Posts Tagged ‘Vince Carter’

T-Mac Calls It Quits, Retires From NBA





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Tracy McGrady‘s NBA career is over, by his own volition.

The seven-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA pick and two-time scoring champ closed the door this morning on ESPN’s First Take, announcing that he was “officially” retiring from the NBA after 16 seasons in the league. He did say he was leaving the door open to opportunities in China, but said he was done playing bit parts on NBA teams.

He spent a decade as a franchise player in Orlando and Houston but knee issues derailed his career. He played in New York, Detroit and Atlanta in his final three full seasons in the league.

McGrady began the 2012-13 season with the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 25 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 5.1 apg on a last-place team. He joined the San Antonio Spurs during their playoff run that ended in The Finals last season. He was 30 seconds away in Game 6 from earning the NBA title and ring that eluded him his entire career.

His announcement comes on the heels of the retirement of another one of the marquee players of his generation. Allen Iverson announced his retirement last week.

While Iverson should be a lock, the Hall of Fame debate for McGrady will crank up now. If you go by the numbers alone, McGrady should also be a lock. He even mentioned as much on the air this morning, pointing out that during his prime there was an ongoing conversation among basketball insiders and fans as to who was the better player: McGrady or Kobe Bryant.

Of course, Bryant has an edge in championships (5-0) that McGrady will never overcome. But there once was a legitimate debate as to who was going to be a better player between himself, Kobe and Vince Carter during the early stages of their respective careers.

McGrady and Carter never did enjoy the team or playoff success that Bryant did, ending that debate years ago.

Still, McGrady’s transcendent talent and jaw-dropping exploits when he at his zenith (check his highlights above) leave no doubt that he was one of the most unusual talents to ever grace a NBA floor.

A 6-foot-9 shooting guard with otherworldly athleticism, shooting range basically anywhere in the arena and the passing ability most point guards could only dream of, McGrady entered the league straight out of high school as the ninth overall pick to Toronto in the 1997 Draft. He leaves with a Hall of Fame worthy body of work, even it was marred by injuries and postseason failures.

Mavs’ Carlisle Rolls With Plan B, Revolving Roster

a

a
DALLAS –
 Rick Carlisle earned his reputation as one of the game’s top coaches by bending, flexing and adjusting all the way to a six-game championship take-down of the Miami Heat in 2011.

Recall 5-foot-10 point guard J.J. Barea as an NBA Finals starting shooting guard?

The Dallas Mavericks have since gone 77-72 and haven’t won another playoff game. And despite a roster that’s read like a well-worn Rolodex, Carlisle has seemed only to enhance his image as an elite tactician and motivator. Carlisle’s agility will be put to the test again this season in guiding a team that again barely resembles the one that preceded it.

From the 2010-11 championship team only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain. From the revamped squad insufficiently stocked to defend the title, add only Brandan Wright and Vince Carter as keepers. And from last season, add draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James. It’s doubtful any coach, especially one that won a ring with the same franchise just three Junes ago, has witnessed such roster upheaval in three consecutive offseasons, and particularly so in these back-to-back summers.

“Back-to-back, probably not,” Carlisle admitted. “But look, we’re living in a different time. We’re living in a time now where there’s going to be more one-year deals, there’s going to be more turnover, so everybody adjusts to the dynamics of the new CBA, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen for another year or two, at least. That said, if you’re going to be a head coach in this league you’ve got to be very open-minded, you’ve got to be open to change and adaptation. You always want continuity, but you’re not always going to have it.”

The Mavs suffered the indignity of a lockout and the ratification of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement on the heels of their championship parade. On the fly, owner Mark Cuban championed new roster-building strategies that entailed allowing key members of his title team to walk. Plan A, to create cap space and lure max-dollar free agents to crowbar Nowitzki’s championship window, hasn’t panned out and Dallas has instead scrambled the last two summers to produce competitive rosters.

