Tag:Caron Butler
Posted on: December 5, 2011 8:01 pm
 

Sources: Mavs saving room for run at D-Will

Tyson Chandler's hunch that he'll be wearing a new uniform soon could prove to be true. And it may have nothing to do with Chandler and everything to do with Deron Williams.

With serious interest registered from the Nets, Golden State, Houston and Sacramento, four teams with cap space and flexibility, the man who served as the glue for the Mavericks' 2011 NBA title could be slipping away -- but for reasons that go well beyond the uncertain free-agent market for Chandler himself.

The Mavs are in no rush to pony up a max offer to retain Chandler, largely because they want to maintain flexibility for next summer's free-agent class -- which just happens to include Dallas' own Williams, multiple sources told CBSSports.com. While much of the speculation in this five-day run-up to the start of free agency Friday has centered around 2012 free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, Williams' situation is in many ways more intriguing.

"Everything is sort of stuck because of Chris and Dwight," one agent said Monday.

Add Deron to that list.

The Nets traded Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks to Utah for Williams in February and are in the process of trying to assemble enough talent around him to keep him with the team when it moves to Brooklyn next season. Like Paul and Howard, Williams has an early-termination option that would make him an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Williams already has indicated he will not sign an extension this season, just as Paul and Howard will not. Howard remains intent on finding his way to Los Angeles to join the Lakers, while Paul has his sights set on New York -- though he remains open to a trade that would team him up with Howard in Orlando.

Williams spoke with members of the New York-New Jersey media Monday and proclaimed in a radio interview on New York's WFAN that there's a 90 percent chance he stays with the Nets. New Jersey has expressed interest in free agents Chandler, Nene and Caron Butler, but the big prize that would make D-Will's decision to stay on the East Coast a no-brainer would be a trade for Howard -- a tantalizing scenario that could play out one way or another by the end of the week.

New rules that dampen the home team's advantage in offering its own prospective free agent a significantly larger extension -- and essentially take away the extend-and-trade and sign-and-trade safety nets -- are expected to force the Hornets and Magic to make quick decisions on how to handle Paul's and Howard's impending free agency. The Nets, having given up so many assets for Williams, are in a position to be more patient and do everything possible to entice their star to stay put.

But if the Nets are unsuccessful in their efforts to land Howard -- Brook Lopez, first-round picks and absorbing Hedo Turkoglu's contract doesn't figure to be enough -- then Williams will have an interesting decision to make come July 1. And the buzz among front-office executives Monday was that Dallas owner Mark Cuban would be in a position to sell Williams on taking less money to play in his hometown.

Once Williams becomes a free agent, he could get a five-year, $100 million deal to stay with the Nets. Signing with Dallas would net Williams only a four-year, $74 million deal. How much playing in his hometown is worth to Williams would depend, in part, on what pieces the Nets surround him with between now and then.

Of the teams expected to contend for a championship this season, only Dallas would have the cap space to sign a max player next summer and still have room to do more. If the Mavs used the amnesty provision on Brendan Haywood next summer, they'd be more than $21 million under the cap -- with Dirk Nowitzki still around, draining jumpers.

Jason Terry and Jason Kidd come off the books after the season, and the Mavs will want their Hall of Fame point guard to pass the torch to a star in his prime and keep Nowitzki in the hunt for more titles during the final two years of his contract. In addition to Williams, Paul and Howard, the 2012 free-agent class is loaded with attractive restricted free agents, such as Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo and George Hill -- not to mention Derrick Rose, who nobody envisions leaving Chicago.

So the lackluster nature of this free-agent class compared to next summer's, combined with confusion about the new rules and an unwillingness to be the team that sets the market, have slowed the activity with four days to go before camps and free agency officially open. Also, don't underestimate how the shortened season provides an incentive for teams to pass on significant moves now when July 1 is only a few months away.
 
The biggest impediment to the wheeling and dealing in 2011 has everything to do with 2012 and beyond.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:29 pm
 

CP3 drama and other free-agent buzz

And it begins.

Get ready for a replay of the Carmelo Anthony saga, with Chris Paul playing the role of protagonist and the big, bad Knicks once again in the villain role.

Cue the small market-big market theme song.

Seen this movie before. It's called "Gone With the Wind."

