So the most wishy-washy professional athlete of his generation has an interest in playing for the Dallas Mavericks? I’ll believe it when I see it.
An ESPN report Thursday suggested that Lakers center Dwight Howard is excited about joining the Mavs because he would be the face of the franchise. Dirk Nowitzki might be one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he’s never minded sharing the spotlight with someone who could help the Mavs. In fact, he’s fully embraced the organization’s plan to make him the second-best player on the roster. So far, the plan hasn’t worked. The Mavs went after free-agent point guard Deron Williams last summer, but were left at the altar when he elected to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
Signing Howard would, in some ways, validate Mark Cuban’s decision to blow up a championship team. The Lakers center might be one of the biggest headaches in the league, but he’s also a supremely gifted player in his prime. Even though last season seemed like a disaster with the Lakers, he still managed to lead the league in rebounding. And Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows a thing or two about dealing with huge egos. Just look at how he handled the man formally known as Ron Artest in Indiana.
Nowitzki will likely be part of a Mavs delegation that will soon travel to Los Angeles to make its pitch to Howard. Even Cuban himself will take a break from his “Shark Tank” duties and participate in the recruiting process. All this is very exciting…if you’re gullible enough to believe anything coming out of the Howard camp.
All you have to do is look at the timing of this story to realize what Howard’s attempting to do. With NBA teams preparing to wheel and deal on the day of the annual draft, Howard wants them to keep him in mind. He wants the Rockets and Mavs to make sure to clear enough space to sign him. From this vantage point, what he’s hoping to do is scare the Lakers into a sign-and-trade deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. If they truly believe they’re about to lose him without getting anything in return, perhaps they will allow Chris Paul and Howard to take over the city. It’s hard to imagine something like that happening, but that’s not going to keep Howard from trying. Perhaps he’s been emboldened by Paul’s ability to hand-pick one of the best coaches in the NBA.
The one advantage the Mavs have over the Rockets is a depleted roster. Yes, you read that correctly. In Houston, Howard would have to share the spotlight with a Kobe Bryant-like chucker known as James Harden. This is a man who doesn’t have any qualms launching 20 shots (or many more) per game. Nowitzki on the other hand is an incredibly unselfish player. He would welcome the presence of the most dominant center in the game (sorry, Roy).
Howard would eventually wear out his welcome in Dallas, but he’s still worth the risk. Unlike Mike D’Antoni, Carlisle wouldn’t have a problem adjusting his offense to Howard’s strengths. The Mavs coach has shown that he can persuade players previously known for their selfishness to embrace the team concept. An aging Vince Carter could be Exhibit A. Plain and simple, Carlisle is not intimidated by any player. He knew that Jason Kidd had the reputation for taking down head coaches, but he never let that affect any of his dealings with the point guard. If Carlisle can’t find common ground with Howard, then maybe it’s a hopeless case.
Prepare to read several more reports like this one in the coming weeks. Howard wants as many teams as possible involved. But if you’re a Mavs fan putting all your eggs in the free-agency basket, you’re ignoring this organization’s history
Cuban and Donnie Nelson have done a remarkable job building around Nowitzki over the past decade. But when it comes to making Nowitzki the second-best player on the roster, they’ve come up empty.
The only thing we truly know about Howard is that he’s wildly unpredictable. And quite honestly that’s the only thing that gives the Mavs any chance of landing him.