As do coach Rick Carlisle’s comments about the intangible qualities that Nelson brings to Dallas after a decade in Orlando.
Tyson Chandler when the big man first joined the Mavs four years ago. When camp opened, it wasn’t clear whether Chandler or Brendan Haywood would start at center, but it didn’t take long before Carlisle started referring to Chandler as a critical element of the team’s soul.
That’s the kind of presence the Mavs anticipate for Nelson, who is rejuvenated after spending the last two seasons as the veteran leader of a rebuilding franchise.
“He’s just got a grit and toughness about him that we really need on this team this year,” said Carlisle, who calls Nelson a "natural leader" whose style commands instant respect. “His game is going to help us, but his personality is going to help us, too.”
Owner Mark Cuban mentioned that the Mavs targeted Nelson, who has career averages of 12.6 points and 5.4 assists per game, with their cap-room exception as much for his leadership ability as his production.
But there’s nothing but positivity flowing through the big German’s veins as the Dallas Mavericks open training camp.
No longer does Nowitzki feel like the Mavs must fight just to make the playoffs, as has been the case the last few years. Not after arguably the best summer in franchise history.
The return of center Tyson Chandler, such a critical piece of the title puzzle, in a late-June deal with the New York Knicks got the summer off to a great start. The Mavs made a major splash by stealing restricted free agent small forward Chandler Parsons from the rival Houston Rockets, a move made possible because of a Dirk discount deal that will pay the longtime face of the franchise $25 million over the next three years, less than half of the 12-time All-Star’s market value. And the Mavs improved the rotation and created internal competition with the cap-friendly signings of players such as point guard Jameer Nelson, swingman Richard Jefferson and forward Al-Farouq Aminu.
“I feel like we got better again,” said Nowitzki, 36, who feels good physically as he enters his 17th NBA season. “I think every summer, that should be the franchise’s goal. You never want to stay the same or take a step back, especially in my situation as you get older. You want to get better and want to compete like we did in 2011.
“I feel like we got better and took a great step forward, but we all know how tough the West is. It’s going to be tough to break into the top four. The teams up there are loaded and stacked. But we’re going to go in with a fresh mindset in training camp, work hard for four weeks and then enjoy, hopefully.”
That was unlikely to happen with the Houston Rockets, where Parsons would have always been the third wheel with James Harden and Dwight Howard as the headliners. It’s an opportunity Parsons eagerly embraces as he opens his first training camp with the Dallas Mavericks.
“I’ve always been a team guy, and I’m not trying to come here and get mine and be the go-to guy necessarily,” Parsons said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes for our team to win as many games as possible.”
As far as Parsons is concerned, his job is to be able to do whatever Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle needs him to do.
Parsons has always prided himself on his versatility. He was one of four players last season to average at least 16 points, five rebounds and four assists, while shooting better than 45 percent from the floor, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. And Parsons firmly believes he’s capable of improving his numbers across the board, as the 25-year-old forward has in each of his NBA seasons.
Dirk Nowitzki rests. He’ll probably even spend some time in the backcourt and is expected to be able to defend every position except for center.
“I don’t want there to be one thing that I can’t do out there,” Parsons said.
The Mavs are confident that Parsons will complement co-stars Nowitzki and Monta Ellis and have a positive impact on the team’s chemistry. Parsons, who spends a lot of his free time in Los Angeles, clearly enjoys the fame part of his job, but there are no concerns about his ego swelling as his paychecks get a lot larger.
If it ever became an issue, the Mavs’ championship veterans would put Parsons in check anyway.
“It’s important that we all understand what the common goal is,” said center Tyson Chandler, a key piece of the Mavs’ 2011 title team and the other major acquisition this summer. “And the common goal is not about one individual trying to rise to the top or trying to better himself with any individual accolades. It’s all about the importance of the team, because at the end of the day when the team does well, everybody shines.
“If he and everybody else understands that and buys into that, we’ll have a great year.”
That’s not a problem for Parsons. He believes he’s “ready for that next step in my career”: a bigger role on the floor and in the locker room. He’s excited about the attention that will come along with it.
