Mavericks quietly revamping roster for another title run
While the elite names of this year’s free agency class have dominated mainstream headlines over the past two weeks, the Dallas Mavericks have been quietly overhauling their roster.
The Mavericks are hoping the changes made this summer put the franchise in a stronger position for another title run before Dirk Nowitzki hangs up the high tops for good.
One thing is for sure, Dallas has been extremely busy from a personnel standpoint trying to make it happen.
Gone from last season are Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington, all of whom were dealt to New York. The Mavericks also lost veteran forward Vince Carter, who has reportedly reached an agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies.
On the incoming front, Dallas managed to retain guard Devin Harris and Nowitzki in free agency, while acquiring former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Greg Smith via trade.
The Mavericks were also able to lure emerging swingman Chandler Parsons away from Houston with a lucrative three-year deal worth $46 million, while also agreeing to terms with veteran forward Richard Jefferson.
Although still relatively early in the offseason, it appears the franchise’s front office is content with their work up until this point. But the Mavericks also won’t rule out one more major splash. However, the addition of Parsons is the marquee piece the Mavericks are hoping pushes them over the top.
“That’s always a possibility but we like the team, kind of where it’s at,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told KESN-FM 103.3. “Everything works really well. The thing about Parsons is he’s versatile; he’s a court-spreader, he’s a passer and he’s also the glue guy. He’s willing to set the pick, he’s really good with that, and he doesn’t, quote-unquote, need the ball in his hands for long periods of times. He’s not a ball pounder and so he works really well with the rest of the squad. Dirk and obviously Chandler, those are guys who really know how to play and win team basketball and move the ball and that type of thing. So we feel good about the chemistry, it’s looking good on paper. Obviously (head coach) Rick [Carlisle] has got his work cut out, too, as he has in a great fashion the last two years, to put this thing together and for us to get the boys ready for the end of October.”
One area the Mavericks may still be looking to address is point guard depth. Felton and Harris will likely split the duties if the roster currently stands as constructed. But Nelson readily admits his interest in potentially bringing former All-Star guard Mo Williams to town.
“Yeah we’ve been trying to figure out a way to get Mo in a Maverick uniform for years now,” Nelson said. “He’s a Dallas guy, from Memphis but lives in Dallas with his family, so we’re hopeful that we can work something out but again our hands are tied right now because of the Parsons thing of what we can do financially. All these guys, whether it’s Mo, whether it’s ‘Trix (free agent Shawn Marion), in all reality they’re going to have to take a payout to come here. It’s just how much of a pay cut are guys willing to look at and we’re understanding and respectful of the market place and there’s other places that may have more playing time and more financial flexibility than we do, but we would love for both of those guys to continue to consider us.”
Nowitzki is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career but he remains the face of the franchise. However, high scoring guard Monta Ellis will continue to take on more and more of the nightly offensive burden. To accommodate Ellis’ game, Nelson says the goal this summer was to surround his star guard with proven shooters.
“With Richard Jefferson coming on board that alleviates a little bit of that, but you’re always looking for shooters,” Nelson said. “We want to make Monta Ellis’ job a lot easier next year. We know Harris can shoot the three — Jefferson, Parsons, Dirk, [Jae] Crowder even showed real signs of improvement there last year — so yes the idea there is to open things up so you really got the defensive team going both ways where they got their pick of the poison of having Ellis get in the paint and finish or he gets in there or creates for a shooter.”
The Mavericks returned to the playoffs last season after a one-year hiatus and managed to push the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round. However the team hasn’t advanced past the first round since the title winning campaign of 2011.
Doc Rivers discusses failed attempt to acquire Paul Pierce
The Los Angeles Clippers are arguably coming off the best campaign in franchise history, but are also looking to get over the hump and finally make a Western Conference Finals appearance – at bare minimum – moving forward. So with title aspirations rising, there’s no surprise Clippers team president Doc Rivers hit the free agency trail hard this summer looking to secure another piece to the championship puzzle.
Rivers recently made it clear future Hall of Fame forward Paul Pierce was at the top of his team’s summer’s wish list. The two won a title together with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and have an outstanding relationship. Pierce is also a native of the Los Angeles area, which seemed to align all of the pieces needed to make a deal happen between the two parties.
The problem was the Clippers didn’t have the financial flexibility to sign Pierce outright and needed to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn. But Brooklyn was reportedly unwilling to take on the contracts of either Jared Dudley or Matt Barnes, so Pierce ultimately signed agreed to a two-year deal with the Washington Wizards.
“We talked a lot,” Rivers said according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. “Quite honestly, a sign-and-trade just wasn’t possible. That would be great, but Paul ends up in Washington and that’s great for him. But clearly, we have a relationship — and he has a relationship with LA, that is where he is from. That would have been great. But it just couldn’t happen. They’re (Brooklyn) in a tough situation because they have so much money — 100 million (payroll). So they can’t take on any more salary and a sign-and-trade would mean they’re taking on more salary. They literally just cannot do it. We knew it would be hard. We tried every avenue and it just wouldn’t work.”
The Clippers added Jordan Farmar and Spencer Hawes in free agency, while losing veterans Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Willie Green.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN