Mavs chose continuity, fostering young talent over free-agent frenzy this summer

DALLAS — Opting not to make a big splash in free agency this summer after missing the playoffs during the 2016-17 campaign, the Dallas Mavericks feel like they’ll return to the court a better team this upcoming season simply by fostering their young talent and building continuity with the returning players on the roster.

Ravished by injuries last season, the Mavericks finished on the outside looking into the playoffs following a 33-49 campaign. The lackluster season placed the Mavs in the NBA Draft lottery for the first time since 2013, allowing the organization to select rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round. Now, the Dallas front office hopes Smith can immediately step in and help the Mavericks return to playoff contention. And according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, adding Smith to an emerging young core that already features 25-year-old leading scorer Harrison Barnes made it a successful offseason.

“I mean, we like what we have. You know, we’re not going to rush out with Dennis, Nerlens (Noel) and Harrison as a super young core,” Cuban explained in June of the decision to stand pat this summer in free agency.

“I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on, grow with and hopefully surprise a lot of people,” he added. “You know, once we have a better feel, we can talk about adding. But we’re not out there looking and saying, ‘We have to go find something.’ I think Dennis is going to be able to come in, play and hopefully have an impact his first year, and we don’t want to take anything away from that.”

Seeing 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games last season while being hampered by a right Achilles strain, the team got off to a sluggish 4-17 start without its leader. The Dallas offense also suffered without the No. 6 scorer in NBA history on the floor, ranking near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories all season long.

The Mavericks ranked 30th by producing just 97.9 points an outing last season and 27th while dishing 20.8 assists a game as a team. Dallas also finished with an offensive rating of 103.7, ranking 23rd in that department. Injuries certainly played a role in the Mavs’ offensive struggles as Nowitzki, veteran guard J.J. Barea and versatile backup Devin Harris all missed lengthy periods of time. But with Nowitzki healthy and re-signed for a 20th campaign, the Mavericks should see much more offensive success this season. And while plenty still hinges on the re-signing of the 23-year-old Noel, a restricted free agent, Cuban is confident that improved health and continuity with virtually the same roster could lead to more wins during the ’17-18 season.

“We had a lot of injuries last year, and the bad news is we had a lot of injuries that impacted our season,” Cuban confessed. “The good news is we ended up with Dennis. And I think with Dennis and a little more time together with Nerlens and our young core, I think we have an opportunity. You know, we made a run last year, and it didn’t pan out. But I think we’ll be a lot better.”

Western Conference roster shake-ups set Mavs up to compete, Dirk Nowitzki says

DALLAS — Although he admits that the Dallas Mavericks got off to a slow start this summer during free agency after missing out on marquee names like Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki adds that the team’s offseason moves set up another playoff run in the Western Conference.

Signing a reported two-year deal worth $50 million this summer, Nowitzki will likely conclude his illustrious career with the only franchise he’s ever suited up for in 18 seasons. But the team’s other summer signings are what have Nowitzki most excited for the upcoming season, believing that the Mavericks upgraded in talent across the board. And after former league MVP Kevin Durant’s free-agent migration from Oklahoma City to Golden State paved the way for the Mavs to land budding star Harrison Barnes and center Andrew Bogut, Nowitzki believes his team is now built to compete in the ever-changing West.

“It started slow there on the first couple days in July,” Nowitzki said of free agency while making a media appearance to promote his charity tennis tournament this weekend. “All the free agents kind of went quickly. Sometimes you get a little fortunate, and I think with KD going to the Warriors it played in our favor a little bit. They had to get rid of Barnes and they couldn’t keep Bogut at that amount of money, so we were able to get those two guys. They’re champions, they’re great players, they’re a part of a championship team, so they know how to play and they know how to win. We’ve got high hopes for Harrison for the future. We’ve got some younger guys, and we’ve got some athletic guys. I’ve always said over the last couple years we need to get a little younger, we need to get quicker, and we needed to get some athletes.”

Working out a trade to acquire the 31-year-old Bogut from the Warriors in exchange for a future second-round pick back on July 7, the Mavericks then inked another key member of Golden State’s 2015 title team by signing Barnes to a reported four-year deal worth $94 million. The Dallas front office didn’t stop there, re-signing three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams to once again engineer the offense and hoping he can remain healthy after an injury-plagued ’15-16 season. Still, after several other offseason signings, it remains to be seen how far the Mavs can advance following four first-round playoff exits in the last five years.

