Now that Jason Kidd has decided to sign with the New York Knicks to be Jeremy Lin’s backup, it’s time to discuss the disaster that is the Dallas Mavericks 2012 offseason. Actually, this is part-and-parcel of the disastrous 2011 offseason, when the Mavs leadership decided to blow up a championship team in order to pursue big name free agents this summer.
At the time, Donnie Nelson titillated Mavs fans by saying they wanted to land a “big fish”. Mark Cuban talked on and on about “financial flexibility” to do the same. So the Mavericks made a 1-year offer to Tyson Chandler (knowing he wanted a multi-year deal) and let JJ Barea go in free agency. Allowing Desean Stevenson to walk out the door was minor news, but that was 3 members of your 8-man rotation you shoved out the door.
The hope was the team would be able to lure either Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams in free agency (or through trade) with all that extra cap space. Some local media talked of 2 of the 3. In other words, the Dallas Mavericks decided to go into the 2011-2012 season with an inferior team, hoping they would be better than ever in the 2012-2013 season and beyond. What I’m amazed is that some among the Mavericks faithful (media and fans) continue to defend these moves. They say the Mavs took their shot on a 50/50 chance and were trying to avoid being in the middle ground of the NBA–irrevelant, but not so irrelevent they were in the lottery.
I take exception to both of those points. I’d argue the Mavericks never had a 50/50 chance and that history proves that to be true. I’d also argue that the course Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson set has the Mavericks exactly where they wanted to avoid: on the cusp of the 8th seed in the playoffs. Here’s further thoughts to underline these points:
1. Don’t Blow Up Championship Teams
First of all, you don’t blow up championship teams. It takes so much to attain the world title, you don’t mess with that chemistry. The combination of talent, chemistry, and luck that goes into a world championship is such that you try your best to hold those things together, because starting over only puts you further from your goal.
Look at the last team to blow up a championship team: the 1990s Chicago Bulls. After Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson won their 3rd straight NBA title, the Bulls brass decided it was time to put an end to things and start anew. They grumbled that Michael Jordan made $30 million a year, as if he didn’t pay back that outlay. They grumbled that Phil Jackson didn’t work well with the front office, thinking he was more essential to success than Jerry Krause (GM) and Jerry Reinsdorf (owner). They never considered that maybe Phil Jackson was right. Like Jerry Jones with the 1990s Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf came to believe they were the reason the Bulls won titles.
They thought all that had to be done was blow the team up and start over, and they would build a new contender in short order. Ten years of futility followed, until the Bulls got the 1st pick in the draft and drafted Derrick Rose. And the Mavericks wanted to follow this plan to achieve success. Granted, the Mavs thought they were retaining their superstar and that he combined with the world championship would lure big time free agents to Dallas. I say that was always a longshot…worse than a crapshoot.
2. The Mavs Never Get Free Agents
Ten years in the NBA should have taught Mark Cuban that the Mavericks never lure star free agents to Dallas. Cuban deluded himself into thinking it was because the Mavericks never had the cap space to outbid other teams, but cap space doesn’t get around the rules that allow teams to offer their free agents more than other teams. You need cap space PLUS assets for a sign-and-trade.
More than that, you need a situation players want desperately want to play in. Playing in DFW just doesn’t cut it for NBA players. Heck, even Chicago doesn’t seem to be alluring to NBA superstars. Instead, they want to play in New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami. It’s a matter of lifestyle in the case of all three and profile in the case of LA/NYC. Dallas is a great place to live and settle, but it doesn’t have the sizzle that NBA players (in particular) want.
On the side, the Mavericks need to learn from this they’re never going to lure the biggest stars through free agency. They don’t consider Dallas a glamor destination, despite the fact it’s a Top 5 market. Furthermore, Mark Cuban didn’t take into account the prestige of winning a world title would be spent a year later, if the Mavericks were one-and-done in the playoffs.
3. Perception Has To Be Considered
There’s this to consider, too: these free agents just saw you dump your championship players. These guys just helped you win an unexpected world title and you had no loyalty to them. They were the best in the world, yet they weren’t good enough for you. But more than the message this sends to potential free agents, imagine the message it sends to your roster.
