By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
When the Mavericks decided to let Tyson Chandler go to the New York Knicks after their 2010-11 championship run, most Dallas faithful recognized that Mavs ownership was preparing to piece out the team. J.J. Barea quickly followed, and two of the most integral parts of that fabulous team were gone.
The Mavericks quickly regrouped by signing veteran guys to short-term deals, preparing for the 2012 offseason and a shot at Dwight Howard or Dallas-native Deron Williams. The plan worked... sort of. Dallas received solid performances from Delonte West and Vince Carter and centers Brandan Wright and Ian Mahinmi proved that they could play minor roles on the team. Lamar Odom, who the Mavs got via the trade exception created by Chandler’s departure, was an abject failure who sucked a lot of the spirit for the 2011-12 squad. The Mavs made the playoffs, but were quickly swept by Western Conference Champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Then, the team began to unravel bit by bit. Williams reupped with the Brooklyn Nets. Jason Kidd, who the Mavs thought they had locked in, decided to bolt for the Knicks as well. Steve Nash, who quickly became a top free agent after requesting a trade from the Phoenix Suns, decided to finish his career in Los Angeles with the Lakers. The Nets, the Lakers and now the Rockets have all eclipsed Dallas as potential trading partners with the Magic. Suddenly, it seemed as if the Mavericks were the red-headed stepchild of the league. Dallas was rejected more in the past few weeks than Bill Gates at a high school prom.
Fans began to wonder if anyone had a plan. There was even talk of shipping superstar Dirk Nowitzki out of town and just starting over.
Then, wiser heads began to prevail, and the Mavs began to build for 2012-13 while remaining flexible enough financially to go after a big name next year (perhaps Howard again, or Chris Paul). They signed veteran center Chris Kaman, a former all-star, to a one year deal worth about $8 million. They traded center Ian Mahinmi to the Pacers for starting point guard Darren Collison and pesky perimeter defender Dahntay Jones (both in the last year of their deals). They won the bid for former Philadelphia 76ers power forward/center Elton Brand, a fantastic defender and rebounder who can still record double-digit point totals on a regular basis. And they signed former first round pick O.J. Mayo to a multi-year deal, filling the hole left by Jason Terry. Finally, next years Mavericks’ team is starting to take shape.
Granted, these players aren’t superstars, but they will ensure that Dallas will remain competitive now while saving up cap space for later. And don’t forget, the Mavs added three young guys with huge potential in the draft who will challenge the established veterans for playing time (if Rick Carlise will ever let a rookie off of the bench).
Plus, Dallas still has to see how Rodrique Beaubois will play after another year of seasoning under his belt. Second-year shooting guard Dominique Jones is another intriguing player with a lot to prove.
This year’s Mavs won’t be championship caliber, but they should be fun to watch and will easily win 45-50 games, all while preparing for one last deep playoff run with Dirk (if they can land a big-name free agent in the 2013 offseason). How successful will they be? Only time will tell.