With Yahoo Sports reporting Thursday that Paul's representatives have informed the Hornets that he will not sign an extension with the team and that he wants to be traded to the Knicks, and with the Hornets immediately shifting into damage-control mode, we're right back where we were with Melo and the Nuggets. There are several key differences, however, that should be noted.

First, as pointed out earlier this week, the new rules take some leverage away from Paul in his bid to get to New York. Oddly enough, the rules that emerged from a lockout that was supposed to be about keeping small-market stars from fleeing to big markets also has taken a measure of protection away from the home team.

But Paul has done something important here that Anthony and his camp -- the same folks from Creative Artists Agency who orchestrated the union of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami last July -- didn't do. Paul has gotten started with his exit strategy much earlier.

Actually, it was last July when Paul's reps first informed Hornets brass that he wasn't sticking around and wanted to be traded to the Knicks, Lakers or Magic. At the time, the world was focused on LeBron and then the Knicks turned their focus to Anthony, who waited until the free-agent dust settled before clamoring to be dealt to the Knicks to team up with Amar'e Stoudemire.

Anthony got his way -- got his cake and was able to eat it, too. He did this under the old rules, which allowed him to get the same max extension (three years, $65 million) that he could've signed had he stayed in Denver. That avenue is no longer available to Paul. An extend-and-trade deal would only get him one year added to the two years he has left, a non-starter for a superstar of his caliber.

An extension with New Orleans would only net Paul two more years for about $39.6 million. This is nothing compared to what Anthony got, and not even close to the extensions that James, Wade and Bosh turned down before joining forces with the Heat. They did so by getting max length and dollars via sign-and-trades, and that option isn't open to Paul, either -- at least not in the same lucrative way. If he opts out and exits New Orleans via a sign-and-trade, he'd only get a four-year, $74 million deal -- compared to the five-year, $100 million the Hornets could offer. Factor in the notion that the Knicks, as of now, don't have close to the assets necessary to pull off such a deal, and it becomes even less likely.

Which brings us back to the original point: Even though it's December, it's technically July on the NBA calendar. Paul's efforts to determine his own destiny are starting much earlier than Melo's did for a couple of key reasons: 1) With Nene and Tyson Chandler the only potential max free agents in this class, there's no one to steal the attention the way LeBron, Wade and Bosh did las July; and 2) the new rules dictate it.

The Hornets' best chance of not getting stuck losing Paul for nothing is to trade him by mid-January or so. This way, New Orleans gets prime assets from a team where Paul is assured of re-signing with, and Paul only has to wait until July to opt out and get his five-year, $100 million deal from his new team once a newly imposed six-month window expires for players to sign new deals after getting traded.

The clock is ticking on Paul's time in a Hornets uniform, and this will unfold much more quickly than the Melo saga did -- in part, because of the new rules supposedly designed to keep star players from changing teams. Go figure.

There's one key difference so far between Paul's approach and Anthony's. Paul and his representatives have yet to say the words that would turn this saga into the kind of circus that the Melo drama became -- the words that Anthony made abundantly clear last season. What are those words? "I will only sign with the Knicks."

If Paul says those words, the tables turn and the game changes. And the Hornets might be inclined to call Paul's bluff and see if playing in New York with Stoudemire and Anthony is worth about $45 million to him -- the difference between what the Hornets could offer him next July and what the Knicks could offer, given that they currently only have about $13.5 million in projected room as the starting point on a four-year deal.

One thing is clear: We've seen this soap opera before. Getchya popcorn.

--

With the National Basketball Players Association reformed as a union Thursday with more than 300 authorization votes from players, the union and league can now begin hammering out the fine print of the agreement and negotiate the so-called B-list issues -- such as drug testing, the age limit, etc. A ratification vote is expected by next week, allowing training camps and free agency to open as projected on Dec. 9.

But -- and you knew there would be a but -- there could be a problem for the dozens of players who signed overseas contracts during the lockout. FIBA rules do not allow the paperwork excusing such players from their obligations to be submitted until the CBA is ratified. Once that happens, teams and agents say they're concerned that there could be up to a 48-hour delay in getting the paperwork processed and freeing the players to return to the States.

