Mavs Free Agency And D-Lord Vs. ESPN?

As competitive as we all are, I view Mavs fans (and often, Mavs media) as part of a community. With that spirit, I read ESPN's article entitled ‘Dwight Howard sign-and-trade makes no sense for Lakers.' It's been speculated that the article is intended as a ‘shootdown' of the David Lord exclusive on Dallas' free-agency roadmaps. So … has the 'community' closed down the ideas?

The ESPN piece, written by our friend Tim MacMahon, tells us the Dallas Mavericks have no chance at landing both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul this summer. Why? Because the Lakers would never be interested in a sign-and-trade.

It was in our recent article by David Lord outlining some of the almost countless ways the Mavs could afford to chase both stars that a sign-and-trade for Dwight was indeed mentioned.
So because ESPN says LA would "never'' do such a thing, is David Lord's incomparable work now invalidated? Has our meticulously researched article been shot down? Are all those pathways to free-agency success now blocked?

Well, no. And this "conflict'' (perceived that way by some readers of, anyway) is a great illustration of why you read You can go to ESPN to find reiteration of the obstacles that we've already covered. But for 14 years you've read us to find out about the paths … and then about how the obstacles along those paths can be overcome.

Let me start by noting my friendship with and respect for Tim MacMahon, who works hard at offering his takes on the local sports scene. (He reminds me of me when I was a young lad!) Let me also note this: Tim is right. IF both Howard and Paul want to sign with Dallas, and IF the Lakers are scared of tax, THEN the Lakers are quite likely to say no to getting a pile of salary from the Mavs in a sign-and-trade.
Now, the Mavs community (and more importantly, the Mavs themselves) can, if it wishes, stop right there and close the door on the entire idea, as McMahon does.

Be we haven't stopped there. Not in our original, exclusive and much-borrowed-from story. Not in ensuing pieces. And not in the continuing examination of every angle we can unearth.

We haven't stopped there.

And neither have the Mavs.

While the ESPN article raises questions about one route to getting the pair, let's remind you that Lord provided lots of routes available for the Mavs to get both players (along with the overall unlikelihood of accomplishing that goal), as well as mentioning multiple ways that those can be adjusted as needed. Every possibility has potential obstacles – but the Mavs' focus will be to figure out what works, not what doesn't.

(I should mention somewhere in here: I am proud to point out that our David Lord serves as a quiet source and adviser to some of the finest NBA writers in the country, to ESPN staffers and even to Larry Coon himself.)

We think it's simplistic to assume, as ESPN does, that the Lakers would necessarily turn a deaf ear to an infusion of talent. We agree that they won't want to waste money. But we also must recognize that they will actively be looking for ways to improve this summer, and they've never run scared from luxury tax.

But, OK. Even if the Lakers shut the door on a sign-and-trade taking everyone but Dirk, that only eliminates one idea.

And that's the end of all conversations? Once we get beyond the shoot-down negativity, who really believes that? So, Where else could the Mavs turn at that point? Let's outline some of the alternatives that were mentioned or suggested in David Lord's article on the possibilities:

1. Do a sign-and-trade with the Clippers for Paul instead of one with the Lakers for Howard. Getting both players doesn't necessitate dealing with the Lakers at all.

2. Do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers for Howard, sending out the same "everyone-but-Dirk" set of players as alluded to in the ESPN article (Marion, Carter, Crowder, Cunningham, B James, Akognon), but don't send them all to the Lakers. Instead, add one or more additional teams to the trade to take some of that salary. (Let me note: As long as the Mavs send out the required salary in the trade, the Lakers wouldn't have to take any of it. So "everyone-but-Dirk'' doesn't have to mean "everyone-but-Dirk goes to LA.'')

3. Can I craft even one example of such a deal? It's certainly not the only possibility, but if you look for ways around the obstacles instead of just stopping at them, you see: Carter and Crowder to the Lakers along with the Mavs' just-picked first rounder, Cunningham to Orlando, and Marion, Bernard James, and Akognon to Atlanta. (James and Akognon can be waived at no cost if unwanted.)

Optimistic thinking required. Obstacle cleared.

4. Those players mentioned would not be the only possible set of players that the Mavs could send out in a sign-and-trade for Howard. As long as the Mavs' total outgoing salary (subject to base year adjustments in a player on an outgoing sign-and-trade*) equals or exceeds $15.513 million, they would be able to take Howard.

*While the Lakers' taxpayer status will preclude them from accepting incoming sign-and-trades, the Mavs would still be able to use outgoing sign-and-trades as part of a salary match for Howard by simply sending such players to another team. This would be limited by the cost of cap holds for various free agents, but the Mavs would be able to have more options the higher the cap is set in July.

5. If the Mavs were able to work sign-and-trades for BOTH Howard and Paul, the salary cap would not be an issue in relation to cap holds they could keep. In that situation, any or all of their own free agents would be eligible to be used (with their permission) in an outgoing sign-and-trade for salary matching purposes on one or the other.

6. If the Mavs opt to sign-and-trade for Paul rather than Howard, the entire salary match wouldn't have to go the Clippers (just like it wouldn't have to all go to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade for Howard).

So, right there are a half-dozen pathways to something that others say "cannot be done.''

I have always said that the odds on landing Howard and/or Paul aren't great. "Virtually impossible'' is a valuable phrase here, even as we explore ideas, produce candy-colored graphics and try to deal with obstacles. The top obstacle? They might not want to sacrifice that fifth guaranteed year to leave their present clubs. Another legit obstacle? It's true that if the Mavs successfully recruit both Howard and Paul to come to Dallas, the Lakers might not accept a lot of salary.
But trust me, the Mavs recognize all that as well, and yet I know they are already looking at the parameters – ridiculous long-shot as it is -- of signing both. This organization was 12XPlayoffs and won a world championship in part because it and its people are largely about what works rather than what does not.

For the Mavs, creating a winner isn't about avoiding the challenges; it's about finding the ways to get past them.

For's exploration of pathways back to Mavs contention? We take the same approach, which is why somewhere on your daily spin through the Mavs community, I know why you read us: To get the full story – downs and ups and obstacles and pathways -- on how the Mavs can travel closer to their desired destination.

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