DONUT 1: First Clue - Fool's Gold
The NBA trade deadline is exactly a month away and the Mavs go stumbling toward it, occasionally finding their footing -- as was the case on Sunday in their all-time crushing of the Lakers. (See the full story here.)
“We had a good day, and they struggled,’’ Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said after his Mavs' 122-73 win. “I think we had something to do with their struggles. We played well.’’
But don't we also think their struggles had something to do with Dallas playing well?
Rick's comments in recent days have revealed two "realities.'' There is what must be done on the floor and what must be said about that work; he and Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson are never going to tell, say Seth Curry or Harrison Barnes, to not attempt to win. And when they make the attempt, and especially when they win, Carlisle is going to celebrate that.
But alongside the celebratory comments, there are also remarks like the one issued last week on a day when in a rematch of the NBA Finals of six years ago, the lowly Mavs lost to the lowly Heat.
"It's not exactly 2011,'' Rick said.
Carlisle isn't fooled by tiny stumbles forward. We shouldn't be, either.
DONUT 2: Second Clue - The Standings
Dallas is 15-29. No team in the West has collected fewer wins. It is true that there are seven other teams in the West that also stink, going all the way up to Denver at 18-25. ... and Denver is in eighth place! Again, it's not an "alternative fact'' to note that the Mavs are only 3.5 games back. But it's a deceiving fact, and here's why.
For the Mavs to climb to No. 8, they would:
a) have to get to at least 41 wins. Meaning they'd have to go 26-12 the rest of the way. Meaning a .684 winning percentage. Meaning they've have to succeed on a nightly level at about the same pace the Cleveland Cavaliers succeed at.
b) They'd have to do that (or something like it) while all the other seven poor teams get poorer.
So Dallas would have to become the Cavs while the Nuggets, Blazers, Pels, Kings, Wolves, Suns and Lakers ALL remain awful.
The simple math makes owner Mark Cuban's recent daydreaming about competing for "sixth or seventh'' seem like ... well, an "alternative fact.''
DONUT 3: Third Clue - CBA Boogie Shut-Down
Let me take you back to mid-December, when we first learned of the new CBA and when our David Lord made an important interpretation. From that story:
But the big news with him comes from the new CBA that was informally agreed on this week, and that will be ratified soon and go into effect on July 1, 2017. Within it is a change to the rules that is designed to allow teams to reward a franchise's self-created centerpiece player like Cousins, in ways that were not possible in previous years, and thereby keep him from leaving in free agency.
The details on the new rules are still hazy, but based on what we are hearing, here's the bottom line:
A team will only be allowed to have one such player, and it can only be a player who is elite (making all-NBA teams) and whom they have had since the day he was drafted. In other words, it's a player just like DeMarcus Cousins. And such a player will be allowed to receive significantly more money, and get it guaranteed sooner, than he could get otherwise.
For Cousins, we believe that on July 1, 2017 the Kings will be able to offer him perhaps as much as $225 million (the exact amount would be unknown until the 2018-19 cap is set, to extend his existing contract by another five years. No one else will be bidding, it will be a far bigger amount than any other team would be able to offer him a year later (and perhaps by as much as $85M), and every penny will be fully guaranteed to him, no matter what happens later, from the day he signs it.
With such an advantageous tool at their disposal, will Sacramento still have to worry that they might lose him when his current contract runs out? I would think not! Instead, if they think he's the guy, they can extend him and then have another six years ahead to create the winning combo with him in the middle.
I literally think D-Lord made this realization before some of the NBA member teams actually did. But there is no excuse for failing to understand its ramifications now: The courting of the LeBron-like players, the double-pipedreams of stealing away two max players, the assemblage of SuperTeams via a trio of max free agents?
The NBA has essentially legislated against all of that.
I heard somebody the other day insists that Mark Cuban just wants a "quick fix'' and a "big fish.''
Nope. That's not the way the rules will work. So that can't be the way Cuban works it. Not anymore.
Which might be a relief to MFFL inasmuch as that approach never really worked here, anyway.
DONUT 4: Fourth Clue - New Rules Of Roster-Building
So how will it work? For the league as a whole, and for the Mavs specifically, here's David Lord's blockbuster follow-up (with another in the series coming early this week).
Mavs Premium Fans are touting this as a must-read for ALL fans: "A Mavs How-To Primer: Trades, Strategy And Roster-Building - We Name Names.''
Specific strategies. Specific targets. Specific moves. They're all inside there ... This story represents more than just "clues'' -- it's so advanced, it's already followed the clues to take the Mavericks to their destination.
DONUT 5: Fifth Clue - Injuries And Fate
Do you believe in Fate? Signs from above? Clues from Mother Nature?
The Mavs got younger this year, and that's a good thing. There are prospects in the pipeline, and they are getting on-court time. Good deal.
But the Mavs' core, beyond Harrison Barnes, is not young. Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Devin Harris and JJ Barea are not "young'' by basketball standards.
And guess which players have battled injuries this year?
Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Devin Harris and JJ Barea.
“I think if we had been healthy all year long, we would be a playoff team right now,'' Dirk said the other day. "I honestly believe that.”
OK. But you're not. So you're not.
Mother Nature is telling us something here.
DONUT 6: Sixth Clue - "Back-And-Forth''
Mark Cuban, last week:
"I know, half the fans want us to go for the playoffs, half the fans want us to go for a draft pick," Cuban said as the Mavs pulled into the halfway mark of the 82-game season on Tuesday in Chicago. "I wish I had a definitive answer for everybody. Honestly, I go back and forth every game. Some days, it's like: 'OK, we might be able to make a run up to seventh or sixth.' So, can we go 28-13 the rest of the way?
"I go back and forth every day. That's the honest answer."
Above, I did the math for getting to a record of 41-41 (based on the idea that it might get you to 8). Math isn't fun, especially when the numbers add up to the Donut 2 conclusions.
Now here's Tony Cubes talking about "sixth.'' In this ridiculous scenario, you are leapfrogging over Memphis in seventh and OKC in sixth ... even those two clubs have 10-game leads on you with 38 or so to play.
And now we're talking about Dallas threatening to be a 49- or 50-game winner and ... I'll stop now.
DONUT 7: Seventh Clue - The Pick Will Be Better Than Whiteside
This DB.com scoop is an important one because it tells you how little Dallas presently values Miami center Hassan Whiteside (despite his darn good numbers) and now much Dallas values not giving up a first-round pick to get him.
"Not interested there,'' a source tells DallasBasketball.com, "because of the pick we'd have to give up.''
The story is here. And again, it's a major clue as to what Dallas is planning ... because hey, you might give up a "bad'' first-round pick for Whiteside. But if you know you're picking high in the lottery? You keep the pick.
DONUT 8: Eighth Clue - Matthews Is A Keeper
According to a report being generated by ESPN, and one that isn't exactly even citing sources, the Dallas Mavericks are listening to trade offers for Wesley Matthews.
The report is wrong, Mark Cuban tells us.
"We are not listening to any Wes trade offers,'' Cuban said to DB.com.
The NBA trade market is heating up, with the Feb. 23 trade deadline on the horizon. The rumors -- good ones and bad ones, well-intentioned ones and sloppy ones -- simply come with the territory. ... Part of our job. Part of Cuban's job.
But in Cuban's mind, he's charged with a task just as important as making the right talent acquisitions. He's got to oversee the right "culture'' acquisitions, too.
That's one of the reasons Dallas views Wesley Matthews as a keeper.
It's a big story as it stands alone ... made bigger (and more transparently truthful) when positioned alongside Donut 9.
DONUT 9: Ninth Clue - A Vet PG Isn't Necessarily A Keeper
So the Mavs are happy to strongly shut down any idea of a Wes swap.
Do they feel the same way about moving a veteran point guard?
Here's the way I posed a couple of questions, first to an NBA source with knowledge of the Clippers situation. First, is it possible LA would be in the market for a player like Deron Williams? The answer was "yes.''
Then we posed a question to a Mavs higher-up: If the Clippers call you about acquiring a veteran point guard, would you listen?
The answer: Dallas' front office "cannot see much of anything working there'' (a suggestion that the concept has at least been examined briefly, as hundreds of ideas need to be) ... but that "We would always listen.'' The story - which also discusses Ricky Rubio and the Mavs -- is here.
So the Mavs aren't interested in moving Wes but "would listen'' to moving a "veteran point guard''? Pick Deron here if you wish. Or Devin. Or JJB.
Or go back and let's think about D-Will here.
DONUT 10: Tenth Clue - Dan Fegan's No Longer In Charge
I'm going to need more elbow room to fully flush this out, but I'm hearing that Dallas has learned some lessons about thinking that a certain agent is "team-friendly'' in a way that will cause him to reward your loyalty by steering to you his clients.
The Chandler Parsons decision? It stands to reason that if Fegan was the driving force there, Chandsome gets the max to stay in Dallas. But instead, the driving forces were people who actually work for Mark Cuban, who don't have split loyalties, who are professionals in the business of making hard medical choices, hard financial choices, hard basketball choices.
Here's a novel idea: What if the Mavs were "loyal' to ALL the agents, had working relationships with ALL the agents, had friendships with ALL the agents?
They do, of course. But I believe that Fegan had a gigantic voice inside of this organization ... and I think it's a little more muffled now. And I think that's a clue.
(PS: Again, I need to work on this some more, but Donnie Nelson's scouting ability, needs to be the driving force. I'm getting the sense that Donnie is gaining a very good feel for the upcoming draft -- and all his boss needs to do this time is listen to him.)
DONUT 11: Eleventh Clue - Bogut's Honesty
"I've been in this league long enough,’’ said Andrew Bogut during a morning shoot-around about three weeks ago (click here for the full story). “I’m an expiring contract. I haven't asked for a trade. But I know in this league with 11-24, I was being honest. There's a chance that I get traded. … The Mavs eventually have to start rebuilding. There's no point bringing back a 33-year-old center if you're in rebuild mode.’’
Bogut went on that day ...
“Obviously,’’ as Bogut said, “if they can get some picks back and build for the future by trading a few of their veteran guys, I could be one of them.''
I don't think some of his Mavs bosses were very pleased with Andrew's frankness. Why? Because what he said was "too true.''
DONUT 12: Twelfth Clue - The Final Word
"It's like talking about the Mavs,’’ Mark Cuban (story here) said Friday before Dallas lost to the Jazz, speaking on Donald Trump’s inauguration. “Sometimes you speak to your fan base, and sometimes you tell the truth."
This can serve as a reference to most anything. Trades. Tanking. Marketing. Attendance. Anything. But I think it's an admission that in verbalizing that Dallas is "contending'' for much of anything is actually dealing in an ... "alternative fact.''