Posts Tagged ‘Darren Collison’

Cuban: I Feel Worse For Vince Than Dirk

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks attempted to get younger this season, attempted to put pieces in place for the future. But, after 81 games, they’re oldies have been their goodies and any roster continuity for next season is as uncertain today as it was 12 months ago.

Dirk Nowitzki, 34, Vince Carter, 36, and Shawn Marion, 34, have been Dallas’ best players by a long shot. Not that this fact needs validating, but it was never more evident than in the past two games, with the Mavs eliminated from the postseason for the first time in 13 seasons and nothing on the line except overgrown beards and swelling pride.

The veteran trio played their hearts out. The others served mostly as bystanders. Tonight, Dallas closes out its most disappointing season since the dark days of the 1990s by trying to salvage a .500 record against New Orleans. And so Nowitzki will miss the playoffs for the first time since his first two baby-faced seasons. Marion’s out for the first time in five years after Phoenix traded him to Miami for Shaquille O’Neal.

And Carter, who has played in one conference final (2010 with Orlando) in just seven postseason appearances during his 15 seasons, is out for the fourth time in the last six seasons. Since Feb. 1, Carter has averaged nearly 15 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 2.5 apg while shooting better than 43 percent from beyond the arc, where he’ll fall just short of his career best.

On a more competitive team, Carter would have been a dark horse Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

“I feel bad for Vince. Let me just say that right off,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “Vince is a warrior. All these things I’ve heard in the past about him being soft and not playing hard, [bleep] that. That dude comes out to deliver every [bleeping] night. Even when a game got out of hand, he was busting people for not doing what they were supposed to do. He was cheerleading on the bench. I feel worse for Vince than I do for Dirk.”

Carter joined the Mavs prior to the 2011-12 season expecting to help defend the championship and vie for his first. But that was a watered-down version of the title team and was summarily swept in the first round by Oklahoma City. This season’s club, beyond Dirk and Marion, bared no resemblance to the team that celebrated on the Heat’s home court.

The Mavs’ veteran trio, all of whom are signed through next season at a combined $35.2 million, came through with big games after being eliminated. Sunday in New Orleans, Nowitzki became just the ninth player in NBA history to record 25,000 career points and 9,000 career rebounds. Marion had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Carter put up 16, seven and five.

On Monday, in Game No. 81 against Memphis, with the goal of finally eclipsing .500 for the first time since Dec. 10 in Game No. 22, Carter put up 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. Along the way he passed Clyde Drexler for 27th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and waved to the cheering crowd.

The achievement might have gained more traction afterward if not for O.J. Mayo‘s disastrous two-point, four-turnover game that got him benched and led to coach Rick Carlisle’s highly uncharacteristic dressing down.

Mayo, after initial excitement, has faltered for months. He can opt out after the season, but his return to Dallas is now highly questionable. Backcourt mate Darren Collison never achieved solid footing in Dallas and was twice replaced as the starter by old-timers off the street, first by short-timer Derek Fisher and then by Mike James. Collison will be a restricted free agent this summer.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Cuban said of his club that fought back to .500 after falling to 13-23 on Jan. 9. “I’m just not always proud of the basketball IQ. When you see dumb plays, sometimes they look like lack of effort plays when they’re just dumb.”

That was a direct shot at the club’s young, first-year backcourt that replaced future Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd, who ditched Dallas at the last minute for New York, and Mr. Clutch, Jason Terry.

“We expected a different roster here and Dirk to be healthy,” Cuban said. “We thought we had young guns to put around old guys. Our backcourt roster wasn’t what we planned it to be, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Dallas’ three old-timers can now only wait to see which new young guns are on the way.

Cuban Takes Blame For Mavs’ Fall

DALLAS – For the first time since he bought the Dallas Mavericks in the middle of the 1999-2000 season, owner Mark Cuban won’t be able to harass officials in the playoffs.

Two nights after the Mavs were eliminated from playoff contention, snapping the franchise’s record run of 12 consecutive postseason appearances, Cuban fell on the sword, taking the blame for a season that remains one game under .500 with three to play. On Wednesday, Cuban contended that had Dirk Nowitzki not missed the first 27 games of the season after knee surgery, and a career-high 29 in all, that his club would be fighting for a fifth or sixth seed.