Signing 25-year-old big man Dwight Powell to a reported four-year deal worth approximately $37 million on July 8, the Mavericks also landed another young big man with the addition of four-year pro Quincy Acy. The Mavs continued their youth movement from there with the signing of combo guard Seth Curry, filling out the roster with summer-league standout Jonathan Gibson, Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino, BYU standout Kyle Collinsworth, forward Dorian Finney-Smith, undrafted LSU guard Keith Hornsby and post player Jameel Warneyto bring the team’s average age down from 30 years old, which was the second-oldest roster in the league behind only San Antonio last season. Now, while noting those key summer additions and the health of swingman Wesley Matthews more than a year after Achilles surgery, Nowitzki feels the team has the makings of being a contender in the West.

“I think we want Barnes to keep developing his all-around game,” Nowitzki explained. “We all know he’s athletic, and we know he can guard ones through fours. We want him to improve in shooting, off-the-dribble shooting, post him some, and we want him to run some pick-and-rolls. I think he wants it, and he has the work ethic to develop into a great all-around player. I already heard all summer long whenever he was here, he’s in the gym all the time. A lot of guys come here, sign here, or get traded here, and they’re telling me they’re gym rats, but I haven’t really seen many in my 18 years. But he’s the one guy that walks the walk. He’s there in the morning, working out with the guys, and he goes back at night. He wants to get better. I told him from the beginning I’m here to support him, and I’m here to help him with whatever questions he has — on and off the floor. I’m here to make him a better player, make him feel welcome, and hopefully have a great year. I think Bogut will be a great player for us. He’s a smart player. He can defend, obviously, and defend the rim. He’s a great passer, and probably one of the best passing big men there is in this league, so it should be fun playing with him. So, yeah, I think it should be a fun year.

“We got some tough guys at the rim with Quincy Acy. I think we should have a really solid, solid group. I hope D-Will can stay healthy. I think, when he was healthy last year, he was a key player for us, and at times even our best player. So, hopefully he can stay healthy for the season. I heard Wes was a beast in the gym basically since we lost. I heard he’s in unbelievable shape and ready to go. It should be another fun, hopefully exciting, and a competitive year. We’ll see how far we can go.”

New two-year deal with Mavs doesn’t necessarily signify end, Dirk Nowitzki says

DALLAS — Despite signing a two-year deal this summer during free agency to remain with the only team he’s ever suited up for, Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki says the new contract doesn’t necessarily signify the end of his illustrious career.

Inking a reported two-year deal worth $50 million, Nowitzki is expected to end his career with the Mavericks after spending all 18 of his previous seasons with the team. The 13-time All-Star will also attempt to continue adding to his growing list of accolades during the span of that contract, entering his 19th season needing just 509 points to become the sixth player in NBA history to eclipse 30,000 for his career. Still, while sitting only 1,928 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for the fifth position on the league’s all-time scoring list, Nowitzki says that his new deal might not equal the end of an era.

“I always said I wanted to kind of take it year by year,” Nowitzki said Thursday while making a media appearance prior to his charity tennis tournament on Sunday. “By signing a two-year deal, it doesn’t mean I necessarily have to play those two years. I think we’ll see how next year goes, how the body responds, and then we’ll make that decision again next year. But obviously, I would love to play the next two years, and then just see how it goes. By that point I’m turning 40, and that’s already up there in age for the NBA, so we’ll just have to wait and see how the body responds the next two years. Hopefully, for the next two years, I’ll still be doing some of the same things I was going to be able to do last year and just be able to help the guys spread the floor. Maybe some timely baskets here and there, and maybe I get a rebound every now and again.”

Last season, Nowitzki averaged a team-high 18.3 points per game, connecting on 44.8 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from three-point range while making 75 appearances. The 38-year-old was also the oldest player in the league to lead his respective team in scoring during the 2015-16 season, showing that he has plenty left in the tank. Nowitzki passed Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) to move into sixth place on the league’s all-time scoring list as well, putting the team on his back to reach the playoffs for a 15th time in a 16-year span. Still, Nowitzki doesn’t know when his eventual farewell tour will come after seeing the team retool this offseason.

