Mavs’ first conversation this offseason will be with Dirk Nowitzki

DALLAS — He was the oldest player in the league to lead his respective team in scoring during the 2015-16 season. Now, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki could be set to enter free agency this summer after revealing that he plans to opt out of the final year of his current contract.

Turning 38 years old on June 19, Nowitzki vows to return for a 19th season. However, while possessing a player option for the final campaign of a reported three-year deal worth $25 million, it’s not assured that No. 41 will be in the lineup for the Dallas Mavericks next season. And with Nowitzki expected to opt out of his current deal in hopes of re-signing with the team on a longer contract, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson says the front office is ready to roll out the red carpet in order to lure the NBA’s No. 6 all-time scorer back.

“Certainly, all roads go through the Big German right now, and we’ll sit down at the right time and see what it takes to get him back in a Mavs uniform,” Nelson explained during his exit interview last month while addressing Nowitzki’s possible pending free agency. “Whatever that is, he deserves it. There is not a player that I’ve been around that has his kind of winning software, and you just can’t say enough about him. He’s our Roger (Staubach), our Troy (Aikman), Mike Modano and our Nolan Ryan. That’s who he is, and so he deserves the courtesy of the first sit-down. And [Mavs owner Mark Cuban] is as loyal as it gets. Mark’s just one of those guys. So, as things settle down, that will be our first conversation.”

Last season, Nowitzki played in 77 games for the Mavericks, averaging 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in 29.6 minutes an outing. He also connected on 45.9 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range while making his 13th All-Star appearance. He followed that up by increasing his scoring average this season, posting a team-high 18.3 points and pulling down 6.5 rebounds an outing in 75 appearances while connecting on 44.8 percent shooting and 36.8 percent from three. That said, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows the importance of doing everything to re-sign Nowitzki should he in fact opt out, hoping to recruit the ageless superstar at the stroke of midnight when free agency opens on July 1.

“You know, I don’t think we can just assume that Dirk’s going to be back,” Carlisle confessed. “I think we’ve got to respect his career here and what it’s been about, and we just can’t go in with the assumption that we can take this guy for granted. I don’t. He’s too great, he’s too great a person, he’s been great for too long, and I’m ready to recruit him.”

Passing Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) to move into sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting during a 119-118 road win in Brooklyn on Dec. 23, Nowitzki showed that he still has plenty left in the tank. He also lifted the Mavericks into the playoffs for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons before averaging 20.4 points in five games against Oklahoma City as the Mavs fell in the first round.

Nowitzki is now just 509 points away from becoming the sixth player in league history to amass 30,000 for his career, which is a feat he could reach next season. He also sits just 1,928 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for the fifth position on the league’s all-time scoring list. And with plans to meet with Nowitzki and his mentor, Holger Geschwindner, Nelson says the Mavericks will do whatever it takes to make sure that the 7-footer continues to accomplish those milestones in Dallas.

“I think, if you look what he’s done throughout the course of his career, he’s always been about winning,” Nelson explained. “I mean, a lot of guys say it, but to whip out the checkbook and give us more flexibility, those guys are very, very few and far between. He and Holger have got to sit down, have some space and look at where his career is right now. He has given this city everything.”

The best Mavs blocks of 2015-16

When you think of the Mavs’ defense, blocks might not be the first thing to come to mind. Only Detroit blocked fewer shots than Dallas this season, as the Mavericks instead turned their attention to overloading the paint in an effort to limit opponents’ shots at the rim, encouraging 3-balls instead. The Mavs allowed only 35.0 field goal attempts per game from less than 10 feet this season, per NBA.com, which ties for second-fewest in the NBA. So there weren’t very many opportunities to block shots, anyway.

But the blocks they did have were pretty vicious. Whether it was Justin Anderson, Salah Mejri, or someone else, the Dallas blocks highlight reel is just nasty. We’ve already seen the best Mavs dunks of the season, but today is all about swats. Check out the video below and let us know if we missed any of your favorite blocks.