On Friday he said he failed to put a good enough team around his 7-foot star who led the franchise to two NBA Finals and the 2011 championship.

“Look, it didn’t work out the way we planned. It’s all on me and [president of basketball operations] Donnie [Nelson],” Cuban said prior to Friday night’s overtime win over the Denver Nuggets. “It’s our job to put people in position to succeed. We didn’t do enough of it. It’s not an apology. It’s just the nature of the beast. I bust my ass to do as best as we can. No one hates losing more than me, so I’ll keep on busting my ass and hopefully it will change.”

Cuban opted not to re-sign key players from the 2011 championship, in particular last season’s Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, in order to create cap space under the altered rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.

The club chased Deron Williams last season but failed to lure him, setting in motion a run at players on the final year of their contracts or signing players to one-year contracts to keep salary cap room wide open for this summer.

While Cuban acknowledged that the franchise is now in a rebuild mode, he said it will be a quick job.

“It’s not a four-year rebuild cycle,” Cuban said. “I guess when you miss the playoffs, by definition you’re rebuilding. So we’ve got to get better.”

After striking out on Williams, Cuban and Nelson quickly went to work to construct a team. They felt confident about pieces acquired, namely O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison to replace Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, plus center Chris Kaman, easily the most offensively gifted big man the Mavs have had, and Elton Brand.

But, with Nowitzki out of the lineup, Dallas skidded to a 13-23 start. And while coach Rick Carlisle shuffled through starting lineups like a deck of cards, the Mavs still managed to make things a bit interesting over the last few weeks in the race for the eighth spot, but ultimately they were never able to fully recover.

With three chances in the past two weeks to get back to .500 for the first time since December, they lost by double-digits in each game, the last coming Wednesday to the last-place Suns.

The loss sealed the Mavs’ fate as an unfamiliar participant in the upcoming draft lottery.

“Look, we did the best we could,” Cuban said. “We obviously didn’t have what we thought we would have. We obviously should have had more. I don’t know if we could have, but we should have, and so it’s all on me. If that means I let Rick down, I let Rick down. People always give me (expletive) — why do you always put your email up on the screen and why are you always out front? This is why. So if someone’s got a shot to take, take it at me.”

Playoff Losses To Heat Shape Vogel, Pacers’ Plans For Prosperity


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Indiana Pacers found themselves in the peculiar position of rooting for the Miami Heat last week. Not because they were trying to butter-up the beasts of the East as they went for consecutive win No. 28 at Chicago, but because their disdain for their Central Division rival runs that much deeper.

Still, the Pacers, as with as the rest of the free world, know the road to the Eastern Conference championship goes through Miami. Last May, Indiana held a 2-1 series lead over the eventual NBA champs before it all unraveled in a six-game, East semifinal defeat.

Approaching a year later, the Pacers are a bit older and wiser. They believe, even with Danny Granger officially ruled out for the season, that they’re big enough, deep enough, physical enough and more explosive offensively — and even tougher defensively — than last season’s version to match up with the Heat in a potential East finals.

“We feel like we can compete with anybody if we’re playing defense and we’re making sharp, sound decisions on the offensive end,” forward David West said during the Pacers’ stop in Dallas last week. “Right now they’re [the Heat] the cream of the crop. They’re the champs and everybody else is just chasing them.”

Added All-Star Paul George: “The only thing that we’ll have to prove is how well we can play in the playoffs.”

Which is where being wiser could ultimately make the biggest difference. And it starts with coach Frank Vogel, who is in just his second full season as coach and whose 40th birthday doesn’t roll around until a few days after the NBA Finals in June.

Vogel said he walked away from last year’s Heat series having learned two key lessons that he’s implemented since training camp.

“No. 1 is we were one of the worst fouling teams in the league last year,” Vogel said. “And it probably cost us two games in that [Miami] series where we had two guys in foul trouble for key stretches.”

Let’s tackle this one before revealing key lesson No. 2. Indiana racked up the third-most fouls in the league last season, and in the six games against Miami it committed 147 infractions, 24.5 fouls per game, even more than its regular-season average.

The two “cost us” games Vogel referred to were Games 1 and 4, when the Pacers were called for a combined 59 fouls, or 40 percent of their six-game total. (more…)

James’ Determination Paying Off For Mavs


DALLAS – The NBA Developmental League is designed to develop young talent to one day be NBA-ready. But, hey, if it helps revive an old vet’s career along the way, what’s the harm?