That can be a disheartening road for a coach who is just one of four currently in the league with a ring. Carlisle, though, has consistently endorsed his boss’ decisions. Entering his sixth season in Dallas and the second year of his second four-year contract, Carlisle seems to embrace the challenges he inherits under Plan B. Of the four active championship coaches — including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, now in charge of the Clippers – Carlisle’s task is by far fraught with the most uncertainties.

“I just made a conscious decision that I’m not going to be a coach that’s limited to a certain system,” Carlisle said. “I’m hanging my hat on my ability to adapt each year to potentially a roster that’s quite different, and with the new CBA we’re going to have more of that in this league. I’ve done a lot of it in my career leading up to now anyway, so it’s always challenging in those situations, but it’s also exciting.”

Just look at the players that have come through Dallas since the lockout ended: Kalenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Delonte WestSean Williams, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Chris Wright, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon.

And here’s the players new to Dallas for this season: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, plus draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

Last week Cuban set the bar for this team: The playoffs, and capable of doing damage once there. Carlisle didn’t flinch.

“I think you have to view it that way,” Carlisle said. “And, you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to eliminate the external noise and the doubters and the naysayers and all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to have just a real positive enthusiasm and focus on your group, and you’ve got to see in your mind how they can get better. Then you’ve got to facilitate that.”

Among Dallas media, at least, Carlisle was hailed as a Coach of the Year candidate for guiding last season’s mismatched squad out of a 13-23 hole, one dug mostly without Nowitzki. Dallas finished 28-18 and was in the thick of the playoff chase almost until the end.

“Actually, I think Rick’s system is just very comprehensive and he lets the players pick up as much of it as they can and so I think rather than try to force-feed things that they might not be able to do, Rick, I think, is more accommodating,” Cuban said. “But I don’t think he really changes his system, per se, or changes what he does. I think he just recognizes the skill set of his players. Like, he went from calling plays to just playing ‘flow’ all the time [with Jason Kidd]. That’s his preference more than anything else, just let guys play basketball, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do a lot more of whereas last year we had to call plays every possession. This year I don’t think we’ll have to.”

Last season’s backcourt of Collison, who couldn’t hold down the starting job, and Mayo never clicked. Fisher ditched the team after a month and James was erratic. Cuban believes this team offers Carlisle more raw material with which to work.

He believes it will be collectively smarter and less turnover-pron with Calderon at the controls, Harris backing him up and the speedy Ellis being able to get to the hole with a frequency the Mavs just haven’t seen. All that, Cuban surmises, should play into the hands of a healthy and motivated Nowitzki.

“Each team is different, each team has different needs, each team develops differently and has to make different kinds of adjustments mid-stream,” Carlisle said. “All that stuff is one of the real intriguing things about coaching. It’s one of the reasons I love it. And one of the reasons I love working in this organization is we’ve got an owner with a fertile mind that likes the right kind of change.

“I’m down with that.”

Can Happiness Bring Back ‘Monta’ Ball?

a

a
DALLAS –
Sometimes timing is everything. Take the family reunion Monta Ellis will attend next month in Dallas, an event planned well before the missile from Mississippi signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Mavericks.

“I have a lot of people in Houston, a lot of people in Dallas,” Ellis said Thursday after he and the latest crop of Mavs free agents finally gathered for official introductions. “They didn’t know I was going to sign here, but it’s a good thing to already be here, be settled in.”

Is it a sign that Dallas is where Ellis belonged all along? Or merely a coincidence? Having family close can certainly help bring a measure of comfort and happiness. And happiness is something Ellis says he’s been missing the last couple years and, he says, it’s shown in his sliding shooting percentages.

“When you’re in a place where you’re unhappy, it’s very hard for you to perform to your best ability,” said Ellis, the American Airlines Center lights twinkling off the oversized diamond studs in each ear. “So, I mean, with this new beginning, new fresh start, you know, better organization, you know, better teammates, they’re going to make things a lot more better.”

