Mavs look to keep veteran core intact for continuity

DALLAS — With an aging core proving that it still has plenty left in the tank, the Dallas Mavericks will look to keep their top three veterans together as they get set to hit free agency this offseason.

Looking for continuity with a team that featured nine new players coming into training camp, the Mavericks will try to build on their success during a 49-33 season after the franchise returned to the playoffs. And with 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, versatile forward Shawn Marion and sixth man Vince Carter all set to hit the open market, the Mavericks will make it a priority to keep the trio together.

“You know, Marion and Nowitzki and Carter are great veteran guys that have good years left, and they’re going to continue to work to keep their careers going,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after his team pushed the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs to seven games before suffering a first-round playoff exit.

He added: “Veteran continuity is one of the important things for continued success. It’s one of the reasons that San Antonio has had such a long run. … You know, Dirk, Vince and Shawn, those guys will be key guys this summer as we start talking to guys. And those guys are such good players, it’s going to give a team like us a starting point every year.”

Ending his 16th season and now ranking 10th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, the 35-year-old Nowitzki will undoubtedly top the Mavs’ offseason list of priorities as they try to lock up their franchise player. The attention will then turn to keeping Carter and Marion in the fold, according to GM and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, as the Mavs again look to build a Western Conference power.

Armed with financial flexibility, the Mavericks will again look to be a major player in free agency. However, after Marion’s five years of service and Carter’s three seasons with the Mavs, re-signing the two veteran leaders will sit near the top of the front office’s summer to-do list.

“Our priority is to look from within first and to take care of the guys that have taken care of us over the course of the year and the years,” Nelson explained. “Look, the ultimate goal is to bring a championship here to Dallas as quickly as possible. We also respect those that have put us in this position, and so those are the two things that we’ve got to blend. And we’ve got our work cut out, because we’ve got six free agents that have given us their heart and soul. Some of which are short-term, some of which are long-term. You know, [Mavericks owner Mark Cuban] made it public in the locker room that we would like to have every single one of those guys back, but there’s a negotiation and there’s opportunity for those guys to experience free agency. We’re one of 30 teams in the NBA, so it’s got to be right for both sides.”

While keeping Nowitzki under contract seems to be assured, the Mavs fully anticipate a bidding war for the services of both Marion and Carter.

In Marion, the Mavericks covet his defensive prowess, which was a main staple during the franchise’s 2011 title run. Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Carter’s instant offense off the bench was relied upon as the eight-time All-Star made the transition to a sixth man. Now, the Mavs’ brass will try to keep the two in a Mavericks uniform, surrounding Nowitzki with fellow hungry veterans that are fighting to bring a title back to Dallas.

“You know, Shawn was a key component of not only our current success but bringing a championship here,” Nelson explained. “You know, obviously, there’s lots of decisions on his side and on ours, but we would love to have him continue and ride off into the sunset with guys like Dirk and Vince.”