Consider the following list of current Dallas Mavericks players:
For the Mavs, Ellis, Parsons, and Barea are arguably their three most impactful recent free agent additions, signed from another team. And James was a quick and desperately-needed signing in a recent emergency.
Their next significant free-agent signing? It will be Amare Stoudemire, who was bought out by NY and will be eligible to sign with another team once he clears waivers. (See below for the details -- and why we tend to call these things "tentative'' until they no longer are.)
So besides the Mavs connection, what else do these players have in common?
They all have a relationship with Relativity Sports CEO Happy Walters.
From that list, it’s clear the Mavs front office and Walters (and another Relativity bigshot, Dan Fegan, who is directly involved with some in the group) are very comfortable in working with each other. And it doesn't just end at signing players, as the Mavs on multiple occasions have gone out of their way to "take care of" Relativity Sportsclients. Remember the deal last summer where the Mavs sign-and-traded DeJuan Blair to Washington? That deal, on its face, didn't benefit Dallas at all. ("Blair for Air,'' we called it.) But Blair is a Relativity Sports guy, and the move allowed Blair to get a better contract than the Mavs could offer the backup big man.
A deal like that with no real benefit to the team is clearly rare. But the Mavs did it to help out a player – and an agent.
Now, as the Mavs try to add some much-needed backup-big man help, “what goes around …” may be on the way to culminating in “… comes around.”
Before he was ever bought out, Amare was already being linked to the needy-for-a-big-man Mavs as his “preferred” destination. How did that happen? Think his agent assured him that Dallas would take care of him, if he was interested in working a buyout and joining a contender for the playoffs? Of course.
And maybe, just maybe, there might be another to follow.
Larry Sanders, currently in the process of being bought out by Milwaukee, is another Walters client who will soon be looking for a place to land.
Is he an answer for Dallas? Good question.
Larry Sanders is 6-11, with a 7-6 wingspan, desirable physical dimensions for a center. In the 2012-13 season he appeared to be the next emerging big man, when he became a starter and averaged about 10 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks per game for the Bucks. In August 2013 Milwaukee eagerly signed him to a $44-mil extension that would begin in the 2014-15 season.
But from that point, instead of him taking the next step to stardom as expected, his production went down and the problems began. In 2013-14, he only played in 23 games, due to drug and injury issues, and his production went down to 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. Even more troubling, whispers of attitude issues and clashes with coaches leaked out.
This season his production shriveled further, there was another drug suspension, and at one point he was exiled from the Bucks to take care of “personal issues.” (One report hinted that the “personal issues” may have been an unwillingness to practice and prepare, and another that he simply wanted to retire from basketball entirely).
Now, only about 18 months after signing that big deal, and only four months into his first season under that contract, the Bucks are on the verge of pulling the plug and buying out his entire contract.
Whether Sanders can be an answer for the Mavs is hazy. On the plus side of the ledger is that he should come cheap, he’s played well in the past, he’s young, and the Mavs need a center. On the other hand, a player has to be a huge problem for a team to pay him that much money to go away. The questions of his desire to play and his history of drug suspensions (plural) are huge. The Mavs also have to consider the fact that, at least once, Sanders and Monta Ellis had a fight as teammates – perhaps that was a one-time conflict, but perhaps not.
At this point, unless he really doesn’t want to play basketball, Sanders will look for a rest-of-season deal at the minimum (after all, he’s already getting paid big money by Milwaukee). He needs to rebuild his reputation and grow as a player, before we get to the summer when teams will have plenty of money to spend in free agency. That means there’s no upside for Sanders to sign in a place that won’t work for him or the team. The trick will be to find a fit.
And the Mavs' great relationship with Happy Walters offers a huge advantage here. If they have some interest, the key for the Mavs to get a good read on Sanders probably centers around their ability to find out his mindset, and the open lines of communication with Walters should get them an honest appraisal. And, if he is a fit, that relationship should also put the Mavs right at the front of the line.
All of that is why DB.com was able to report in Monday's premium "Trade Rumor Central'' section that the Mavs front office had not at that time formed an opinion on the player but would be relying on the psychological expertise of the staff to help the club do so.
Maybe Sanders can be an answer here, or maybe he can’t. But the Mavs will be working with the right guy, in figuring it out, and that promises to offer them a huge advantage here as they work to add talent in their chase for another ring.
Amar'e Stoudemire is a six-time All-Star and those days of scoring 24 points and pulling down 10 rebounds per a decade ago will make for some impressive highlight-film stuff. But the Dallas Mavericks aren't counting on the Amar'e from a decade ago; his knees and ankles and 13 years of NBA wear-and-tear have changed all that.
They need a 4/5 who is better than Dwight Powell and Greg Smith. That's a modest goal ... and they are about to achieve it.
Is it done? 'Not yet,' a high-placed Mavs source tells DB.com late Monday. But we're close, and one of the reasons it's "not yet'' is because it cannot be.
