The Dallas Mavericks have endured more than their share of summers of discontent. Summers when the big-ticket players shut them out, leaving the Mavericks grasping for whomever they could get.
By all accounts, that certainly has not been the case this summer.
While LeBron James was the only superstar who pulled up stakes and left a team, returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, the Mavericks moved fast in acquiring at least three starters and three others who should be in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation next season.
And that’s not counting the hometown discounts free agents Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris gave the Mavericks so they could have the salary cap space to acquire those players.
All of the acquisitions have created a buzz around the Mavericks’ organization not seen since they captured the 2011 NBA title.
“We build this thing for a Finals run every year, that’s what we’re in it for,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks’ president of basketball operations. “Our expectations … are higher than anything external, so we embrace that.
“You go in every summer, and they’ve got their own unique challenges, and this one to start the summer we had a lot of spots to fill, so we definitely had our work cut out for us. We’ve had worse bounces in free agency, that’s for sure.”
Two years ago the Mavericks missed out on Deron Williams in free agency, and last summer Dwight Howard decided to take his talents to Houston and play for the Rockets, again shell-shocking the Mavericks.
But this summer the Mavericks acquired Rockets restricted free-agent small forward Chandler Parsons for three years and $46 million, and picked up center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton in a trade with the New York Knicks.
The Mavericks also signed point guard Jameer Nelson to a two-year, $5.6 million contract, got forward Al-Farouq Aminu for two years and only $2.1 million, and signed forward Richard Jefferson for one year and $1.4 million.
In addition, 23-year-old forward Greg Smith came to the Mavericks via a trade with Chicago, while free agents Eric Griffin, 24, and Ivan Johnson, 30, have contracts that are not totally guaranteed.
The Mavericks did lose starters Samuel Dalembert, Shawn Marion and Jose Calderon and key reserve swingman Vince Carter.
Dalembert and Calderon were part of the Chandler and Felton trade, Carter signed a free-agent contract with Memphis, while Marion — also a free agent — has yet to sign with a team.
“I’m very pleased with the way [the off-season] went,” Carlisle said. “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t get Vince back. And Marion’s been a great player for us. I know he’s going to end up in a good situation.”
The additions by the Mavericks, Nelson pointed out, didn’t come without some extreme help and selfless financial acts from Nowitzki.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Rockets were all set to offer Nowitzki a maximum three-year contract worth approximately $75 million, but he didn’t even bother talking to them.
Instead, Nowitzki settled on a hometown discount contract of $25 million over three years with a Mavericks organization he’s played with for his entire 16-year career.
“We’re not even in a position to have those discussions [about obtaining the incoming players] without Dirk’s generosity,” Nelson said.
“As good of a basketball player he is, he’s a better human being, and he clearly is doing everything in his power to bring a championship back to Dallas, including taking a pretty significant pay cut that paved the way for us to sign these guys this summer.
“And Devin Harris was right behind him. The flexibility that those guys gave us really helped a lot.”
The return of Chandler to patrol the middle and clean up defensive mistakes made on the perimeter should also help the Mavericks’ cause. The Mavericks expect Chandler to regain the form which helped them win the 2011 championship.
“He’s the best we’ve ever had in terms of protecting the rim and giving us a presence both physically and emotionally on the floor and in the locker room,” Carlisle said. “It’s a big addition for us, so we’re excited.”
The Mavericks hope the additions will help them improve on last year’s 49-33 record and first-round playoff exit.
“We’re really optimistic and we’re looking forward to the fall,” Carlisle said. “With the amount of changes that we had, we’ve added a lot of good pieces and we’ve added some youth, which is important.
“I’m happy about it and I’m looking forward to getting going.”