Thus, there is concern that such players -- the biggest star being the Nets' Deron Williams -- won't make it back in time for the start of camp. League officials are looking into the matter, but here's one way to look at it: If this is the worst fallout from the five-month lockout as far as basketball operations go, so be it.

--

Sources say there's mutual interest between the Bulls and free-agent forward Caron Butler. But Chicago hasn't ruled out also making a push for restricted free agent Marco Belinelli, whose defensive liabilities wouldn't thrill coach Tom Thibodeau but whose shooting prowess could help open the floor for Derrick Rose. ... Sources confirmed this tidbit passed along by CBSSports.com's Ben Golliver: Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich had shoulder surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to be out until late December or early January.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 11:45 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

NEW YORK -- NBA players sued the league alleging antitrust violations Tuesday, in part using commissioner David Stern's own words against him in making their case that the lockout is illegal.

With two antitrust actions -- one in California naming superstars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant among five plaintiffs, and another in Minnesota naming four plaintiffs -- the players are seeking summary judgment and treble damages totaling three times the players' lost wages due to what lead attorney David Boies referred to as an illegal group boycott.

"There's one reason and one reason only that the season is in jeopardy," Boies told reporters at the Harlem headquarters of the former players' union, which was dissolved Monday and reformed as a trade association to pave the way for the lawsuits. "And that is because the owners have locked out the players and have maintained that lockout for several months. ... The players are willing to start playing tomorrow if (the owners) end the boycott."

The California case, filed Tuesday night in the Northern District, named plaintiffs who represent a wide array of players: Anthony, Durant and Chauncey Billups (high-paid stars); Leon Powe (a mid-level veteran); and Kawhi Leonard (a rookie). The plaintiffs in a similar case filed in Minnesota are Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams.

Boies said there could be other lawsuits, and at some point, they could be combined.

It is possible, Boies said, that the players could get a summary judgment before the NBA cancels the entire season -- essentially a two-month timeframe. By that point, with the clock starting on potential damages Tuesday -- which was supposed to have been the first pay day of the season for the majority of players -- treble damages could amount to $2.4 billion.

"We would hope that it's not necessary to go to trial and get huge damages to bring them to a point where they are prepared to abide by the law," Boies said.

A statement released by the league office Tuesday night, spokesman Tim Frank said: "We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet, but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."

Earlier, Boies seemed to have anticipated this response, noting that the NBA's lawsuit in the Southern District of New York -- in which the league sought a declaratory judgment pre-emptively shooting down an eventual dissolution of the union -- came first.

"The litigation was started by the owners," Boies said. "... This case was started months ago when the NBA brought it there."

The crux of the players' argument is that, absent a union relationship to shield them from antitrust law, the 30 NBA owners are engaging in a group boycott that eliminates a market and competition for players' services and are in breach of contract and violation of antitrust law. The players are seeking to be compensated for three times their lost wages as permitted by law, plus legal fees and any other relieft the court deems necessary and appropriate.

One of the many issues to be resolved is where the lawsuits ultimately will be heard. The NBA almost certainly will file a motion seeking that the players' complaints be moved to the Southern District, which is in the more employer-friendly 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Northern District in California is in the more employee-friendly 9th Circuit, while the Minnesota case was filed in the district residing in the 8th Circuit, where the NFL players ultimately fell short in their quest for a permanent injunction lifting the lockout.

The NBA players are not seeking a permanent injunction; rather, Boies said they are pursuing the more expeditious and fact-based summary judgment, which could save months of legal wrangling.

UPDATE: Boies asserted that the plaintiffs have the right to choose which appropriate court has jurisdiction over their lawsuit, and that the NBA's lawsuit in New York was premature -- since the NBA players had never before in their history of union representation since the 1950s disclaimed interest or decertified until Monday. In contrast to the NBA's argument that dissolution of the union and an antitrust action were the players' goals all along, the lawsuit laid out that the players participated in bargaining with the league for more than four years after they were first allegedly threatened with massive rollbacks of salaries and competition for their services. Boies said the players had continued to bargain for months while locked out, offering a series of economic concessions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars until they finally reached the owners' desired 50-50 split in the final days of negotiations.

Unlike the NFL Players' Association's failed disclaimer of interest and antitrust action, in which the players' case was harmed by the lack of certainty over whether the collective bargaining process had ended, Boies said there was no disputing that bargaining talks had concluded in the NBA -- and that Stern himself had ended them by presenting a series of ultimatums and "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that the players could not accept.