Better organization? Better teammates? Ellis electing to leave $11 million on the table for next season told the Bucks how he felt about his 103-game run there. Asked to elaborate on what went so wrong, Ellis, who didn’t reap what he envisioned when he hit the open market as a free agent, just said, “I left that in Milwaukee.”

The Mavs, having flipped their roster for a second consecutive summer other than Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright and Shawn Marion, nabbed Ellis, and quite surprisingly so, late in free agency and after already stocking up on guards. After whiffing on Dwight Howard, a second superstar setback after missing on Deron Williams the previous summer, the Mavs viewed Ellis as the best remaining scoring option to pair with Nowitzki, and he instantly became the jewel of their seven-player free-agent class that might otherwise have been flashy Isreali point guard Gal Mekel.

So maybe timing is everything. The Mavs are desperate for fireworks and Ellis is desperately seeking a happy place to revive his career. Not that Ellis has been anything close to a hyper-efficient scorer, but if he can give the Mavs 2010-11 numbers — 45.1 percent overall and a career-best 36.1 from 3-point range — they’ll be thrilled.

“I don’t really have to shoot the ball as much on this team,” Ellis said. “The previous team I been on, like I said once before, I had to do 60 percent of the work no matter what the situation is. I think with this team here, I don’t have to do as much or take as many shots because sometimes they’re going to stop me and Dirk is going to be open, Jose [Calderon], Devin [Harris], the list goes on and. So I don’t think I have to do as much as I had to do in the previous years.

“So that’s going to get me back to being efficient, that’s going to get me back to being more consistent and it’s going to get me back to playing Monta basketball.”

The Mavs told Ellis he can get there on a team that they believe puts talent around him like he’s never known, starting with double-team magnet Nowitzki, and with a pass-first point guard in heady veteran Jose Calderon, who will free up Ellis to be a dynamic scorer, penetrating at will and popping inevitably open jumpers, without the burden of also having to run the offense.

But what they’re really selling Ellis on, and what they believe Ellis truly desires, is stability at the top. While he’s played for just two franchises in his eight seasons, Ellis has played under eight head and interim coaches. Last season Scott Skiles was fired and replaced by assistant Jim Boylan, who was replaced this summer by former Hawks coach Larry Drew.

“I think Monta really knows that we have stability here with Rick [Carlisle] and he wants to commit to a coach that he can trust, and Rick’s that coach, so I think it will be a great relationship,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Rick’s a great teacher and Monta’s a willing student.

A year ago, the same was said of O.J. Mayo following his disappointing time in Memphis. Mayo wanted to hand his game over to the respected Carlisle and Carlisle — now heading into his sixth season in Dallas — wanted to teach him how to become an all-around player. But it never clicked and Mayo has taken Ellis’ old spot with the Bucks at a rather startling $24 million over three seasons.

So maybe this timing is good. Maybe Ellis, 28 in October, is ready to settle into a team concept, to dispel theories that he’ll never be more than a volume shooter and a highly inefficient scorer. Asked if people are undervaluing him or underestimating him by emphasizing his sliding shooting percentages of the past two seasons, Ellis took about 15 seconds before offering an answer.

“I’m gonna say not really,” he said. “You’re going to have people who are going to say what they’re going to say anyway. I don’t think so. I’m fortunate, blessed to have a job and still be doing what I love doing. Like I said, there’s going to be things people say that you have no control over so I don’t think it is. I just think people have an opinion, they like to state their opinion and that’s what it is.”

The final answer begins Oct. 30 against the Atlanta Hawks.

Cuban Hires GM And Goes Scientific?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Listening to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explain the hiring of new general manager Gerrson Rosas, it’s difficult to tell whetherCuban is restructuring his front office or opening a sports science clinic that Major League Baseball might want to investigate.

Cuban made an appearance on the team’s flagship radio station, ESPN Dallas, and confirmed Rosas’ hiring first reported Monday by Yahoo Sports.

