As the draft and free agency loom, a question on the mind of a lot of athletes will most certainly be, ‘Why Dallas?’ In our new series we’re going to answer just that. Comments? Suggestions? Drop us a line below.
Exit Interview: Rick Carlisle
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle reflects on the 2013-14 season and looks ahead to next year's campaign.
As the league season inches toward free agency season, now less than three short weeks away, the Mavericks are sitting pretty as one of the few teams in the league with significant salary cap space. What they choose to do with this money will inevitably affect the team’s outlook not just for next season, but also the seasons beyond.
Mavs fans will remember that the team has been in a similar position heading into each of the past two offseasons. Following both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns, Dallas had enough money to sign big-name free agents to max-level contracts. However, the Mavs weren’t able to land the big fish they sought after, but that ultimately turned out to work in the team’s advantage.
During the two offseasons prior to this one, Dallas found itself in vastly different situations than the one it is in now. Following the lockout-shortened ’11-12 campaign, the Mavericks chose to sign several players to one-year contracts after Deron Williams signed with the Brooklyn Nets, including among others OJ Mayo and Chris Kaman. Dallas also traded for Darren Collison, who, like Mayo, Kaman, and many other Mavericks, had just one year remaining on his contract.
The roster on paper was a good one, and despite Nowitkzi’s nagging knee injury that sidelined him for a third of the 2012-13 season, Dallas was unable to gel the way it did this season. Combined with Nowitzki’s injury, that team’s foundation, built on players on one-year deals, never had the chance to grow together as a single unit.
That was the exact problem the Mavs addressed last season, when the team signed Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon to long-term contracts. The Mavs’ backcourt will be together at least through next season, and an option on Ellis’ deal could keep him here for 2015-16 as well. Sam Dalembert and Wayne Ellington, two other free agent acquisitions last season, were both signed to multi-year deals as well. Dallas opted to build a veteran team that would have the time and know-how to come together, and that’s exactly what happened. Nowitzki was healthy as ever this past season, and the new-look Mavericks stormed through the finish line, ending 2013-14 with 49 wins, the club’s most since 2010-11.
That leads us to this summer, when Dallas will have roughly $30 million in cap space. But unlike the past two summers, this year the Mavs aren’t looking to revamp an entire roster. Dallas has built a new foundation based on players with multi-year contracts who are committed to staying with this team. As has been reported on Mavs.com during the past few weeks, Dallas does have several key free agents this summer, including Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter. Each of those players, as well as free-agent-to-be Devin Harris, has said they’d like to remain here. Clearly, Dallas is on to something.
The team’s new culture grew almost organically during the ’13-14 season. Nine new players were added to the mix last summer, but they came together rather quickly, and by year’s end it seemed every player in the locker room was happy in Dallas. That alone could attract potential free agents this summer, but more importantly, the long-term deals the Mavs offered last summer could be the team’s best asset moving forward.
By signing players like Calderon and Ellis to multi-year deals, as well as one-year veterans Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, and Gal Mekel (all of whom can remain under the Mavs’ control for three more seasons), Dallas showed that it was willing to commit to its backcourt. The front office has faith in each of those players. That matters to free agents, who would much rather sign a three- or four-year deal than ink a one-season contract. At the same time, free agents are also less willing to sign with a team with a cloudy future. That certainly isn’t a problem for the Mavericks, whose immediate future is not at all unclear. Western Conference champion San Antonio could attest to that. Calderon and Ellis, among other Mavericks, are under contract for multiple years into the future, signaling to free agents that an already very sturdy group will remain intact.
Add to that mix Nowitzki, who immediately after the season practically guaranteed he’d re-sign with the team, and all of a sudden the Mavs’ core, combined with the team’s ample cap space, makes Dallas one of the most attractive landing spots for any free agent this summer.