See Mike James.

The Utah Jazz on Sunday night saw all they wanted and more of the 37-year-old fireplug point guard who refuses to stop believing just because NBA general managers did. James carved up the Jazz for a season-high 19 points and five assists to help his Dallas Mavericks to a 113-108 victory that put them in a tie in the standings for ninth place with the wheezing Jazz and two games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West

James survived two 10-day contracts and earned his keep for the remainder of the season. And he’s hardly been just a passenger as he was last season when the Chicago Bulls picked him up and never found a use for him. James came to Dallas and rather quickly supplanted Darren Collison as the closing point guard. Following a 33-point loss at Houston on March 3, James took his spot as the starter, too.

The Mavs beat the Rockets in their very next game with James finishing with eight points, six assists and one turnover. Dallas is 8-3 sine he became the starter, is just two games off of .500 for the first time since Dec. 20 and is back in the playoff conversation with an April 2 meeting in L.A. against the shaky Lakers.

And the only reason James, a one-time 20-point scorer for the Toronto Raptors, is back in the league — let alone starting for the first time since 2008-09 with Washington — is because he didn’t stop believing and pleaded for one last shot in the D-League. The Texas Legends, the Mavs’ affiliate, gave it to him.

“It was frustrating for me to have to go that route,” James said. “It was frustrating that no team would really give me an opportunity, not because of my skill level, but because of my date of birth. So I just had to prove everyone wrong that what they believe about me, don’t put me in the same statistic as everyone else. So it’s not about living the dream, it’s about this is who I already know myself to be and the things I’ve already prepared myself to be capable of doing.”

In his 33 games with Dallas, James is averaging 6.0 ppg and 2.8 apg while shooting just 36.5 percent from the floor (and 40 percent from 3-point range), so he didn’t earn his playing time by instantly becoming an explosive scorer or playmaker.

Listen to Vince Carter describe what James, a reserve on the 2004 Detroit Pistons title team, has delivered:

“His ability to make shots, he’s been in big games before, he’s been in playoff games before, his toughness,” Carter said. “He’s not afraid to take the shot, he’s not afraid to guard the best player, best guard, whatever the case may be. He’s just very experienced, seasoned, and I think he’s done a great job in taking on the role, and he really brings it in practice. … He’s always ready to play. I recall playing against him and he’s always ready to go. I think that adrenaline can sometimes wear you out, and once he got his legs he had more arc in his shot and he’s just been in an unreal rhythm right now for our team.”

And coach Rick Carlisle, who has granted James — having played 15 games the last three seasons and out of the league entirely two years ago — this new life and finally settled the position after Derek Fisher came and went and Collison couldn’t consistently get the job done:

“The thing I like about him, he’s one of these guys that has great experience and he has great confidence in himself,” Carlisle said. “If there’s blunt things you need to say to him, you can be completely straightforward with him. He’ll take everything the right way, and he’ll keep battling his butt off.”

Most didn’t bat an eye when the Mavs called James up after just a few days with their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Hardly anyone noticed when he got a second 10-day contract and when he was signed for the rest of the season, making it 11 teams (including two stints with Houston) in 11 NBA seasons.

Now, some are taking notice, including Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, who singled out James’ recent contributions before Sunday’s game. More will take notice after Sunday’s performance and as the stretch run heats up. In his 11 starts, James is averaging 10.4 ppg., 4.8 apg and is 24-for-51 (47.1 percent) from beyond the arc.

“This is just who I am, you know, I’m a worker bee,” James said. “Any time somebody’s started giving me credit and loving who I am as a ballplayer it makes me go in the gym even more and it makes me prepare even more because I understand that the only way that they’re giving me the love that they’re giving me is because of what I’m doing on the court. So I never focus on the praise that people give me. I just continue to keep focusing on my work.”

Utah’s Only Hope is Eight of 12 At Home


 Eight of 12.

Talk about last gasp, this is it for the Utah Jazz. Eight home games among their dozen remaining. It’s the final stand for a team laden with veteran free agents, including four of five starters; a team that prepared to be broken up at the trade deadline by reeling off 16 wins in 23 games, yet was left intact and has since tanked.

