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Star-Telegram.com

Mavericks brace for maybe busiest summer ever

Posted Sunday, May. 06, 2012

By Dwain Price

dprice@star-telegram.com

DALLAS -- Buckle up and get ready for the most active summer in the history of the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs have six players who will become free agents on July 1, and four more who will become free agents if the Mavs don't pick up the team option on their contracts. Also, coach Rick Carlisle could be patrolling the sidelines elsewhere because he, too, will become a free agent on July 1.

The business of the sport will serve as the busy backdrop for a franchise that needs to get younger, needs more players who can create their own shots, needs another bona fide superstar along with Dirk Nowitzki and needs someone to protect the basket.

"We've got our work cut out for us," general manager Donnie Nelson said Sunday. "Obviously we've got some decisions to make with guys in the locker room and free agency and such. We've got a bunch of free agents, so it's going to be an active summer for us."

Before the Mavs peruse their own -- and other teams' -- free agents, they might want to re-sign Carlisle locked up before another team tries to lure him away. In four seasons with Dallas, Carlisle is 198-114 in the regular season, and 23-18 in the playoffs, has one Southwest Division title and led the Mavs to their only NBA title last season.

To hear Nelson on Sunday, it's as if the Mavs already have a handshake agreement with Carlisle.

"Rick's not going anywhere," Nelson said. "This is definitely not the time or the place to get into that issue, but I don't foresee that situation changing. Rick, he likes us, we like him. Those situations generally get worked out."

Carlisle, though, wasn't about to reveal anything about his contract status.

"I'm not going to get into anything about my contract situation or my staff's situation," Carlisle said Sunday. "This has been a great opportunity for me and my family and we love it here. That's as far as I'm going to go talking about it."

After going 36-30 during a lockout-shortened season, the No. 7 seed Mavericks were swept by Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs, only the second time Dallas has been swept in the postseason.

Thunder guard James Harden's frequent forays to the basket showed that the Mavs must improve their perimeter and interior defense.

"We need to get better -- that's my only concern," Nowitzki said. "As the Mavericks, usually we pride ourselves over the last decade not to play for the seventh seed or the eighth seed or just to make it into the playoffs.

"Our goal was always to be obviously one of the top four in the West, get home court and make a deep run."

Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Delonte West, Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal and Yi Jianlian become unrestricted free agents on July 1. The Mavs also hold options on Brandan Wright, Vince Carter, Kelenna Azubuike and Lamar Odom.

Thus, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Nowitzki are the only players under contract for next season. The Mavericks might use their amnesty clause on Haywood's contract, which would give them more salary cap space.

Because of the many nuances of the new collective bargaining agreement, owner Mark Cuban said he doesn't have an off-season plan for free agency.

"It's like anything else in life," Nelson said. "You've got to have your A, B, C, D and E and so on, but you also understand that this is a global plate tectonic.

"Things are moving and situations are fluid. You go into it with eyes wide open and hopefully you can come out of it with what you want."

The Mavs would love to corral New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams, who also becomes a free agent on July 1. Williams is from the Dallas suburb of The Colony and has stated that he would like to play for the Mavericks.

However the off-season shakes out, Nelson wants to make one thing clear.

"We don't plan on putting out anything less than a championship-caliber team," he said.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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