"They had an opportunity to start playing with enormous concessions from the players," Boies said. "That wasn’t enough for them. If the fans want basketball, there’s only one group of people that they can get it from, OK? And that’s the owners, because the players are prepared to play right now."

The NBA undoubtedly will argue that it was the players who ended bargaining when their union disclaimed, and that the disclaimer is a sham, or a negotiating tactic as opposed to a legitimate dissolution.

The lawsuits came one day after the players rejected the league's latest ultimatum to accept their bargaining proposal or be forced to negotiate from a far worse one. The National Basketball Players Association at that point disclaimed interest in representing the players any longer in collective bargaining with the league after failing to reach an agreement during the 4 1-2 month lockout that was imposed by owners July 1.

In the California case, Boies, his partner, Jonathan Schiller, and players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler laid out a meticulous case that the collective bargaining process had been ended by the owners and that the players had no choice but to dissolve the union and pursue their case via antitrust law. They laid out a series of concessions the players made in an effort to reach a deal, including a "massive reduction in compensation" and "severe system changes that would destroy competition for players."

The lawsuit quoted Stern's own demands when he issued two ultimatums to the union during the final week of talks, threatening the players both times to accept the offer (with a 50-50 revenue split and various restrictions on trades and player salaries) or be furnished a worse offer in which the players' salaries would have been derived from 47 percent of revenues in a system that included a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts -- all deal points the two sides had long since negotiated past and abandoned.

Asked if Stern made a mistake issuing the ultimatums that ended the talks, Boies said, "If you're in a poker game and you bluff, and the bluff works, you're a hero. Somebody calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand."

In the California lawsuit, the players' attorneys alleged that the owners' bargaining strategy was hatched during a meeting between league and union negotiators in June 2007. In that meeting, the lawsuit alleged, "Stern demanded that the players agree to a reduction in the players' BRI percentage from 57 percent to 50 percent," plus a more restrictive cap system. Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver told Hunter, according to the lawsuit, that if the players did not accept their terms, the NBA was "prepared to lock out the players for two years to get everything." Stern and Silver assured Hunter in the meeting that "the deal would get worse after the lockout," the lawsuit alleged.

The threats of getting a worse deal after the lockout if the players didn't accept the owners' terms were repeated in a letter to the union dated April 25, 2011, according to the lawsuit -- which then laid out the contentious, sometimes bizarre, and almost indisputably one-sided negotiation that transpired over the next few months.

"I will give the devil their due," Boies said. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession. Greed is not only a terrible thing, it's a dangerous thing. By overplaying their hand, by pushing the players beyond any line of reason, I think they caused this."

Boies said it was in neither side's best interests for the action to proceed to trial, which could take years and multiply the threat of damages against NBA owners. Even in their current capacity as members of a trade association, the players could have a settlement negotiated on their behalf among the attorneys for both sides. The settlement could then take the form of a collective bargaining agreement, but only after the majority of players agreed to reform the union and the owners agreed to recognize it.

Another option would be for a federal judge to require both sides to participate in mediation under the auspices of a federal magistrate; attendance would be required, though the results wouldn't be binding.

"There's lots of ways to get started, but it takes two to tango," said Boies, who once sued Microsoft in an antitrust case and represented Al Gore in his failed 2000 presidential bid based on a disputed vote count in Florida.

"If you've got somebody on the other side who is saying, 'It's my way or the highway, it's take it or leave it, this is our last and final offer and you will not see negotiation,' you can't resolve this," Boies said. "That, I will predict, that will stop, OK? There will come a time when the league faces the reality of the exposure that they face under the antitrust laws, the exposure that they face because of fan dissatisfaction with their unilateral lockout, the exposure they face by having other people in the business of professional basketball. And they will believe it is in their best interests to resolve this case.

"I can't tell you when that will happen," Boies said. "But I will tell you that it will happen, because those forces are too strong for anybody to resist indefinitely."





Posted on: January 14, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2011 12:36 am
 

Much-needed Dirk could be back Saturday

SAN ANTONIO – Coach Rick Carlisle admitted that Saturday’s game in Memphis could mark the return of Dirk Nowitzki to the Team Formerly Known as the Mavericks

If it is, it’s not a minute too soon. 