Your moves underscore to these guys they’re expendable. Dumping Tyson Chandler in particular was a gut punch to the players remaining, because people like Dirk Nowitsky and Jason Terry realized how hard you had to work (and how lucky you had to get) to get a good center in the locker room. For years, the Mavericks had been playing 4-against-5, because they had to deal with Shawn Bradley, Raef Lafrentz, Eric Dampier, and Brendan Heywood. You finally make a good deal to get Chandler and play 5-against-5 for once and you let that walk right out the door. Again, that offer to Tyson Chandler was all-but-saying you wanted him to leave.
Morale on your roster has to be considered, while perception around the league must be considered. Why should Jason Terry and Jason Kidd buy into your program if you let their championship defense walk out the door, and why should players around the league take you seriously if you blow off a title defense? Dirk Nowitzky said it for all the guys the other day when he said, “I’m too old to start rebuilding.” You’re playing with years off these guys careers when all of them see the window closing. That’s just a really bad idea with an aging team.
4. Plan a Year at a Time
Which brings me to my last point: you have to plan one year at a time. When you decided to chuck a whole year for the chance to lure Deron Williams, Chris Paul, or Dwight Howard, you were setting yourself up to be disappointed. You never know what’s going to happen in the NBA in a year’s time, but history tells you everything is going to change from year to year. One thing for certain is that what appears to be the case now won’t be the case in a year’s time.
Chris Paul was almost certain to be traded. When he was traded, he was certain to be off the market, because he was going to a team that was likely a contender–much better than the New Orleans Hornets, at least. If you wanted a shot at Chris Paul, you had to make a strong push to trade for him last year–not hope he would choose you when he came free in 2013. Teams can convince a player to stay once he’s in the house, especially because the rules are set up to help the team with their rights. Otherwise, you’re just another franchise.
Most of the plan centered around Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, though. Dwight Howard completely blew up the Mavericks calculations when he decided to opt for another year. Instead of only outbidding teams for Howard’s services, they were going to have to send a package of assets to the Orlando Magic to rent Dwight Howard for a year–assets the Mavericks certainly don’t have. That left Deron Williams as the only truly huge free agent on the market and the only real advantage the Mavs had was that Deron Williams was from the DFW area. That’s not much of an advantage. When was the last time going home swayed an superstar NBA player in his prime? And even if Dwight Howard had hit free agency this year, it’s obvious he would have chosen the lousy Nets over the longtime contender Mavericks. That should tell you something about perceptions around the league (though Dwight Howard is a little crazy).
So the Mavericks built their hopes on shifting sands. Worse, they build their hopes on shifting sands that were likely to shift out from under them. They had a bad plan and they executed the plan badly. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson set themselves up for disaster and now they preside over wreckage. Their offseason is a wreck and it’s about 95% their own fault.
Far better it would have been to have put the best product on the court last year, made a run as late as possible in the playoffs, maintained as much of the prestige of the title the year before and the perception of title contenders moving ahead, then taken their chances in free agency with a better store of trust and standing. Financial flexibility is great, but it’s not the only factor. The Mavericks treated it as the only factor, which was their downfall.
Count Me Out on Next Year
I can already see it coming. Some have already moved on to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul in 2013. Wait another year, maintain your financial flexibility, and one or both of these guys will come to Dallas. You’re fooling yourselves. Another year of mediocrity and the Dallas Mavericks will look even more irrelevent. Dirk Nowitzky will be 2 years removed from an NBA title, 35 years old, and well past his prime. Chris Paul will have had two years with a young LA Clippers team and have spent two years in Los Angeles. Why would have want to move to Dallas? Dwight Howard will still be wanting to go to New York City, or wherever he wants to be in 2013. I’m betting it won’t be the Mavericks.
