The Big Mac Blog

Mavs praying Nerlens Noel isn’t another Rondo

Nerlens Noel, ultimately, has no one to blame for this fiasco other than Nerlens Noel.

Mark Cuban has nothing to do with this one.

Noel can yell at his agent, but the agent works for the client. All he had to do was tell the agent what he wanted — tell him to accept the offer.

Now the Dallas Mavericks center is “betting on himself,” which is a spin-job because he has no choice. He screwed this up, and the only question is whether he can admit it. If he pouts and takes his contract situation out on the Mavs, they should trade him the moment he shows signs of pulling a Rajon Rondo.

There are no signs Noel is going to pull a Rondo, but the thought of missing out on $66 million has been known to alter behaviors.

Noel recently agreed to a one-year qualifying offer from the Mavs to play the 2017-18 season for $4.1 million. This is after he turned down a four-year, $70 million contract from the Mavs in early July.

Guys who are 6-foot-11, can run, block shots and dunk have $4.1 million between their couch cushions.

The problem is Noel was led by his agent, who was telling him he could land a max contract and that some team would give it to him as a restricted free agent.

That max offer never came, and now one of the main components for the Mavs in their effort to rebuild the roster could play the entire season angry. Or he could play inspired.

BTW: Noel is on his third agent in the last eight months; that’s telling about a player. Guys who fire agents tend to blame agents.

The Mavs are rebuilding around lottery pick point guard Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews, but Noel is the defensive player who makes this plan work. Noel is the center coach Rick Carlisle must have.

The team has not had a rim protector since Tyson Chandler was here, either time. Noel may never be a dynamic offensive player, but he can screen and roll effectively, and pose as a threat.

The guy has double-double potential. He averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks after the Mavs acquired him in a trade that sent Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a pair of second-round picks to the 76ers in return for the 2013 sixth overall selection.

Even though Noel has had injury issues, he’s only 23 and it’s hard not to like this deal. The success hinged on whether Cuban could sign Noel to a multi-year extension, which he said was a priority the week after they drafted Smith.

The last time the Mavs dealt for a player entering the final year of a deal was in 2014, when they acquired point guard Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics. In a free-agent year, Rondo should have been motivated but it quickly became apparent he simply did not fit in offensively with the Mavs, or Carlisle.

Rondo then pulled off one of the most memorable playoff performances ever in 2015, when he all but quit in Game 2 of the first round series against the Houston Rockets.

There are no signs Noel is Rondo, or that he will pout his way out of town over a contract situation that he himself is squarely to blame. But losing $66 million can alter behaviors.

Noel is betting on himself, because he gave himself no other alternative.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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