Utah is typically a force at home — 24-9 in front of one of the most engaged crowds in the league — and they’ll have to  be invincible starting Monday night against Philadelphia. Considering Sunday’s ugly 113-108 loss to the Mavericks was their ninth consecutive road defeat, any home slip-up will serve as sledgehammer to Utah’s eggshell playoff chances.

Utah flew home with the same record as surging Dallas (34-36) and smarting from allowing a 69-69 tie midway through the third quarter to quickly become a 20-point stomping before a fruitless late rally made it look more respectable. The Jazz allowed the Mavs’ starting point guard, 37-year-old D-League call-up Mike James, to to kill them with 19 points and five assists. He averages 5.6 and 2.7.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin could only shake his head

So eight-of-12 is now something of a rallying cry.

“It has to be, it has to be now,” befuddled Corbin said.

Since the Feb. 21 trade deadline, when either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap or maybe even both impending free agents figured to be moved to make way for developing big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the Jazz are 3-12.

It’s been almost a reverse effect. Instead of the anxieties and stresses applied by the approaching deadline sabotaging their effort and focus, the Jazz thrived, claiming wins against Miami, Indiana, Oklahoma City and Golden State during that 16-7 stretch from the start of January to the trade deadline.

They even came out of the All-Star break with a 115-101 dismantling of the Warriors 48 hours prior to the deadline.

When management left the team alone to build on a 31-24 record, they’ve flopped. There hasn’t been a road win since Feb. 12 at Minnesota, and Boston, Atlanta and New York have all walked out of Salt Lake City victorious.

Jefferson said the club’s demise and the timing of the trade deadline is merely coincidence, and Millsap didn’t disagree.

“I don’t know, I think everybody’s out there playing their best just like before the trade deadline everybody was out there putting it all on the line,” Millsap said. “This stretch we’ve had a lot of tough breaks, things just didn’t go our way. But we’re not counting ourselves out. We’ve still got a chance.”

Millsap, the Jazz’s elder statesman in his seventh season with the team that shrewdly drafted him 47th overall, said the locker room hasn’t fractured, that the players remain committed to Corbin.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Corbin, however, acknowledged the difficulties he’s had in trying to maximize a roster with four frontcourt players, two proven vets and a couple of emerging, developing talents that all want, and often deserve, the same minutes. (more…)

Cuban Delivers Final Shot at Fisher

DALLAS – The Derek Fisher-Dallas Mavericks saga had one last loud go-round Sunday, as the point guard who played nine games for Dallas between Thanksgiving and Christmas was lustily booed when he checked in late in the first quarter.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban led the chorus.

“I’ll just boo him like hopefully everybody else,” Cuban said prior to the Mavs taking on Fisher’s new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Fisher signed with the Thunder in late February, about two months after asking the Mavs to release him from his contract. Fisher said in a statement at the time that he wanted to return to his family in Los Angeles. Fisher, 38, immediately took over as the starting point guard for Darren Collison and averaged 8.4 ppg and 3.4 apg. The Mavs, who have had trouble finishing games all season, were 5-4 with Fisher.

After the 17-year veteran signed with title-contending Thunder, the team he joined late last season, as well, Cuban reacted with sarcasm. He said that Fisher’s kids had time to grow up during the eight weeks between leaving the Mavs and joining the Thunder, and Cuban joked that it’s easier to fly in and out of Oklahoma City than Dallas.

On Sunday, Cuban said that Fisher repeatedly made pitches to him and asked for advice before signing with the Mavs. Cuban said he “took the bait.”

“With his history, I shouldn’t have been surprised with what happened,” Cuban said. “I tried to offer him some help. I thought I offered him some positive encouragement and advice, and then we signed him. I expected a different turnout than what happened.”

After the 2007 playoffs with the Utah Jazz, Fisher asked out of his contract to better deal with his infant daughter’s battle with eye cancer. He later signed a three-year contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers. Last season, after being dealt from the Lakers to the Houston Rockets, he had his contract bought out and joined the Thunder, who lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

After Sunday’s shootaround, Fisher said he holds no hard feelings toward Cuban. He hopes Cuban will eventually feel the same.

“I love Mark and I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s done and does in terms of this team,” Fisher told The Dallas Morning News. “There’s no question about how passionate he is for his team. If it was my team and I wanted to win, I would want as many players that I felt like could help me.