The Mavs are lost without Nowitzki, who went through his first contact drills Friday in the strongest sign yet that he is ready to return after a nine-game absence with a sprained right knee. Dallas has lost seven of nine without Dirk, including a pointless 101-89 blowout at the hands of the Spurs

“Our whole team is out of whack,” Shawn Marion said. Nowitzki has been out since Dec. 28 as the day-to-day status of the injury became week-to-week, prompting rival executives to wonder if Nowitzki’s injury was worse than the team has been letting on. 

Those doubts were put to rest Friday, when Nowitzki went through one-on-one contact drills for the first time. Later, on the court before the Spurs game, Nowitzki worked up a decent sweat with an array of half-speed offensive drills. He flexed his knee and winced a couple of times, but other than that, his jumper was still silky smooth. 

The same cannot be said for the Mavs without him. 

“We’re missing that little edge we had when things did happen, when things would go wrong, because we would find a way with that edge to fight over the hump and get these wins,” Marion said. “We’ve got to find a way to get that back right now. Who knows? Dirk could come back and it might come back as well. But it might not.” 

In the third game without Nowitzki, the Mavs lost Caron Butler to a season-ending knee injury, leaving them without two of their top three scorers. They can’t replace Butler without a trade between now and the deadline, but help could be on the way from Dirk. Nowitzki said during the ESPN broadcast Friday night that he was "actually really close." Owner Mark Cuban said after the game Nowitzki would be a game-time decision Saturday night in Memphis – which would seem to be a significant upgrade over day-to-day and week-to-week. 

“I don’t know when he’s going to play,” Carlisle said. “We’ve been very consistent in that. We don’t know. He worked out hard today and we’ve got to see how he feels tomorrow. Tomorrow could be a possibility, but then again maybe not. We can’t mess with that.” 

And quite clearly, the Mavs can’t mess around without Dirk too much longer. 

“It’s going to be good to get a healthy team out there,” Tyson Chandler said. “It’s tough with guys playing out of position and stepping into roles they’re not accustomed to. It’ll be good to get back our team.” And that was exactly the right way to put it, because Dirk is the team.
Posted on: December 21, 2010 8:14 pm
 

Sources: Mavs poised to enter Melo chase

The Dallas Mavericks are plotting an aggressive push to acquire Carmelo Anthony, even if they don’t get assurances that the three-time All-Star would agree to a contract extension as part of the trade, league sources told CBSSports.com. 

Despite his team’s emergence as one of the powers of the Western Conference -- and, as Dallas proved Monday night in Miami, the whole league -- owner Mark Cuban is said to be not only willing to take a chance on Anthony, but eager to steal him from the Nets, who are owned by his billionaire rival, Mikhail Prokhorov. In a deal that would provide Denver with little more than future savings, the Mavs are planning what one rival executive described as a “hard” push. 

The Mavs’ interest has yet to take the form of a concrete offer, as one person connected to the Anthony drama told CBSSports.com Tuesday that Dallas had yet to present one. Any prospects the Mavs might have to pull off such a coup would be contingent on Anthony declining to sign an extension with New Jersey. With a signed extension as part of the deal, the Nets still possess by far the most attractive assets to Denver -- Derrick Favors, the expiring contract of Troy Murphy, and multiple first-round picks. 

But that is the question that the Anthony saga has hinged on for months. Part of Dallas’ strategy, according to sources, is to shift the Anthony discussions to what Cuban recently called the “rent-a-player” phase, which would drive down the price and encourage other teams to present offers without assurances that Anthony would stay put for five years -- the two he has remaining (including the early-termination option for 2011-12) plus the extension. 

Such potential suitors, including the Mavs, do not have enough of what Denver is looking for to compete with New Jersey’s best offer. But if Dallas is successful in shifting Denver’s focus to “rental” deals, the Nets would then have to decide how much they are willing to give up to acquire a franchise cornerstone for their move to Brooklyn -- even if Anthony could leave them in the dust as a free agent before the team even got there. 