The Dallas Mavericks gambled everything lost. The summer of 2011–essentially everything since the world championship celebration ended–is going to be seen as the moment this team threw away a chance at title defense. 2012 is going to be seen as the year it became evident, but this was a year in the making. These past two offseasons are about decline into mediocrity. 2013 isn’t going to see the Mavericks as a contender for the biggest free agents, but about the Mavs admitting they are rebuilding and shopping Dirk Nowitsky to find the best way to shorten the rebuilding process. That’s my prediction, because you just don’t blow up championship teams.
What a wild weekend of NBA Basketball. On Thursday, I wrote most of a post ranting about the 2-0 series, complaining about NBA referees and how much I’d hate to see a Spurs-Heat finals. Friday, I got in a hurry and never post my rant and, frankly, I’m kind of glad I didn’t.
Suddenly, both series are tied at 2-2 and the inevitable doesn’t look so preordained anymore. I’d still bet on the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs meeting in the title series, but there’s a chance either the Thunder or Celtics pull off the big upset.
6 Games Away from History
I wrote last week that the Spurs were 6 games away from a perfect postseason. That’s ancient history now, but that prospect has been replaced with a better scenario: four teams sit 6 wins away from an NBA championship.
Celtics and Heat Get Chippy
As well as the Spurs have played these last couple of months, I’m more amazed that the Boston Celtics dug themselves out of a 2-0 hole. I was convinced the NBA refs were arrayed against the Celtics, after Dwyane Wade got away with a late elbow to the head of Rajon Rondo in a game the officials were calling so tight that three Celtics had fouled out of. That 4-point swing was a huge difference in the Heat’s Game 2 victory.
Once again, that’s old history now. The Celtics have clearly had the better of the action in the last two games and, arguably, for a majority of this series. Chris Bosh (of all people) maybe be back in Game 5 and is being hailed as a savior, though he may be more of a forlorn hope for worried Heat fans right now. As always, the Heat’s destiny rises and falls with that of Lebron James and Dwyane Wade.
Whatever the case, I’m going to be pulling for the Celtics and Thunder to pull off huge upsets after having to win 4 of 5. I’m not sure that Kendrick Perkins versus old team storyline will be as sexy as Lebron going to finals #3 or Spurs going for title #5, but I like pulling for the underdogs. I’m sitting down to watch Game 5 of Thunder-Spurs while I try to grind out some work on the laptop (after posting this).
Looks like Serge Ibaka is already on the bench with fouls in Game 5 after he went 11-for-11 in Game 4, so it’s time to start complaining about the NBA referees again, already.
The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys lost their appeals against the National Football League and NFL Players Association when arbitrator Stephen B. Burbank dismissed the case. This appeal was filed with an arbitrator as mandated by the last CBA, so this ruling only has legal weight inside the confines of the NFL.
The 12-page ruling handed down by Stephen Burbank hints that this isn’t over by a long shot. The ruling suggests the Redskins and Cowboys have “other avenues of relief”. In other words, the teams can’t challenge the case under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but they retain the right to sue the NFL in court to have this case overturned.
So far, the teams appear willing to let the case drop. In a joint statement by Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder, the teams suggested they would “abide by the arbitrator’s decision to dismiss” and went on to say: “We will continue to focus on our football teams and the 2012 season.”
Before I Get to My Rant
First of all, what strange bedfellows this case has made. The Cowboys and Redskins are issuing joint statements, while the NFL and NFLPA are joint defendants in an arbitration case. Next thing you know, Bill Belichick will be featured on Rex Ryan’s next rap album.
I Know This Is Repetitive, But…
Something about this whole turn of events seems unjust. If the NFL thought these contracts were unfair, they shouldn’t have approved them back in 2010. The Cowboys and Redskins had less money to front load contracts these past 2 years because Roger Goodell and the NFL said those contracts were okay. After two years of being told everything was fine, the teams were then told they would have millions of dollars less to use in 2012 than the other 30 teams. The Cowboys lost $10 million over the next two years and the Redskins lost $36 million.
