Free-agency bust: Can Cuban put Mavs back together?

Free-agency period has been a bust so far for Mavericks, leaving a feeling of uncertainty

07/06/2012 11:41 PM

02/21/2013 12:56 AM

DALLAS -- Less than 13 months after winning their first NBA championship, the good old days appear to be over for the Dallas Mavericks.

After winning the 2011 title, the Mavs refused to offer long-term contracts to Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler. Instead, they opted to create salary-cap space for this summer's free-agency period.

But a not-so-funny thing happened to the Mavericks in the free-agency market: No one has stepped forward to take any of their cap space.

That includes Dallas losing out on point guard Deron Williams, who decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets instead of coming home to play for the Mavericks.

Williams' decision forced the Mavs to pursue other options. But then guard Jason Terry agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract with the Boston Celtics, and point guard Jason Kidd agreed to a three-year, $9 million deal with the New York Knicks.

That leaves Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones as the only players remaining from the 2010-11 championship team. Strong rumors persist that the Mavericks plan to put the amnesty tag on Haywood.

The only other player under contract with the Mavs is Vince Carter.

Count Chandler among those not in favor of the Mavs breaking up their championship team.

"Everybody gets so caught up in trying to make a home run," Chandler told The Associated Press. "But we had the formula and it's obviously gone."

Kidd believes those dumping on the franchise might be premature. He thinks owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson have a few aces that they've yet to play.

"Cuban and Donnie are going to put that team back together," Kidd said. "They have a great owner in Cuban. He's one of the best owners around. He's going to make this team competitive, and he wants to win."

The Mavericks have shown some interest in power forward Elton Brand, who will be released by Philadelphia under the NBA's amnesty clause. Brand, 33, averaged a career-low 11 points and 7.2 rebounds in a career-low 28.9 minutes per game last season.

Also, a source said the Mavericks had more discussions Friday with representatives of point guard Ramon Sessions, who also is being pursued by the Houston Rockets. Other free agents on the Mavs' wish-list include Marcus Camby, Randy Foye, Aaron Brooks, Anthony Randolph, Keyon Dooling, Raymond Felton and Kirk Hinrich.

Last Saturday before his charity celebrity baseball game in Frisco, Nowitzki seemed anxious about the Mavericks' free-agency plans.

"It seemed like last December when we made the decision to let J.J. and Tyson and everybody go, that we're putting basically all our eggs in one basket," Nowitzki said. "I also know that Mark and Donnie always have something up their sleeve."

At the Team USA training camp in Las Vegas on Friday, Chandler told reporters he was stunned by the events.

"If they weren't able to land Deron Williams or Dwight [Howard], I knew there would be trouble down the road," he said. "I feel sorry for Dirk... You go from winning a championship to kind of it seems like you're almost in a rebuilding stage. Especially for Dirk at this point in his career, I really feel bad for him."

Nowitzki, though, believes the Mavs are reloading, not rebuilding.

"We as the Mavericks, we don't look at ourselves as a rebuilding organization," Nowitzki said. "We always compete at the highest level there is, and so I'm sure if [Williams] makes the wrong decision for us, then we've got something else going."

Kidd noted that the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement forced the Mavs to make some difficult decisions.

"You always want to have that chance to repeat," Kidd said. "But basketball is a business and [Cuban] was put in a bad situation in a sense of what the [luxury] taxes are.

"He couldn't bring Tyson and J.J. back. The tax would have been double for Tyson."

Kidd said it's no secret that teams often don't sign the players they want.

"Sometimes folks just want to go in different directions," he said. "But they have a great player in Dirk. He understands the business side of this, too."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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