But Parsons knows the best way to attract the spotlight is to advance in the playoffs. That’s his mission with the Mavs.
“I think I’m going to have a big year,” Parsons said. “I think our team is going to have a bigger year.”
“I am a bully,” Cuban said, smiling. “I just can’t help myself.”
Morey has had just about enough of Cuban’s public jabs, firing back in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. Cuban found many of Morey’s comments to be humorous, particularly the part about “directing his bully pulpit onto us” because the San Antonio Spurs aren’t an easy target.
Of course, Cuban has long been a villain in San Antonio, angering the entire city with by criticizing the uncleanliness of the River Walk during a playoff series several years ago.
“See, that’s Daryl, right?” Cuban said. “He doesn’t really have a concept of what’s really happened in life. I mean, anybody who’s walked by the river ... Let’s put it this way: I don’t go close to the river for fear I’ll be pushed in.”
This is the first time that Morey has publicly fired back directly at Cuban, who has been taking jabs at the Rockets for more than a year, dating to center Dwight Howard’s decision to go to Houston instead of Dallas in free agency. Cuban claims that Morey “kind of got it started” when he sent a text inquiring about Dirk Nowitzki’s availability in a trade after Howard’s decision, which Cuban took as a taunt. Cuban also didn’t appreciate Morey’s statement after Chandler Parsons’ departure to Dallas this summer that the Rockets would prefer to develop players of that caliber than sign them to rich contracts.
“I don’t know who (the Rockets) have developed that’s on his roster right now,” Cuban said. “If you throw the punches ... I just don’t think he realized he threw them, so I had some fun responding.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey responded to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's latest swipes against him, saying in a published interview that if the money is equal, free agents will always pick Houston over Dallas.
The Mavericks signed away Chandler Parsons from the Rockets this offseason when Houston chose not to match the offer sheet. Cuban said in an interview with KRLD-FM in August that snagging Parsons was satisfying after Dwight Howard chose to sign with Houston instead of Dallas in 2013, adding, "all good business is personal."
Cuban questioned the Rockets' approach to chemistry in that interview when answering a question about Morey's inquiries with Dallas to see whether Dirk Nowitzki was available via trade in 2013. He also took a dig at Houston for putting images of Carmelo Anthony in a No. 7 jersey in the windows near one of the entrances to the Toyota Center when the then-free agent visited this past summer even though Jeremy Lin was still on the team at that time.
Sports owners filled the annual list of the 400 richest Americans published by Forbes magazine on Monday, including new Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who at a net worth of $22.5 billion is the richest American owner of a sports team.
Ballmer, who spent 34 years at Microsoft, bought the Clippers in August from Donald and Shelly Sterling for $2 billion, after they were essentially forced to sell following Sterling's much-publicized racist comments. Ballmer is the 18th-richest American.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who owns both the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, came in as the second-richest sports owner with a net worth of $17 billion (27th on the list), while Phil Anschutz, who owns both the Los Angeles Kings and the Staples Center where Ballmer's Clippers play, rounds out the top three, with a net worth of $11.1 billion.
Floridian sports owners have a heavy presence on the list, including Miami Heat owner Micky Arison ($6.4 billion), Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos ($6 billion), Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($6 billion) and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan ($4.5 billion).
“We’ve got a great staff that really emphasizes defense,” Parsons said. “Where I'm coming from, offense was always our main goal. Now we’ve got to win games and championships on the defensive side. I'm totally locked in and dialed in to do that.”
In comparison to former teammate James Harden, Parsons was a lockdown defender with the Houston Rockets. However, in comparison to the rest of the league, Parsons was pretty mediocre on that end of the floor.
According to Synergy Sports, Parsons ranked 190th as an overall defender last season, allowing 0.88 points per possession. He ranked 219th in isolation (0.93) and 204th in post-up situations (0.94). Parsons was well above average guarding pick-and-roll ballhandlers, ranking 70th and allowing 0.74 points per possession.
With the Dallas Mavericks, Parsons has large shoes to fill on defense. Many shoes, for that matter. Shawn Marion, aka “The Matrix,” was the Mavs’ best defender for the last five seasons and guarded everyone from point guards to power forwards.
