Meet The New Mavs (And Championship Dreams)
On the floor of the American Airlines Center, in the shadow of the championship banner, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo , Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand all echoed the sentiments of their new coach and cited the desire to win at a high level as a reason for wanting to come to Dallas.
"The first thing I do when I come into arenas is count banners,'' said Mayo. "And you've got one.''
The theme of the press conference was that of transition and a new beginning. While the new Mavericks were quick to pay respects for the accomplishments of those who had come before, particularly for Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, in the cases of Collison and Mayo, they were also quick to highlight their own uniqueness. When asked about comparisons to Kidd, Collison (who says he'll switch to No. 4 instead of his usual No. 2 out of respect for Kidd) noted, "I just want to be myself.'' And then listed the skills he planned to bring to the table: "Uptempo, energy, defense."
Later, Carlisle was asked about "uptempo.''
"Yeah,'' he said, "we're gonna push the s--- out of it."
Owner Mark Cuban, speaking not only to the media but also to season-ticket holders in attendance, answered the many critics of the Mavericks summer, reiterating that there had been a plan all along. "Sometimes, the best deals are the ones you don't make," he said, a clear nod to his dislike of Dallas Mavericks potential roster flexibility had Deron Williams been signed.
Carlisle emphasized the goal of the offseason, saying, "We needed to get younger," and "our system is going to change some. [We] can't fit these parts into a set system."
Carlisle hinting at the planned changes to an offense that slipped below the league average in points per game for the first time since Michael Jordan won his last championship. Based on the speed of new starting point guard Collison, Carlisle explained that the Mavericks would look to combat their lack of size in the backcourt with a desire to push the tempo and excel in transition. Both Carlisle and Collison cited Collison's ability to get to the basket as a new wrinkle they plan on adding this season.
In a one-on-one visit with DB.com (available soon for Premium Mavs Fans), Collison noted that the team has discussed with him the concept of the "Flow'' offense.
"And I like that,'' the former Pacers PG said. "It's a chance to be a decision-maker, to be the quarterback. I think Coach still likes to have us play instinctively.''
Carlisle also sought to distinguish Mayo, essentially labeling him the starter at the 2.
"O.J. is a different player than Jet," he said. "Mayo's best basketball days are ahead of him."
Rick said he expects Mayo to "put it all together" this season and notably said the same thing about Roddy B.
Cuban's point of emphasis with the new backcourt: While they are on short-term contracts, they aren't necessarily short-term Mavs. Collison and Mayo are 24 and could be building blocks.
While the Mavs gained youth and athleticism in the backcourt, they also added size and veteran experience up front where Chris Kaman and Elton Brand figure to bring, in the words of GM Donnie Nelson, a "low post presence we haven't had for a while." Brand cited his familiarity with Kaman as the two were teammates for the Los Angeles Clippers for five seasons, and noted that they are already experienced at playing the high-low game with each other.
Brand joked that he's looking forward to reuniting with Kaman so they can run their favorite Clippers set, "Him passing it to me and me shooting it.''
Brand also said he and Kaman were looking forward to less defensive attention while playing next to Dirk. "We're used to having the best big defender guarding us,'' he said, "and that's no longer the case."
Kaman in particular brings a unique shooting touch to the table that has not been seen in Dallas since perhaps the Raef LaFrentz days. Said Cuban on watching Kaman practice jumpers: "It's the first time since I've owned the Mavs where I've seen our center taking shots at practice and I didn't cringe."
In choosing Dallas, both Mayo and Kaman mentioned the quality of the franchise as reasons they settled with the Mavericks.
"Dallas has always been an A-1 organization," said Mayo.
Like Mayo, Kaman cited his fondness for Dallas (as well as his friendship with Dirk) for the reason he landed here. And Brand also cited The UberMan Factor.
"Definitely, we want to keep Dirk's window open as long as possible to win another championship," Brand said. "We're hungry because we don't have championships and he does. Hopefully, we make just job a lot easier."
(Fish goes 1-on-1 with Brand and they talk about the 'gifts' Elton wants to bring to Dallas in this exclusive interview.)
By the end of the nearly two-hour press conference, some of the new guys were even sounding like veteran Mavericks. When asked by a fan why it seems the Mavericks never seem to get their due, Brand smiled and said, "We cherish the underdog role. Nothing has ever been given to this franchise."
Even Dahntay Jones, the quietest of the newcomers in the press conference, reiterated the ultimate goal. "When you have Dirk Nowitzki,'' he said, "anything can happen."
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