From the moment the team hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has consistently stated his desire to bring all the boys back for another title run. That message is consistent with what Nelson has told the players' agents, too.
Mark Bartelstein, agent for down-and-dirty shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who proved himself as being resilient, a hard-edged defender and quite capable of draining big 3-pointers on a championship squad, said he spoke to Nelson after the Mavs traded for shooting guard Rudy Fernandez on draft night, a move that, on the surface, said good-bye to Stevenson, an unrestricted free agent.
"I spoke to Donnie after the trade and he said that's not the case at all," Bartelstein said. "He made it very clear that he's somebody they want back."
(All talks between teams, players and agents ceased on July 1 when the collective bargaining agreement expired and the lockout started)
The trade for Fernandez put the number of players on the Mavs' 15-man roster at 16. It boosted the number of shooting guards on the roster to five and those who can play the position to seven. Six players on the roster are free agents, including Bartelstein client Brian Cardinal.
Dallas has close to $62 million locked up in players under contract for 2011-12. They dearly want to re-sign free agents Tyson Chandler (who won't come cheaply) and Caron Butler, with J.J. Barea and Stevenson also having increased their value with strong postseasons.
And, of course, no one knows what the salary cap parameters will be once a new collective bargaining agreement is enacted.
So the question regarding Stevenson has never really if the Mavs want to re-sign him, but rather can they afford to?
They 11-year veteran earned $4.15 million last season, and before the playoffs started it would have been a decent bet that Stevenson would not match or exceed that amount on the open market. However, his defensive tenacity going up against Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and coolness in burying 39.7 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs (not to mention his professional demeanor throughout the season when he could have whined -- and with reason) will supply the 30-year-old will suitors once free agency begins.
"No question," Bartelstein said, while acknowledging it is impossible to determine a market during the lockout. "He would love to be back in Dallas and defend the title."
Like Nelson said, the Mavs would love to bring them all back. Unfortunately, that will be near impossible.
Someone will have to go, and a crowded shooting guard position would seem the first place to look.