The offseason plan Dallas Mavericks fans never envisioned has arrived with a thud.
The grand plan had its merits. Owner Mark Cuban saw the new collective bargaining agreement coming, understanding that significantly harsher tax penalties and more restrictive rules for luxury violators that void sign-and-trades and devalue exceptions would be the law of the land.
Cuban strategically organized his payroll to create cap space for this summer and beyond, the weapon needed to chase elite-level free agents like Deron Williams.
But what happens when the All-Star free-agent says no?
Mavs fans are finding out, and it isn't pretty. How can you not call the current state rebuilding? Meanwhile, around the league, money is being thrown around as if a bitter lockout never happened. Will the Nets, Knicks and Lakers get caught in an inflexible financial pickle in three or four years while the cautious Mavs have the last laugh?
Maybe. But Plan A was to land that star now to chase another title in the latter portion of Dirk Nowitzki's prime.
So what now?
Cuban is determined to keep cap space open for next summer when Chris Paul and Dwight Howard potentially hit the market. It's why he refused to engage in a bidding war for a player such as Goran Dragic, who signed a four-year, $34 million deal with Phoenix. Still, there are no guarantees that CP3 and D12 will ever reach free agency in '13. When Cuban decided not to re-sign Tyson Chandler after the 2011 title to pursue a star this summer, Paul and Howard were set to join Williams as free agents now.
Free agency now becomes a pursuit of young talent on the cheap, players the Mavs can sign for one season, maybe two depending on price, with an eye on next summer.
Dallas has interest in point guard Ramon Sessions, shooting guard and Dallas native C.J. Miles and small forward Anthony Randolph, among others. They have four of their own free agents still unsigned in Delonte West, who figures to be a strong candidate to return unless he gets the security of more years elsewhere, backup center Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal and Yi Jianlian.
The Mavs have interest in claiming Philadelphia forward Elton Brand through the amnesty waiver process, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Teams under the salary cap will have first shot to bid for Brand. The Sixers can't officially amnesty him until next Wednesday when the NBA resumes business operations.
It is indeed a new day for the Dallas Mavericks.