Storyline: Mavericks Front Office

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As for the Greek Freak: Who made final call to pass him up, and why? “It was me,” Cuban said. “Donnie [Nelson] was like, ‘OK, I’m putting my you-know-whats on the table.’ He was doing the Sam Cassell, Nick Van Exel dance. … It’s all in. And I’m like, ‘Donnie, we have this plan.’ Because even as good as the Greek Freak has turned out to be, he was still three years away, and we wanted to try to get somebody who could help get us to the top right there and then. Didn’t turn out that way, it is what it is, that happens.”

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Making an appearance on the ESPN telecast of the Mavs’ Las Vegas Summer League game against Phoenix on Sunday, Cuban said things would different if his team — coming off its first losing season since he took over in 2000 — were in the Eastern Conference. “We’re rebuilding, there’s no question about it,” said Cuban, who made headlines in May when he admitted the Mavericks tanked after being eliminated from playoff contention. “If we were in the East, we would not be rebuilding. We’d be handling things completely different.”

But with the Mavs eager to retool this summer in order to build a championship contender, Nowitzki says he’s ready to work with team owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson to help with the reconstruction of the roster. “You know, if you go on with a team like I have for so long, if that’s what it takes, I guess that’s what it takes. I did that decision last summer when I decided to sign on,” Nowitzki explained after completing the first season of a reported two-year deal worth $50 million. “I obviously knew there was a possibility (of rebuilding), and at the end of the day I just can’t imagine myself in a different uniform, so that’s why I made that decision. Whatever comes, if we’re rebuilding, then I’m the face of that. If we’re (competing) for a championship, then I’m here for that.”

“Unfortunately, since there’s no playoffs, we’ve got plenty of time now,” Nowitzki candidly said. “I’ll be around for a while, and I’m sure we’ll meet with Mark and with Donnie. You know, [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] will be here and even [leading scorer Harrison Barnes], and we’ll just see how we can help and how we can make this better. Maybe I’ll be in the draft room this year, if that’s what it takes. … I think we’ve got plenty of time over the next few weeks to set a plan, execute the plan on draft day hopefully and maybe in free agency, and we’ll go from there.”

From Cuban’s perspective, having a top-notch coach is just as critical to success as finding a top-notch player. And when it comes to Carlisle, Cuban believes he’s one of the top three in the business. “I’ve said a million times, hiring a coach is the hardest job in professional sports,” Cuban said. “And we got lucky; we’ve got a good one.” Carlisle is the franchise’s winningest coach with 411 victories and ranks 19th on the NBA’s all-time list with 692 wins. He needs just five more victories to pass Red Holzman for 18th place on that illustrious list, and just eight more to become the 18th coach with at least 700.
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September 25, 2017 | 4:38 pm EDT Update