player to ever play in the NBA back in the NBA Finals this season. That said, Nelson is hopeful that the hunger factor can make the Mavericks a dark horse in the West.
“Well, you know the ‘have your cake and eat it too’ scenario is to keep your flexibility and also be able to put yourself in a position to be in the thick of things in terms of the playoff run and we’ve tried to do that,” Nelson said. “Chris Kaman and Elton Brand and Dirk in the frontline, we feel like that’s a formidable threesome that can lock horns with anybody in the West. You have the Vince Carter’s and your Shawn Marion’s and then you add some of the young guys, like O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison. Those are components that are important to us, but yes, we want to be a playoff team and ideally make a deep run this year, but also have some flexibility not just to sign free agents out there but have conversations with Chris Kaman at the end of the year and Darren Collison and Elton Brand. If they’re good fits, they can make their home right there in Dallas.”
If not, they can walk away and the Mavericks can pursue any of the key free agents who might be available next summer. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Josh Smith and Monta Ellis are arguably the biggest names, and any one of those players would certainly be nice next to Nowitzki. That’s not to say that Nelson is finished tinkering with the 2012-13 squad.
“Well, you know you’re never done,” says Nelson. “At this point, I’d say we like what we have and I think we’re prepared to go to war with the team that we have. But if there is a situation that presents itself we’re always active in the market and looking to upgrade at any chance. But we do like the pieces and we like the team as it sits.”
In the meantime, Nelson and his staff have done a solid job of putting quality players around their superstar. The Mavericks may not be a championship team, but they just might pull off another 50-win season. From there, you just never know.
Phoenix Suns’ President Resigns
For the second time in a year, the Phoenix Suns are looking for a new president.
Last year Rick Welts resigned from the position, and was replaced by the former head of Dial Corp., Brad Casper. Today, the Suns announced that Casper has also resigned, issuing the following statement:
“I enjoyed my time with the Suns,” said Casper. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me, but ultimately serving the Suns while continuing to juggle a portfolio of other business interests became too much. I’m grateful to have worked with so many gifted professionals and I look forward to cheering on the team next season.”
Chief Operating Officer Jason Rowley will assume the role of president, overseeing the Suns’ business operations, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:
Welts had run the Suns’ business side for nine years before resigning in September, 10 months before his contract expired. Eleven days later, Welts accepted the same position as president and chief operating officer for Golden State.
Rowley, who served as the Suns executive vice president and general counsel for four years, was promoted to executive vice president and served as interim president before Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver selected Casper to be president. Sarver said Casper was overqualified for the position and was following a NBA trend in the business of tapping into the corporate world for someone who brought more business experience in brand management, customer satisfaction and international marketing.
For more on the Suns’ presidency situation, check out Coro’s article here.
Three-Team Deal Gets Done
Today, the much-rumored three-team deal between the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets was finally completed, with the following players switching teams: The Suns send center Robin Lopez, forward Hakim Warrick and cash considerations to the Hornets, and a 2014 second-round draft pick (acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers) to the Timberwolves. In exchange, Phoenix receives swingman Wesley Johnson, a protected 2013 first-round pick from Minnesota, and the contracts of Brad Miller and guard Jerome Dyson. New Orleans sends to Minnesota a pair of second-round picks, one in 2013 (acquired from the Brooklyn Nets) and another in 2016 (acquired from Minnesota in an earlier trade).
The move solves one problem for the Hornets, in particular, which is the need for a legitimate center on the squad. The team had been in talks with a number of teams about available big men, but Lopez is likely the best of the bunch. He certainly has some intriguing upside, which the Hornets will look to develop. He has yet to get through an entire NBA season without injury, but if he can stay healthy, Lopez could turn out to be a steal for the Hornets.
Miller could serve as a reasonable backup to Marcin Gortat in Phoenix, should the Suns choose to keep him around, and they also receive Johnson, who never found his shot in Minnesota but is, at times, the kind of player who can stretch the floor and drain threes, which makes him a Suns kind of player.
For the Timberwolves, this was all about clearing a roster spot while also acquiring future draft picks. The team subsequently completed the much talked-about two-year deal with Andrei Kirilenko.
“We are pleased that Andrei has decided to resume his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves,” David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, told NBA.com. “Over his time in the NBA he has proven to be one of the best defensive players in the world. His ability to play multiple positions and big-game experience will be wonderful assets to our team. He is coming off an MVP season in Europe, on what many believe was the best team in Europe, CSKA Moscow. We are excited to see him in a Timberwolves uniform and wish him well in the upcoming Olympics, where he will be the star player for the Russian National Team.”
The Timberwolves see Kirilenko as a big upgrade over Wesley Johnson, and as someone who can help the team push for the playoffs this season. Rick Adelman has been persistent in asking for the team to add more veterans, and this move is a direct result.
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