Mavericks make pitch to Howard, await big decision

The Dallas Mavericks were all giddy Tuesday and bracing for some good news after completing their presentation to Los Angeles Lakers free agent center Dwight Howard in Beverly Hills.

Owner Mark Cuban, coach Rick Carlisle, forward Dirk Nowitzki, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, head athletic trainer Casey Smith and director of analytics Roland Beech all attended the meeting. The contingent was hoping to show Howard all the reasons why he should continue his basketball career in Dallas and sign a four-year, maxed-out $88 million contract with the Mavs.

Following his nearly three-hour meeting with the Mavs, Howard met with representatives from the Los Angeles Lakers — the final team on his free agent wish list. The former three-time Defensive Player of the Year met with representatives from Houston, Atlanta and Golden State earlier this week.

With the presentations over, the Mavs must sit back and be patient as Howard decides his basketball future. That decision could come as early as Wednesday and likely no later than July 10, when the NBA moratorium is lifted and players can start signing free agent contracts.

The Mavs believe Howard, 27, is the one player who can quickly get them back in the NBA championship picture and help them win another title or two before the 35-year old Nowitzki retires. Howard has struggled with shoulder injuries the past two seasons but has proved that he’s the game’s best big man when he’s healthy.

The Mavs believe that if they’re able to sign Howard, there’s a great possibility other quality players would want to play for Dallas for less money in hopes of winning a title. That formula has worked decidedly well for the Miami Heat, who captured the past two NBA championships after surrounding LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with quality talent that signed for less money.

That’s why Howard is the key to what can be a very successful off-season for the Mavs. His acquisition would have some extreme long-term positive ramifications.

While reports consistently have indicated that the Rockets and Lakers have a better chance at landing Howard than the Mavs, it must be remembered that Cuban has a close and friendly relationship with Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent. The Mavs are counting on that relationship being the tipping point that will land Howard in Dallas.

But the Mavs are in no position to lay all of their eggs in a Dwight Howard basket. They went through that process during free agency last summer when they lost out on the Deron Williams sweepstakes and wound up signing a bunch of players to one-year contracts.

With little to show for last year’s free agent class besides O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman, the Mavs proceeded to finish the season with a 41-41 record and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

A year later and Mayo, Collison and Kaman are all currently exploring their own free agent options, along with Brandan Wright, Rodrigue Beaubois, Mike James and Anthony Morrow.

Should the Mavs get their wish and sign Howard, they’ll likely part ways with Mayo, possibly in a sign-and-trade deal, but one such possibility was taken off the table Tuesday.

The Mavs were reportedly seeking a sign-and-trade that would have sent Mayo to the Los Angeles Clippers for either Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler or Matt Barnes.

But in a three-team trade, the Clippers traded Bledsoe and Butler to Phoenix for small forward Jared Dudley. The Clippers also received Milwaukee shooting guard J.J. Redick, while the Bucks received a pair of second-round picks.

Several other free agents hopefuls are still on the Mavs’ board, including centers Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden, guards Mo Williams, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon.