We’ve known for weeks that the Mavericks’ sales pitch to Dwight Howard would be headlined by their four horsemen.
Who were those other two guys with Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson, Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki? And what could they have contributed to the pitch?
The other two members of the Mavs’ party were head athletic trainer Casey Smith and director of basketball analytics Roland Beech.
As far as their contributions go, we don’t know for certain because the Mavs have been mum about their meeting with Howard, as opposed to the Rockets and Lakers, who made official statements and leaked all kinds of details about their pitches. We can offer some informed speculation, though.
The Mavs consider Smith the league’s premier athletic trainer and see him as a recruiting asset, especially for veteran big men who have had injury issues. They can use his impact on Tyson Chandler’s career as evidence.
When Chandler arrived in Dallas, he was an overpaid, oft-injured center who missed a total of 68 games with ankle and foot problems the previous two seasons and flunked a physical to kill a trade that would have sent him to Oklahoma City. When Chandler left Dallas, he was an NBA champion with a four-year, $56 million contract.
Howard obviously doesn’t need any help getting paid, but he is a season and a half removed from back surgery and fought through shoulder injuries for most of 2012-13. It’d be a wise move to have Smith map out a potential treatment plan to not only keep Howard healthy for the next four years but extend his career as long as possible.
Plus, Howard and Smith, who is extremely popular with players he’s worked with, probably have a good relationship from their days together on Team USA. (The fact that Smith has that job indicates that the Mavs aren’t the only ones who consider him to be elite in his profession.) It can only help to have a friendly, familiar face in the room with Howard.
Beech could have been a counterpunch to the Rockets and MIT-educated general manager Daryl Morey’s claim to being ahead of the analytical curve. Of course, Cuban was at the forefront of the NBA’s statistical revolution long before Morey even had a job in the league.
Beech’s role could have been as simple as offering statistical support throughout the course of the meeting, including when the Mavs presented various scenarios for how they could build a contender around Howard.
But I’d be willing to bet that Beech’s numbers included some stats that hammered home the Mavs’ contention that Dirk Nowitzki was much better suited to complement Howard’s offensive skills than ball-dominating shooting guards Kobe Bryant and James Harden.
Smith and Beech certainly aren’t nearly as well known as, say, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. But the two relatively anonymous Mavs staffers very well could have given Howard more to think about than the two Houston legends who were part of the Rockets’ pitch in L.A.