Every offseason, I write a piece about the Top Ten Best and Worst Off Season moves. In this past year’s version, I was particularly critical of Dallas Mavericks President, Donnie Nelson and Dallas owner, Mark Cuban. I panned their two big moves in a very derisive way. When I see how Dallas’ season is working out, I’ve realized that in the words of Apollo Creed, I owe them, especially Nelson, an engraved apology. So I decided to do what I do when I feel like I wronged someone. I write them a letter.
When you signed Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon this past offseason, I thought both the length and the dollar amount of both were borderline insane. That, combined with the fact that neither of them were qualified to guard my money in a game of Monopoly while I’m in the bathroom, made me think that you had lost your marbles and that an imposter wearing a Donnie Nelson mask had invaded the Dallas front office. Well, Donnie, I can make all the stupid jokes I want and mock your offseason moves, but I’m the one who looks like the fool because it’s actually working out.
Lets start with Monta Ellis, who wears the moniker of a no D chucker maybe more than any other player in the league. When I criticized your signing of Ellis, part of my trepidation had to do with your no-nonsense head coach, the great Rick Carlisle. I figured that the first time Ellis threw up a 3 off the dribble or carelessly gambled for a steal, Carlisle would do to Ellis what Christopher did to Little Paulie in The Sopranos after Little Paulie boosted those Mikita drills from Christopher’s father-in- law.
Instead, Carlisle has managed to get virtually identical numbers out of Ellis this year that he had last year with much more efficiency. Ellis still isn’t shooting great from 3-point range, but he’s taking half the attempts per game that he took last year. He’s shooting five percentage points better from the field overall and is gambling much less on defense. He’ll never be totally cured of all of his chucking tendencies but he’s been much better in Dallas in terms of shot selection.
I wasn’t on board with the Jose Calderon signing either. I thought you gave him too much money for too many years and I thought that he’d be a terrible fit next to Ellis. At most, I may be right about one of the three. It remains to be seen if you signed Calderon for too many years, but the price tag per year looks more than fair and he’s been very good with Ellis.As we start to reach the tail end of this deal, it’s fair to re-evaluate and see the value of the contract, nonetheless, its proven that Calderon has been a wonderful point guard for your franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki.
Speaking of Dirk, I was an enormous proponent of you trading him and going into a full rebuild, a la Danny Ainge and the Celtics. I’ve been lauding Ainge for his lack of sentimentality. Heck, Ainge would trade his Mom for an unprotected first round pick, or at least put her into a nursing home. (It’s a retirement community). You and Cuban decided to go the other way and do everything you could to surround him with good players to continue to be a contender. I thought that was an awful mistake. Once again, I’ was wrong. Dirk is having his best year since the 2010-2011 title run and your Mavericks have proven to be a fringe contender in the West.
As far as the future is concerned, it actually looks pretty bright for your Mavericks. My prophecy of predicting you hamstringing yourself with the Ellis and Calderon contracts will probably end up being faulty as well. With the significant expiring deals of Dirk, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter, you’ll have a lot of salary cap space. With only $31 million in committed salary for next year, you’ll have plenty of cap room to be active in the free agent market–assuming that Dirk takes a pay cut from the $22 million and change he made this year. I do believe that’s a safe assumption based upon the loyalty that Cuban has shown Dirk by continuing to make a commitment towards winning and surrounding Dirk with capable players. The commitment made to Dirk to be a Maverick for life reverberates throughout the league and sends other players a message that very few teams send.
Cuban’s never ending quest to maintain Dallas as a preferred free agent destination may be your franchise’s best asset towards ongoing relevance. The state of the art training center is one thing but that’s also inching closer to becoming more of the norm in the NBA. The small touches that send a message to visiting players in the locker room also matter, whether its nice robes or other comfortable amenities. However, nothing sends a better message than loyalty and stability. If you come to the Mavericks, you know you’re going to play for a championship coach and a first class organization. Plus, you know that in a cutthroat business, you are playing for a loyal owner.
I’m sorry for doubting you guys, Donnie Mark. You’ve built the team through the “Maverick Way” and it continues to work in Dallas. Frankly, I feel kind of stupid. I wish you the best of luck the rest of the season.
Brian Geltzeiler aka HoopsCritic