The re-loaded Dallas Mavericks appeared anything but as their season ended with a Game 5 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. Rick Carlisle’s team looked old and short-handed for the duration of its first-round series, only given little life by the late insertion of spare parts Al-Farouq Aminu and J.J. Barea into the starting lineup.
Dallas’ re-built starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler appeared in just a single postseason contest, getting outscored by 16 points in just over 16 minutes of play during Game 1. And while Parsons’ knee injury likely contributed to his team’s playoff demise more than Rondo’s abrupt departure from the Mavericks, it’s the latter development that stands to pose a greater long-term impact on the franchise.
Though it’s clear that Dallas effectively surrendered Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, and valuable draft assets for a disastrous half-season with Rondo, Nowitzki still doesn’t lament the front office’s decision to trade for the disgruntled floor general. The future Hall-of-Famer even defended the acquisition of Rondo and praised the Mavericks’ decision-makers for their aggressiveness after his 17th season officially came to a close.
Here’s Dirk via Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:
“We had to do it,” Nowitzki said of the deals. “I thought Cubes [owner Mark Cuban] and Donnie [Nelson, general manager] did everything to put us in a position to win. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll see what happens this summer
“If you can get a player like Rondo, I think you go for it every time. I don’t think anybody is looking at that now. It was a deal that was there and that we went for. It just didn’t pan out for both sides and both sides moved on. Mark and Donnie always try to make this team better. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a gamble, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Though it seems hard to believe now, Dallas was almost universally lauded for getting Rondo immediately after the deal was completed. Collective thinking went that the Mavs’ would continue scoring near a league-best rate while improving on the other end as a result of the four-time All-Star’s presence, and that he’d be a major boon when the lights grew brighter in the playoffs, too.
Obviously, that never proved the case. The on-court concerns we initially voiced over Rondo’s fit in Dallas came to fruition, he clashed with Carlisle, and it became apparent he simply isn’t player he was for the Celtics before tearing his ACL in 2013. The trade looked bad before Rondo and the Mavericks mutually parted ways after Game 2, and became an unmitigated failure following that contentious separation.
But Nowitzki’s assessment is more than organizational lip service. Cuban is trying to make the best of his legend’s twilight by surrounding him with as much talent as possible, and dealing for Rondo is just the latest example of that strategy. Dallas has been a legitimate player for basketball’s marquee free agents each of the last three summers – Deron Williams was first, Dwight Howard second, and Carmelo Anthony next – but simply lost out to other bidders.
The Mavericks would prefer to pair Nowitzki with a superstar as opposed to secondary and tertiary impact players; they make that clear on the free agent market every July. Dreams of contention can’t die with those failures, though, and Dallas has made an effort to replicate them by less than ideal means of roster improvement.
But at least it’s trying as opposed to re-building while Nowitzki’s career winds down. And as long as Dirk understands the potential pitfalls of that approach, don’t expect the Mavericks to change it anytime soon – despite this recent failure.