DALLAS— One hundred ten games, that is the sum total of playoff experience that the five players-Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo, that the Dallas Mavericks added to their roster this summer via free agency.
All but Kaman, who spent last season in New Orleans, have playoff experience as recent as last season, but no matter what their respective backgrounds are during their time in the Association, these five newest Mavs are united by one single desire-being able to play not just for a winner, but a club that could contend for an NBA title.
Kaman has 11 games of playoff experience, all of which was gained with the Clippers in 2006 as Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the Suns in seven games. But other than that, the Michigan native hasn’t experienced much in the way of playoff basketball, something he hopes changes this year.
“A lot of people think with losing [Jason] Kidd and [Jason] Terry, there’s no chance [of this year’s Mavs contending for a title]. But OJ Mayo’s a great player. No one gives him credit like he deserves. He works hard. He comes in, does extra stuff and he works hard, gets extra shots up. He was kind of stuck in the shadows a little bit in Memphis behind Rudy Gay and some other guys. I think he’s going to get a little bit of an opportunity to shine here,” the Dallas center said. “We’ll see. It’s tough.”
However, Mayo isn’t the only one of his new teammates he’s really looking forward to playing with. “We’ve got a good point guard. Darren Collison did a good job in New Orleans in Chris Paul and did a really great job in Indiana last year. Well, they lost to Miami and they did a good job,” Kaman said. “I think people aren’t giving everybody credit but it’s always good to be underrated to start. You don’t want that bull’s eye on your back. You don’t want everybody gunning for you.”
Brand came to Dallas after he was amnestied by the Sixers after the season and the former Duke standout admits he does come to town with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. “Yeah, absolutely [I have something to prove],” he said. “Being amnestied from a team, getting to the playoffs and getting to the second round, I definitely want to prove a lot-but in the right way. Not individually, I’m at a point in my career where I’m not worried about the individual stats, just helping the team win and win big. That’s my goal-just being a part of that.”
Mayo is another castaway, someone who joined the Mavs after the Grizzlies, the team that acquired him on draft night in 2008 after Minnesota took him third overall, decided not to offer him a contract, making him a free agent. He too comes to Big D with something to prove.
“Yeah, it’s a bond that we all want to come here and win. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “The Mavericks are an A-1 organization with Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki as a franchise player. The opportunity to come here and get an opportunity to win and show that we can win on a night in, night out basis with this team [is why I came here].”
Collison (16 games) and Jones (33 games) both join Dallas after spending the last few seasons in Indiana and they too came to the Mavs for a shot at winning a title under Rick Carlisle, a big reason why Dallas won the NBA crown in 2011.
To hear several of these new faces talk about their burning desire to win firsthand is one thing, but what do their new teammates, the ones who have been here for at least one season already, see in them from their short time together already? Well, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s more of the same.
Mavs perennial All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki definitely likes what he sees from this newest group of teammates. “Well, I think we’ve got a lot of potential. We’ve got some shot makers. We’ve got some penetrators. We’ve got for the first time, somebody we can just get the ball to him [Kaman] in the block and everybody else spaces out,” Nowitzki said. “I think Elton’s going to be great-post defense, shot making from 15-16 feet. Yeah, we’re going to be good. We’re still going to be a tough team to beat. I think the West is stacked, especially on the top. It’s going to be tough to crack those about two, three up there but we’re sure going to try.”
Delonte West even took Dirk’s comments a step further, possibly even channeling his inner Muhammad Ali by basically saying the Mavs have the horses to shock the world.
“We have a good handful of guys that are going to go out there and shock the NBA this year,” West said. “I think we’ll be very competitive in the West but right now, most important thing is just meshing it all together, which has gone good so far. All the guys enjoy being around each other and just taking it one day at a time right now.”