Already the most decorated Maverick in franchise history, Nowitzki was named the league’s MVP for the ’06-07 season. He also earned All-NBA Team honors 12 consecutive years from 2000-2012, culminating in the ultimate prize during the ’10-11 season after leading his team to the franchise’s first-ever title. Nowitzki now ranks as the franchise leader in several categories, including points, rebounds, field goals, three-point field goals, free throws, games, starts and minutes to factor into his decision to stay after stepping into free agency on July 1.

With no plans of leaving Dallas after declining a player option, Nowitzki worked closely with Mavs owner Mark Cuban to iron out a deal that was mutually lucrative to him while creating flexibility for the front office. He then officially re-signed with the team on July 27. And after having his years of loyalty rewarded with a hefty new deal, Nowitzki says he’s focused on leading the team to more success this upcoming season.

“Well, it kind of came together that way,” Nowitzki explained. “I opted out, and then we talked with Mark a little bit about the cap going up and can I get the same percentage with the deal I just had? We waited, hung around and waited on what’s going on. At the end of the day, we had settled on a number. And then Mark actually said, ‘OK, everybody’s signed, and we actually have this much money to give you.’ So, he actually gave me another raise, which was obviously nice for him, and he’s been incredibly loyal to me. And I’ve shown, obviously, that I’ve wanted to be here the last couple years. I think he wanted to reward me in a way. Yeah, it makes me obviously feel great and feel wanted. I’m happy that I can finish my career here in Dallas, where I always wanted to be, and hopefully I finish strong the last couple of years.”

Mavs newcomer Quincy Acy hopes to leave his mark on hometown team with high-energy play

One-on-one with Quincy Acy

Earl K. Sneed goes one-on-one with Quincy Acy at the Mavs' annual Fantasy Camp presented by Citi.

DALLAS — Playing a waiting game that so often can be the NBA free agency process this summer, new Dallas Mavericks big man Quincy Acy says he eventually ended up in the perfect situation with his hometown team.

Born in Tyler, Texas, the 25-year-old Acy attended John Horn High School in Mesquite before going on to star at Baylor. He was also named to the Second Team All-Big 12 squad while garnering Big 12 All-Defensive Team honors as a senior during the 2011-12 season. But following stints during his four seasons in the NBA with Toronto, Sacramento and New York, the 37th overall pick in the 2012 draft now hopes that he can once again make himself at home after signing a reported two-year deal for the league minimum to join the Mavericks this summer in free agency.

“It’s a dream come true,” Acy said during an exclusive interview with Mavs.com on Tuesday. “It’s definitely a blessing, but it’s still kind of surreal. You know, my family, they’re all kind of more excited than I am right now, but it’s a dream come true.

“My agents did most of the talking with the front office, but we were just kind of playing the waiting game. We were seeing what teams and what the rosters were playing out to be, and seeing how it would fit with different teams. And it just kind of opened up. As soon as the opportunity came, we just kind of took it. And I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

The 6-foot-7, 240-pounder holds career averages of 4.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game, making 219 total appearances during his first four seasons. He showed that he can do a little bit of everything last season in Sacramento, averaging 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game while starting 29 times during his 59 appearances for the Kings. However, a return home figures to bring out the big man’s full potential as he adds depth behind 13-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki.

Adding another up-and-comer to the Mavs’ emerging young core, Acy acknowledges that the best way for him to earn minutes in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation this upcoming season is through energetic plays and maximum effort. That said, the young big man expects to leave it all on the court every time Carlisle calls his number, looking to become a fan favorite with his high motor. And although he’s never played in a postseason game during his young career, Acy says he’s ready to do whatever it takes to help push the Mavericks further following first-round playoff exits in four of the last five seasons.

“I mean, I’ve been a fan of Dallas my entire life, so it’s not normal that you see a young roster. But I’m glad to be a part of it,” Acy said. “We’re kind of turning over a new leaf, I guess, and I’ve kind of got a good relationship with a lot of the young guys. We’ve all been up here early, and it’s been good. It’s been worth it, and I’m happy and ready to get going.

“I mean, I’m just going to play my heart out every night, especially now that I’m playing for my city. You know, it’s bigger for me, and I’m going to go out and represent to the fullest. I’m going to go out every night and defend, throw bows, or dive on the floor. Whatever I’ve got to do to help us win, I’m gonna do.”