He said the hire had little to do with the former Houston Rockets executive’s role under analytics-driven general manager Daryl Morey in enabling the franchise to trade for James Harden and to acquire free agent Dwight Howard, or with the Mavs’ failures to land a top free agent in consecutive summers.

An exuberant Cuban said Rosas, 35, will provide day-to-day organization and management to the front office as the owner seeks to “push the envelope” in new technology areas, including an expansion of traditional analytics to what Cuban termed “bio-analytics.”

Cuban said that means exploration into areas such as “genetic testing to blood analysis and performance technology,” apparently in an effort to better evaluate players.

“If you want to keep pushing the envelope in new technology areas to give us an edge, you’ve got to hire somebody who has experience in managing those kinds of things,” Cuban said. “We really needed somebody with stronger organizational and management skills.”

Rosas, 35, Cuban said, will report to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who previously also held the title of GM. Cuban said he, Nelson and Rosas could all handle potential trade talks with other general managers and discussions with agents depending on which one has the best relationship with that particular GM or agent. Cuban said it was his idea to seek a general manager “to get smarter as an organization” and said he implored Nelson to find the right person for the job.

“We try to take pride in being one of the most technologically advanced teams out there in all of professional sports, not just the NBA,” Cuban said. “And to keep on pushing the envelope in the direction I wanted to go, we wanted to add not just brain power, but organizational, management and process power.”

Part of that plan, Cuban also announced, was to fire 10-year strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett. Cuban said the right candidate will be “more of an expert in performance technology science.”

Who knows where Cuban’s “bio-analytics” experiment leads, perhaps to clones of the 2011 title team. But no doubt he’s hard-charging technology efforts. He recently awarded $100,000 to biomechanics experts at SMU to research flopping.

Rosas will best serve the Mavs by keeping a sharp focus on streamlining the operation. Both Cuban and Nelson have their hands in plenty of cookie jars. Cuban is an involved investor in a gaggle of businesses, including many of his own, and he’s committed to the popular television show “Shark Tank.” Nelson is co-owner of the D-League Texas Legends and also has outside business interests, while also serving as a nightly ambassador to VIP guests at both Mavs and Legends home games.

“It gives us one more smart person to interact with and help us make smarter decisions,” Cuban said of Rosas.

Bio-analtycis aside, fans just know the team has faltered fast and the roster has been remade for a second consecutive summer around the 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki. Jose CalderonMonta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert are the latest to join Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and the soon-to-be-signed Brandan Wright.

Cuban said his recent comment that drew eye rolls, calling Dallas better off without Howard, was not put in proper context. He said the Mavs wanted Howard, but “failed in that.”

The owner said, with health, his team can be competitive, and said he’s miffed at critics who dismiss Nowitzki’s ability to shoulder this latest collection of talent.

“Like I’ve been telling him, Karl Malone won an MVP at 35 and there’s no reason why he can’t be considered in the MVP conversation at 35,” Cuban said. “I can also tell you that the way people are just randomly dismissing him as just being done has been incredible motivation for him as well.”

Ellis Gives Dallas A Badly Needed Jolt

.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks finally appear to have their big-name free agent and Monta Ellis finally gets his big contract.

Only neither is as big as originally hoped. The Mavs dearly wanted Dwight Howard. He’s in Houston. Ellis opted out of $11 million with the Milwaukee Bucks for one final season. He didn’t find the market he expected. Now he’s headed to Dallas for a reported three years at between $25 million and $30 million.

He joins a roster under extreme reconstruction that, at the moment, is stacked with newcomers in the backcourt. The athletic, volume-shooting Ellis figures to start at shooting guard next to high-IQ point guard Jose Calderon, who signed on for four years and $29 million. Dallas will pay those two around $15 million next season.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported the Ellis agreement. Stein also reported that the three-year deal that Devin Harris (who has dislocated toe) and Dallas agreed to has been shelved.

Sixth man Vince Carter is the lone returnee and only producer from last season’s train-wreck backcourt. He enters the final year of his deal at $3.2 million.

