Mavs head into summer of uncertainty following gritty season

Exit Interview: Shawn Marion

Mavs F Shawn Marion looks back on the 2013-14 season with Lonnie Franklin III and thanks fans for their support throughout the year.

DALLAS — Still seemingly stunned by their Game 7 loss Sunday and first-round series defeat, the Dallas Mavericks returned to American Airlines Center one final time as a team before dispersing for the summer.

Pushing the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs to the brink of elimination before suffering a 119-96 defeat in Sunday’s Game 7, the Mavericks saw their season come to an abrupt end. Now, the Mavs’ front office has several questions to answer this summer, looking to keep the team’s veteran core intact.  

“With a group of a lot of new guys, guys came together in relatively short order and we had a very positive run,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while summing up the season. “You know, I thought the last month of the season was a lot of big games just to qualify for the playoffs and put ourselves in a position to compete hard in this series. And you know, the last game was disappointing, but I just love the way the team battled all year long. So, we’ll work to try to keep the team together the best that we can, and from there we’ll try to make the team better any other way that we see fit.”

Uniting nine new faces last September in training camp, Carlisle was charged with the responsibility of getting the Mavs back to the playoffs one season removed from having the franchise’s streak of 12 straight postseason berths come to an end. Now, after a 49-33 season and a competitive first-round playoff series, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson will again have several moves to make, entering the offseason with six free agents set to hit the open market.

Headlined by 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki’s pending free agency, the Mavs will have work to do in order to keep this year’s team intact. And with veteran leaders Shawn Marion and Vince Carter also set to become free agents, the Mavs’ brass will face a daunting task in order to again compete in the ever-changing Western Conference.

“Obviously, you know, Dirk’s not going anywhere,” Nelson confidently said as he and Cuban try to lock up their franchise player. “He’s built this franchise and he’s been with us since Day 1. Certainly, there’s a negotiation that’s going to take place, but he loves this city and he wants to call it his home. We certainly reciprocate those feelings, and our hope is that we’ll get something done that’s not only in Dirk’s best interest but also affects the flexibility of the future of the Mavericks.

“I’m really, really proud of these guys. I know our expectation was to go further, but the way they fought and the way they represented the franchise and our city, I’m just really, really proud. It’s an honor to share a locker room with those guys, and we’re going to make every effort to try to get those free agents that we do have back into a Maverick uniform next year.”

Meanwhile, Nowitzki ends his 16th season still thinking about what might have been, hungry to return to the mountaintop after leading the Mavs to their first NBA title back in 2011. And with his own future uncertain, the league’s 10th all-time leading scorer is optimistic that the Mavs can again build a championship contender heading into next season.

“It’s no secret. After winning it in ’11, I think you always want to compete for the championship again,” Nowitzki confessed. “You don’t want to compete for the eighth seed, so we’d love to get better and compete even higher. … It’s hard to say, especially knowing we have a bunch of free agents again. You don’t really know where this franchise is going to go. You hope it’s going to go up, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

“Honestly, it’s a little early. We lost Game 7 yesterday. I’m not even sure if Mark or Donnie themselves have even put some thought into [the offseason], but you know, you’ve got to aim high and go from there. I’m sure they’ll figure something out, but now is the time to think about stuff like that. And I’m sure Mark and Donnie will get on it ASAP.”

Exit Interview: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle reflects on the 2013-14 season and looks ahead to next year's campaign.