“I take [Cuban's criticism] more as a positive thing than a negative. He saw some value I provided and would like to still have me here. But as far as long-term for me, I don’t have any issues with Mark, and hopefully one day, we’ll be able to get past this and have much more things to enjoy and laugh about than the short few weeks here.”

Fisher might be waiting a while.

“It’s not so much what he did,” Cuban said. “It’s how he did it.”

Sarcastic Cuban Fires Shots At Fisher

DALLAS — On Derek Fisher‘s first day of practice with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t miss an opportunity to fire a few shots at his former short-time employee.

Fisher signed a contract with the Mavs in late November when no other teams showed interest and three weeks later Fisher asked Dallas to release him so he could return to his family in Los Angeles. On Monday, Fisher, the NBPA president, resurfaced, signing a deal with the title-contending Thunder, the team he also joined late last season.

“Look, I understand, completely,” Cuban said Tuesday prior to the Mavs’ home game against Milwaukee. “From the time Derek was here to him signing with OKC, his kids are older, so they can deal with things better. So I understand him having more comfort in being away from them.”

Cuban, obviously, had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. But the Mavs organization wasn’t laughing when it learned that the 17-year veteran had signed with the team 200 miles to the north two months after Dallas agreed to release him from his contract on Dec. 22.

While Cuban did not respond to multiple email inquiries on Monday, an source described the Dallas front office as being “agitated.” Cuban on Tuesday confirmed the source’s statement that Fisher and his representatives did not call Dallas to gauge its interest in bringing Fisher back once he determined he wanted to play.

“They did not come back and say he’s interested in playing again, do you want him back?” Cuban said.

Cuban also denied that Fisher and the Mavs had a prearranged understanding that a family situation could force him to ask to be released from his contract.

“Any time you sign a vet like that, whether it’s Mike James or whatever, you say ‘Look, if something comes up, health, family, whatever, we’ll always work with you,’” Cuban said. “No, there were no preconditions because you’re not allowed to have preconditions, right? But we always talk to our guys and say, look we recognize with age comes different responsibilities, so we try to be, with anybody, you know, that’s why teams let guys go home on personal days and stuff like that. When your wife has a baby, this generation we let you go home even if it means missing a game. The better way to put it is we always try to be considerate of any player’s needs, but there was no side deal.”

The Mavs signed Fisher on Nov. 29 just as starting point guard Darren Collison was benched and the Mavs had cooled to 7-7 after a 4-1 start. Fisher immediately took over as the starting point guard. They wanted his veteran leadership and crunch-time savvy, an element Dallas has sorely lacked during this disappointing season.

Fisher injured his knee in his ninth game and was granted his release just days later.

At the time, Fisher thanked Cuban and the Mavs organization in a prepared statement, and said he was making a decision to put life ahead of basketball. Although he also said he wasn’t ruling out a return to basketball.

And so he joins a Thunder team just 26 games before beginning a championship-or-bust postseason. OKC has a need for a playoff-hardened point guard to back up Russell Westbrook. Second-year guard Reggie Jackson won the job over Eric Maynor, who was traded to Portland at last week’s deadline.

“I knew that I still wanted to play the game. I knew I still had the love, the work ethic, the passion,” Fisher told repoerters in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. “The injury was a setback. The biggest struggle was for me, even after 16 years (in the NBA), playing in a different city, being away from my family. Those are things that I struggled with. But as I was leaving Dallas, I understood the risks that that could possibly be my last game or my last opportunity.”

By Tuesday, all that was really left for the the jilted Mavs owner was to have a little fun at Fisher’s expense.

“Like I said, his kids are older now,” Cuban said. “It’s easier to fly in and out of Oklahoma City than it is to Dallas. I understand that. It’s just a decision a parent has to make.”

Fisher Joins Thunder After Shafting Mavs

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Fresh off remaining as players union president during All-Star weekend, Derek Fisher’s first initiative apparently was to re-instate himself on an NBA team.

Not with the struggling Dallas Mavericks, the team he bailed on in December and the only one willing to sign him in late November. Fisher signed Monday with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the championship contender he joined late last season that conveniently again has an opening for a veteran point guard with a history of making clutch shots.

If the Rolling Stones had first met Derek Fisher, they never would have recorded “You can’t always get what you want.”

Fisher just keeps on getting.