Meanwhile, the Nuggets remain in a patient posture and are not in any apparent rush to push a New Jersey trade to fruition. And after acquiring two more first-round picks in a three-team trade with the Lakers and Rockets last week, Nets executives are continuing their ongoing efforts to sweeten the deal for Anthony by acquiring a veteran he’d want to play with in Newark, N.J., for a year-and-a-half. Such inducements could come in the form of Al Harrington and/or Chauncey Billups, whom Anthony might be comfortable having on board. The other scenarios, according to one executive familiar with them, are numerous and “beyond challenging” because multiple teams would be needed. 

Among the contending teams with the deep pockets and championship core to take a risk like trading for Anthony without a signed extension as part of the deal, Dallas has the most expiring money to make it worth the Nuggets’ while. Any Dallas proposal would have to include the expiring contracts of Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. More money would need to be added -- Tyson Chandler? -- or a third team would need to be recruited in order to take Harrington and/or Billups off Denver’s hands. 

The notion of Anthony going to a contender -- or to the Nets, for that matter -- without signing his three-year, $65 million extension is exactly what New York Knicks officials are hoping for. Sources say the Knicks continue to believe that the longer the Anthony situation plays out, the better their chances of landing him through a trade, or more likely, as a free agent after the season and anticipated lockout. New York has been Anthony’s preferred destination since his operatives began pushing for a trade in September, and a person directly involved in Anthony’s decision-making process told CBSSports.com earlier this month that he’d become more entrenched in his desire to agree to an extend-and-trade only if he would up with the Knicks. CBSSports.com also reported that Anthony has not shared his position with Nuggets officials, and that Nets officials have been told differently by Anthony’s camp. 

Another team that various team executives believe is very much in the mix -- either to make a push to land Melo as a rental or become involved as a third-team facilitator -- is the Rockets. Houston fully expects to receive a disabled-player exception for Yao Ming totaling $5.8 million and already has a $6.3 million exception from the Trevor Ariza trade. Such exceptions can’t be combined, but individually they could be used to absorb a contract -- such as, for example, the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith’s or Harrington’s -- without sending equal money back. In return, the Rockets would either have to get a player they want or be compensated accordingly with draft picks or other assets. The Rockets also are flush with the expiring contracts of Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries, and even Yao, whose contract is insured due to his season-ending foot injury. 

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has a history of bold moves, and has placed few restrictions on his front office, led by GM Daryl Morey, to spend money in order to win. The Rockets, for example, are currently a tax-paying team and are under no mandate from ownership to shed salary even though they are off to a slow start and have lost Yao for the season -- and maybe for good. 

A dark horse in all of this? The Mavs’ opponent Tuesday night, Orlando. The Magic have a little more than two months before the Feb. 24 trade deadline to see if their revamped roster will be good enough to contend for a title after this week’s blockbuster trades with Phoenix and Washington. But the only piece that is likely to be available and enticing to Denver is Jason Richardson, whose $14.4 million contract expires after the season. Richardson cannot be combined with other players in a trade for 60 days, which would leave just enough time before the trade deadline to involve him in the Anthony discussions. 

If -- and this is a big if -- Anthony is still a Nugget by then.
Posted on: September 21, 2010 5:56 pm
 

Preseason Primers: Mavericks


It wouldn't be time for another NBA season without the Mavericks feeling like championship contenders. But this time, the feeling is different. This time, there's a palpable belief that the Mavs had better get it done this year or their window will be closed -- for a long time, if not for good.

That's a little drastic. They're still not better than the Lakers, and still might not be able to get past the Spurs in a best-of-7 playoff series. But the Mavs enter training camp as a much better team than the one that lost to San Antonio in the first round a few months ago. With no cap space -- cap space can't score or defend, after all -- Mark Cuban struck out on the major free-agent targets. But the addition of Tyson Chandler certainly will help. Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki know the window is closing, but maybe this is a good spot for them to be in. With all eyes on the Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Magic, maybe the Mavs can quietly be in the mix. If it's possible for Cuban's team to do anything quietly.

Training camp site: Southern Methodist University 

Training camp starts: Sept. 28 

Key additions: Tyson Chandler (trade), Alexis Ajinca (trade), Ian Mahinmi (free agent), Dominique Jones (draft). 

Key subtractions: Erick Dampier (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade), Matt Carroll (trade). 

