According to a Marc Stein report, in mid-May the NBA told its owners they are guessing next season's…
Mavs Donuts: LA Volcanoes?
DONUT 1: Every NBA team needs to adjust its goals for their offseason based on how their season ended and the assets they have. For most of the last 12 or so years, the Dallas Mavericks' focus in May was to maximize playoff success. Their team would always range somewhere between ‘good' to ‘title contending' and, as is the case with most quality franchises, their success generally came with very little financial flexibility to improve their roster during the offseason.
That is certainly not the case this time around.
DONUT 2: At the absolute bare minimum, without any additional roster moves, the Mavs will have roughly $14 million dollars to throw around in free agency. More important than that, they've worked themselves into position to actually take advantage of free agency, even if the cap is only at $58.5 mil.
"Double Pipe-Dream? Not bloody likely. Maybe only slightly more realistically, they've gotten themselves in position for "The Two-Year Plan'' – the details of which make for a must-read for Mavs fans here.
That's good and all, but that flexibility came as a byproduct of a volatile roster situation and more disgruntled players than we've been used to during the Dirk Era in Dallas.
This spring, rather than worrying about their own playoff situation, the Mavericks focus on teams with free agents-to-be. It's no secret that Dallas plans to take (another) swing at a big free agent this summer, specifically Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard. Once the Mavericks were eliminated from playoff contention, the only thing they could do was pray for messy Los Angeles meltdowns from the Lakers and Clippers in order to maximize the odds that their free agents would be unhappy and walk away.
Basically, the Mavs and their fans needed to be hoping for a scenario like that Tommy Lee Jones movie where a volcano blew up in Los Angeles… except a basketball version of that.
Man, what was the name of that flick again? I'll think of it.
DONUT 3: Anyway, Dallas may have gotten its wish. To be clear, landing either of these stars is an unlikely prospect and the Mavericks know that. "One-Percent Stuff,'' we've taken to calling it. That's not going to deter them from chasing both players and presenting their case, so the best they can do right now is hope that all the cards fall their way during the pursuit. So far, that scenario has played out nicely.
DONUT 4: Chris Paul is allegedly upset because his Clippers owner, Donald T. Sterling, has thrown him under the firing-of-Del-Negro bus. This creates the image of CP3 as a coach-killer. DB.com is reporting on how the Mavs will handle Sterling's crimes against basketball humanity when the parties meet sometime shortly after midnight July 1.
By that time, with the spit hitting the fan and the money on the table, will Chris find Sterling's gaff offensive enough to bolt LA and leave that extra year of guaranteed money on the table?
DONUT 5: A not-dissimilar situation is unfolding with Dwight and the Lakers, where the team is opting to keep head coach Mike D'Antoni while two Lakers staffers who were "Dwight Whisperers'' are departing. Again, Mark Cuban and the Mavs will be on that midnight July 1 doorstep … and need to figure out a pitch that offers Dwight stability and a voice without giving him so much power that he'll drag the club down with pouting if he doesn't get his way.
DONUT 6: The Lakers and the Clippers maintain the Larry Bird Rights for Howard and Paul, respectively. What that means is both teams have the right to offer an additional year and a bigger dollar figure to their free agents, whereas other teams cannot. This rule was designed to help teams keep their star players and remains the biggest hurdle the Mavs will have to overcome in order to convince either player to walk away from that sweet California sunshine.
DONUT 7: In the case of Howard, it's more of a mental game than it is with Paul. He flat out wants to be loved by everyone. From the Mavericks' point of view, ideally they wanted to see a situation where Howard simply wasn't happy and turned into the scapegoat in a series where the Lakers fizzled out. If Howard doesn't feel the love, he'll make it known and his play will reflect that.
When Kobe Bryant went down with a torn Achilles before the playoffs started, Howard could've viewed that as a free pass. If he had gone out there, played hard, put up numbers and maybe even helped win a game or two, no one would have blamed him for the inevitable loss the Kobe-less Lakers would've suffered at the hands of the second seeded San Antonio Spurs anyway.
Still, Dwight just couldn't quite play that role.
In a series the Lakers can file away in their worst case scenario drawer, they were overwhelmed by the Spurs in a four-game sweep. The Lakers had built-in excuses with so many injuries to key players, but this was still all about Howard saving face, which he couldn't. In Game Four of the series, the Lakers and their fans saw the last of 2012-13 Dwight Howard chirping at general manager Mitch Kupchak after being ejected.
He definitely seemed unhappy in his perhaps final minutes as a Laker, and seems to have more reason for unhappiness now. But can the Mavs capitalize on that and make it known to him that he'll be "The Man" in Dallas?
Bummer for the Lakers, but best possible scenario for Mark Cuban. Who was likely watching from a big ol' comfy chair, with a cigar…and brandy? I don't know. Doing rich guy stuff.
DONUT 8: Wait. I take that back. I do know what he was, and is, doing. Look at his office desk in his home. ("In case Mavs fans wonder where my focus is this summer,'' Cuban tweets along with the photo.)
Says Cuban: "I've been grinding. I keep that trophy ... to remind me every morning what the goal is. There's no other focus right now. I've got, I don't know 70 businesses, they all know right now it's all about basketball.''
DONUT 9: Thanks, Studio Movie Grill! ...
It's DB.com's family's favorite place to beat the head and save on dinner and a movie ... It's Studio Movie Grill!
DONUT 10: After winning the first two games of their series against the Memphis Grizzlies, it seemed Chris Paul and the Clippers would not follow suit with their Los Angeles counterpart. How wrong that assessment was as the Clippers went down in spectacular fashion to Memphis in six games, losing four straight. Not to be outdone by Howard, Paul was ALSO ejected after picking up his second technical foul for gut checking Memphis center Marc Gasol. (I don't know what it is about Los Angeles, but none of their players ever want to stick around in a series when their team is getting pummeled. Ejection is the only way!)
Regardless, after Dwight Howard set the bar so high with his exit, Chris Paul topped it and Mark Cuban could not have hoped for better. The hand dealt Dallas has improved just a little bit.
DONUT 11: Now, are any of those pitch-meeting arguments worth an extra year and around $30 million to Paul or Howard? That is the big question and history says no. "One-Percent Stuff,'' and don't let the details we continue to gather about "The Pitch 1 and 2'' distract you from that fact.
As the Mavs' front office is well aware, money and job security always seems to trump everything else when it comes to contracts in the NBA. Part of what they have been doing this offseason is hoping the cards fell their way in the first round. They did. Next, Paul and Dwight have found themselves in alleged conflict with their bosses. Those are two more cards they've been fortunate to have been dealt.
There are plans for a third target, and a fourth … an entire board of rankings of free agents. (And yes, DB.com has collected the details on where Andrew Bynum's name rests, especially as it relates to the "stretch provision.'') Secure in the belief that there are a series of backup plans, there is nothing wrong with some level of focus on the two LA situations, on the anticipation of pitch meetings with Paul (the No. 1 guy) and Dwight (the No. 2 guy) and the hope for more West Coast explosions …
"We're going to be everywhere,'' Cuban says. "We're not the only ones hunting for the big free agents. The guys who are really impactful players want to look for the best situation, not only from a financial perspective, but also from a team perspective and a team strategy perspective. Where are things going with the organization? We've got a good track record, we've got an organization that is well-respected. It's not about who talks to them first.''
DONUT 12: Volcano! That's the name of the Tommy Lee Jones 1997 classic. Nailed it.