Those dollar amounts affected how Washington and Dallas approached free agency. They simply could not add players they wanted, because Roger Goodell announced two days before free agency started, “Hey, you guys will play with less.” This is the kind of micro-managing that the NBA got into when they voided the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, except the NBA actually owned that team, so their meddling made more sense. There you have it, Roger Goodell: I just compared your NFL Front Office to the NBA Front Office.
Them’s fighting words in this neck of the woods.
What a bad precedent to set. The NFL can come along at any time and tell teams, “I didn’t like how much you paid Tom Brady two years ago, so let’s say he’s actually going to cost $30 million instead of $20 million against the cap this year.” Roger Goodell can wake up one morning and say, “I had a dream that Adrian Peterson’s contract should have counted more against the cap because he’s so darned good. For the sake of competitive balance (in my own mind), I dock the Minnesota Vikings $10,000,000.”
And if the teams don’t like it, the arbitrator (since 2002) will say, “Oh, but you can sue the NFL if you don’t like it.”
Get ready for more lawsuits, Roger Goodell. You’re heavy-handedness is going to cause a reaction. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I bet Al Davis is rolling over in his grave.
What’s happened to the Miami Heat? I have a theory that should please those rare Chris Bosh fans.
Before I get to that, I want to mention that the Indiana Pacers are reminding me of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks at the moment. They may not have the most talent in the league, but they have a lot of talented guys and they’re built like a classic NBA contender. The Pacers front court of Roy Hibbert, David West, and Danny Granger make them a danger to confront. Suddenly, the Heat are reminding me of the Miami Heat from the end of the 2011 season–what I call the “Yes We Did” Tour.
Roy Hibbert and Chris Bosh Are the Keys
Before the Heat-Pacers series, I was driving home late one night listening to a radio preview of the series, pretty much zoned out because I expected the Heat to win in 5, if the Pacers were lucky. I can’t remember whether it was ESPN or Fox Radio, so I certainly can’t remember who the broadcaster was. I’d like to give credit.
Anyway, the man on the radio was talking about ways the Indiana Pacers could give the Heat trouble. One of the keys, he said, was Roy Hibbert. Hibbert’s size could give the Heat trouble on both ends of the court, but there was one problem. That problem was Chris Bosh. With Bosh’s ability to pop out and hit jump shots or put the ball on the floor and drive past a bigger man, the announcer didn’t know how much time Hibbert would spend on the floor. The 7’2″ could be a defensive liability chasing Bosh and others around on defense. More than likely, he’d be a step too slow and get in foul trouble.
The crux of the situation was, if Hibbert didn’t could make it work on the defensive end, he could be a force on offense.
Chris Bosh’s Injury
The Heat won a surprisingly hard fought Game 1. But when Chris Bosh went out with an injury in Game 1, that completely changed the equation. Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf, or Udonis Haslem simply aren’t going to make Roy Hibbert play defense the way Bosh would. Instead, Hibbert gets to sit down on the box and be a presence on the inside. On the other end, the Heat have no one to match Hibbert. Meanwhile, David West and Danny Granger are emboldened. The moment Chris Bosh went out, this series became a nightmare for the Heat.
Lebron James and Dwyane Wade had their way in the first game. For the Heat to win this series, the two of them are going to have to have their way 3 of the next 4 games. That could happen. The NBA refs are certain to have an effect on at least one game in a series, probably when the Heat get back to Miami and Wade/Lebron start attacking the basket. But the reason the NBA has less playoff surprises other leagues is it’s hard to pull off an upset 4 games instead of 1 (like in football), while basketball’s 7-8 man rotations have less moving parts than the 18-man rotations in hockey and 25-man teams in baseball. A couple of players can dominate a basketball game more than in any other major league. This series is far from over.
But it’s a double-edged blade when injuries happen, since that takes out a bigger percentage of the team. Lose an all-star in the NBA and that’s like losing 3 all-stars off a football team. So while the series is far from over, I’m starting to believe the Pacers might pull off the upset. Game 4 on Sunday should be pivotal, because the Pacers either hammer the Heat a third time in a row or the Heat pull even at 2-2 and regain the homefield advantage. Stay tuned.