Top 10 Mavs Blocks of 2015-16

Check out the Mavs' biggest blocks of the 2015-16 season.

10. Anderson introduces himself

This was one of the first of many significant highlight plays Justin Anderson would make in his rookie season. Late in a Feb. 3 game against Miami, Heat rookie Justise Winslow came away with the ball and went up for a reverse layup. Anderson was having none of that. Consider it justice served after the two players had a bit of an altercation last season in a Virginia-Duke showdown almost exactly one year earlier, when Winslow received a flagrant foul for grabbing Anderson’s leg and very nearly unleashing the beast. The best part of Anderson’s block (and ensuing roar) against the Heat was he compounded that good play into two of them, draining a corner three at the other end and sending the AAC crowd into a frenzy. That was when the rookie won this city over.

9. The rookie does it again

In a play very similar to his rejection of Winslow, Anderson did virtually the same thing to center Gorgui Dieng two months later, on April 3 in Minnesota. Dieng has a significant height and wingspan advantage over the 6-foot-6 Anderson, but the Mavs rookie has more hangtime than a 60-yard punt. If he has time to gather himself and jump as high as he can, he’ll be waiting for you at the rim, and in this instance he swatted it with authority.

8. Felton blocks the KAT

Poor Karl-Anthony Towns. The unanimous Rookie of the Year and star-in-the-making also found himself on the wrong end of the season’s dunk highlights list, but that obviously isn’t any indictment of him as a player. In this case, though, Raymond Felton got the better of him, as the 6-foot-1 combo guard swiped the ball right out of the center’s hands as he went up for what looked like an easy dunk. But not much comes easy when Felton is protecting the rim: He blocked 15 shots this season, the most of any of the Mavs’ four small guards.

7. Mejri chases down Roberson

Salah Mejri proved time and time again this season that he doesn’t give up on a play, no matter how far away from the ball he is. In this case, after a Mavs turnover, the 7-foot-2 center sprinted to the other end of the floor to chase down OKC’s Andre Roberson and erase his dunk attempt from this universe. He then held court for a quick second with his home fans before running to the offensive end. Mejri might lead the team in swag exhibited per 100 possessions, and that’s OK. Dallas could use more players like him.

6. Mejri adds a name to the list

We all know about Mejri’s infamous list, and he added another name to it with this impressive chase-down block of Houston’s superstar James Harden. Mejri begins the play off-screen; you can’t see him because he sprinted literally the entire length of the floor on this play to reject Harden. This Jan. 24 play came at an important time for Mejri, who hadn’t even truly cracked the Mavs’ rotation at this point. He’d scored his first career points less than two weeks earlier, but it wouldn’t take another two weeks for him to prove to everyone why he deserved more minutes.

5. Dirk doin’ work

Dirk Nowitzki has scored more than 29,000 points and has made a billion All-Star and All-NBA teams. You know that. But what you probably didn’t know is the German led his team in total blocks this season for the first time since 2009-10, and for the fifth time in his career. This one, bar none, was his best. It came in the second half of the Mavs’ playoff-clinching win in Utah on April 11. After sending Jeff Withey’s layup attempt into the next dimension, Nowitzki capped off the highlight by staring down his own bench as all of his teammates leaped to their feet in a combination of excitement and perhaps even a bit of disbelief. What a play.

4. Evans sends Davis’s shot soaring

Jeremy Evans’s season was unfortunately cut short due to injury, but early in the campaign he made an incredible block on the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. Credit to Wesley Matthews as well on this play for racing to the other end of the floor and slowing Davis’s progress. But, I mean, what else can you say about Evans’s block? It was masterful, a combination of completely rude and absolutely wonderful. The forward’s vertical leap has been measured at 43.5 inches in the past. He makes plays like this one look routine.

