Donnie Nelson: ‘What you see is what you get’

Donnie Nelson – Trade Deadline

Mavs GM Donnie Nelson weighs in on the team's activity around the NBA trade deadline, the addition of Amar'e Stoudemire, Bernard James and more.

President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson met with reporters today to discuss the Amar’e Stoudemire signing, the NBA trade deadline, and more. Here’s a quick rundown of all the big points he hit.

AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE

Nelson is confident that the newest Maverick will fit in with the team well, and said although Stoudemire won’t play in tonight’s game against Oklahoma City or tomorrow night’s tilt with the Houston Rockets, it’s not a health issue whatsoever.

“That was a big get for us,” Nelson said. “He adds a dimension that we currently don’t have in our frontline and certainly solidifies physicality. That’s important come playoff time. He knows how to win playoff games so we’re really excited about that addition.”

The Mavs have almost an entirely new roster from last season’s team, with the only holdovers being Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, and Bernard James, currently on a 10-day deal. The front office made chemistry a top priority last summer and, although there have been even more roster shuffles including Stoudemire and the addition of Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell via trade, Nelson said the team will jell just fine.

“I would say if we were overly concerned, we wouldn’t have pulled the trigger,” he said. “Like Rondo, (Stoudemire) is well worth the price of admission. Those two guys, one gives us a quarterback that’s been there and don that and knows how to win at the highest level, a pass-first guy, a defender, a rebounder, and things that fit well with us. And Amar’e, it’s a guy that can add that physical element, knows how to win playoff games, and isn’t afraid of any playoff scenario.”

THE TRADE DEADLINE

This was one of the wilder trade deadlines in recent memory, but aside from yesterday’s Stoudemire signing, the Mavs have remained quiet. However, that doesn’t mean the team was inactive.

“We made lots of calls and we received lots of calls,” he said. “More than anything, you want to know what’s going on out there. Sometimes there’s opportunities to develop a little interference, which certainly has its place, to make sure things go East.”

Wait, were the Mavs trying to play the spoiler role?

“It certainly helps when some of these guys end up in the Eastern Conference,” Nelson chuckled. “If we can be helpful to our friends in the East, certainly we’ll step in and take those opportunities when we can get them.”

As far as the volume of trades happening around the league, including Goran Dragic moving to Miami, Brandon Knight moving to Phoenix, Isaiah Thomas going to Boston, Arron Afflalo being flipped to Portland, and Kevin Garnett returning to Minnesota in a shocking move, Nelson said he anticipated possibly even more deals might have happened.

“There was a lot of scenarios that were fairly close that didn’t happen that were relieving,” he said. “But I think there were some teams that definitely helped themselves. But again, it’s also good to see some of the names that have done damage in the past to go East. I think overall we feel good about our positioning and now it’s just a matter of getting the boys in blue to get acclimated to each other and get ready for the playoffs.”

BERNARD JAMES

James, who the Mavs signed to a 10-day contract last week, isn’t going anywhere for the time being.

“When his 10-day is up, we will absolutely, 100 percent, renew him for another 10 days,” Nelson said.

Sarge scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds, and blocked three shots in nearly 22 minutes last week against Utah, his season debut. He played an integral role in the victory, playing big minutes due to Tyson Chandler’s injury-forced absence.

“We’re big fans of Bernard,” Nelson said. “He’s been with us, he knows our system. Great guy in the locker room, can’t say enough about his character. So whether he’s, like the other night, if he was thrust into significant minutes or whether he’s more of a support role, we’re looking to get guys like Sarge in our locker room.”

RICKY LEDO

The Mavs had to cut someone to sign Stoudemire, and it was Ricky Ledo. The second-year swingman has spent most of the season on assignment with the Texas Legends, where he averaged 16.0 points, 4.6 boards, and 3.8 assists per game on 46.0/30.4/77.4 shooting.

“Ricky’s great. He’s got a bright future,” Nelson said. “He spent quite a bit of time in the D-League, which has been really helpful for his development. We feel like his better days are ahead. Unfortunately, for the here and now for the playoff push, we had to cut our Ricky experiment a little bit short.”