The 38-year-old southpaw who won five titles in two stints playing alongside Kobe Bryant, signed a veteran’s minimum deal with the Mavs on Nov. 29 on the heels of Dallas benching Darren Collison. Fisher immediately took over as the starter until he asked for and received his release on Dec. 22 so he could spend more time with his family, as he explained in a prepared statement.

Apparently with 26 games left before the start of the playoffs, family concerns are no longer an issue for Fisher, who wore No. 6 for the Mavs because, as he said, he joined them on a quest for a sixth title. “This is not a pit stop,” Fisher told his new Dallas teammates.

Lo and behold, he will also wear No. 6 for the Thunder. He will make his second OKC debut in as many seasons at home Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets.

So how do the jilted Mavs feel about this turn of events?

Owner Mark Cuban did not reply to multiple emails on Monday, but one league source said the best way to describe the mood of the Dallas front office is “agitated.” The source said that Fisher and his representatives never contacted the Mavs during his decision-making process to discuss a possible return to Dallas, the team that, in good faith, initially signed him.

The source said that Fisher’s departure before Christmas seemed to come out of the blue. Of course, in 2007 when Fisher played for the Utah Jazz, he did have a family emergency in the playoffs. His 11-month-old daughter suffered from cancer in her left eye and required surgery in New York. After the playoffs — where Fisher had an iconic moment in the West semifinals — Fisher asked the Jazz to release him from his contract so he could concentrate on finding the best care for his daughter. After saying, “life for me outweighs the game of basketball,” Fisher would soon sign a three-year deal to return to the Lakers.

The Mavs (25-30) are still determined to make a playoff charge and could use Fisher now just as they did in late November when they were 7-7. Collison has been up and down and coach Rick Carlisle still often turns to 37-year-old, NBA D-League call-up Mike James to run the offense in crunch time.

Dallas is 4 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The club’s brass, coaches and players surely can’t help but wonder if that might be different had Fisher stayed. The Mavs have lacked late-game execution all season. They’re 1-8 in overtime games, 0-1 with Fisher; 2-6 in games decided by three points or less, 1-1 with Fisher.

They were 5-4 overall with him, although in his final game, a win over Philadelphia, Fisher strained a tendon in his right knee and played just five minutes.

Four days later he was out the door. In the same press release that he explained his decision to quit, he said the injury would keep him out only about two weeks.

His resurfacing for the stretch run lends credence to an interesting notion first dished up by’s Jason Whitlock in a scathing column prior to All-Star weekend. Whitlock suggested that Fisher’s sole intention when he signed with the Mavs — or with any team that would sign him — was to make himself eligible to maintain his position as NBPA president. If Fisher remained out of the league, he couldn’t lead the union.

The following day at the NBPA meeting in Houston, Fisher announced the ouster of former union executive director Billy Hunter, just as Fisher remained on as president.

Once a politician, apparently always a politician.

Let the quest for title No. 6 officially begin.

Delonte West Does D-League U-Turn

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Delonte West has pulled an Allen Iverson and decided that the D-League isn’t for him.

Iverson, though, never actually signed a contract. He simply turned down an offer earlier this week to play for the Texas Legends, the affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, as a means to help attract the attention of NBA teams. West did indeed sign a contract last week to play for the Legends, who are co-owned by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

According to a source with knowledge of West’s thinking, the troubled combo guard has decided not to play in the D-League against the advisement of his representation. West is represented by agent Dan Fegan. The source said that NBA teams have been reluctant to bring in West, even on a 10-day contract, until he gets back on the court and they see him play. The Memphis Grizzlies recently kicked around the idea of offering West a 10-day contract, but no offer materialized.

Earlier on Friday, a league source said that West is in the process of changing agents, which could be delaying his arrival in Texas. That is, if it happens at all. As of Friday night, West’s name was on the Legends’ roster on the team website, although no number had been issued. Legends officials did not immediately answer messages Friday night.

While Iverson’s return to the NBA certainly appears as though it might never happen, he is 37 and had an All-Star career. West, 29, needs to get back in the league if he hopes to salvage a career that veered off course with his arrest in 2009 when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He has since had a brief second stint with the Boston Celtics and played the 2011-12 season with the Mavs on a veteran minimum, one-year contract. West, who is bipolar and has struggled with money issues, signed another one-year deal to return to Dallas this season.