Likely starting lineup: Jason Kidd, PG; Caron Butler, SG; Shawn Marion, SF; Dirk Nowitzki, PF; Tyson Chandler, C 

Player to watch: Butler. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. And when he’s bad, he’s divisive. 

Chemistry quiz: There shouldn’t be any chemistry issues on a team with so many veterans getting their last realistic shot at a championship. There shouldn’t be. But there could be, especially given that not everyone (Mark Cuban included) was on board with the rotations and substitution patterns Carlisle utilized during another underwhelming (and brief) playoff run. Teams like these, with established players vying for their spot in the pecking order, can come unglued if things don’t go well. (Did we mention Cuban’s recent comments that the Mavs have enough size and depth to beat the Lakers?) 

Injury check: Speedster Rodrigue Beaubois is likely out until November following surgery on his broken left foot. 

Camp battles: Ultimately, Carlisle faces only two starting lineup decisions. But they’re important ones: Whether to start Chandler or Brendan Haywood at center, and whether Butler starts at shooting guard with Marion at the three, or Butler at the three with Beaubois (once he’s healthy) starting in the backcourt with Kidd. Neither one of those decisions will be made in October. But all eyes will be on first-round pick (acquired from Memphis) Dominique Jones, a slasher who has a chance to crack Carlisle’s rotation and give the Mavs the dribble-penetration element they sorely lacked last season. 

Biggest strength: Size and depth. If 6-11 Frenchman Ian Mahinmi stands on a croissant, the Mavs have five legitimate 7-footers: Mahinmi, Nowitzki, Chandler, Haywood and Alexis Ajinca. It can be argued – as Cuban did recently – that Dallas is the team best equipped to combat the Lakers’ twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. First, the Mavs should worry about getting past the Spurs. 

Glaring weakness: Age and miles. The window is closing fast on Kidd, Dirk and Marion, and Jason Terry, all of a sudden, is 33.
Posted on: April 24, 2010 1:23 am
 

Carlisle leaves Cuban's riches on the bench

Mark Cuban hired Rick Carlisle to coach the Mavericks because his research showed this: Carlisle was the best in the NBA at getting production out of players he was coaching for the first time.

In Game 3 of what has evolved into the most physical and compelling playoff series thus far, the three players Cuban acquired for Carlisle at the trade deadline hardly played at all in the second half Friday night. Caron Butler, the cornerstone of the Mavs' big deadline deal with the Wizards, didn't play at all after the second quarter. With a 94-90 loss to the Spurs, the Mavericks fell into more than a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-7 series. They fell into an identity crisis.

Sitting in his usual spot next to the bench, Cuban must've had no idea he would've been in such close proximity to the players he so painstakingly acquired to push the Mavs into title contention. Dallas got virtually nothing from Butler (two points in 14:48) and Brendan Haywood (four points and four rebounds in 17:57). DeShawn Stevenson, the other player who came over from Washington in the Josh Howard trade, got a DNP-CD. Shawn Marion, acquired by Cuban last summer in a blockbuster deal, was 3-for-9 from the field with seven points in 16:34.

Forced into another undesirable halfcourt slugfest with the Spurs, Carlisle decided to play small throughout the second half with J.J. Barea instead of Butler -- hoping to push the pace. It's not that it was a bad idea. It's just that the Spurs were still able to exert their advantages defensively and attack Dallas' suspect defense off the dribble at key moments -- especially in the fourth quarter. Butler didn't return to the floor again after committing his third turnover, a defensive three-second violation, with 3:38 left in the second quarter.

The way this series has unfolded, there seems to be no way around it going seven games. So the Mavs aren't in deep trouble. Not yet. Once they gave up home-court advantage by losing Game 1, the Mavs knew they'd have to win one game in San Antonio. That game pretty much has to be Game 4 on Sunday, because nobody is winning three straight games between these two old rivals.

"Anything can happen," Tony Parker said in the TV interview after the game. "Any time we play Dallas, we know they can win here. There's going to be another big one here on Sunday."

To beat the Spurs in San Antonio, I think it was pretty well proven Friday night that the Mavs need Butler not only to play, but to play at a high level. Getting some sort of contribution from Marion would be nice, too. The Mavs, who entered the playoffs feeling they had their best shot at a championship since they were up 2-0 on the Miami Heat in the 2006 Finals, have a real problem on their hands. That problem is a proud, crafty, championship-tested Spurs team that is starting to look and feel like its old championship self at just the right time.