Not just more shots, signing with Mavs equals more responsibility for Harrison Barnes

DALLAS — Although Harrison Barnes admits that he’s excited for the opportunity to have the ball in his hands more this upcoming season after signing a max-level contract with the Dallas Mavericks, the 24-year-old budding star knows that also comes with more responsibilities.

Last season, Barnes averaged a career-high 11.7 points to go along with 4.9 rebounds a game as the Golden State Warriors captured an NBA-record 73 wins. But he admittedly did so as simply a role player, taking the court alongside the likes of two-time MVP Stephen Curry and All-NBA selections Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. He now hopes to step out of the shadows and into a starring role in Dallas after signing a reported four-year deal worth $94 million this summer. However, after spending time with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle during a youth camp in his hometown of Ames, Iowa, Barnes knows that he’ll be asked to do much more than become a primary scorer for his new team.

“I mean, one, the ball is going to be in my hands a lot more, so there’s going to be a lot more decisions to make,” Barnes explained during a live-streamed appearance on the team’s Facebook page Tuesday. “I’ve been talking to coach Carlisle a lot, just about what I’m going to be able to do and what kind of things he wants me to do to help this team along with what I’m already doing. That was another thing he talked about was like, ‘Look, you’ve defended and rebounded at Golden State. Just ’cause you come here and we want you to score, you don’t let those things go away.’ It’s simply adding to that, so I’m excited.”

Playing alongside Curry, Thompson and Green, Barnes became primarily a catch-and-shoot scorer, attempting 3.8 field goals of that variety a game last season and making 40.7 percent from the field in that role. He’ll now be asked to operate as both a scorer and playmaker with the ball in his hands, looking to lighten some of the offensive load on 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.

During the 2012-13 season, Barnes earned All-Rookie First Team honors while averaging 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 81 appearances. He maintained that production the following season in predominantly a reserve role, averaging 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. But he then slid back into the starting lineup and made the most of the opportunity during the ’14-15 campaign, posting 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while connecting on a career-high 48.2 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three-point range as the Warriors sprinted to the title. That said, Barnes acknowledges that he’ll need to excel in all facets of the game in order for the Mavs to return to Western Conference prominence.

Returning to Dallas with an Olympic gold medal after competing with Team USA in the Rio games, Barnes will try to carry over his eventful summer to the 82-game NBA schedule. He’s also already begun working on operating more with the ball in his hands, looking to assume a lead role in Carlisle’s system this season. And with Nowitzki serving as a mentor, Barnes sees his transition to Dallas going seamlessly as the future Hall of Famer eventually looks to pass the torch.

“I’m very excited about it. You know, I’ve been working the past couple of years, but also this summer,” Barnes explained when speaking about an expanded offensive role. “I’m looking forward to hopefully getting reps at it and developing that way, but also just being around guys that have won and guys that have been coached at this level. I’m going to be next to a Hall of Famer in Dirk, so it will be pretty cool to learn from him and just see where I can take my game.”

Another year in Rick Carlisle’s system should bode well for Deron Williams

DALLAS — Despite seeing his 2015-16 season derailed by injuries, three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams returned to playing at an elite level during his first campaign with the Dallas Mavericks.

Starting 63 of his 65 appearances last season, Williams ranked second on the team in scoring while averaging 14.1 points an outing. The Colony native also pulled down 2.9 rebounds and dished out 5.8 assists a game, connecting on 41.4 percent shooting and 34.4 percent from three-point range for his hometown team. However, Williams would eventually be hampered by injuries near the close of the regular season, missing eight of the final 11 games as the Mavs battled for a playoff position. And after a left abdominal strain and sports hernia forced the veteran floor general out of the lineup for the final four games during the team’s first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson says that he’s eager to see what a healthy Williams will do this upcoming season after he reportedly re-signed with the team to a one-year deal worth $10 million.

“You just can’t say enough about a guy like D-Will,” Nelson said while praising Williams’ play last season. “With him coming back, he had fun. He had fun for the first time in a long time, and I think he really had an opportunity to express himself. I think [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] used him very well.”

Returning to the lineup after an eight-game hiatus, Williams played through his late-season injury concerns to score 15 points in 29 minutes during a 98-91 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on April 10. He then boosted the Mavs into the playoffs the following night by scoring 23 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing six assists in a 101-92 road win against Utah.