Dallas also brought in guards Wayne Ellington on a two-year deal, plus rookie free agent Gal Mekel and draft picks Shane Larkin (who will miss possibly three months with ankle injury) and Ricky Ledo. After realizing top free agents (Deron Williams last summer and now Howard) weren’t enamored with a thin roster that wasn’t winning any trades either, the Mavs are in the asset acquisition business.

It’s a different approach than the last two offseasons when owner Mark Cuban sought short-term bang for his buck, and consistently said he would save his money for foundation-type players. Perhaps the Mavs now believe that the 27-year-old Ellis, who has played in two postseasons in his eight-year career, is one. He was certainly the last remaining “impact” free agent on the market.

At the moment, eight of the 12 players Dallas has or soon expects to have under contract are guards. Talk about going small-ball. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder fill the forward position and second-year center Bernard James, a low-minute player when he got off the bench, is the only big man in the middle.

That has to change, although how is the big question considering the Mavs’ cap situation. Dallas remains in pursuit of stop-gap veteran Samuel Dalembert (a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee could be an option) and they’ve been in discussions with their own hybrid forward-center Brandan Wright. Elton Brand also remains a possibility.

The agreement with Ellis seemed unlikely just a couple days ago when president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said he didn’t expect more backcourt additions. With all eyes focused on the depleted center position, Ellis did perk up a fan base wondering where the franchise was headed after missing out on Howard a week ago.

Ellis doesn’t turn the summer around for the Mavs, but he does bring with him some needed swag back to Big D. The roster had been virtually bare of playmaking electricity. He gives Dallas excitement, if not also unpredictability, and he’ll happily fill the role as the second — and sometimes lead scorer — the Mavs so desperately need next to Nowitzki.

The 6-foot-3 Ellis averaged 19.2 ppg and 6.0 apg sharing the backcourt in Milwaukee last season with Brandon Jennings. He shot just 41.6 percent overall and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc, but he can light it up on any given night and seemed to have a knack for fireworks when he played Dallas.

A rim protector must be on the way, though, or the Mavs’ defensive standing at No. 27 in scoring (101.7 ppg) last season could get worse. Ellis’ defensive efficiency last season benefited from the Bucks’ swat machine Larry Sanders. Ellis consistently ranks high in steals, but his overall defensive prowess is not considered a strong suit, and starting next to Calderon could cause coach Rick Carlisle to go completely bald.

The Mavs aren’t done massaging their roster. Friday at least provided a jolt and a little more intrigue for a proud franchise that was quickly looking lottery-bound for a second consecutive season.

Howard To Houston Is A Two-Fisted Gut Punch For Mavs

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – If the Los Angeles Lakers recoiled at the sobering prospect of dealing Dwight Howard to an already rising divisional foe, imagine the steam clouds that spewed from the ears of Mark Cuban as if his head was an erupting Mount Vesuvius when he learned the big man had agreed to join the aspiring Houston Rockets.

Cuban seemed to take the news in stride Friday afternoon when the Dallas Mavericks’ owner was notified that his team was out of the running for the summer’s most coveted free agent. At the time, he said he was not told with which team Howard would sign.

“Got word we are out of the DH sweepstakes,” Cuban wrote in an email to various media outlets. “We gave it a shot and it didn’t work out. It was truly an experience. At some point I will post our video and presentation we made.”

The Rockets, Golden State Warriors and the incumbent Los Angeles Lakers remained in play. But only a short time later, USA Today, followed by TNT’s David Aldridge confirmed that Howard will leave the Lakers and join the Mavs’ Southwest division rival.

This one will deeply burn the Mavs, now two-time losers trying to lure a big-name free agent to pair with a now 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki.

All the while Cuban controversially, yet strategically was dismantling his 2011 championship club in anticipation of re-building a contender by creating cap space to lure a superstar (or two) under the guidelines of the new collective bargaining agreement, his in-division, in-state rival in southeast Texas was scheming just the same.

