- The Season's Over -

It’s Time to Blow Up the Dallas Mavericks

May 15, 2009

The Dirk Nowitzki Era is Over

The Dirk Nowitzki Era is Over Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The Denver-Dallas series mercifully came to an end on Wednesday night, with the Nuggets putting the Mavericks and their fans out of their misery in convincing fashion with an easy 124-110 vanquishing. Only the most delusional of Mavericks homers could have expected any other result after the Nuggets bullied and badgered on both ends of the floor all series, proving to be the superior team in nearly every respect beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The era of proud Dallas Mavericks basketball that began on draft night in 1998 when Dallas traded Robert “Tractor” Traylor and Pat Garrity for Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash is over. After an ignominious end to their 2008-09 campaign Dallas fans should be thinking one thing: burn it down.

In his post-game presser Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said what the rest of the NBA community has been forced to acknowledge in recent weeks, “These guys are legitimate, a legitimate championship-caliber team. They’ve got a great shot. They’ve got a real opportunity.” The Mavericks weren’t, they didn’t, and they haven’t for a few years now. As we said a month into the season: Dallas was a mediocre team. All year they sat mired in the ether somewhere between an aging squad making one more desperate, ill-advised run at contention and a complete rebuilding phase.

It’s been a good decade, but today it is impossible to deny which of those directions the Mavericks should be headed. The days of the Nowitzki, Finley and Nash triangle are a distant memory. And Dallas could easily have won a title if not for an internal collapse and the transcendent play of Dwyane Wade that led to four consecutive losses in the Finals in 2006, but it’s been all downhill since. They were embarrassed in the first round two seasons ago by former coach Don Nelson and his eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors. Last season the New Orleans Hornets again dispatched them with ease in the first round, 4-1. This year the Mavs actually managed to make it out of the first round, but don’t confuse that with progress – they merely leaned on the injured, older man that was the San Antonio Spurs.

The Mavs had the second-largest payroll in the league at $92.3 million this season, but next year that number falls to $68.8 million thanks in large part to the $21.4 million of Jason Kidd (the fourth-highest paid player in the NBA this season) coming off the books. Should Dallas make an effort to resign him? Absolutely not. At 36 and with deteriorating skills on both ends he can no longer be the starting point on a championship-caliber team, and hitching their wagon to the old man will only hold them back.

In fact, it’s time to clean house.

Why Dallas needs to clear the books, after the jump…

Dirk and Devin in Better TimesTrading for Kidd in the first place in an all-or-nothing attempt at a title last season or this is what put them in this mess in the first place, and it was a plainly epic, epic mistake from day one. It was a franchise killer, and even with Kidd’s expiring contract coming off the books it still stands as their biggest impediment to true, meaningful rebuilding. Not only did they ship out a potential franchise cornerstone in Devin Harris, who has developed into an All-Star caliber two-way point, they also included two first-round picks.


That means this team isn’t getting any younger next season, and they don’t have any pieces that will mature markedly. (Sorry, Gerald Green, I’m done sticking up for you.) It will also be the final season of Dirk Nowitzki’s contract (though he has a $21.5 million player’s option for 2010-11); he’ll be 32 afterwards, and given their short-term title chances are nil Dallas needs to start looking around for a trade partner who they can either work out a sign-and-trade with or who Dirk will want to play with for the next two seasons. He should easily net a first-round pick and young prospect from an offensively starved or power-forward needy team (Chicago? New York? Detroit? Charlotte?). If they don’t, he’s going to bolt and they’ll get nothing but salary cap relief – which isn’t all bad, but Dallas can do better if they’re proactive with this situation instead of clinging to past glories.

Alright, so Kidd’s gone and Dirk is gone. What’s left? Not much. For years I was in Josh Howard’s corner, claiming he could be a difference-making, two-way small forward, that he was woefully underrated. It didn’t take long, though, for Howard to get bumped into the “so underrated he’s overrated” category. This year he also confirmed the injury-prone label, missing 20 more games in a six-year NBA career in which he’s missed a total of 82 regular-season games, the equivalent of a full season. And when he’s not injured he’s often hurt, playing hobbled and at less than 100%. At 29 years of age and with a questionable locker room presence, Howard also wouldn’t fit with a youth movement, but the good news is that he can be another valuable trade chip. There’s no question he’s a useful player, and his $10.9 million contract next season isn’t outrageous. If they can’t find a taker, it’s a team option on the deal for 2010-11, so more money off the books.

