Mavs Add Blair and Frontcourt Depth

30 07 2013


He may have no knees, but he has better knees than another big man the Mavs were pursuing.

The Dallas Mavericks have come to terms on a one-year deal worth $1.4 million (the veteran’s minimum) with DeJuan Blair, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

The 6-7, 270 lb. power forward/center was drafted No. 37 out of Pittsburgh by the San Antonio Spurs in 2009 and fell that low due to the fact that he has no ACLs in both of his knees. Even though this seems like it would be a cause of concern, he has had a fairly healthy career during his four years with the Spurs, missing only three games during his first three seasons.

Blair has career averages of 7.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg on 52.8 percent shooting from the field. He also has averaged only 18.9 mpg during his four seasons, showing his ability to make an impact with minimal minutes. The 24-year-old bruiser’s per 36-minute stats last season were 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds on 52.4 percent shooting, according to Basketball Reference. He is known for his scrappy play, rebounding and ability to just find a way to get the ball in the basket. Last season, 81.1 percent of Blair’s shots came in the restricted area or painted non-RA for the Spurs and shot 57.3 percent in these areas. What this means is that Blair does most of his damage in the paint off put-backs or broken plays.

The major downside to Blair’s play is his defense. He may work his tail off on every play, but that’s often not enough when it comes to playing against seven footers in the NBA. Being about as tall as most small forwards, Blair struggles to hold his own against much taller opponents who can shoot over the top of him. Since Brandan Wright (6-9) is also undersized for his position, head coach Rick Carlisle will need to make sure his rotations have enough size on the floor or things could get ugly on defense.

As Mavs fans have grown to love about their own Wright, Blair has always been ready to play, not worrying about his role or how many minutes he gets. (With a coach like Carlisle, who doesn’t care about those things as well, that’s a good quality for a Mav.)

Just take last year’s NBA Playoffs. Due to Tiago Splitter‘s emergence as the starting center, Blair eventually fell almost completely out of Gregg Popovich‘s rotation. That’s why his minutes dropped from 21.3 two seasons ago to 14.0 last season. After only playing trash time in the first two games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, Blair got 14 and 19 minutes in Game 3 and 4, scoring 13 points  in both games on 12-of-15 shooting. He also added 12 total boards.

Even though he didn’t receive consistent minutes during a run to the Finals after being the team’s main center early in his career, Blair didn’t show any sort of frustration or discontent. This team-first attitude is something any organization going in any direction wold be happy to have in the locker room. As Popovich mentioned when asked about Blair falling out of his rotation last season, “To his credit, DeJuan has been a true pro.”

With this signing, it seems that the Mavs have taken themselves out of the Greg Oden race or Oden told them that they were out of the race, so they moved on to Blair. Even if there are those out there that say the Mavs are still in the race, I don’t see Dallas as Oden’s likely destination. It will probably be the New Orleans Pelicans or Miami Heat—teams that can offer him money with no pressure or the chance to win now.

Unlike Oden, who hasn’t played an NBA game since 2009, Blair hasn’t missed a substantial amount of games yet. Oden’s ceiling may be higher than Blair’s, but Blair has a higher floor.

With a higher floor, Blair gives the Mavs a proven rebounder and competitor. For a team whose leading rebounder was their small forward (Shawn Marion) last season, rebounding was clearly an issue. Dallas had a rebounds per game differential of -3.7, which was third worst in the NBA. By bringing in Samuel Dalembert and Blair, the team should be more respectable on the boards.

Dallas management clearly missed out on all their “big fish” targets these past two seasons; however, they do deserve credit for their ability to fill out the roster while maneuvering around the cap line and put together pieces that make the Mavericks a potential playoff team. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson should be criticized for the “plan powder dry” approach but praised for finding economically-savvy answers to their roster problems. (The only exception this offseason is Jose Calderon, who was given too long of a contract.) On paper, they have their answers: pass-first point guard (Calderon), No. 2 scorer (Monta Ellis) and low-post defensive presence (Dalembert). And they didn’t go over the cap to fill these needs.

Now it’s just time to see these pieces fit together and give Dirk another shot at a postseason run.

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Allen Iverson a Future Dallas Maverick?

28 01 2013

You read that correctly. The washed-up, Turkey-playing, 37-year-old point guard with an attitude like no other may soon be wearing the Big D blue.

The Dallas Mavericks D-league affiliate team, the Texas Legends, are attempting to persuade A.I. himself, Allen Iverson,to start his NBA comeback in Texas, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Sources say that the Legends have wanted Iverson throughout this season and have increased this pursuit recently. (Most likely due to the Mavs’ need for some sort of spark and lack of veteran point guard play. No, Mike James is not the answer.)

