Updated: December 6, 2012, 4:16 AM ET

1. Mavs, Clippers A Lesson In NBA Business

By J.A. Adande

LOS ANGELES -- You didn't need any Instagram effects to make Wednesday night's game between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers look retro. Five participants in the game at Staples Center were in the NBA when the building opened for the 1999-2000 season: Derek Fisher, Elton Brand, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom.

And, believe it or not, this was a glimpse into the future of the league.

You know what makes Carter, Brand, Fisher, as well as Chris Kaman so appealing to the Mavericks? They don't have to pay any of them next year. Brand, Kaman and Fisher are on one-year contracts, and the Mavericks have a team option on Carter. It's all about maintaining flexibility for the next step, recognizing the changing NBA landscape under the new collective bargaining agreement with its shorter, less expensive contracts. All I could think of was this was the manifestation of a conversation I had with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on opening night.

"You've got to do a reset, because [right now] you've got a combination of old contracts and new contracts," Cuban said that night, before the Mavericks beat the Lakers. "Once we get more into teams being filled with just new contracts, it won't be as ... draconian. You saw what we did, and OKC [is] going through the same process."

Derek Fisher
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillDerek Fisher got the start Wednesday night at Staples Center and chipped in 15 points.

That means farewell to continuity. We all know about Oklahoma City breaking up its Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-James Harden trio, but did you realize that on Wednesday the Mavericks used more former Clippers (Brand and Kaman) in this game than they did members of their 2011 championship team (Marion)?

It might seem harsh and relegate the players to assets instead of people. The thing about veterans is they fully understand these aspects of the profession. They're under no illusion and are unfazed by the prospects, even if it means they could be next.

"You see the business side of it," Brand said. "You see Eddy Curry come in, he's gone. You see Troy Murphy come in, he's gone. We signed Derek Fisher from the couch. You see the business side of it. At the same time, you're at the point in your career, you don't worry about stats, you worry about wins. Because when you win, that's a vet that was on a winning team. That's more important than getting points on a bad team."

It might seem contradictory, but the reason the Mavericks have gone so old is so they can start a youth movement. Midcareer players might not be so willing to take one-year contracts that can allow the Mavericks to start rebuilding.

"Teams will try to go younger sooner and extend their guys sooner, because you're signing them at a lower base," Cuban said. "That will allow you to keep teams together if you build through the draft. If you build via trades or older free agents, it's going to be a lot more difficult because the dollars are a lot higher."

Any reconstruction process involves pain. It's almost a given that teams have to slip before they can improve. Clearing out contracts, being bad enough for high lottery picks -- that all is the uncomfortable part of the process. Cuban knew that was the case when he let championship pieces such as Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Jason Terry depart. All he wanted was to at least remain, in his word, "decent."

The Clippers have already gone through the suffering. Decades of suffering. The payoff is they now have their pieces in place; Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe are three of the most athletic young players in the game, plus a franchise player in Chris Paul.

All the Mavericks could do was gaze in the air as the Clippers flew past them, the gap in athleticism every bit as wide as the 112-90 final score in the Clippers' victory. There were lobs, including a midair spin by Bledsoe on an alley-oop, and self-initiated jams such as Caron Butler's driving baseline slam on Kaman and Jordan's jaunt from half court to the hoop with only one dribble.

Odom even chipped in 11 rebounds against the team with which he spent part of one season that brought nothing but frustration for both sides.

"I'm getting better and working hard to do what I need to do to help this team," Odom said.

At one point during the game Odom and Brand, Clipper teammates for two years a decade ago, were next to each other. Brand wondered, "You still love it, right?"

Odom replied: "I'm still here."

That was the hidden element to this game. As coldly calculated as this Mavericks roster might appear, it contains a lot of passion for basketball. Brand could have collected $16 million from the Philadelphia 76ers without leaving the house, thanks to the amnesty provision. He didn't want to give up ball. Yes, he'll get an extra $2 million from the Mavericks, but at this stage, after banking $143 million in his career, a couple million more is just tip money for the help.

"It's such a blessing and honor to be in the NBA," Brand said. "You dream about it as a kid. Now you're 33 years old. You just want to give everything you can. The game deserves that."

Fisher could be sitting around polishing his five championship rings. Instead, in what even came as a surprise to him, he started Wednesday's game.

"I love the work, the time, the self-discipline that's required to be at your best," Fisher said. "Those are things I still love."

There was also frustration and a little discouragement in the locker room, another lost night in the ongoing struggle without star Dirk Nowitzki. The Clippers were encouraged, but did just enough wrong for coach Vinny Del Negro to cite a need to "tighten up."

Coaches keep coaching, players keep playing, front offices mind the finances. Those elements are always in play. Wednesday night it just seemed a little clearer.

Dimes past: Nov. 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23-24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30-Dec. 1 | 3 | 4

2. Around The Association


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?