Carlisle has until Sunday to come up with the right formula to send this series back to Dallas tied 2-2. As much as Cuban trusts Carlisle -- he sings his praises to anyone who will listen -- the pressure that comes with ignoring the millions of dollars in talent that Cuban handed him at the trade deadline cannot be overstated. 

As hard as it would be for Cuban to accept losing in the playoffs to the Spurs, just imagine how hard it would be to accept losing to the Spurs with his prized acquisitions sitting a few feet away from him on the bench.
 

Posted on: February 13, 2010 6:47 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 7:19 pm
 

Trade Buzz: Amar'e Watch

DALLAS – Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry met Friday at All-Star weekend, a sure sign that Cavaliers’ pursuit of Amar’e Stoudemire has intensified. But if anybody knows the downside of such a move, it’s Kerr. 

One snag in a possible pairing of Stoudemire and LeBron James in Cleveland would be another kind of pairing that’s already been tried and didn’t work. Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire could not co-exist in Phoenix, one of many reasons Kerr was forced to undo his mistake and send Shaq to the Cavs. 

According to sources, there’s a fear among some members of the Cavs’ organization that, while Stoudemire would be a good long-term pairing with LeBron, incorporating him on the floor with Shaq might present too difficult an adjustment for the rest of the season. In Phoenix, Shaq and Stoudemire were unable to make the low-post, high-post thing work – and that was with a world-class point guard, Steve Nash. With the Cavs, Shaq and Amar’e clogging the middle might frustrate LeBron and turn him into too much of a jump shooter. 

This problem would be moot after the season, when Shaq presumably will sign with another team or retire. But with an NBA-best 37-11 record at the All-Star break, shaking things up would be risky. It only underscores how critical this decision is for Cleveland. Make a bold move to placate LeBron, only to risk accelerating his departure. 

The Cavs brass are said to be consulting LeBron on all matters Amar’e, and it’s possible that James will be able to sell GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown that he could make it work. Having said that, sources say the Miami Heat’s interest in Stoudemire has not waned. Miami, though, has the luxury of possessing enough cap space to sign a marquee free agent to pair with Dwyane Wade this summer. The Cavs are capped out and would only be able to give LeBron another top-shelf free agent through sign-and-trades. 

With that sense of urgency in mind, the Cavs have not moved off Washington’s Antawn Jamison as a solution. Jamison was James’ original target, and sources say the Wizards – despite playing hard-ball in discussions with rival GMs – are now committed to trading Jamison. Like Phoenix, the Wizards don’t merely want cap relief in exchange. They want assets and possibly a quality draft pick as well. 

Here’s more of the trade chatter, culled from conversations with GMs, agents, and others in the know in Dallas and beyond:

• The Wizards-Mavericks deal has now expanded to include two more players and now looks like this: Washington gets Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, sources say. You may be wondering, as I am, why Washington chose this deal instead of another blockbuster that would’ve sent Jamison and Butler to Boston for a package including Ray Allen. According to sources, a handful of Eastern Conference GMs pressured Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld to shy away from the Boston deal for obvious reasons. “It would screw up the balance of power in the East for three years,” one executive said. One theory circulating in Dallas is that Grunfeld didn’t want to alienate other teams he might need to do business with as he continues dismantling the roster in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas firearms fiasco.

• There’s hope in some circles that talks between the Rockets and Bulls on a deal centering around Tracy McGrady and Tyrus Thomas could be rekindled, although one source with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Houston’s interest in Thomas could be separate from any McGrady scenario. McGrady’s $23 million expiring contract would help the Bulls amass the kind of cap space they’re seeking in their bid to lure two max free agents this summer. But several other teams – Portland, San Antonio, and Denver – could have more to offer.

• The Knicks continue to pursue Thomas in a package that would send Al Harrington and his $10 million expiring contract to Chicago. Harrington’s movement-killing tendencies on offense are frustrating coach Mike D’Antoni, who believes Thomas’ length and athleticism would be a good long-term fit. In any event, D’Antoni would get to look at Thomas in his system for the rest of the season before deciding whether to retain him as a restricted free agent.
 
 
 
 
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