The last time Iverson had a meaningful season was the 2006-2007 NBA season, when he averaged 26.4 points and 7.1 assists for a dangerous Denver Nuggets playoff team. But that was six years ago…

He went on to finish his NBA days playing for three different teams in three consecutive seasons – first Detroit, then back to Philadelphia and ended in Memphis, which lasted three whole games – leaving a bad taste in all of those cities’ mouths due to his complaints and lack of consistency.

Since then, anywhere overseas has been his place of work, specifically in Turkey. He has played well while in Europe but done nothing eye-opening that makes it seem as though he is ready to jump back in the NBA. There are few NBA players out there that have had such fallouts without a major injury being a leading cause.

But he has been working hard of late and ignoring offers to play in China for the sole reason of making an NBA comeback. With this new driven desire to make it back to the big stage, I envision Iverson coming to terms with the Legends eventual offer.

No one would want this type of detriment on the team ever again…

So, is it good that the Mavs might be in the midst of taking on a risk that could inevitably turn into a affair almost as frustrating as the Lamar Odom fiasco?

There’s one main difference between these two situations: this ol’ man wants to play.

On May 23, 2012, A.I. attended Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals when the Boston Celtics visited Wells Fargo Arena to take on his former team.

Iverson made it clear to the nation he isn’t ready to be done.

“I want to play basketball so bad,” Iverson said during an ESPN interview.

This desire to be a part of the sport that he has played his entire life can’t go unnoticed. When you hear players talk in this way, they are often the players that don’t focus on their statistics or on which teammates playing their position are getting more minutes.

Take Elton Brand for example. The man that only cares about helping Dallas win has been all over the place minutes-wise for the Mavericks this year. How did he respond Sunday night when asked about Carlisle’s constant shuffling of his centers?

“I want to win,” Brand said. “I’m out there when I’m out there. My goal is to win some games.”

Now, let’s be clear. Brand has shown a greater level of maturity throughout his NBA career compared to his former Sixers’ teammate. But now that the former MVP has played in Europe for over a year, it’s possible that he could be more humbled and not focused on if he’s starting or not. This could be a man with the same flash, though a step slower, with a new outlook on his purpose in the league.

Or I could be wrong and he ends up lasting a few games with the Legends and goes back to China. Sometimes people just can’t change and a problem has no solution.

But maybe the Answer has finally found the answer in himself. Maybe he has finally grown up.

Either way, the Mavericks are in a position where they can take on this short-term, risky project. Looking to simply squeeze their way into the playoffs, this team as it is will not contend for a title. The Thunder, Spurs and Clippers won’t allow it.

So, why start this now?

In order to give this reputable sports city that has had nothing but disappointment of late the Jeremy Lin-esque spark it needs, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson can’t step lively – they must spring into this offseason. They have to do so not only for the fans but also for the big German himself. Cuban promised Dirk he would get him a “Big Fish” for his willingness to take a pay cut in his contract two years ago. Well, that still hasn’t happened. So, even though he may be unable to reel in that promise at this point, he still needs to do something to prove his desire to make this team the best they can be.

Iverson may or may not be the solution, but at least it would be proof that Cuban is still focused on his franchise more than ABC’s ratings.

So, as we move forward with this Iverson situation and his likelihood of joining the Texas Legends, we can only envision the pros and the cons of what may soon come to fruition. And if it does, let’s hope that Iverson talks about winning and not practice. Please – hope he doesn’t talk about practice…

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Michael Finley Eyes NBA Comeback

23 11 2012

And just when you thought there weren’t enough old ex-Mavs in the NBA, you will need to add another to the list.

Two-time NBA All-Star Michael Finley had decided he is going to attempt a comeback as an NBA player, according to sources.

Since he began playing some pickup games this past summer, the former 21st pick in the 1995 NBA Draft has been working toward getting his body back in NBA shape. (If he has gotten to that point is still to be determined.)

The 39-year-old has been working as a Dallas Mavericks front-office affiliate since last spring and was even a part of the recruitment team that sat down with Deron Williams in an attempt to bring him to Dallas.

Even with this new front-office career path, Finley never stopped training for a possible comeback. After Donnie Nelson made it public that both Finley and former Maverick Eduardo Najera were working for the organization, sources say Finley was later invited to the Mavs training camp before a calf injury got in the way.

Being fully recovered from the ankle surgery that ended his NBA career and his recent calf injury, the only retired piece of Mark Cuban’s original Big 3 is ready to follow the path of Rasheed Wallace and find a home for himself on a winning franchise. With the Memphis Grizzlies’ lack of outside shooting and veteran leadership, Tennessee could possibly be the next home for Finley with a roster spot still available on this 8-2 team.

Oh, these were the days…

It’s difficult not to root for Finley in this situation. The Mavs fifth all-time leading scorer has a reputation of being a hard-worker that only cares about winning. He became a fan favorite in many DFW households during his nine years in Dallas as he established himself as one of the most consistent shooting guards in the league, averaging 19.6 points during that time. The fact that he has battled back from such a nasty ankle injury is proof enough of his resilience and determination to place basketball once again.