3. Anderson chases down Ariza

With the Mavericks clinging to a one-point lead with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter against the Rockets, Harden advanced the ball downcourt to Trevor Ariza, streaking for a layup. A loss would have put the Mavs in a difficult position as they battled for a playoff spot, while a win would have put Houston in great shape. Everyone knew what was at stake. That included Justin Anderson. The wing flew through the air to slap Ariza’s layup off the backboard and launch a Mavs break the other way, and Dallas would go on to win the game. That was perhaps the rookie’s biggest play of the season, and it’s one of many he’ll make as a Maverick.

2. Mejri blows the roof off the AAC

If his chase-down block of Harden was enough to earn Salah Mejri minutes moving forward, his performance against OKC on Jan. 22 earned him the right to chase down Harden. The Mavs were down 15 points in the fourth quarter when Rick Carlisle inserted Mejri into the game and, in just eight minutes, the Mavs found themselves in position to shoot for the tie at the buzzer. Mejri had a lot to do with that, rejecting both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the latter of which was one of the best blocks by any Maverick this season. The Tunisian met the superstar at the rim and won.

1. Anderson breaks the game

This is just an incredible athletic play, and it’s the best block of the season.

Mavs know they must address rebounding deficiency during offseason

DALLAS — Ranking near the middle of the pack in the rebounding department all season long, the Dallas Mavericks will now head into the summer looking to address a severe need on the glass.

Pulling down 43.1 rebounds a game during the regular season, the Mavericks ranked 19th in the league during the ’15-16 season. The Mavs also finished the 82-game schedule with a 48.5 rebounding percentage, ranking 26th in the league in that department. And after surrendering a decisive edge on the glass to the Oklahoma City Thunder while falling in five games during their first-round playoff series, the Mavericks will admittedly need to address their rebounding deficiency this offseason.

“Rebounding is a big challenge. It’s been a big challenge for us all year, so we’re going to have to do a better job than we’ve done, from top to bottom,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confessed when addressing the rebounding concerns during the season.

Facing an Oklahoma City team that led the NBA in rebounding this season, the Mavericks knew they’d likely be at a disadvantage in the playoffs after losing a 229-187 battle on the boards during four head-to-head meetings to suffer a season series sweep. The Mavs were then further handicapped as mid-season addition David Lee was forced to miss three of the five games in the series while hampered by a plantar fascia injury.

Pulling down a league-high 48.6 boards a game during the regular season, the Thunder then exposed the Mavericks’ weakness in the playoffs while finishing with a 280-235 rebounding advantage in the series. Meanwhile, the short-handed Mavs put up a valiant fight, attempt to overcome their inability to secure timely rebounds with hard play. Still, after grading themselves against the best rebounding team in the league, the Mavericks know they’ll need to improve in that area before next season.

“Metaphorically, we emptied out chamber in five games,” Carlisle explained. “I don’t know what we would have thrown at them in Game 6. They just were simply better. We couldn’t solve the rebounding.”

“It was a focus all series,” Mavs veteran guard Devin Harris added. “They’re a team that thrives on that. We were a little short-handed and guys continued to battle, but we just couldn’t get the bounces that we needed.”

Last season, the Mavericks finished ranked 23rd in the NBA while collecting 42.3 rebounds an outing as a team and sat last in the league with a rebounding percentage of 47.8 percent. The Mavs also ranked second to last in the league with a defensive rebounding percentage of only 72.2 percent, upping that to 76.2 percent this season.

The Mavericks then hoped for a drastic improvement in all of those categories with a series of moves to address their weakness on the glass. Instead, the Mavs made very minimal gains in their efforts to become a better rebounding team. And with that still atop the front office’s wish list, the Mavericks will likely focus on adding proven rebounders to the team’s veteran core this summer.

“We’ve got to get some monsters that push and shove, throw people out of the way and go get the ball,” Carlisle explained. “We’ve got to get more of those guys. We’ve got to block out and we’ve got to have five guys going (for the rebound) all the time. And when it matters, we’ve got to get the rebounds.”

