DALLAS — It was a day of new beginnings for the Dallas Mavericks as they introduced a bevy of new faces to fans and the media Thursday at the American Airlines Center.
After a near-complete roster shakeup and an influx of new talent, the Mavericks are once again eyeing a trip to the postseason following a subpar 2012-13 season that concluded with a 41-41 record and left the franchise out of the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Thursday, the Mavs may have officially began that journey back to their place among the NBA’s elite, introducing new GM Gersson Rosas and free-agent signees (pictured from left to right) Devin Harris, Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair.
Lining up alongside president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban proudly introduced the new additions while the organization hosted its annual Open House event. He then went on to highlight the difference between this year’s team and last season’s squad.
“We kind of hoped last year, but we didn’t really have as much versatility,” Cuban explained after spearheading the Mavericks’ summer of moves. “There were things last year that each of our guys did that were good, but there were things that they couldn’t do that kind of held us back. I think now we have so much depth. I mean, it’s incredible how much depth we have. We’re going to be able to mix and match players in so many different ways that there’s no lineup we won’t be able to battle against.
“It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be fun. We’ve got depth, we’ve got experience, we’ve got youth and we’ve got some athleticism. It’s a nice complement of players.”
Sharing in Cuban’s excitement was Rosas, who climbed up the ranks within the Houston Rockets organization from intern to vice president of basketball operations during his nine-year stint before joining the Mavs’ front office brass. Taking over the general manager duties from Nelson, Rosas will now try to bring his expertise in scouting, analytics and knowledge of the Development League all to the table to help the Mavs return to the basketball mountaintop.
“I look at the environment of the NBA, and my focus like the rest of the guys here is just to win at the highest level and to win championships,” the 35-year-old Rosas declared. “This organization has done it. The market is a great market to get players here, and the name of the game is the players. We have to find a way to get the best players we can get at all levels — through the draft, through trades and through free agency. And I feel I can complement this group and continue the efforts of this group to do that at a higher level.”
Suffering through last season before re-signing with the Mavs this summer, Wright also hopes to help the franchise ascend to a higher level.
After averaging 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in a reserve role during his second season with the Mavericks, Wright is expected to help sure up Dallas’ front line alongside 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki. And with a sour taste in his mouth from last year, the 6-foot-10 big man is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to erase the haunting memories of the Mavs’ unfulfilling season.
“That was a very disappointing and humbling experience,” Wright said after seeing the team’s 12-year stretch of consecutive playoff appearances come to an end. “You know, it stings just to be a part of that team that broke the 12-year streak. That was pretty bad and it was pretty embarrassing, but we kind of rallied at the end of the year and we played some better basketball. We let so many slip away. We’re just ready to get back out there. It’s pretty much a new team again, so we’re just going to have to come together real fast and see what happens.”
Meanwhile, with Calderon and Ellis expected to immediately slide into the starting backcourt roles, the Mavericks will quickly try to prove naysayers wrong while building chemistry on the fly.
The 31-year-old Calderon will be handed the keys by Carlisle to orchestrate an offense that will feature even more versatility than last year’s squad that averaged 101.1 points an outing to rank eighth in scoring. Alongside him, Ellis will try to become Nowitzki’s top sidekick by providing consistent perimeter scoring, hoping to build off six straight seasons of averaging at least 19 points a game during stints with Golden State and Milwaukee.
And if the two do just that, returning to the playoffs isn’t a far-fetched notion.
“I think we’ve got a team that knows how to play basketball,” Calderon said while assessing the new-look squad. “There’s other teams that just rely on good players, but I think we can be a really good basketball team. And when we play as a team, it’s going to be easier to get to where we want to be, so I’m real excited. I think playing with these guys is going to make my job a little bit easier. I’m ready for it and I really want to get started knowing these guys on the court and just have fun.”
“It’s a great organization and a great team that we have,” Ellis added. “I’m very excited and I always dreamed of playing with an organization as good as Dallas, so to be here and play with a Hall of Famer like Dirk makes everything easier and much smoother. Hopefully we can get back to Dallas Mavericks basketball and competing the way we should.”