As always, starting from the time last week we broke the story of Dallas' interest in Amare, we reserved our enthusiasm regarding the Mavs as a "frontrunner'' to sign Stoudemire when he reached a buyout from the Knicks; hell, weren't they a "frontrunner'' to sign Jermaine O'Neal, who is now opting to remain on the couch in Southlake? (See below for more.) But we share Dallas' excitement over this tentative "get'' not because this is the All-Star Amar'e but because at 32, he can fill the void left by 4/5 Brandan Wright, the efficient offensive weapon who departed in the Rondo trade.
It is true that Stoudemire has agreed to come to Dallas. It cannot be official until 4 p.m. Wednesday when he's cleared waivers. At that time the Mavs will fit him for a uniform and quite possibly ask him to contribute on Thursday in Dallas' post-All-Star-Break debut at OKC.
And what will the Mavs get? The Knicks version of Stoudemire (if healthy) will have to do. That's 12 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes a night. ... substantially better than Powell, Smith and 10-day guy Bernard James.
It can be argued that Stoudemire's real role here is to replicate Wright. As Dirk said, he's a rangy scorer out to 16 feet and has great skills as a pick-and-roller and finisher (though no longer a leaper). As the Mavs know, he's a rebounder who would join Aminu as the second-best Mav in that category. And they've done their homework here on his character (Tyson Chandler with a seeming endorsement) and, as best they can, on his medical issues. (Worth noting: During Stoudemire’s five years in New York, he missed 95 regular-season games and nine playoff games due to injury. But in Dallas, he'll be reunited with Casey Smith, who was on the Phoenix training staff when Amar'e was with the Suns. This was, we're sure, a selling point to the player.)
Dallas' bench -- an area of weakness with Wright gone -- suddenly looks dynamic, with Devin Harris being joined by Stoudemire and Aminu.
This deal will be done on Wednesday. The search for help will continue even beyond Thursday's trade deadline. How it all comes together for the Mavs? The needs are there. The homework is done. The medical hope remains.
The easiest way to confound an empty-headed jock? Tell him brawn is overrated. The easiest way to frighten a pencil-necked nerd? Tell him brains are overrated. The easiest way for the NBA to get TV ratings? Allow class clown Charles Barkley to clumsily launch a national debate with what was clearly his audition tape as 'The Jock-Bully' in a coming 'Revenge of the Nerds' sequel.
Our column on Barkley, the Mavs, Analytics and 'Revenge of the Nerds' is here.
We've got a 15-year tradition here at DB.com and we're pretty proud of it ... and very proud of your involvement in it. It's our annual 'Mavs Trade Rumor Central' coverage - All The Scoop, Updated 24 Hours A Day ... starting NOW with the inside scoop on the Mavs and Amare Stoudemire. ... Jermaine O'Neal. ... Kevin Martin. ... Andray Blatche. ... Goran Dragic. The Feb. 19 trade deadline is upon us. The clock is ticking. The Mavs are active.
And for our 15th straight year, DB.com is inside all the angles. Thanks to so many of your for your pennies-a-day investment in what we do!
Mark Cuban talks analytics, All-Star Dirk, judging Monta, Barkley as the GM and playing Durant one-on-one as the Mavs owner visits with our boys 'Shan & RJ' on 105.3 The Fan in Weekend Donuts!
It wasn't just Mavs fans expressing a twisted "disappointment,'' if you will, in Dirk's last-minute selection to the NBA All-Star Game; the Mavs themselves expressed the same. Even Nowitzki himself, while honored, honestly noted the trip to New York would put a "wrench'' in his family vacation plans.
"Why even bother,'' we all wondered? This is why:
It wasn't about minutes. It was about moments. Dirk did the right thing, and will now be rewarded for it due to a moment that will live forever. The ground-bound alley-oop. The sheer joy in the reaction of the other West stars (maybe killing the myth that because The UberMan isn't in their "club'' he doesn't have their respect). The Vinsanity tribute, both a respectful bow to an ex-Mav and one of the great dunkers of Dirk's generation and a self-effacing joke on his lack of German hops.
“I had a dunk and a three,'' Dirk said of his offensive output in his 13th All-Star appearance. "I mean, I can go home happy.”
And once we get untwisted and un-wrenched, we were happy, too.
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It's now impossible to turn Jermaine O'Neal into the Mavs bad guy. He's not willing to steal money and he's not trying to fool anybody. He's leaving us with the impression he isn't signing anywhere anytime soon, and perhaps at all.
"The people that know me,'' O'Neal tweeted on Monday, right as the Mavs were trying to close in on moves that would include the addition of O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire, "know that I'm not a huge social-media guy but I do use it when I need to express my feelings about something or about certain parts of my life. So saying that, I want to first thank every family member, friend, and fan that has showed me sooooo much love and support the last seven weeks through my process of trying to see if I could get through a very difficult period of getting my mind and body in shape in a very short period of time.