Jonathan Vilma filed a motion to sue NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in Federal court today. This lawsuit over Vilma’s role in the Saints bounty scandal claims Goodell publicly defamed Vilma, harming his ability to pursue a career in the NFL and in his post-NFL career. The Saints linebacker is asking for punitive damages, compensatory damages, interest on damages, and attorney fees.
The NFLPA appears to be supporting this lawsuit. While they want to protect the players who may have been targetted in a bounty scheme, they have a fiduciary responsibility to accused players like Vilma. However they may feel about the lawsuit, the NFL Players Association agrees on one thing about this case: the NFL needs to show its evidence to those whose reputation it’s sought to destroy. The early analysis seems to indicate the NFL would have to open its records and provide proof that Jonathan Vilma is guilty, if this ever saw the inside of a courtroom. The NFL views this as an in-house matter and therefore believe that a lack of full disclosure is appropriate.
As much as I wish this whole thing would blow over/go away, I have to admit a certain morbid fascination over what the records would show. Did the NFL rush to judgment in suspending Vilma and his former teammates, without the kind of evidence warranted? Are the claims, as Vilma’s statement puts it, “false, defamatory, and injurious”? Or will the records make those accused look even worse, so that the NFL could be seen to be protecting the reputations of those involved from further public scrutiny? Or has the NFL’s lack of disclosure been to conceal other dirty truths about the NFL which would come out in the event the records were made public?
Whatever the truth, I get the idea that Roger Goodell has been most concerned about protecting the brand in this scandal. I guess it’s just a matter of whether the NFL “protecting the brand” overcame their legal good sense to follow pr good sense. If we’re going to be subjected to months more of this story, I hope we do see the documents. It’s hard to form a solid opinion until we do.
Did the Dolphins Pull the Trigger Too Fast?
Meanwhile, the NYPD decided to drop charges against Brandon Marshall stemming from a nightclub incident last winter. Marshall’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, is already claiming Brandon Marshall is the victim in this case. This brings to mind one question: did the Miami Dolphins get rid of Brandon Marshall too soon?
Trouble seems to follow the guy, so maybe they decided he would leave them in the lurch sooner or later. Still, the Chicago Bears added a top receiver for Jay Cutler by giving up two 3rd round picks, neither of which is near as certain to have solved the Bears’ receiver issues. Maybe the Dolphins front office is vindicated in the end, but I have the sneaking suspicion they are just digging a deeper hole for themselves, trading one of their offensive stars and drafting a quarterback with 2 years experience at the position.
Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy signed a long term deal today, which means that’s one less guy we have to hear about holding out and/or being unhappy with contracts in August. The Wes Welker negotiations look like they might be getting ugly, though. The NFL wheels go ’round and ’round.
I saw a news item earlier where Andy Reid said Donovan McNabb was losing weight in anticipation of a return to the NFL and that he’d recommend McNabb to teams–but I guess, not his own. There’s something a little strange when one NFL coach recommends a player to all 31 other teams. It’s like choosing teams and trying to convince the other team captain to select that one kid over there in the corner.
Andy Reid is a Punt, Pass, and Kick Master
For some reason, having Andy Reid and size mentioned in the same news item reminded me of the old video of Andy Reid as a kid they showed one day during a CBS football broadcast. I looked it up and have to share it.
I’m serious: that’s a real video and Andrew Reid was the same age as the other kids. Imagine winning PPK competitions at the city, state, and regional levels, only to show up for the national competition and seeing someone the size of your dad competing.
Andy Reid and Larry Bird
That video kind of reminded of the story Michael Jordan once told a story about what he learned from Larry Bird about getting inside the heads of other athletes. According to Jordan, one year at the NBA All-Star Weekend 3-Point Shooting Contest, Larry Bird psyched out the other guys by strolling into the locker room and casually asking, “Okay, who’s going to come in 2nd today?”
And then Bird went out and backed it up. Since Larry Bird won the first three 3-point contests, I’m not sure which contest that was.
