Terrence Jones exemplifies the exact human point at which I say Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks are getting "too fine'' and "too picky'' and "too perfect.''
The Mavs entered 2016 Summer Shopping first wanting to get "Double-Pipedream''-great. Having failed that, they pulled a "Reversal of Fortune,'' deciding that the exact guy who couldn't carry Chandler Parsons Mavs jock a week ago might now slip perfectly into that very same $94-mil jock. (Not that equipment boss Al Whitley doesn't wash the jocks, or anything.)
I'm told that Dallas remains hopeful of "stealing'' Barnes from the Warriors, no matter what else they do with their roster, because of what the Mavs envision to be a "precarious'' juggling act with Golden State's cap. Cheer or boo the move to the 24-year-old Barnes; hey, if the Warriors think he's good enough to consider matching and maxing, then maybe Dallas isn't so stupid to be dangling "stupid money.'' But it's the lynchpin of a talent-acquisition youth movement,'' Mavs people tell me, one that will keep Dallas from prioritizing oldies (no on Matt Barnes) unless they are already part of the Dirk-led culture (yes on Deron Williams for one year and $10 mil and we'll keep our eyes on Ray-Ray and Zaza).
So get young. And get "cultural fits.'' And make things affordable so you keep alive "Plan Powder,'' always, good God always that. (So Dwight Powell stays at four years and $37 mil and we'll keep our eyes on kids like Seth Curry.)
But when trying to stuff your pockets with huge handfuls of Youth, Culture and Affordability, what if one of them does not fold in neatly? What if something oozes from your paw, overflows beyond your pocket, fails to stay within the dignified framework of the goal?
Where do you bend?
I say you bend at Terrence Jones.
And the Mavs whisper to me that they do not bend at Terrance Jones.
And this is that exact point at which the Mavs' errant philosophy here is exemplified and personified.
The Mavs are trying to march proudly through this process wielding too fine a point, with too much a desire for perfection, with a pickiness that belies their position as a franchise with an admittedly solid base but an air of arrogance when it comes to the sort of player, the age of player, the salary of player and the quality of person, that can be added to that base.
Mike Conley would've been that right person but you have to be his home team with $154 mil to employ him. Kevin Durant would've been that right person, too. But you have to have actually been granted a meeting to have a chance to employ him. Nic Batum would've been that right person and you almost got that meeting ... before you didn't.
The Mavs bent on "culture'' and "finance'' on Hassan Whiteside, but I bet sat in New York at that wee-hours July 1 meeting biting their nails to the nub worrying that they were about to give $94 mil to Larry Sanders Redux. They spent all day Saturday with zero interest in Tier-2 guys, some of them quality people making "too much'' money, some of them viewed as jackasses at any price. DB.com has done two pretty smart rip jobs on Dallas' inaction here: "Do The Mavs Misunderstand The Max?'' and "Is Dallas Trying 'Free-Agency' Tanking?''
We've all got rips because we've all got anger and because we've all got angst. I'm going to drop my long-standing bit about "spoiled Mavs fans'' because six summers after their 2011 NBA title is ... long enough to have figured out that the get-better framework needs to be more malleable than it's been.
Does the Barnes "Reversal of Fortune'' reflect flexibility or instability?
Is Cuban's long-standing belief that you should go against the grain of trends -- buy when they're selling, sell when they're buying -- work better in the world of commerce than it does in sports, where "against the grain'' for the Mavs has actually resulted in trying to climb a mountain, swim into a current, spin clockwise against a tornado?
The "Smartest Guy In The Room'' thing is a Cuban thing. He knows about it, he laughs about it, he was involved in producing a tsk-tsk Enron scandal movie about it. But it's not funny right now and it's not smart right now. The Mavs have this talent-acquisition formula as of today ... "Get Young.'' ''Get Cultural Fits.'' "Get Affordable.'' ... and yet they cannot make the formula square up with Terrence Jones?
Jones is 6-9, 250. He was a starting power forward on the Rockets' four-seed playoff team a year ago and even with his injury issues his career averages are 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. He was a good player on a good team, a starter ... and he's just 24. It all fell apart last year in Houston, to the point they didn't even make the 2012 first-round pick a qualifying offer (of the sort Dallas made to Dwight Powell, just a $1.1 mil commitment), allowing him to hit the streets.
And Dallas has no interest, at this time, in plucking him off the streets.
I'm told that there exist "non-basketball issues'' here that if Jones was just a minimum-wage guy, the Mavs might overlook. (In theory, they still might, I suppose, should he stay rotting on the shelf.) "Non-basketball issues''? There is this weird, awful story about him "stomping on a homeless man'' outside a nightclub, and I'll presume there are other weird, awful stories that the Mavs know about.
So .. he's not a minimum-wage guy. What is this outrageous price that Terrence Jones is asking for that would cause Dallas to view him as being poised way outside of its perfect "framework''? I'm told the Mavs have investigated here and that Jones is looking for "$8 or $9 million a year.''
And ... that's too much? In this environment?
To me, Terrence Jones is tailor-made reclamation project, something the Cuban Culture gets a great deal of credit from me for specializing in over the years. How is $8 million not worth this risk/reward investment?
Again, I'm a media guy, not a scout. But I'm surrounded by media guys asking the same sort of question about the same player. To wit: My guys Skin Wade, David Lord and Chuck Cooperstein have all joined me in recent days suggesting Dallas pursue Jones.
Maybe that changes with time. Maybe Jones' price lowers. Or, barring the possibility that Cuban's staff has intel that Jones is an evil-do'er (and I'm not dismissing that possibility) maybe it's this idiotic photo of Jones and Carlisle from last year's Rockets-Mavs playoff series that has Dallas so down on Jones.
What has the Mavs tangled up on Terrence Jones is their insistence on intellect, their push for perfection and their penchant for pickiness, all squashed into a framework that has them failing to understand that it's not just Terrence Jones who should be begging and not choosing here.
It's the Mavs mixing up the begging and the choosing, too.