He may no longer be a high-flying dunker or your go-to guy when the game is on the line or the laughing stock of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but if a team out there gives this man a second chance to play the game he loves, they will have themselves a man with an attitude worth having on the court and in the locker room.

Good luck, Fin Dog.

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Johnson to Nets; Howard Not to Nets; Williams to…

2 07 2012


The Dallas Mavericks had a party consisting of coach Rick Carlisle, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and former Maverick Michael Finley visit with Deron Williams Monday morning or afternoon. Dirk Nowitzki is in London attending the Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament and Mark Cuban is in Los Angeles working on his popular “Shark Tank.” This shouldn’t have too much of an impact since Dirk and Cuban have both contacted the top 2012 free agent since free agency began Sunday.

Even though he might not be at the actual meeting, Jason Kidd might be the one person that has done the most recruiting. He spent most of last week with Williams in the Hamptons on a golf vacation and has been pushing for him to join Nowitzki and himself in Dallas, according to Marc Stein.

The Brooklyn Nets, whose party members have not been reported, will have a meeting with the All-Star point guard Monday night.

Brooklyn Nets beat writer Colin Stephenson first reported that the Joe Johnson – who is owed a weighty $89 million over the next four years – to Brooklyn move is “pretty much done.” The Hawks will take Jordan Williams, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, a sign-and-trade of DeShawn Stevenson, and Houston Rocket’s 2013 lottery-protected draft pick in return. The Nets are planning to tell Williams about this trade during their meeting tonight.

There have been conflicting reports as to if this deal will wait to happen on William’s decision or simply go through disregarding his choice. Most recently, this deal does not have any connection with D-Will staying with the Nets, according to Chris Broussard. Yet, it seems as though the Nets wouldn’t have taken such a hit to their bank unless they received Williams’s blessing – which would solidify his choice to remain with the Nets. It could also just be another boneheaded Billy King move…

This marks off any possibility that Dwight Howard will actually get what the baby wants and be traded to the Nets. Let me repeat: Dwight Howard will not be going to the Nets if this trade goes through. Yes, he stated that this is the only team he wants to go to (for some strange reason I still can’t figure out), and Brooklyn has shown that they will not allow him to control their organization’s decisions as the big man has done with the Orlando Magic.

The NBA does in fact have a salary cap. The Nets might have nice cap room but not enough to bring on four major contracts. They already owe only three players around $50.5 million through the 2013-2014 season… that’s a lot of cash. So, Howard (or all the people “close to the situation”) will need to figure out another place he wants to play long-term. If Williams doesn’t go home to DFW, the Mavericks might actually become a lead candidate to trade for him this offseason or to sign him next offseason. Or D12 could just get the next Magic coach fired.

So, now D-Will must decide what he values most in his next NBA team.

If he goes to Dallas, he is coming to the better of the two teams with the better potential “dynamic duo” teammate with the better future. Dirk – who is a regular season MVP, NBA Finals MVP and champion, 11-time All-Star and has been selected to an All-NBA Team 12 of his 14 years in the NBA – is a better basketball player than Johnson – who has never made it out of the second round of the playoffs as the Hawks primary player for seven years – at this exact point in time. No question. Furthermore, with the more experienced and successful front office that has proven they do the one thing Williams has constantly stated he desires, which is simply winning, the Mavs give Williams a better chance to make many playoff runs right now and in the future. The fact that Dallas is his hometown could help or harm his decision. Even though he has claimed he would love to play where he grew up, many professional athletes don’t care to play at home since every single person that crossed their paths in life then want some special privileges since their “best friends.”

If he goes to Brooklyn, he will be getting around $25 million more with the extra year that the recently-moved franchise can offer him compared to Dallas. At his age of 28, he might desire this one extra year since he will be in his early 30s the next time he has to sign a contract. The “happenin” town also plays a part. Brooklyn will give Williams many more sponsorship deals as he becomes the main face of a fresh franchise. He would have to wait until Dirk retires to be the main image of the team. Jay-Z playing an integral role with this team and creating the new black-and-white image gives Brooklyn the “hip” edge. In general, though, most of the reasons to go up north revolve around money. There’s honestly not much else with Howard now out of the picture. But money definitely does a lot of convincing on its own in any professional sports league.

Why are there so many sources conflicting in their claims that they “know” where Williams is going? It is because they don’t. Honestly, both of these teams have features to offer that Williams is clearly interested in. (However, if the Nets had a track record like the Mavericks, I guarantee a decision would have already been made.) Williams is conflicted between these two teams and set up these two meetings in order to help himself get a better idea of where he wants to play the rest of his career. Honestly, he could be persuaded either way, and whatever way he is in fact swayed is the direction he will go in because this is going to be his decision and his decision alone.

Since this man has stated he wants to make a decision before he begins Olympic training camp, he will make his franchise-changing choice by July 4.

God Bless America.

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