Sources: Michael Finley eyes playing
Updated: November 22, 2012, 11:11 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com
Former NBA All-Star Michael Finley is putting his front-office career on hold in hopes of extending his playing career, according to sources with knowledge of his plans.
Sources told ESPN that Finley, after participating in NBA pickup games all summer, continues to work out vigorously in pursuit of a contract that would give him one more run as an NBA player before shifting his focus to front-office work.
Late last spring, Finley began quietly working as an untitled but prominent member of the Dallas Mavericks' front-office team. The 39-year-old quickly convinced Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that he has promise as an executive, to the point that Cuban unexpectedly dispatched Finley alongside coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson on what ultimately proved to be a failed recruiting mission to try to sign Deron Williams away from the Brooklyn Nets.
Finley then continued to work under Nelson through the offseason, but also never stopped training to keep alive his comeback bid. After Nelson publicly acknowledged for the first time in August that both Finley and former teammate Eduardo Najera were working as special assistants to the GM, sources say the Mavericks invited Finley to training camp as a player on a non-guaranteed contract before a minor calf injury scuttled that plan.
Finley has since shaken that injury and, through longtime agent Henry Thomas, is pitching himself to teams as a capable shooter off the bench and mentor to young players.
He has been determined to carve out one more playing niche after a lengthy recovery from ankle surgery during the 2010 offseason complicated his efforts to find a job in 2010-11. Finley then flirted with making a comeback in the D-League last season -- which is a path veteran players have increasingly used to get on the NBA radar -- but ultimately decided against it.
Sources say Finley has been encouraged by the positive impact Rasheed Wallace has made in New York after coming out of retirement -- as well as Jerry Stackhouse's recent move to Brooklyn and Antonio McDyess' reported desire to restart his career -- because he has privately believed for months he could have a similar effect on a team's locker room.
Finley last played in the NBA with Boston during the 2010 playoffs but was eager to try to win a job in training camp with the Mavs, even though Dallas entered camp carrying the league maximum 15 guaranteed contracts on its roster.
Along with Steve Nash, Finley teamed with Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki to form the trio that transformed the Mavericks from a horrific decade in the 1990s and launched the franchise's ongoing run of 12 successive playoff berths.
Finley left Dallas in 2005 when Cuban, looking to drastically reduce his luxury-tax bill, waived the two-time All-Star through the league's first amnesty clause. Finley went on to win a championship ring with rival San Antonio in 2007, but has remained one of Nowitzki's closest friends and most revered teammates.