That doesn’t prevent Ledo from returning to Dallas, though. Reports indicate he cleared waivers today, meaning he’s a free agent. If he chooses to continue playing in the D-League, the Mavs have confirmed that the Legends would retain his rights. However, he’s still available to sign with an NBA team at any time, be it on a 10-day contract or a guaranteed deal for the rest of the season and the years to come.

“It doesn’t preclude us from revisiting (him) in the summer once we have some roster room,” Nelson clarified, “but I think the future is bright for Ricky, whether it’s in the Mavericks uniform or with another NBA team.”

Mavs wrap up 2013-14 season with focus on future

Exit Interview: Rick Carlisle

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

The general message from each player at Monday’s exit interviews was simple: The Mavs had a two-part goal this season. They accomplished Part One, which was simply getting back into the playoffs after missing out last year for the first time since 2000. Part Two was making some noise once they got there. Although Dallas ultimately fell short in its upset bid against No. 1-seeded San Antonio in the first round, the building blocks are in place for a run next season, so long as the Mavs can blend in potential new faces this offseason with the ones already in the locker room.

Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, Dallas had experienced fairly significant turnover during two consecutive summers. Nine new players donned Mavs uniforms this season, and as a result head coach Rick Carlisle’s team spent much of the first half of the season just getting to know each other. After the All-Star break, however, the Dallas locker room came together and cruised to the finish line, sporting the most efficient offense in the league after the brief February respite. Carlisle, general manager Donnie Nelson, and several players all said keeping the team’s core together is the first step toward winning a playoff series next season and competing for a second NBA championship. Given the players already under contract with the team, the Mavs believe cap flexibility this summer could give them an inside track back to the upper echelon of the West.

“Veteran continuity is one of the important things for continued success,” Carlisle said. “It’s one of the reasons that San Antonio’s had such a long run. We had a long run here before we weren’t able to make the playoffs last year. Dirk (Nowitzki), Vince (Carter), Shawn (Marion), those guys will be key guys this summer as we start talking to guys. That experience and that know-how and the fact that those guys are such good players, it’s gonna give a team like us a starting point every year.”

In order to keep that core together, the Mavs will have some decisions to make in regards to the soon-to-be free agents on the roster. Six players — Nowitzki, Carter, Marion, Devin Harris, DeJuan Blair, and Bernard James — will be outright free agents this summer, and a seventh, Samuel Dalembert, has only a partially guaranteed contract for the 2014-15 campaign. Dallas will have roughly $30 million in cap space to work with this summer, much more than most of the other 29 teams in the NBA. That gives the team plenty of free-agent options moving forward, but Nelson said the signing process will begin internally. “Our priority is to look from within first,” Nelson said, “and just take care of the guys that have really taken care of us over the course of the years.”

Here’s a run-down of each free agent on the roster.

DIRK NOWITZKI

2013-14 Stats: 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 49.7 FG%, 39.8 3-PT%, 23.6 PER (10th in the NBA)

That Dude has given every indication that he plans to return, as have Nelson and Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “Dirk’s not going anywhere,” Nelson said. “He’s built this franchise. He’s been with us from day one. Certainly there’s a negotiation to take place, but he loves this city and he wants to call it this home. We certainly reciprocate those feelings.”

Nowitzki has always said he plans to retire a Maverick, and in many ways what Dallas does this offseason will depend on how quickly the team can re-sign Dirk to another deal. It shouldn’t take long.

“We’ll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did, and where we still have enough money left for us to bring great players in,” Nowitzki said Monday.

As for in which areas Nowitzki thinks the team can improve, he said the answer is pretty simple: Just improve.

“You can always get better,” he said. “You can always get more athletic at every position, you can never have enough shooters on your team. You could have another playmaker. You can always get better. That’s not the problem in this league. We’ll just have to wait and see how the summer goes. There’s a lot of cap space. Donnie and Mark are probably gonna go to work. We’ll go from there.”

VINCE CARTER

2013-14 Stats: 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists

The Mavs’ 37-year-old sixth man only has one goal, and that’s to win his first title. A franchise’s outlook will matter once he hits the open market.