Bouncing back from a lackluster ’14-15 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets that led to eventual buyout talks, Williams made the most of his new opportunity in Dallas last season. Williams averaged 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists during his last season with the Nets, appearing in 68 games and making 55 starts. He also connected on just 38.7 percent from the floor and 36.7 percent from three-point range. But after a fun-filled season with the Mavs that featured a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to cap off a 117-116 double-overtime thriller against Sacramento on Jan. 5, the 11-year veteran could be set for more success following surgery this summer to repair his sports hernia injury.

Williams entered free agency after declining a player option for $5.6 million to test the open market. He’s now expected to pick up where he left off at, hoping to continue to thrive under Carlisle’s direction. And after Williams played for four different coaches during his 3 1/2 seasons in Brooklyn, Carlisle expects for the veteran lead guard to feel more comfortable with another year in the system.

“Well, he was one of our best players, and I enjoyed working with him,” Carlisle said while praising Williams’ 15-16 season during a recent interview with NBA TV. “He’s going to be back with us next year, and we’ve just got to get him through a couple of the injury things that happened. He had a sports hernia in the playoffs that really kind of screwed up our chances in that series. But the one game that we won, he had 11 points in the first half and kind of got us going. So, he’s still a tremendous player. And he’s from Dallas, so I know he likes being back home. We love having him there.”

Rick Carlisle looks forward to leading Mavs’ cast of new characters, possible style change

DALLAS — After making a late-season change to his team’s style of play in order to push the Dallas Mavericks into the playoffs for a 15th time in the last 16 seasons, coach Rick Carlisle says it’s unclear how a new-look roster will best be utilized during the upcoming schedule.

In are new additions Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Seth Curry, Quincy Acy and a bevy of other summer signings. Out are versatile forward Chandler Parsons, center Zaza Pachulia, lead guard Raymond Felton and other veterans that helped the the Mavericks capture the sixth seed in the Western Conference last season. And according to Carlisle, it’s unclear how different the team’s style of play will look as he attempts to bring together a cast of new characters.

“I think it could be quite different,” Carlisle said in a recent interview with 103.3 FM ESPN. “You know, at this point, I don’t know that for sure. We’ll have to see. We’re more physical. You know, Parsons was a guy that is a different kind of player than Barnes, and Parsons was a very good ball-handler and playmaker. You know, I think Barnes can develop into a playmaker, but that has not been his DNA and that has not been what’s been asked of him in Golden State. What I found spending five days in the gym working out with him is that he’s a better ball-handler than most of us would expect, but we’re going to have to ease him into those situations and just kind of go from there.”

Integrating a slower pace after the Mavs fell three games below .500 following a 133-111 loss in Sacramento on March 27, Carlisle then led his team to six straight victories from March 28 to April 8 and wins in seven of the final nine games to finish with a 42-40 record. Carlisle’s decision to slow down the pace also had a positive impact on the the Dallas defense, leading the Mavericks to hold opponents to an average of 88.6 points on 43.8 percent shooting during the final nine games. Now, Carlisle could again opt to play at a slower pace to ensure that the Mavs remain competitive in the ever-changing West.

Averaging 102.3 points per game as a team during the 2015-16 season, the Mavericks ranked 16th in the league in that department. They also finished the season with a 104.8 offensive rating, which was good for 10th in the league. However, with the free-agent departures of Parsons to Memphis and Felton to the Los Angeles Clippers, it remains to be seen how effective the Dallas offense will be while integrating new faces.

Vice versa, the Mavs finished with just a 104.3 defensive rating and surrendered 102.6 points per outing on the defensive end, ranking 14th in that category while struggling to contain opposing teams for most of the season. Those numbers figure to improve with Bogut, a former All-Defensive team selection, anchoring the front line. Still, despite seeing plenty of late-season defensive success and adding a proven rim-protector, Carlisle says it’s unclear which style of play best fits the new-look team.

“I think we can be a better defensive team, because of Bogut, and I think we’ll be a more physical defensive team from top to bottom. And then it’s going to come down to style,” Carlisle explained. “You know, at this point and time, everything is on paper, and we’re really going to have to look closely in terms of what’s the right style of play for this team. Whether it is going to be continuing to be a real up-tempo, fast-paced type of team, or is it going to be a little more of a medium-tempo type of team? We’ll see. But I think we’re going to have the option to play different ways, which is a very important thing to have.”