Mavs could look to keep roster intact with few additions this offseason

DALLAS — Battling their way through a series of injuries and setbacks during the course of the season, the Dallas Mavericks could now attempt to keep this year’s team intact heading into the 2016-17 campaign.

Seeing versatile forward Chandler Parsons undergo arthroscopic surgery on March 25 to address an injury to his right medial meniscus, the Mavericks were forced to finish a second straight season without perhaps their most versatile player. The Mavs were also without three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams for eight straight outings from March 25 to April 8 as he battled a left abdominal strain and sports hernia that eventually forced him out of the final two games of their first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, mid-season addition David Lee was limited in the postseason due to a plantar fascia injury. And with several other top contributors bitten by the injury bug throughout the season, the Mavericks admittedly now head into the offseason wondering what they could have accomplished at full strength.

“I’ve never been prouder of a group,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said last month during his exit interview with the Dallas media. “The result isn’t what we all wanted, but these guys gave it every ounce that they had. Guys were playing injured, guys had no business being out there, and they were just giving every last drop. I just couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

Armed with player options for next season, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, Parsons and Williams could all test the waters in free agency this summer. Meanwhile, center Zaza Pachulia, veteran point guard Raymond Felton, big man Charlie Villanueva and Lee will all hit the market when free agency begins on July 1 with hopes of returning to Dallas. Simultaneously, second-year standout Dwight Powell is listed as a restricted free agent, giving the Mavs an opportunity to match any offer for the coveted young pro. That said, the Mavericks certainly will have their work cut out for them in order to keep their familiar faces in the fold. However, according to Nelson, the Dallas front office is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the current roster intact in order to see what it can accomplish when healthy.

“You know, we’re fresh off an emotional series, so we’ll sit down. We’ll talk about free agency, draft, and there’s always the trade route. But I think, first and foremost, we’ll look inside that locker room,” Nelson explained.

He added: “We had guys that had no business being on the basketball court that offered to play. That’s just the kind of locker room that we have. But we’re going to take a look at the guys that are in our locker room first, like we always do. Look, age is a factor. Injuries are a factor. You have a finite wallet that you can go out and go shopping with, but I can tell you the character and the quality of person that we have in that locker room. You know, I’ll climb in a foxhole with those 15 guys any time.”

Falling three games below .500 after a 133-111 loss in Sacramento on March 27, the Mavericks battled back to finish the regular season with a 42-40 record after wins in seven of their final nine outings. They also ascended to the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings, setting up a first-round matchup against the star-studded Thunder before falling in five games.

But with several players potentially set to enter free agency this summer, the Mavericks could look much differently next season. They could also be motivated to make a series of moves after a first-round playoff exit for the third straight season. Still, after this year’s team battled through plenty of adversity, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says he hopes to see a bevy of players return to pick up where they left off at during the ’15-16 season.

“We’re heading into the summer with some decisions to make. You know, there’s a lot still to be determined,” Carlisle confessed.

“We’re going to be persistent and keep banging away. That’s what you’ve got to do,” he added. “You know, this year, even though we didn’t get out of the first round, I thought the guys that we had available competed like champions. I didn’t think there was anything more that they could do competitively than they did. … To see those guys playing their guts out was a proud thing for me to see. And hey, nobody likes losing. But when you do your best, you know, that’s all you can do.”

Justin Anderson hops on “The Ben & Skin Show”

Mavs SG Justin Anderson joined “The Ben & Skin Show” on 105.3 The Fan yesterday for a full hour to talk all things Mavs, his first taste of the playoffs, gearing up for his sophomore season and more. Check it out here.

Oh, and you also don’t want to miss him giving women love life advice in a segment Ben and Skin affectionately call, “The Loveshack.”

Catch “The Ben & Skin Show” on 105.3 The Fan weekdays from 3-7 p.m.

