Mavs have high hopes for big offseason prizes

Never has a Los Angeles meltdown been met with more high-fives in Dallas. Well, the sweep of the defending champion Lakers two years back was pretty darn close.

But what’s transpired for LaLa Land’s two basketball franchises over the past couple of weeks has Mavericks fans absolutely giddy with hope.

Same goes for the front office, as a snowball’s chance suddenly looks a little sunnier. The two show ponies of this summer of free agency both reside in Los Angeles … for now. Chris Paul’s Clippers and Dwight Howard’s Lakers were both bounced in the first round, bringing to a close two vastly different but equally disappointing seasons.

That’s gotta help the Mavericks’ chances of landing one, right?

“Doesn’t hurt,” a team source said.

The Big Fish strategy that fell short in the Deron Williams’ chase is resurrected and focused squarely on Southern California. Think of it, Mark Cuban can personally make a Hollywood recruiting pitch AND tape Shark Tank.

And why would CP3 and/or Howard buy what Cuban and the Mavericks are selling? Why now, especially since Dallas missed the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years and Dirk Nowitzki will be 35 when the training camp rolls around?

Let’s first consider what Paul and Howard would be leaving in L.A. They’ve both said they’re going through the free-agency process for the first time in their careers. Free agency means free-agent visits. Dallas, if nothing more than a bargaining chip, figures to get a meeting from both.

Yes, the Clippers are coming off the best regular season in franchise history (56-26) and the first Pacific Division title. They’re bloated with talent, starting with KIA shill Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford.

The Clips leapfrogged the Lakers in the hearts of many Los Angelenos on the basketball fence. Dunk City became a phenomenon. Cliff Paul, a heartthrob.

And what did all that add up to? Six first-round games. Four straight losses. To a lower-seeded team. This is the Clippers’ best season ever and they’re done. They’re done in the same round as the Bucks.

Since the franchise relocated to California in 1978 – San Diego, mind you – the Clippers have advanced past the first round twice. That’s in 35 years. Puts the Mavericks’ downturn of the last two years in perspective, doesn’t it?

The Clippers are also mulling Vinny Del Negro’s future despite those 56 wins. Vinny could be gone in the next week or so. Do you trust Donald Sterling to find AND pay the right coach? Not exactly a track record of excellence out of that guy.

Cuban, as we’ve heard since the end of 41-41, is embarrassed and determined never to repeat this season again. He’s got mega-millions in salary-cap room, one of the league’s top three coaches and stay-up-at-night purpose.

Bet your first billion Cuban’s in the room if and when there’s a sit down with Paul. Cubes will be there to close. Not Michael Finley.

As much as the Mavericks salivate over basketball’s premier floor general, the better bet could be the NBA’s best true center. Dwight Howard was supposed to be the Lakers’ next in a legendary line of big men. Wilt, Kareem, Shaq … Dwight?

The dynasty never arrived. Despite the grand entrances of Howard and Steve Nash, the Lakers spent most of the season below .500 and only won four more games than Dallas. Yeah, just four.

Yes, the Lakers had injuries, but didn’t Nowitzki miss 29 games? You gotta think Dirk and Dwight together on the frontline is worth more than four wins, plus what promises to be a revamped Dallas backcourt and bench.

And there’s the Kobe Factor. In what shape does Kobe return from his ruptured Achilles for his (supposed) last season? Does Dwight really want to preside over a Lakers’ rebuilding project and take all the heat that comes along with unmet expectations?

Superman II can come to Dallas a hero, running alongside Nowitzki for a few more years as Cuban writes out checks for another Big Fish or two. At some point, someone in that elite group is going to take Cuban’s cash.

Perhaps it doesn’t happen this summer with either Paul or Howard. Perhaps they stay put, sticking with the SoCal franchises that traded for them. But the Mavericks’ chances look better than last week.

Two first-round setbacks made sure of that.