The Mavs hope to use the 6-foot-9 Parsons in a similar fashion, which would give coach Rick Carlisle tremendous flexibility to experiment with different lineups.
This is a positive, not a problem.
“I get a lot of questions about the minutes crunch,” said coach Rick Carlisle, who hasn’t declared which point guard will start. “I’m not worried about that. I just want good basketball players that want to win, and I think we have that.”
There will be approximately 60 minutes per game – 48 at point guard and a dozen at shooting guard – to split between Devin Harris and newcomers Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton. The plan, which will be fluid, is for all of them to get significant playing time, allowing each guard to play at full speed whenever they’re on the floor.
That’s fine with Harris, who averaged 20.5 minutes per game coming off the Mavs’ bench this season and figures his role won’t change much.
“I think everybody’s in the same frame of mind,” Harris said. “Everyone just wants to win at this point. The way Rick described it to me is we want to play a little bit more fast-paced, we want to pick up a little bit more [in the backcourt on defense]. We may not play 30 [minutes]. It may be 15, 20 and 20 or something like that, but we’ve all discussed it.
“At this point, it’s just about winning.”
The key is that all the veteran point guards buy into the one-for-all idea. That shouldn’t be an issue, particularly for Nelson, considering he chose to come to Dallas after Felton and Harris were already on the roster. They’re also all smart enough to recognize that a lighter workload could help extend their careers.
Maybe the minutes won’t be split evenly. That depends on several factors such as performance, health and matchups.
“It’ll depend on who’s going hot, what the matchups are, what’s working for us,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Again, I think these guys are at the point of their career where they don’t have to put up big numbers. Their rewards, on and off the court, come from winning.”
His boss anticipates that the dozen-time All-Star’s scoring numbers dip again this season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I’m not expecting anyone on our team to be a 20-point scorer,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “Not Dirk. I don’t want him to be a 20-point scorer. Seriously.
“Monta [Ellis] has that capability, Chandler [Parsons] has that capability, Dirk has that capability, Richard Jefferson’s got that capability. Jameer [Nelson] could do 15, Raymond Felton could do 15 if that was the focus. But that’s not our focus. That’s the cool thing. There’s going to be times that we overpass. I think that’ll be one of the challenges that [coach] Rick [Carlisle] has, that some of the guys are too unselfish.”
(Follow-up question I failed to ask: Do the Mavs have a time machine for Richard Jefferson or something?)
All jokes aside, Cuban’s point is on point. The Mavs should be one of the league’s elite offensive teams again -- they tied for second in offensive efficiency last season -- because of their skill and depth. But ball movement and chemistry will be the keys to the Mavs fulfilling their massive offensive potential.
That’s one reason it’s been so encouraging to see pretty much the entire team working out and playing pickup games together at the American Airlines for the last few weeks.
“We think this team can be special,” Carlisle said, adding that he’s never seen this level of activity and energy in the building at this point of the year.
Cuban, in what could be considered a subtle jab at the rival Houston Rockets’ front office, made a point to say that the Mavs value chemistry as much as math. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the Mavs accumulated a lot of talent that looks good on a computer screen when studying analytics if the players and personalities don’t mesh.
That’s why Nowitzki’s leadership is arguably as important as the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history’s jumper. He sets a tone of unselfishness that guys like Ellis, who arrived in Dallas with a reputation for being a me-first gunner, follow. The expectation is for Parsons to fall in line, understanding that he was given a three-year, $46 million contract to play a key role on a winning team, not worry about putting up pretty numbers.
“I mean, if he averaged 10, 8 and 8, I’d be thrilled to death,” Cuban said. “I don’t care how much he scores. I care how well we do, and I think he’s the same way. I think he’d love to take credit for being a guy that can score 20 when you need to but can grab eight rebounds and dish out eight assists when needed to as well.”
Maybe the Mavs won’t have anyone who puts up All-Star numbers. Their hope is to be a contender whose sum is greater than the whole of its parts.
“Let’s just say I learn from my mistakes,” Cuban said, replying to an inquiry about whether the big man’s second stay in Dallas would last longer than one season.