But twice during training camp the team suspended him for conduct it deemed detrimental to the team and they waived him just days before the start of the season.

West had been upset with his contract situation and with what he saw as an overcrowded backcourt after the team brought in Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones to go with holdovers Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, plus first-round pick Jared Cunningham.

West reportedly wanted to join the Legends with hopes that he could show the Mavs he was ready to be a part of their team again. However, last Friday night Mavs owner Mark Cuban made it clear that he had no intention of bringing back West. Dallas signed veteran guard Mike James last Sunday for the remainder of the season after he exhausted two 10-day contracts.

Now, by opting not to play in the D-League, West could be throwing away his career.

Mavs Owner: ‘Bank Of Cuban Is Open’

DALLAS – Talk about your public offerings. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t need Facebook to inform the rest of the NBA that everybody not named Dirk Nowitzki on his makeshift roster is officially on the trading block.

“We’re letting everybody know that the Bank of Cuban is open,” the billionaire owner announced Monday night before his Mavericks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for a third consecutive victory to climb to 16-23. “If it’s the right deal, we don’t mind taking back money. But we’re not going to do a trade just to do a trade. It’s got to be worthwhile.”

Cuban’s declaration came two nights after he said there is a “100 percent chance” that the Mavs will aggressively pursue trades — either as a main trade partner or as a facilitator in a multi-team scenario — as the weeks and days count down to the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

It’s perhaps the Mavs’ best chance to upgrade a unit that last week dropped to 10 games under .500 for the first time since Cuban bought the team in 2000. The Mavs, five games out of the eighth spot in the West, are in jeopardy of not making the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

So don’t discount Cuban’s comments as a crafty PR move. Cuban needs to keep a fan base that has provided a league-best 449 consecutive sellouts going back to 2001 engaged in a team that has had massive turnover the last two seasons and has underperformed since claiming the championship. Consider it also a warning shot to the current players. Since Cuban’s initial comments on Saturday, the Mavs have blown out the Grizzlies and Timberwolves.

Dallas is in position to take on salary because of Cuban’s controversial financial maneuverings following the 2011 championship when he dismantled the title team. Under the more rigid guidelines and more punitive tax of the new collective bargaining agreement that begins to truly bear its fangs next season, Cuban altered his spend-at-all-costs philosophy. Instead, he went for scaling back salary to create cap space, allowing for the pursuit of high-dollar free agents (a move that bombed this summer when Deron Williams re-signed with Brooklyn) as well as the flexibility to make a blockbuster trade (including, and perhaps most importantly, sign-and-trades in the summer that will be off limits to teams above the luxury-tax apron – the point is $4 million above the tax level, which is $70.3 million this season).

Cuban’s belief is that good players with big contracts will become available as teams seek ways to get under the luxury tax for this season and beyond. An example is Rudy Gay, who is reportedly being shopped by the Memphis Grizzlies. Front offices are also keenly aware of the repeater tax that will be levied on teams that chronically spend over the luxury-tax line.

Cuban said he’s been busy poring over rosters, watching players and making suggestions daily to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

Dallas has few assets on the roster capable of netting a major acquisition in a two-team swap. The big question is if Cuban can swing a deal that not only improves his team this season, but also makes long-term cap sense. His club is loaded with players on expiring contracts such as O.J. Mayo, a 25-year-old shooting guard that Dallas wants to pan out for its long-range plans. Guards Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones and Roddy Beaubois, center Chris Kaman and forwards Elton Brand and Brandan Wright are also on one-year contracts.

Veterans Vince Carter (owed $6.3 million through 2013-14) and Shawn Marion (owed $17.5 million through 2013-14) could be of interest to a contender.

Going nowhere, the owner has made clear, is Nowitzki. And that’s not because the sweet-shooting 7-footer is believed to be the only player in the league other than Kobe Bryant with a no-trade clause in his contract.

Cuban said flatly that he won’t trade the 15-year face of the franchise.

Nowitzki, whose four-year, $80 million contract expires after the 2013-14 season when he will turn 36, has been consistent in saying he wants to remain with Dallas until he decides to retire. He did recently express skepticism toward Cuban’s plan and went so far as to wonder if it would be in Dallas’ best interest to trade him if it fails to land a star player to build around before next season.

Stay tuned. Plenty of intrigue to come as the Bank of Cuban is officially open for business.