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.”

Monta Ellis masterful in final minutes of Game 6

Postgame: Monta Ellis

Monta Ellis addresses the media following the Game 6 win over the Spurs to force Game 7.

As Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, and every other Maverick said heading into Game 6, it all starts with defense. Dallas was able to get the win last night for many reasons, and most of them had to do with what the Mavs were able to accomplish without the ball. Despite giving up 111 points in Fridays win, it was the Mavs’ defense in the middle of the fourth quarter that propelled the team to a 16-4 run, awarding Dallas a lead it never surrendered.

Nowitzki pointed out after Game 5 that much of his offensive success late in the loss came after Dallas was able to push the ball after a stop at the opposite end. The same held true for the Mavs in Game 6, only this time Monta Ellis was the beneficiary. He put together a masterpiece in the decisive final frame on Friday night, scoring 12 of the Mavs’ last 22 points of the game — eight of which followed a Spurs miss.

Let’s take a look at each possession and see how those points came to be.

THE PICK-AND-POP

A staple of the Dallas offense throughout Nowitzki’s entire career has been the pick-and-pop, a set during which Nowitzki sets a ball-screen and then fades backward or sideways before spotting up for a jumper. It’s a nearly impossible play to defend, regardless of the ball-handler, because Dirk is such a terrific spot-up shooter. Ellis only creates more problems in such sets, as his driving ability and pure speed give opponents one more element to consider when drawing up a defense. Dallas has run the set several times throughout the series, and it gave Ellis a wide-open look at a three-pointer in Game 6.

Monta 3

Manu Ginobili was so concerned with giving Nowitzki an open shot that he stuck with him until Tiago Splitter could recover, which left Monta all alone behind the arc. We’ve seen Ellis hit that shot many times this season, and he drilled this one as well to give Dallas a 94-92 lead.

THE FAST BREAK

But it didn’t stop there. As we all know, Ellis is perhaps the most dangerous player in the open floor in the game. With 3:28 left in Game 6, Tim Duncan missed a jump shot and the Mavs pushed off the miss. Devin Harris carried the ball up the floor before tossing it behind him to one of the fastest players in the game.

Monta Break

In a 3-on-3 situation with no San Antonio big man to protect the rim, Ellis will win this battle every time. Manu Ginobili tried drawing a charge, but was called for a blocking foul instead and Monta came away with an and-one. Had Ginobili committed to defending the drive earlier, Ellis could have swung the ball to Vince Carter in the corner for an open three-pointer. Dallas ran this specific fast break perfectly, and it resulted in three points. Watch the whole play below.

Pure Athleticism

Monta Ellis barrels into the lane, draws the foul, and still manages to convert the layup.

THE EARLY ATTACK

As big a threat as Ellis can be in the open floor, he’s just as lethal in halfcourt sets if he has the room to turn the corner off a screen and barrel into the lane. That was the case on the Mavs’ next possession after his and-one layup. Marion advanced the ball up the floor to Ellis, but the 2-guard held the ball and waited for a DeJuan Blair screen. Carter once again moved to the corner to spot up. But watch what his defender, Ginobili, is looking at as Ellis takes the Blair screen.

Monta Drive

Unlike the fast break a few seconds prior, Ginobili above has his back turned to the ball carrier. He simply is not in position to help against a drive. So as Ellis turns the corner, all that stands between him and a layup is Tim Duncan — still an imposing defender at this stage in his career, but without any help from Ginobili even Duncan is at a disadvantage against Monta.

The result: Ellis flew through the air and delivered a floater that extended the Mavs lead to 102-94.

Monta Finish

This is why the Spurs have focused so much on keeping Ellis out of the lane. Once he gathers a full head of steam, not many players in this league — even future Hall of Famers — can stop him.

So, to review, Ellis scored eight of his 12 points off of Dallas stops by:

1. Running a quick pick-and-pop with Nowitzki
2. Attacking the rim at full speed in the open floor
3. Waiting for a screen, then attacking before the defense can get set

The Mavs must take advantage of Spurs misses by attacking early in the shot clock before San Antonio’s defense has time to get set. If Dallas can do that in Game 7, and if Ellis can remain aggressive, the Mavs have a shot at pulling off the upset and advancing to the second round.

Marion reflects on unfulfilled season

DALLAS — Just two summers ago four-time NBA All-Star forward Shawn Marion was on cloud nine.

Capturing the championship that had eluded him during a lengthy stint in Phoenix and short stops in Miami and Toronto, Marion had finally reached the mountaintop during his second season with the Dallas Mavericks. Two years later, however, Marion found himself and a set of new Mavericks teammates on the outside looking into the playoffs after suffering through an up-and-down season that ended with a 41-41 record.

And despite emerging as one of the veteran leaders on the Mavs during his 14th season, Marion says what was missing this year can be summed up in one word: effort.

“You know, when you become a professional athlete, you set standards for yourself and your team,” Marion said after the Mavs came up short of making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

“You go out here and you try to leave it all,” he continued. “I don’t know no other way to play than to leave it on the floor. You can’t control the ball going in the hoop, but you can control your effort. You know, I think when you’re not able to go out there and give it your all and give it 110 percent then something is wrong. Maybe you need to sit down. … Being a professional athlete and dealing with the ups and downs we’ve had this season, you’ve got to look at yourself and say, ‘Are you giving it your all? Are you doing what’s within your control to go out there and just compete and leave it out on the floor?’ Like I said, you can control certain things, but certain things you can’t control. Effort is the only thing you really can control. You can’t control the ball going in. You’re going to get a turnover here and there or whatever, vice versa, but you can control your effort.”

Effort certainly wasn’t an issue for Marion this season.

Elevating his scoring average from a year ago while dealing with several nagging injuries, Marion went from posting 10.6 points an outing in the ’11-12 campaign to 12.1 points a game this season. He also led the Mavs in rebounding for a second straight season, snatching down 7.8 boards an outing while starting all 67 of his appearances.

The versatile forward and defensive specialist, who turned 35 years old on Tuesday, has seemingly done it all in his career, including moving into 22nd place on the league’s all-time steals list this season to bring his total to 1,642. Still, even after taking over a leadership role and stepping up during the 27-game absence of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki to start the season following his preseason arthroscopic knee surgery, Marion heads into the offseason unfulfilled after missing the playoffs for only the fifth time in his career.

“All the close games we had this year, if we win those games, we’re probably in fourth or fifth place in the Western Conference this year,” Marion said while putting the season into perspective. “It’s that simple of a turn here or that much of a little more effort on this end or being smarter of a decision-maker and making a turn. That sums up the season. We made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have made this year as a team and it killed us.

“Up and down and not consistent,” he added. “You know, it’s been frustrating. … I know you can’t play 48 minutes perfect basketball, nobody can, but if you can get closer to that 44 or 45, you really give yourself a chance to win every night. You know, and for the most part we’ve had some really bad losses this season and we’ve been right there clawing. Take all the games we’ve lost by one point or two points, whatever, and we could have won those games. If we win those games, we’re in a playoff spot right now.”