Cuban’s choice to allow Chandler to leave in free agency after the Mavs’ lone championship season will always be one of the most controversial decisions in Dallas sports history.
As Cuban explained at the time and over and over again, he declined to make a multi-year offer to Chandler after the lockout because he believed the new collective bargaining agreement put a premium on financial flexibility.
The fear was that the Mavs wouldn’t be able to make upgrades as an aging roster deteriorated if they kept the title team together. The hope was the Mavs could use their ample salary-cap space to sign a superstar.
Well, Father Time did catch up with most of the key cogs from that title team, with many of the Mavs’ champions either retired or playing much lesser roles for other teams. But the Mavs’ front office never did hook the perennial All-Star big fish in free agency.
The Mavs have made some significant upgrades in the last two summers, including getting Chandler back in a six-player deal with the New York Knicks, just in time for the final season of his four-year, $56 million deal.
So it was a mistake to let him go in the first place, huh?
“Obviously it would have been better if we could have kept him, right?” Cuban said after leaving the stage. “But our hand was dealt with all the changes. All’s well that ends well. I think it turned out just the way we wanted, just the way I planned.”
The Mavs probably planned to mix in a playoff series win or two during Chandler’s time in New York, but no need to nitpick.
One thing that’s unquestionably true is that Chandler and the Mavs are mutually elated to be together again.
Will the best big man in Mavs history actually stick around for more than one season in his second Dallas stint? That’s a question that won’t be answered until next summer, when Chandler’s contract coming off the books gives the Mavs the flexibility to be aggressive in free agency again.
“I’ll leave that up to them again,” Chandler said. “That was out of my control. It’s going to be out of my control this time around. The only thing I can do is produce on the floor.”
It'll be Cuban's call. It's safe to assume he knows how the Mavs' fan base feels.
It's been a busy day for NBA uniforms, as three teams have revealed new designs. Let's take a look:
Mavericks. Remember a while back when Mark Cuban invited Mavs fans to come up with a new uniform design for the team? The 10 finalists were announced about a year ago, and now Cuban has finally revealed the winning design, which features the Dallas skyline. You can get a slightly better view of the design concept here, but keep in mind that the team isn't going to be using the white or green-accented versions, at least for now -- only the navy version, which will be used as an alternate to the Mavs' current home and road unis. Cuban said at the unveiling that the other two versions could be incorporated into the team's uniform rotation a few years down the road.
The jerseys, designed by Mavs fan Geoff Case, were selected from more than 1,000 entries in a contest. Case, who left the digital marketing field to open the design company 1 Man Agency a month ago, received $1,000 and season tickets for next season.
Case envisions Mavs players celebrating big plays by popping out the chest of the jersey, displaying the skyline.
“The functional aspect of the design is it gives players the ultimate way to rep the city,” Case said.
Case’s design has the Reunion Tower ball, the most recognizable part of the Dallas skyline, featured prominently. However, the ball was not on the jersey shown during the news conference, a mistake Mavs owner Mark Cuban said would be corrected.
“That’ll change,” Cuban said. “The first generation, we had to rush them out, so it’s going to get them refined and we have to do all the stuff with Adidas.”
The alternate jerseys will be worn at least eight times during the 2015-16 season.
The arena is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a Select-a-Seat program, allowing potential new season-ticket holders to pick their seats.
The new jerseys will be unveiled at 12 p.m. with the introductions of Al-Farouq Aminu, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Chandler Parsons and Greg Smith following. That press conference will be open to the public.
The Mavs had more than 1,000 fans submit jersey designs via owner Mark Cuban’s blogmaverick.com and crowdSpring. The new jersey will be selected from among those entries.
A source said Lamb’s deal does not include any guaranteed money.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Lamb has 100 games of NBA experience with the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic, averaging 3.5 points in 12.7 minutes per game. He averaged 3.6 points and 13.1 minutes in 53 games with the Magic last season.
The Mavs have 15 players with fully guaranteed contracts, the maximum for a regular-season roster. Lamb joins forwards Charlie Villanueva and Ivan Johnson as players with NBA experience who accepted invitations from the Mavs to attend training camp.