There’s a theme here. The Mavs don’t have any notable young talent (but I still love ya, Gerald) and they’re short on draft picks, which isn’t an enviable position to be in for a rebuilding club. What they do have, though, is trade chips and imminent financial freedom. In fact, the guaranteed contracts for 2010-11? Erick Dampier, Jason Terry and Matt Carroll for a grand total of about $28 million. The year after it’s just Terry and Carroll for about $15.3 mill.

With aging stars on their way out, multiple juicy expiring contracts, and no building blocks to speak of, the point of attack for this script writes itself. It’s time for the story arc of the next act in the Dallas Mavericks saga to be set in motion. It’s time to start with a carte blanche.

Related Reading:
- Why Nobody Should be Surprised Right Now
- The Dallas Mavericks are Missing Devin Harris
- Jason Kidd, The Newest Dallas Maverick?
- The Day the Dallas Mavericks Died

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9 Comments »Posted by Andrew Thell on May. 15, 2009 at 4:00 am in ETB Articles, NBA

9 Responses

one: DEvin Harris wouldn’t become an allstar if he had stayed in Dallas, he would be number 4 scoring option.
two: J-Kidd had a great year, especially in the play-offs and I think that his skills are not “deteriorating on both ends”, haven’t you watched the play-offs? At 36, he is shooting something like 42% from the 3-point line. And he can still defend players like D-wade and last year he even defended Amare.

Posted by: Steeler on May 15th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Jason Kidd apologists are the best.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on May 15th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Completely agree. Kidd can’t guard the quick point guards of the West (Paul, Parker, Williams, Brooks). The only problem is that this should have happened earlier.

Posted by: Ricky Rondo on May 15th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Chauncey Billups looked like Isiah Thomas against Jason Kidd.

Kidd would be a very nice backup point guard for a contending team, but he’s simply not quick enough to be elite.

Posted by: toasterhands on May 15th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

J Kidd hasn’t been able to defend even below average starting pgs for about 3 years.

He still can defend slower 2 gaurds and spot up shooter’s well. He can still push the ball and run an offense and rebound great for a pg. He even doesn’t look terrified to shoot wide open 3′s anymore.

He’s well worth say midlevel exception but beyond that? Hell no

If the mavs can sign him cheap/short money and somehow get one of the 5-6 good rookie pgs it would be perfect.

Posted by: Brent on May 15th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

pretty much agree with everything here…except that’s so not what the term “carte blanche” means. Dallas blog, what should I expect I guess…

Posted by: Donal on May 15th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

this guy sounds like he has a lot of common sense. which is exactly why he has no idea what hes talking about (sorta backhanded compliment)

yes. kidd is old and cant guard anyone. and im a mavs fan who was vehemently VEHEMENTLY agaisnt trading for him. that said, hes been a really good leader, and hes rejuvenated a lot of guys on the team.

dirk will NEVER be traded by cubes.

im not a kidd defender/apologist. that trade still sucks, if only for the first rounders. but it turns out to be not as EPIC a screw up as i first thought. jsut a really big screwup.

i thougth this team, for being so bereft of talent, played hard at the end of the year and ended up overachieving. say waht you will, but there were still a lot fo poeple who thought the spurs would beat the mavs.

i think dirks got a couple peak years left in him, kidd can be a good role player and leader at this stage, and i honestly think we’re a chris anderson signing, and Erick Dampier’s Expiring Contract trade for a big ticket shooting guard away from being a title contendor again.

you can win a title with dirk and eltite shooting guard x and josh howard as your three best guys. esp if jason terry can somehow figure out how to shoot in the playoffs.

Posted by: jace on May 15th, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Continuing with the paper metaphor and theme of starting anew, it was a literal usage of the phrase:

French, literally, blank document

Posted by: Andrew Thell on May 16th, 2009 at 2:54 am

I agree with the article in general, but I propose that they either trade Dirk OR build around his weaknesses, a la Allen Iverson-style circa 2000.

Dirk is such a unique player, and I’ve found it a detriment to the team when the Mavericks were not able to properly address Dirk’s weaknesses (many of which he has strengthened over the years) with players that could offset his now-fewer shortcomings. This is what Celtics did with Bird, they did it with Jordan, and it was done with Barkley and Karl Malone too.

Dirk either needs more sufficient help or help elsewhere.

Posted by: SD on May 16th, 2009 at 4:01 am

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