Mavs regrouped, not reloaded - NBC Sports

Mavs regrouped, not reloaded
Cuban & co. rallied after losing out on Deron Williams, but Dallas still isn't a contender
AP
The fact that Mark Cuban decided to go all-in for Deron Williams or Dwight Howard makes it clear he will clear out whatever salary is needed to make a run at the next available star.
July 15, 2012, 3:07 am

You ask, we (try to) answer.

Q. So you ripped the Mavs after they lost Terry and Kidd, and didn't get Deron. What do you have to say now that they've got Kaman, Collison and Brand?
- Willard, Denton, Texas

A. That Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban and the Mavericks' personnel staff maximized their ability to regroup after Plan A failed.

What the Mavericks are left with is a roster that should yet be able to compete for a homecourt seed in the first round in the West, particularly with Rick Carlisle's ability to maximize what he is given.

But this is not a championship core, nor is it a roster with much in the way of a long-term outlook. Instead, as previously stated when the Mavericks lost out on Williams, this is a team merely buying time, something that has to be distressing to Dirk Nowitzki as the few remaining years in his prime slip away.

The one lesson in regrouping with Kaman, Collison and Brand is that the Mavericks remain a work in progress.

The fact that Mark Cuban decided to go all-in for Williams or Dwight Howard makes it clear that he will clear out whatever is needed from a salary standpoint to make a run at the next available star.

To their credit, the Mavericks refuse to sink to the bottom like other teams when it comes to rebuilding. Instead of searching for lottery picks, they continue to try to find ways to make what's good even better.

Q. Ira, I know the Heat won without a center last season. But how long can they last without any bulk in the middle?
- Chet, Fort Lauderdale

A. You raise an interesting point, in that the Heat never had to go through Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum in winning their championship. The greater point, though, is how many teams have such bruising big men?

Considering the Heat won their title while pushing past the likes of Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert and Kendrick Perkins, with Chandler good enough to be an Olympian and Hibbert good enough to (gasp!) be considered a maximum-salary player, the feeling is they have enough.

From everything Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have said this offseason, Chris Bosh will get the majority of minutes in the middle as a means of opening time at power forward for LeBron James, which will, in turn, open minutes in the perimeter rotation for Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Shane Battier.

While Pat Riley and Spoelstra refuse to quantify it as "small ball," with Bosh possessing the length of a center and James the bulk of a power forward, the reality is the game has changed and there simply is no longer the need for the Heat to force feed the likes of Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf or Dexter Pittman into the middle.

Q. Even without Dwight, I see the Nets are talking about their own big three with Deron, Johnson and Wallace. Isn't that a stretch?
- Pat, Nutley, N.J.

A. It's almost as if the Nets decided they were going to self-admit themselves into the Big Three fraternity whether they got Howard or not.

I agree that including Gerald Wallace in a Big Three is a bit of a stretch, with some possibly questioning even Joe Johnson's place in such a grouping.

When the Celtics started the current Big Three trend, it was amid the view that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all possessed Hall of Fame credentials, which is probably a pretty good place to start. It is among the reasons many have chided the Heat as having a Big 2 1/2, when factoring in Chris Bosh.

It is safe to say the entire Big Three notion has gotten out of hand, particularly in today's diluted NBA. Does Pau Gasol give the Lakers a Big Three because they also have Kobe and Nash? Do the Knicks fancy themselves as a Big Three because of the presence of Carmelo, Amare and (take your choice) either Kidd or Chandler?

With Dwight Howard, the Nets would have come closer to the modern definition of a Big Three. When including both Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace in the equation, you're probably falling short.

In fact, of the NBA's current rosters, the team that might best fit the designation arguably is the Spurs, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Q. Forgetting the size of the Rockets' offer sheet, is Jeremy Lin an All-Star level point guard?
- Richie, East Elmhurst, N.Y.

A. All-Star based on stats? Possibly. He showed that during his month of fame with the Knicks. All-Star based on taking control of an offense, actually leading a team to enduring success? It is way too early for that.

Foremost, Lin, with his current skill set, only will succeed with a team that allows for an extended dribble by their point guard, a team that does not rush into sets.

The reason the price has been set at such a stratosphere is the marketing angle, one the Knicks simply cannot afford to allow to expire. It is highly questionable whether he would mean as much to the Rockets, where he essentially would be little more than the next Goran Dragic.

Q. Won't Jason Terry be better than Ray Allen for the Celtics? Why so much about losing out on Ray?
- Paul, Arlington, Mass.

A. It all comes down to Allen's return to health from his nasty ankle issues and ensuing surgery for bone chips.

Had Allen opted to move on to Minnesota or Memphis, which both had courted him in free agency, the sense is Allen's departure would have been a non-issue in Boston, particularly with Terry joining Avery Bradley at shooting guard. But because he left for the defending champion Heat, the real concern is the Celtics' strongest rival potentially growing even stronger.

Q. So the Sixers dumped Elton Brand so they could sign Kwame Brown? Kwame Brown!
- Alex, Cherry Hill, N.J.

A. It has been a confounding offseason with the 76ers to say the least. First Lou Williams was allowed to depart in favor of Nick Young. Now Elton in favor of Kwame.

Clearly there are tax and cap concerns. But considering the 76ers stood within a game, actually minutes, of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, it is remarkable the degree of change the 76ers have opted to endure, including the transition away from Rod Thorn in the team's front office.

Will the 2012-13 76ers be better than the 2011-12 edition? At this stage, it's a difficult argument to make. Then again, Lavoy Allen was retained in free agency.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.



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