Mavs' moves keep the dream alive

As far as damage control goes, this was a job well done by the Dallas Mavericks' front office.

Their moves this week certainly don't make the Mavs' summer a success. It was big fish-or-bust for Dallas after Mark Cuban and crew made the December decision that they'd rather chase a superstar than commit to Tyson Chandler.

After Deron Williams didn't take the hook, it's pretty much guaranteed that there won't be another championship parade in downtown Dallas next June. So there shouldn't be any wild celebrations after collecting cost-conscious consolation prizes: center Chris Kaman, point guard Darren Collison, shooting guard Dahntay Jones and maybe forward/center Elton Brand.

But credit the Dallas decision-makers for patching together a roster that should be good enough to keep the franchise's dozen-year playoff streak alive. And, more importantly, the Mavs managed to keep the dream alive.

In fact, this week's quickie construction of a solid yet temporary supporting cast could help Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson make the dream a reality next summer.

Not that the complementary pieces picked up this week will necessarily stick around if the Mavs manage to get Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to pair with Dirk Nowitzki. But the rapid roster reconstruction, particularly the sign-and-trade that sent out-of-the-plans backup center Ian Mahinmi to the Pacers for Collison and Jones, offer proof that this front office can piece together a supporting cast on the fly under the new collective bargaining agreement.

"I don't want to toot my own horn," Nelson said, "but when you look at our track record, we've been fairly creative when it comes to free agency and trades and acquisitions and what have you."

Hey, if the Mavs would have honked a little harder, Williams might have come home.

Rip the Mavs' decision to go in a different direction after finally winning a title if you wish, but their plan came painfully close to paying off in the first week of free agency. The Mavs' failure was not getting Williams to trust that they'd be able to build a roster around Nowitzki and him.

The previous dozen years of effectively shuffling the deck around Dirk apparently didn't matter. Williams didn't buy Mavs management's buzz phrases about financial flexibility and being opportunistic but smart while the NBA landscape shifts under the new CBA.

"Teams that stay flexible and teams that have more options available to them will be able to weather the storm," Nelson said. "That's been our mantra."

That'll be part of their pitch if Howard and/or Paul actually hit the free-agent market this time around. It'd sure as heck help if Nowitzki put up 25 points per game this season, providing evidence that he has plenty of prime left as he hits his mid-30s.

Let's be blunt: It'll be a miracle if the Mavs win a playoff series this season despite upgrades at center and point guard. (No offense, Jason Kidd, but you're a backup in your old age. Collison is a lightning-quick 24-year-old who actually finishes at the rim.) The Mavs ought to be good enough to claim a postseason berth and get bounced by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers or San Antonio Spurs.

The Mavs, who caught lightning in a bottle during their lone-star title run, need to land another superstar to be legitimate contenders again. There isn't a penny committed to any of the newcomers after this season, so the Mavs' powder will be dry to make max-contract pitches to Howard and Paul.

Plus, with Howard and Paul both spending a lot of their free time in L.A., filming "Shark Tank" shouldn't prevent Cuban from being part of the Mavs' face-to-face meetings with the big fish next summer.