Daryl Morey, the gambling Houston Rockets’ general manager, set in motion a number of trades and transactions over the last two years to ultimately acquire players, cap space and other assets that would position the Rockets to strike when opportunities arose, to swing for the fences through both trades and free agency.

The Rockets should give Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti a tip of the cap for making this behemoth agreement possible. Before the start of last season, the Thunder’s salary-cap-strapped GM dealt rising star James Harden to Houston as Morey dipped into his collection of assets. Harden became an All-Star and delivered the Rockets back into the playoffs. Now Morey has Howard, too, his longtime target.

Aside from the Lakers, who practically begged Howard to re-sign, no team will find this harder to swallow than Dallas. The scenario of Howard to Houston was always the Mavs’ worst nightmare, leaving the franchise third in pecking order in its own state behind the Rockets and the ever-resilient San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors cleared out cap space Friday and added another top-flight free agent in Andre Iguodala – a Mavs target in the case they whiffed on Howard — to a young and talented roster that challenged the Spurs in the second round. Golden State won’t be too disappointed in not landing Howard. They were always a long-shot in this race and even without Howard they look to be putting together something special.

The Atlanta Hawks, flush with cap space, never seemed to elevate their hopes too high that Howard would reverse his long-held thinking and decide to play in his hometown. General manager Danny Ferry will now attempt to piece together the best team he possibly can for new coach Mike Budenholzer.

This was Strike Two for Dallas. A year ago, it chased native son Deron Williams, but was rebuffed. It signed a slew of players to one-year deals to keep their free-agent “powder dry” — as president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson is fond of saying — and to go after Howard or Chris Paul this summer.

Williams’ Nets now have the look of a contender after general manager Billy King pulled off the stunning trade that brings Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. CP3 got Doc Rivers and is staying put and now the Rockets with Howard will vault into the top four or five in the West with Warriors, CP3′s Clippers, the Thunder and the reigning West champion Spurs.

And Houston might not be done. They have long been reported to seek Atlanta free agent power forward Josh Smith, a childhood buddy of Howard, who’s reluctance to join the Mavs leaves the franchise reeling. Two seasons ago they were swept out of the first round by the Thunder and this season failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

Nowitzki, understanding his years are numbered, has repeatedly called this a “big offseason for us.”

Yet on the roster at this moment with him is Shawn Marion, 35, Vince Carter, 36, two 2012 second-round draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James, plus 2013 first-round pick Shane Larkin and newly signed Israeli guard Gal Mekel. 

As Howard’s drama dragged on, Dallas missed out on other free-agent targets, most notable Iguodala. The Clippers re-signed role player Matt Barnes and on Thursday center Al Jefferson signed a lucrative deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.

So where do Cuban and the Mavs go from here?

Dallas, 41-41 last season with Nowitzki playing in only 53 games after preseason knee surgery, has glaring holes at point guard, shooting guard and center. They can seek a trade but possess few assets to entice a team into dealing a player of stature. They learned that quickly in reported talks with Boston for Rajon Rondo.

Cuban said after the season that he doesn’t want to go through another year of one-year contracts, preferring to find players that are core-worthy. Now he and Nelson must decide if, for instance, still available guards Monta Ellis, Mo Williams or Jarrett Jack are building-block players they want to commit years and dollars to at the risk of cutting into cap space for next summer. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Zach Randolph, among others, could be on the market.

But the Mavs have twice seen what a crapshoot that strategy can be.

Ellis Quietly Waits For Next Team

.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Waiting and watching the free-agent landscape unfold is high-volume shooter and scorer Monta Ellis.

J.R. Smith became the latest shooting guard to take himself off the market Thursday morning when he agreed to re-up with the New York Knicks for four years and $24.7 million.

Others who have reached similar agreements (contracts can’t be signed until Wednesday) include Kyle Korver with Atlanta (four years, $24 million) and J.J. Redick with the Los Angeles Clippers (four years, $27 million).

