Knock-knock, anyone home at Mavs, Inc.?

Posted Saturday, Jul. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton His Twitter message said, simply, “The Mavs are back open for business.”

But considering the overwhelming basketball malaise sweeping over the local populace Friday afternoon, owner Mark Cuban might have better tweeted, “The Mavs are still open for business.”

Really? [Cut to YouTube video of Dallas Mavericks fans tapping on the team’s office window].

They’re still open, even after losing out — again — on an NBA big-name free agent?

On Friday, it was Dwight Howard who told Cuban no. Last year it was Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

What’s wrong with us, Mavericks fans must be wondering. Why can’t Cuban, who once bargained an Internet play-by-play feed into a $5.9 billion windfall, close the deal?

It’s a fair question, if not the most timely one. As Cuban’s messages suggested, he and the team’s brain trust — Smartest Guys in the Room, Inc. — still have a basketball team to piece together.

Jose Calderon? Olé! He may not be the Spanish Jason Kidd, but he returns a solid veteran presence at the point guard position. The money — $29 million spread over four years — makes him highly tradeable if things, you know, don’t quite work out.

But there’s the problem. The Mavericks remain one good center from things working out.

Reunited with his former coach, Jermaine O’Neal is a friendly addition and probably good for 15 minutes per game next season. But it’s the wrong decade and the wrong O’Neal.

Reportedly, having lost out on Howard, the Mavericks have turned their attention to Andrew Bynum, the former Lakers center, former Second-Best Center in the League, and former Youngest Player Ever Drafted. All of that, however, was a half-dozen or so knee injuries ago.

After blossoming into an All-Star for the Lakers in 2012, Bynum was injured and sat out the entire season last year with the 76ers. Doctors in Philadelphia described Bynum’s problem as a degenerative knee condition, with cartilage reported to be wearing thin in both knees.

Maybe that’s true. Or maybe that’s what the insurance companies needed to hear for the Sixers to recoup his $16.9 million salary.

His agent, David Lee, reportedly is willing to let free agent suitors see Bynum’s MRI video and draw their own conclusions.

Does Cuban feel lucky?

I don’t think the gang at Smartest Guys in the Room, Inc., has much choice. Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic has an intriguing skill set, but even at $12 million per year, it’s likely that the Timberwolves will match the offer.

Omer Asik can’t be happy that he’s now Howard’s caddie in Houston. But what do the Mavericks have that would compel the Rockets to trade him to a division rival?

That’s been the theme of the week, in case you haven’t noticed. As Cuban told us two summers ago, salary cap space was supposed to be the currency that would buy the Mavericks their new future.

The true currency, as it turns out, is quality players. Free agents, shopping for new teammates, want to see a roster with quality players. And, again, to make the trades that entice free agents and validate contenders , you need quality players.

Or maybe you throw a pile of money at Bynum and hope it all works out. They did name the team Mavericks, didn’t they?

I find it hard to believe that Cuban, or Rick Carlisle, or Dirk Nowitzki or this part of Texas has been the problem in attracting free agent players. A team can finish second in the free agent sweepstakes over and over again, and it still won’t solve its problems. Second place was no better than last place when it came to signing Howard.

For Cuban and the brain trust, therefore, it’s time for Plan B. Or is that Plan C? I’ve lost track.

Tap-tap. Are you guys open on Sundays?

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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