“The right situation is what it’s all about,” Carter said. “At this point in my career, I just want to play for teams that compete for a championship. I just want that opportunity.”

What does that mean in terms of Carter’s chances of re-signing with Dallas? After all, there are sure to be several championship-caliber clubs desperate for his services next season. If his exit interview is any indication of his future plans, Carter and the Mavs intend to stick together.

“I just had a nice conversation with Donnie (Nelson), just in passing,” Carter said Monday afternoon. “I think the feeling is mutual on both ends. That’s the goal, to work it out.”

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.

SHAWN MARION

2013-14 stats: 10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 35.8 3-PT% (highest since 2002-03)

The Matrix said he plans on spending life after basketball in Dallas, but how much money might it take for him to play out his career in Mavs blue?

“Not too much,” Marion said. “This is a great city. The fans here are amazing … It’s a great environment.”

The 35-year-old Marion has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the best defenders in the league. He can guard four or even five positions on the floor, and has truly given everything he has to the organization.

He and Carter have both made sacrifices of one kind or another during their time in Dallas. Both have spent time coming off the bench, and each has played fewer minutes than they might on another team. However, their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed in Dallas.

“They both have been good ambassadors for the franchise,” Carlisle said of Marion and Carter. “They’ve both been multi-purpose players. Marion’s versatility is well-known, and I’ve been a big supporter and one of his megaphones for it the last few years. Vince had a great series against San Antonio. He was good offensively and defensively, and he was a leader. Both of those guys were leaders. That’s why those guys were really important.”

Added Nelson: “We’ve got some different issues that we’ll deal with during the course of the offseason. But from the veteran leadership that we’ve had in that locker room — over the course of not just this season, but the last several — those are the kind of guys that you want representing your franchise and your city. I’m of course talking about Dirk, and Shawn, and Vince, and you go right down to some of our younger players. We go out of our way to try to get those guys into our locker room.”

DEVIN HARRIS

2013-14 Stats: 7.9 points, 4.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds

Harris missed the season’s first 41 games as he recovered from foot surgery, and spent his first month or so back going through what Carlisle has called his personal training camp and preseason. His impact was certainly felt, however, once he came back healthy. Dallas was 25-16 with Harris and 22-12 after Feb. 1.

During his exit interview, Harris said he’d like to return to the Mavericks and sign a multi-year deal. The point guard actually agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the club last summer, but question marks surrounding his foot injury reduced the deal to one year.

“It was a pretty complex negotiation last time,” Harris said. “I don’t really know where (contract talks) will go. My intent is to come back, but only time will tell whether that will happen or not.”

Nelson stressed the importance of having a player as quick as Harris. “I think in the new game, to have guys who can get in the paint in create, is extremely important, especially given the dynamic of the Mavericks,” he said.

DEJUAN BLAIR

2013-14 Stats: 6.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 53.4 FG%

Blair proved during the series against San Antonio that he can be a difference-maker on a playoff team. He brought energy and toughness to the team during the near-upset, and never failed to provide a jolt of excitement to get the crowd going.

Blair spent the first four seasons of his career in San Antonio before the Mavs inked him to a one-year contract last summer.

BERNARD JAMES

2013-14 Stats: .9 points, .9 rebounds

James played just 30 games this season after appearing in 46 last year for Dallas. The Mavs’ three-center rotation of Blair, Dalembert, and Brandan Wright left little room for James to find playing time. However, Carlisle loves Sarge’s maturity and his ability to stay ready. An athletic big man who’s still learning the game, James can become a rotation player in the NBA if he continues improving.

(Sarge’s fellow center, Sam Dalembert, has just a partially guaranteed contract for the 2014-15 campaign. However, Nelson and Carlisle have both commented on Dalembert’s future with the club, and all indications are that he’ll be back manning the middle next season.)

Once the Mavs take care of their own free agents, their plans for the rest of the summer will become more clear. Dallas plans to make some noise in the playoffs next season, but first bring in some new talent in addition to the group of players it chooses to retain.

“The ultimate goal is to bring a championship here to Dallas as quickly as possible,” Nelson said. “We also respect those that have put us in this position. Those are the two things that we’ve got to blend.”