Those players are known quantities. Teams know what they’re getting and their salaries are slotted as such. O.J. Mayo apparently remains in discussions with the Milwaukee Bucks on a multiyear deal. He’s younger than the others and more of a mystery in terms of unlocking his potential.

One mystery man who will cash in on upside is Tyreke Evans. The New Orleans Pelicans made a surprising bid for the Sacramento Kings guard and Evans was prepared to sign a four-year, $44-million offer sheet. On Friday, the Pelicans, Kings and Portland Trail Blazers completed a three-way trade that gives the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft a fresh start with the feisty Pelicans.

That leaves Ellis as the most intriguing and most dangerous shooting guard still available. The eight-year vet hasn’t had much headline buzz during this first week of free agency. Ellis chose to become a free agent when he opted out of the final year of his deal that would have paid him $11 million. He signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the Golden State Warriors as a 22-year-old.

Any day now, perhaps soon after Dwight Howard finally makes his decision, we’ll find out the rate for a streaky scorer who averaged 19.2 ppg and 6.0 apg last season, but who connected on just 41.6 percent of his overall shot attempts and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Only Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook attempted more shots than Ellis’ 1,436 field-goal attempts last season. Among the top 10 in total points (Ellis finished eighth), Ellis made more field goals than only rookie Damian Lillard, and Ellis and Westbrook (plus LaMarcus Aldridge) were the only ones not to make at least 100 3-pointers.

Still, Ellis (a career 31.8-percent 3-point shooter) can light it up on any given night and that type of scoring prowess is enticing. He is reportedly more interested in signing with a team with a fighting chance than one that will pay him the most money. Now 27, Ellis is smack in his prime and could be a valuable piece on a good team, but will he get paid prime-time money?

There is also another factor regarding Ellis: He’s largely untested as a prime-time player. He has just 15 playoff games under his belt in eight seasons. This year’s first-round sweep to the eventual repeat champion Heat didn’t go well. Ellis averaged 14.3 ppg and shot 15.8 percent from 3-point land. In 2007 when the Warriors upset the No. 1-seeded Dallas Mavericks, a young Ellis saw his 16.5 ppg in the regular season shrink to half that in the playoffs and he shot 11.1 percent from beyond the arc.

The teams that lose out on Howard will have money to spend and needs to fill such as the Mavericks, whose backcourt at the moment consists of draft pick Shane Larkin and a graying Vince Carter.

So where will Ellis land and how much will he get paid?

Rondo To Mavericks Makes Sense

 

HANG TIME, Texas — Game on.

With the big man spreading the word that he won’t waste time and will make his free agent decision on July 10, all the players in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes have to come firing out of the starting blocks.

So Rajon Rondo to Dallas?

The word from Mike Fisher at DallasBasketball.com is that Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson has broached the subject with GM Danny Ainge in Boston:

The two parties continue to discuss trade scenarios, sources tell us.

Ainge and Dallas Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson have a long-standing and friendly relationship, so that might be a reason for the two teams to be exchanging ideas. Meanwhile, Mavs owner Mark Cuban is hinting at talks about a trade acquisition so large that it might preclude the “big-fish’’ acquisition of Dwight Howard.

I asked one NBA source if Cuban’s remark is intended as a smokescreen.

“Dallas, for all the right reasons, has 100 scenarios up on their board,’’ the source said. “But scenario No. 1 is Dwight Howard.’’

Previously, scenario No. 1 was Chris Paul. But Mavs officials tell me they are anticipating an official pronouncement from Paul that he’s staying with the Clippers, thus saving potential suitors their time and effort there.

There are mathematical/legal ways for Dallas to acquire Dwight and Rondo, the sort of double-play that would greatly accelerate the Mavs’ return to title contention. (Dwight could be signed outright with the trade-away dumping of the contracts of, say, Vince Carter and Jae Crowder. That would have to be done first. Then Marion would have to be a centerpiece of Dallas’ offer to the Celtics.) Both of the players come with some baggage, however. For Mavs fans, Howard’s issues are well-documented; he’s eyeballed the Mavs for over two years, and therefore his game and his persona have been picked apart in this space.