Dallas Mavs Partner With Minecraft Server to Engage a new Generation of Basketball Fans

May 18, 2016 (DALLAS, TX) The Dallas Mavericks and Mineplex, LLC have signed an exclusive partnership to create a “Dallas Mavericks World,” complete with a scale model of American Airlines Center, on the Mineplex server. The Mavs will be the first NBA team to partner with Mineplex, one of the largest Minecraft servers in the world, which hosts millions of unique users every month.

“The Dallas Mavericks have always been big supporters of education in our community,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban, “but now we can truly be a part of it on a global scale. Minecraft is not just a game, it’s a way for kids (and adults) to build, explore and learn the fundamentals of computer science.”

Within the “Dallas Mavericks World,” players will be able to compete in fun, free-building competitions and play a basketball mini-game on the virtual court of American Airlines Center.

The Dallas Mavericks Minecraft World is scheduled to launch later this summer, exclusively on Mineplex.

For more information on the launch, visit mavs.com/mavsworld and mineplex.com.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Caleb Applegate, Mineplex, LLC, caleb@mineplex.com
Erin Finegold, Dallas Mavericks: erin.finegold@dallasmavs.com

The best Mavs dunks of 2015-16

While the Mavs were known more for their pace-and-space offensive style and overall gritty approach to the game, particularly late in the season, the team still put together a nice aerial highlight reel in 2015-16. Not surprisingly, rookie Justin Anderson finds himself on the list multiple times, as he is among the most explosive athletes at his position in the entire NBA. But who else made the cut?

Top 10 Mavs Dunks of 2015-16

Check out the Mavs' most ferocious finishes of the 2015-16 season.

Let the record show that these rankings are just my opinion and are by no means official. Did I miss any good ones? Do you think some should be higher or lower? Are my rankings perfect? Let us know in the comments below and share some of your favorites.

In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at each of the slams, one by one…

10. Dirk throws it down

We’re used to seeing Dirk Nowitzki jump off the wrong leg to take a shot, but we don’t see it ending in a dunk all too often these days. On that play, however, Golden State’s Brandon Rush didn’t take away the baseline, so the German took advantage. This play was one of many memorable highlights during the Mavs’ 114-91 thumping of the Warriors on Dec. 30, one of the historic team’s nine losses all season.

9. Parsons flushes after Pachulia’s pocket pass

It took Chandler Parsons a couple months to discover his true explosiveness after spending the first half of the season recovering from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee, but the forward found it when the calendar flipped to January. This Memphis game came in the midst of his best stretch as a pro. He scored a game-high 26 points in the Mavs’ Feb. 6 114-110 overtime win on the road, including six in overtime. But that dunk stands out as one of the finest two-man sequences of the season, with Parsons coming on the receiving end of a spectacular bounce pass from Zaza Pachulia.

8. Anderson with the put-back slam

As you’ll notice later, the Mavs made a habit of throwing down highlight-reel dunks against the Timberwolves this season. This first one was one of the most violent, though. Justin Anderson can get UP, and he showed off those hops on this play in the Mavs’ 88-78 road win on April 3, right in the middle of the season-saving six-game winning streak. After the game, Anderson said Nowitzki’s misses usually bounce high in the air off the rim, giving offensive rebounders plenty of time to measure the trajectory and attack the ball at its highest point. That’s exactly what Anderson did here, and all the Wolves defenders could do was watch.

7. Dirk does it again

This was the first of Nowitzki’s five dunks this season, and it was also the meanest. The Lakers’ Lou Williams found himself switched on to Dirk in the post, which normally ends in either a foul or an easy Nowitzki fadeaway. But this was early in the season and perhaps the German wanted to send a message to his team, so he decided to throw it down instead. Nowitzki scored 25 and the Mavs would win the third game of the season, 103-93, the first of a three-game series sweep against L.A. The victory was also Rick Carlisle’s 340th as Mavs head coach, the most in franchise history.

