Friday, July 27, 2012

Off-season added versatility to Dallas Mavericks - Fort Worth Star Telegram

DALLAS -- Except for perhaps a few tweaks here and there, the Dallas Mavericks have finished all of their off-season wheeling and dealing.

The Mavericks didn't complete their No. 1 off-season mission of signing free-agent point guard Deron Williams. But they obtained Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder in the draft and added veterans Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand and Dahntay Jones.Was it enough to win over the fans and get the Mavericks back in the playoffs for a 13th straight season?"Let's hope so," general manager Donnie Nelson said. "As you know everything looks good on paper."With veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brandan Wright, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones also back, Nelson likes the versatility coach Rick Carlisle has at his disposal."You could put Mayo at the point, Carter at shooting guard, Marion at small forward, Dirk at power forward and Kaman at center," Nelson said. "We've had success with the three-guard lineup."A big part of the [2011 NBA] Finals run was putting Jason Terry and J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd out there together, so we certainly know the small-ball game. But to put a bigger lineup out there with O.J. at the point is really intriguing.''The additions of Kaman and Brand offer the Mavericks something they haven't had in a while -- legitimate interior scorers. That could lessen the low-post scoring load on Nowitzki."In our front court we're really, really excited because between Kaman and Elton Brand, those are two guys you can throw the ball to in the low post," Nelson said. "Those are veteran guys who can create shots and opportunities and can pass it and are team players."We feel like our front line can go against pretty much anybody in the West and more than hold their own. We've got a bigger front line that I think is going to be a bear to contend with in the West."While the additions of Kaman and Brand won't transform Nowitzki into the Mavericks' second-best player, it's a start."He's been a great player for a long period of time, but we've got to take some pressure off him," Nelson said of Nowitzki. "We've got to give him some support where he doesn't have to score on an incredible fade-away every other time down the floor."With Brand and Kaman it gives you more firepower in your offensive line, so you don't have to go to Dirk every other possession."Mayo believes Kaman and Brand will go out of their way to prove to naysayers that they're not ready to be put out to the NBA pasture."Kaman and Elton, they both feel like I feel," Mayo said. "They have a chip on their shoulders to come in and show they still have it in them to come in and get it done."As far as the Mavericks' backcourt goes, Nelson likes the ingredients Dahntay Jones, Mayo, Collison and Cunningham bring to the table, particularly when it comes to speed, athleticism and defense."In our backcourt we have a nice athletic punch where we can get up to people defensively," Nelson said. "Now we have the ability to get in the paint and create things."Collision can get in there and create havoc, Roddy can get in there. You've got a number of guys who can do that."All in all, the Mavericks have eight players who are 27 years old or younger."We've got experience and youth, and we're more athletic," Nelson said. "These young guys are athletic and exciting."Our hope is that we have a really nice blend of young and old. I think we've had a terrific run, but we've got a new team and we're really fired up about it."Nelson also is fired up about the Mavericks' ability to remain flexible. Next summer every Mavericks player except Nowitzki, Marion and Cunningham can potentially become a free agent.That's critical, because it allows the Mavericks to maintain their salary cap flexibility so they can pursue high-powered free agents such as Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, James Harden and Serge Ibaka."Free agency is always an adventure," Nelson said. "Certainly we got knocked on our butts the first week [of July], but you've got to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get back in the game, and that's what we attempted to do."We came out of a real tough situation with D-Will and bounced back, and we had some nice pickups. It opens your mind for the playoffs."Dwain Price, 817-390-7760Twitter:@DwainPrice

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