Anyway, I picture Andy Reid showing up in the locker room with those other kids and asking them who’s gonna come in second. Not that he’d need to do any psyching out of people. Maybe a better analogy would be the dodgeball scene from Billy Madison.
Andy Reid and Jimena Sanchez
One odd thing involving Andy Reid on Youtube videos was its association with Jimena, which was linked to the above vid. I suppose it’s because Jimena Sanchez was making predilecta de los futboleros.
I like Jimena’s use of music to enhance the presentation.
Youtube’s Social Impact: A Study in Waste
Several reasons why, after all these years, Youtube remains a Top 10 place to waste time. My suggestion to anyone needing an idea for a thesis in sociology, psychology, or anthropology. Study how much time is wasted every year by the average Internet user, employee, and/or student.
Not that I’m complaining–I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But think about it; you’ll knock out that important stumbling block on your way to your master’s degree, and that has to be a perfect excuse to watch even more Youtube videos. “Research”, they’ll call it. Get you degree AND watch old Andy Reid, Adam Sandler, and Jimena Sanchez videos.
Welcome to the best round of playoff basketball. The second round is best because all 8 teams have won a series and therefore built up momentum and confidence. Also, you’ve gotten down to the best teams in the league who all (or most) feel like they have a legitimate chance to win a title. Also, there’s still 4 series going, so you usually get 2 playoff games a night. The same goes for the NFL Divisional Round of Playoffs–the second round is the best round of pro football, too.
Lakers Feel the Thunder
I wonder if the L.A. Lakers are having flashbacks. It was this stage of the playoffs last year when their 2-year reign as NBA champions came to an abrupt half. Then, it was a 4-game sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. In that series, the game were close, hard-fought contests, until the final game. Not so this time around.
This year, the Lakers’ second round began with a 119-90 trouncing in Oklahoma City. The OKC Thunder had a nice lead at halftime, but they really blew open the game in the 3rd Quarter. This simply was a blowout. A lot was made of the fact that the Thunder did this without having extraordinary nights from anyone, getting to 119 while Durant/Westbrook scored their combined average. That was a product of the blowout, where backups played the 4th quarter for OKC. Had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played the full game, their stat lines would have been gaudy.
It’s Only One Game
Still, you never know about a series when an ex-champion is involved. This is going back a ways, but the 1985 NBA Finals began with a 148-114 destruction of the Lakers by the world champion Boston Celtics, only to have the Lakers win 4 of the next 5 convincingly. The point being, these things happen. I already predicted a Thunder victory, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers aren’t dangerous. But things don’t look good after one game. The Thunder look like they’ve matured into a young powerhouse and they have the willpower and the firepower to do real damage in these NBA Playoffs. The Lakers have to find a way to make this a different series.
You can say if the Thunder only have 4 turnovers in a game, they’re probably going to win. One of their weaknesses the past several years has been turnovers, but not tonight. I don’t think the Lakers are quick enough on the perimeter to change that equation, though four turnovers is a bit of a fluke. Kobe Bryant obviously has to do more than put in a pedestrian 20 points, but this series only turns around if Andrew Bynum and Pao Gasol seize a big advantage down low.
The Thunder simply look better right now, but the Lakers only need 1 game in OKC to make this series look a whole lot different. The question the Lakers have to ask themselves: can (or will) Russell Westbrook keep this up for a whole series? We all know Kobe and Kevin show up every night. So what Westbrook and the Lakers’ bigs do moving forward makes the difference in this series.
One final note: the Lakers may have come in off the Game 7 win a little physically and emotionally fatigued. I guess it goes without saying, but we didn’t see their best game.
Sixers Even the Series 1-1
First of all, it’s cool to be talking about a Celtics-76ers showdown. Second, it’s cool that the Sixers have actually made a series of it. I’d kind of penciled in the Celtics as the automatic challenger of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I still assume that applies, but the Philadelphia 76ers have made a nice accounting of themselves so far. In fact, the Celtics were lucky to escape in Game 1. They didn’t escape in Game 2. This series could easily have the Sixers up 2-0 right now.