"I also want to thank all the teams that have showed so much interest and patients with me thru this process. When I decided in late December to look at the option on playing again I knew it was probably going to be one of my greatest challenges considering that I hadn't done any basketball training in the previous five months. But I was fully committed to taking on the challenge by investing a lot of time to traveling abroad to get the process started and dedicating my life to training multiple times a day for seven weeks.
"I've learned a lot through this process from a physical setback, to reconnecting with something that I loved for such a big part of my life, to being incredibly sore everyday but still pushing forward, but most importantly feeling if I was doing the right thing by my family by trying to go back to playing basketball and sacrificing more of their time with me. So as you can imagine it was a very emotional time ... But the best part of this process was walking out of the gym after every workout knowing that I could still play the game after 18 long years and hearing the teams that seen me workout all agreeing with that statement. Every team that wanted me to sign are all championship-contending teams and in order to (accept) their offer I need to be 100-percent ready to go physically and mentally from the time that I sign that contract with no room for error beyond that point.
"I don't feel like I'm at that position now with just seven weeks of training and I'm not comfortable making that commitment at this point. The issue for me is timing and things feeling right. I'm a true believer of signs and listening and understanding life. ... But just know I gave everything I had these last seven weeks and I greatly appreciate each and every one of you guys for the positive words of encouragement thru my process.''
That's the long version of JO's position. The short version?
After a medical visit in Germany and contemplation on the couch in Southlake, the 39-year-old former All-Star can't play NBA basketball right now.
It sounds tp us like he's just not physically able to play the game anymore, and is finally admitting that his body isn't responding as he has been hoping. It's aard to tell if he's leaving the door open, but sounds like he isn't. ... and how long would you like the big-man-needy Mavs to wait around, anyway?
Obviously, this explains the puzzling wait without him signing, which included an emergency Dallas Mavericks inking of Bernard James when a healthy JO coming downtown would've made more sense; he was still trying to do more, hoping his body would respond. And it just never did.
For those wondering, if JO wants to keep working out going forward, continuing to try to get his body where it needs to be to play, the deadline to sign him and have him playoff-eligible would be the last day of the regular season.
And if that ever happens?
We can set the scene of what we've long known about the situation here, when Premium Mavs Fans get the scoop on the "kink'' -- which, in short, has sources telling DB.com that while JO returned from his medical journey to Germany and seems ready to unretire, the Mavs wanted assurances of his good health before they grab him.
And, frankly, during this process, they had their doubts.
But, assuming he was to get clearance and they were to get him: Judging from his last four seasons it was realistic to expect 20 minutes worth of floor time for a healthy O’Neal a night. His offensive numbers will be judged off of last season in Golden State, fair, seeing as the 2014 Warriors hold many similarities offensively to what the 2015 Mavericks could be on track to be.
The basic numbers boil down to 7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 50.4-percent shooting and 75 percent from the line.
That's basic. And would've been a big help.
When you start sniffing around the periphery at some of the other numbers, you can find some interesting digits. For instance, as our Mike Marshall points out, last season with Golden State ...
*O’Neal averaged 1.9 offensive rebounds per game in his 20 minutes on the court; the Mavericks only average 10 a game.
*The 102 defensive rating also jumps off the screen. (Tyson is at 103 this year).
The main numbers that interest us are, naturally, as this is Dallas' biggest issue, the rebounding percentage stats.
JO grabs 15 percent of the available rebounds when he’s on the court. That number isn’t exceptionally special for a center (Dalembert pulled down 19.4 percent last year) but you have to remember O’Neal was playing with Bogut and the rebound leech David Lee.
*With Phoenix the previous season he pulled down 16.2 percent of available rebounds and that’s an above average number. As a point of reference Greg Smith pulls down 12 percent (none) and Tyson Chandler pulls down 22 percent (all of the rebounds).
You’d like for Jermaine O'Neal to be a truly elite rebounder and there’s no way to hide the fact that he’s just an OK Windex man. But we say that in tandem with how good he has been defensively, with him being utilized by a top-notch coach in Rick Carlisle, and playing behind Tyson Chandler, he can be like a second-unit Emeregen-C for the Mavericks.
However, now, all of those projections look like more fantasy than reality. He has worked to push his body into NBA shape for seven weeks and it hasn't responded as needed. Another seven weeks is not likely to change anything.
Disappointing, as the Mavs missed out on a class act who, to his credit, is clearly unwilling to fake his way to a paycheck.
The Mavs will re-assemble for a late-afternoon practice at the AAC as the All-Star Break will officially be over.
“We’re going to let it all rip after the break,” Dirk Nowitzki says. “I like where we’re at, and we want to get one of those top spots in the West going into the playoffs.”