6. McGee throws it down on Karl Anthony-Towns

There aren’t many people JaVale McGee’s size who can make this play. He catches above the elbow, dribbles, spins, and rises over unanimous Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns for a fairly easy-looking, yet powerful finish. McGee put on display a rare combination of size, quickness, skill, and explosiveness, which is what makes him such a tantalizing player to the Mavericks and other NBA teams he’s played for. Even more notable from that game was Parsons’ 46 minutes of playing time, with much of that coming at the power forward position, as the Mavs won 106-94 in overtime. Parsons at the 4 creates more room on the floor for players like McGee to do their thing, and McGee made it count on that play.

5. Evans soars for the finish

Word to the wise: When Jeremy Evans has a running start and room to elevate, you’re better off just getting out of his way. There are only a handful of players who can reach Evans’ heights, not to mention with the wingspan he has. While Golden State exacted revenge that night, beating the Mavericks 127-107, Evans made arguably the most exciting play of the game. Unfortunately his season would be cut short as he was forced to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum, a very uncommon basketball injury, but he should be back and ready to go in time for next season, when he can possibly make more plays like this one.

4. Anderson sends the Mavs to the playoffs in style

There wasn’t one single play that won the game when Dallas defeated Utah, 101-92, to clinch the team’s 15th playoff berth in 16 seasons. But Anderson’s thunderous finish out of a broken play late in the game might have been the dagger. With about 30 seconds left in the game, the Mavs were attempting to ice the clock and protect their 93-87 lead, but Utah’s ball pressure thwarted those plans. Anderson, though, calmly collected the ball and drove unimpeded to the rim for an enthusiastic finish, his momentum carrying his body all the way forward to the point that he was nearly perfectly parallel to the floor. That was one of the rookie’s most indelible moments of the entire season, and the play ultimately helped the Mavericks accomplish their season goal.

3. Anderson puts it back off a missed free throw

Anderson’s third contribution to the list may have been his most significant in terms of game outcome. Early in the second quarter, with the Mavs up 28-25, a Devin Harris missed free throw bounced off the rim but Anderson tracked it down all the way from the three-point line and stuffed it back home. The air was quickly sucked out of Chesapeake Energy Arena as the Mavs took a five-point lead and would go on to win the game, 85-84, in dramatic fashion. Unfortunately Dallas would not win the series, but Anderson’s positive play throughout earned him the respect of his teammates and coach, and further endeared himself to the fan base.

2. Mejri introduces himself

The Thunder would get to know Salah Mejri much better later in the season, but let’s rewind back to the game in which he scored his first-career NBA points. Mejri finished with 17 points and nine rebounds in his first lengthy and meaningful appearance as a Maverick, in a 108-89 loss in Jan. 13. With most of their heavy-minute players resting, the Mavs’ deep reserves got their chance at some playing time, and Mejri clearly took advantage, making numerous huge plays. None of them, however, were as ferocious as the dunk he throw down right over Serge Ibaka, one of the premier shot-blocking forwards in basketball. It wouldn’t be long before the Tunisian rookie earned a higher place in the rotation, and he ultimately proved to be one of the more impactful players on the team down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. The ceiling is high and future bright for the 29-year-old center.

1. Powell powers it home

Mercy, mercy. Dwight Powell didn’t show much of it during this play, toward the end of a Feb. 28 128-101 Mavs beatdown of the Wolves. Uber-athletic guard Zach LaVine tried to block it, Adreian Payne knew not to, Parsons ended up falling to the floor, and Devin Harris jumped clear over Wesley Matthews, who ended up taking a few steps onto the court after that play. The dunk even brought Nowitzki to his feet. And for good reason. There aren’t many words in the English language to accurately describe quite how rude Powell’s dunk was, but it easily qualifies as the best Mavs dunk of the season and has to finish high on the list of the most awe-inspiring dunks league-wide.