Mavs making progress in recovery process
One of the darkest periods in the history of the Dallas Mavericks has been interrupted with a dash of good news. After being staggered by Deron Williams' decision to remain with the Brooklyn Nets, the Mavs provided fans with their first glimpse at the recovery process.
And as far as good omens go, you could do a lot worse than landing an ex-Hornet center. The Mavs signed former All-Star Chris Kaman to a one-year, $8 million contract Wednesday. Kaman played with Dirk Nowitzki on Germany's 2008 Olympic team and the two remain close friends.
Having a 7-foot center who can score 13 points per game should take some pressure off Nowitzki, although Kaman has missed 142 games due to injuries over the past five seasons. Of course, there were also injury concerns about former Hornets center Tyson Chandler when he first arrived on the scene – and that worked out pretty well. Kaman won't provide the defensive presence and overall toughness of Chandler, but you get the point.
The Mavs also used a sign-and-trade to send backup center Ian Mahinmi to the Indiana Pacers for point guard Darren Collison and defensive stopper Dahntay Jones. Larry Bird couldn't have left the Pacers at a better time for the Mavs. Surely he wouldn't have approved such a one-sided trade.
Maybe the 24-year-old Collision has regressed, as some have suggested, but he's still a huge upgrade over the Mavs' incumbents at that position. Losing Jason Kidd to the New York Knicks was a blessing in disguise. He was an enormous part of the title run, but the Mavs are better off trying to develop younger players. Perhaps a new environment will energize Collision. And without Kidd around, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle will be forced to give rookie Jared Cunningham and – dare I say it – Roddy Beaubois more opportunities.
The Mavs amnestied Brendan Haywood and his albatross of a contract while adding 33-year-old power forward Elton Brand. The Sixers recently gave Brand the amnesty treatment. The Mavs signed Brand to a one-year contract, which speaks to the organization's rally cry of maintaining financial flexibility for the future.
Brand is capable of backing up both Nowitzki and Kaman. He's only 6-8, but he has a big wing span and is still a credible defensive player. To be clear, these don't qualify as blockbuster deals for the Mavs, but they should keep the team somewhat competitive next season. The goal remains to land a superstar to pair with Nowitzki at some point.
What Wednesday's flurry of moves did was put the Mavs in the running for a No. 7 or 8 playoff seed next season. Some have argued the organization would be better off taking its lumps and ending up in the lottery. But ask Sacramento and Minnesota how fun it is going through that process.
Mavs fans now take winning 50 games per season for granted. I don't think they're prepared to strip everything down in an attempt to rebuild via the draft. In fact, the experts are already predicting that next year's draft will be incredibly weak.
This is an organization that constantly talks about being "resourceful." And that's a good trait to have since Plan A has at least temporarily blown up in the Mavs' faces. Carlisle, who has a brand new contract, must figure out the best way to mesh this new roster. Kaman seems to have plenty of confidence that his new coach will know how best to use him to complement Nowitzki.
"He's more outside first and then inside second and I think the team has always spaced the floor and kind of stretched it a little because there's probably been a little bit of lack of scoring inside," Kaman said of Nowitzki while appearing on KESN-FM 103.3 on Thursday. "I'm excited to see what coach Carlisle has to put up in there. I know in the past he's had teams with good post players. I know he's a good coach, I know he knows what he's doing and I'm just excited to see what happens next with the team. It's a different team than they've had the last few years just with no Jason Kidd, no Jason Terry, so it will be interesting to see how it goes."
The Mavs didn't exactly pull off a miracle Wednesday. It just felt like it based on last week's results. But no matter how cynical you feel about the Mavs' recent strategy, at least the roster is starting to look more interesting.