“Like last year with Deron Williams, our free agency can’t depend on just one name this year,” Nowitzki said before taking batting practice to prepare for his Heroes celebrity baseball game, which will be played Saturday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. “We’re not going to sign eight, nine one-year deals again. We tried that; it didn’t really work last year.
“So there’s plenty of other options out there, I think. You can plug holes with really, really good players -- maybe not superstars but really, really good players -- and still be a playoff team. If that’s the route we have to take if Dwight says no, I’m sure Mark (Cuban) and Donnie (Nelson) will find the right mix of guys.”
When the Mavs’ front office decided that creating salary cap space was more important than keeping their 2011 title team together, they anticipated that three superstars would be available in the 2012 summer free-agency market: Williams, Howard and Chris Paul.
Howard and Paul didn’t opt out of their contracts, ending up moving to the two Los Angeles teams and delaying their entrance into free agency for a year. The Mavs swung and missed at Williams -- a half-hearted attempt by Cuban, who didn’t take part in the face-to-face recruiting pitch.
The Mavs’ hopes to convince Paul to leave L.A. for Dallas this summer essentially died with the Clippers’ hiring of coach Doc Rivers.
“With them getting Doc, that’s pretty much a wrap,” Nowitzki said. “I think everybody knows that. So there’s already one free agent gone that’s a game-changer and Dwight’s obviously another and next.
“How do I feel? I don’t know. There were reports yesterday that we were in the lead, but I don’t buy into all that. You have to wait until he makes a final decision, and then I’ll get excited or be down.”
However, if Howard doesn’t come to Dallas, Dirk is determined not to be down for long. He mentions names like Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings, Utah center Al Jefferson and Denver swingman Andre Iguodala as examples of players who can help the Mavs return to the playoffs.
Putting together a playoff-caliber roster is apparently the face of the franchise’s standard for a successful summer.