It is a deal that would make perfect sense from both sides. The Mavs, of course, are looking for another elite level player to join the supporting cast around Howard. Of course, they already have Dirk Nowitzki, but at 35 he’s close to the end and Dallas needs another All-Star level running mate into the future for Howard who can combat Houston’s enticement of playing with James Harden.

Put Howard into the middle of a lineup with Nowitzki and Rondo and the Mavs are right back battling at the top of the Western Conference race next season.

Ainge may be saying right now that he’s not looking to completely dismantle what’s left of the Celtics in the aftermath of trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. But whatever pain the Celtics put their fans through could pay off in the long run, especially if they land a high pick in a top-heavy Draft in 2014.

There is also the matter of how Rondo would personally handle being on a mediocre to poor team. He’s always been a handful to deal with even in the best of times, ready to fight literally with coach Doc Rivers and go to war figuratively with Ray Allen. Only the presence of the old heads Garnett and Pierce was able to keep Rondo’s white-hot competitive streak and his sizzling temper in check. If Ainge, as expected, is going to hire a first-time coach to mid-wife the Celtics through the next couple of years of rebuilding, that guy without a long resume as a leader is not going to need a point guard who will constantly challenge his authority.

If Ainge can get expiring contracts, maybe draft choices and wind up with a team next season that gets him a high pick in what is said to be a top-heavy draft in 2014, the Celtics are on their way to a recovery.

The clock is ticking on the countdown to the Fight for Dwight and the maneuvering has just begun. But this is a bold, big move that we can get behind from both sides.

Game on.

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.

Mavs Strike Out On A Shave And Playoffs

.

DALLAS – Strike three, you’re out.

With a third opportunity in the last two weeks to break even and grab a shave for the first time in months, the Dallas Mavericks were blown away, inexplicably embarrassed at home by the skidding Phoenix Suns and laid to rest their run of 12 consecutive playoff appearances.

That franchise record officially ended Wednesday night when the Lakers outlasted the Trail Blazers about 90 minutes after a dominant Goran Dragic (21 points, 13 assists) and the relief-smitten Suns left Dallas with a 102-91 victory.

Each of the Mavs’ three attempts to reach .500 ended in double-digit losses and by an average margin of 18.6 points.

“Every time we’ve had a chance we’ve kind of laid an egg,” said a disappointed Dirk Nowitzki, who said his gimpy ankle was fine as he went just 6-for-18 from the floor for 21 points. “We obviously want to finish the season with a positive record. We owe that to everybody, to the franchise and the fans. This was a game we needed to have.”

Prior to it, Mavs owner Mark Cuban, unaccustomed to rooting for ping-pong balls, acknowledged the obvious: his club has “room to improve, a lot of room to improve.” Then he watched from his baseline seat as the same infuriating issues — horrific guard play, poor defensive rebounding and a non-contesting defense — breathed life into the visitors who entered having lost 10 straight overall, 10 in a row to the Mavs and hadn’t won in Dallas since March 2007.

“We were the team that looked like we were on a back-to-back, not them,” Nowitzki said. “Just a terrible, terrible, disappointing loss.”

After the Mavs’ Wednesday morning shootaround, coach Rick Carlisle was asked if he had to guard against his team taking the cellar-dwelling Suns for granted. His response: “Anybody around here who’s taking any games for granted this year is a [expletive] idiot.”

Yet that message apparently didn’t reach his players. There was veteran Vince Carter, the team’s most consistent performer this season next to Shawn Marion, admitting as much while answering a question that never broached the topic of taking the opponent for granted.

“I think we took the team for granted at the beginning and felt like we could just win the game,” Carter said. “Took their record, their streak for granted, if you ask me. You just can’t do that.” (more…)