Dirk Expresses Concern About Future Of Mavericks
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- With the Dallas Mavericks' 12-season playoff streak in question, star forward Dirk Nowitzki expressed strong doubt about the front office's plan for the franchise's future, even wondering whether it'd be in the Mavs' best interests to trade him.
Nowitzki, who was admittedly disappointed and frustrated after the Mavs dropped to eight games below .500 with their eighth loss in nine games Saturday night, told ESPNDallas.com that owner Mark Cuban's post-lockout decision to let Tyson Chandler and other key members of the 2011 title team leave could be judged as "a mistake or not" after seeing whether the Mavs are able to make any major personnel moves this summer.
The plan was to acquire a legitimate superstar in his prime -- or possibly even two -- to lighten the 34-year-old Nowitzki's load in the latter stage of his surefire Hall of Fame career. But Chris Paul and Dwight Howard did not hit the free-agency market last summer as anticipated when Dallas decided to create significant salary-cap space for the first time in Cuban's 13-year ownership tenure -- they both can be free agents this summer -- and the Mavs' recruiting efforts failed to land Deron Williams.
"It's going to be tough now," Nowitzki said after the Mavs' home overtime loss to the Western Conference cellar-dwelling New Orleans Hornets. "I always liked to think you don't want to build your franchise on hope.
"We hoped for Deron last year. We hoped for Dwight. Why would he leave the Lakers? To me, it makes no sense. He's in a great situation. Why would CP3 leave? [The Los Angeles Clippers are] the best team in the league probably right now. They're probably the deepest team. So are you going to hope that we get something?
"Maybe Cuban has something up his sleeve. Maybe you have to take a chance on a bad contract to get him in here and make something happen. I mean, I don't know. That's something we'll have to see this summer. We're going to play out this season. I'm going to get better and better, hopefully from game to game, so I can actually close out some of these games. And then we'll see what happens."
Nowitzki reiterated those exact comments after Monday's shootaround in Utah and clairified any confusion about any discussions of him being traded.
"I never said I was going to be traded," Nowitzki told reporters Monday. "I said what I said numerous times: We have two options. We tried to sign (Deron Williams), but we didn't sign him, so we have two options: We either trade everybody and start over or we bring in a bunch of one-year deals -- which we did -- and try to be a player this summer."
Cuban took Nowitzki's comments in stride when contacted Monday morning.
"Dirk gets upset when we are in a tough period," Cuban replied in an email to ESPNDallas.com. "If you only knew the things he has said to me during recent seasons about our team. I'm glad I didn't listen :)
"That's Dirk. He uses being mad for personal motivation. No one on this team should be happy with the way we are playing right now. I know I'm not. But we aren't going to change our approach. We will be opportunistic and try to get this season turned around."
At 13-21, the Mavs entered Sunday 5½ games out of the West's eighth seed, and there are only two teams in the conference with worse records. It's an unfamiliar feeling for a franchise that had its streak of 11 50-win seasons end during last season's lockout-compressed campaign, when the stripped-down Mavs' title defense ended with a first-round sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now Nowitzki, who notes that the Mavs' playoff hopes wouldn't be nearly so bleak had he not missed the first 27 games of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, is the centerpiece of a struggling team with chemistry concerns, surrounded by newcomers whose contracts expire at the end of the season.
That's the risk the Mavs took when they opted to make financial flexibility a priority in an attempt to hit a home run in free agency.
"We knew that coming in, that eight or nine new guys on one-year deals is not really an ideal situation, but what else is there to do?" Nowitzki said. "So either you break the whole thing up and trade me, or you get a bunch of one-year deals and try to be a player next summer. That's the decision we made, so now we've got to fight through it."
That was the second time in a week that Nowitzki, who has a no-trade clause in his four-year, $80 million contract that expires after the 2013-14 season, mentioned the possibility of trading him.
However, Nowitzki said he has not seriously considered playing for another franchise. The 15-year veteran and 11-time All-Star has consistently said he wants to play his entire career for the Mavs.
"The only reason I would leave -- or would have left -- is if we wouldn't have won the championship, and I would have been like a Karl Malone and [Gary] Payton going to join Kobe and Shaq in L.A. like they did at the end," Nowitzki said. "But now I've got a ring and obviously want to finish my career here. But I also want to be competitive."
As for the players the Mavericks did bring in, Nowitzki, talking earlier in the week, said he and Chris Kaman have not logged many minutes together since Nowitzki's return because they are both defensively challenged.
"Chris and myself both can't guard nobody," Nowitzki said.
Nowitzki and Kaman started against the Hornets, but Kaman did not return to the game in the fourth quarter or in overtime.
"They've got to hold their own," coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki and Kaman before Saturday's loss. "They have good length. We just have to bring enough physicality to that lineup, with them and with other guys that would be in there with them, to make it work.
"Offensively, it should be a good scoring lineup because both those guys are good offensive players.
"Going forward, we've got to make this work. If it turns out that something is a better situation, then we've got to look at it."
Shawn Marion, who also started in the 99-96 loss, echoed those concerns.
"It seems like we can't guard nobody," Marion said. "Until we're able to contain guys and make them do something they're uncomfortable doing, we're going to have problems. When you can't guard nobody, you can't win."