DALLAS— Change is a funny thing, especially in the world of professional sports. It almost seems like the days of a player spending his entire career in one city are now almost completely a thing of the past. And as fans of the Dallas Mavericks know, change as in personnel change has been the norm rather than the exception when it comes to the group that brought local fans the first NBA championship in franchise history not all that long ago, in June 2011.
But as one looks at the Mavs’ roster that began training camp over the weekend, it’s not hard to see that just four players remain from that team whose magical run ended with a huge win over the hated Miami Heat in the 2011 finals-Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Shawn Marion and 2007 NBA MVP and 2011 NBA Final MVP Dirk Nowitzki.
Of course, of that quartet, only Marion and Nowitzki played significant roles on that title team, so they remain the cornerstones of what is a largely new Dallas roster heading into this season. Sure, there are a few holdovers who were added prior to last season, guys like Vince Carter, Delonte West and Brandan Wright, but The Matrix and The Big German are the two biggest names remaining from that magical squad of two seasons ago for the Mavs.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle has been coaching in the Association long enough to realize that such high roster turnover has definitely become a normal thing due to the salary cap and Mavs owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson wanting the franchise to be a player in free agency over the next few seasons, so he’s not at all surprised that Marion and Nowitzki are his only two major pieces left from the team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“This two-year period has been a turbulent one with respect to the roster. You’ve got to respect the fact that Mark [Cuban] has stuck to his guns and basically said look, we had a great run. We won the title, but in looking ahead I know how things have to change and we have to stay true to that process. We’re doing it and we ended up having a very good summer,” Carlisle said. “But there were times early on, it looked pretty rocky.”
Like his head coach, Marion has been in the league long enough to know that seeing teammates come and go on a regular basis is nothing new, so he’s just rolling with it. “It is what it is. It’s a business but we’ve got some great new guys. We’re going to make it happen,” he said.
The former UNLV star figures to again come off the bench in something of a sixth man role, one he filled quite well last season for the Mavs. Sure, the days of the high-flying Matrix who delivered one highlight reel play after another are likely long gone, but No. 0 still chipped in almost 10 points and just over seven boards while injuries limited him to just 63 games last season.
Of course, he is someone Nowitzki knows quite well as they have been teammates ever since Marion came to Dallas before the 2009-10 season via a trade with Phoenix. And if the former MVP has come to expect one thing from his fellow championship holdover, it’s that he arrives for camp in shape and ready to roll. “[Marion] looks like he’s in great shape, stayed in shape all summer,” Nowitzki said.
Besides seeing the Mavs not land Deron Williams over the summer, one of the toughest things about this recently-concluded offseason to take for the perennial All-Star was seeing the final two key pieces from that championship team, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, both depart for clubs in the Eastern Conference. Kidd is now in New York while Terry is in Boston.
“Well, I was obviously disappointed with the way July started. Of course, Deron [Williams] didn’t come and J-Kidd and Jet left, obviously two warriors that have been through a lot of stuff with me. We won the championship together, so they were like brothers to me,” Nowitzki said. “That was tough to see those two guys go somewhere else. It’s going to be weird to see them in different uniforms for sure but then, I think we’re settled in a little bit.
However, like his head coach, general manager and owner, No. 41 has enough experience at this level to realize that sometimes media, fans and even players have to realize that there is often a bigger picture to consider, definitely the case as far as turning over the roster from that championship team in such rapid fashion.
“Yeah, winning the championship that year, it was kind of tough to bring the boys back. We had a bunch of guys that were free agents and we decided to keep our salary cap open for the first time in my career here and that’s the route we took. Unfortunately, last year we had some big fish available and we didn’t get them,” Nowitzki said.
He added: “You can do two things-blow the whole thing up and start over or you’re going to keep signing guys to shorter contracts to stay a player in the free agent market the following year. That’s the route we took and I still think for that we have a heck of a team for basically saying we still want to be a player next summer and still put a decent product out there. We’re going to go out there, compete and see what happens.”