DALLAS (AP) — What a dismal offseason so far for the Dallas Mavericks, who just last summer were celebrating their first NBA championship.
They've let go of some key title pieces in moves that helped create salary-cap flexibility for this free agency period.
Except Deron Williams couldn't be swayed to play for his hometown team, their top free-agent target opting instead to stay with the Nets for their move to Brooklyn.
Guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry are both leaving in free agency. Kidd decided to go to the New York Knicks rather than take a similar three-year deal from the Mavs, and Terry is headed to Boston. Then Steve Nash bypassed a possible reunion in Dallas with good friend Dirk Nowitzki to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mavericks fans certainly have reason to feel frustrated.
"We feel the same thing internally. We were in position, we put our best foot forward," general manager Donnie Nelson said Tuesday, without mentioning any specific names. "Things didn't pan out the way that we would have hoped for. And at this point, we're in the thick of it, and we're trying to get quality, get youth, get athleticism. Be competitive next year, yet keep our powder dry for free agency in the future."
There was a bright spot for the Mavericks on the day before NBA free-agent deals came become official, as they welcomed their three draft picks to Dallas before the rookies start prepping for the summer league in Las Vegas.
Guard Jared Cunningham, post player Bernard James and forward Jae Crowder were called "solid building blocks at three different positions" by Nelson. All three could get a chance to have an early impact.
"There's going to be opportunity here," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think that's pretty obvious."
Cunningham, the first-round pick, led the Pac-12 in steals the past two seasons. As a junior at Oregon State last season, the 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17.9 points (second in the conference) and had 91 steals.
"More and more now in the league, we're getting to guys that are playmakers. ... You've got to have guys that can make plays offensively and defensively," Carlisle said. "We see him as a guy that's got some real dynamic athleticism. He's got a skill set that has a lot of upside, and we know he's a hard worker."
He also plays a position where the Mavericks definitely have a need.
But Cunningham may not get to play in summer league games because of a hamstring issue. Carlisle said the goal is to make sure the guard is completely healthy and ready to go when veteran training camp opens in late September.
The 6-foot-6 Crowder was the Big East Player of the Year last season for Marquette. James is a 27-year-old 6-10 center from Florida State, a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who served six years in the service with three tours of duty in the Middle East.
"This is a special guy. We're excited to have him here from a basketball standpoint. But we're honored to have him as part of our organization for what he's done for us and our country," Carlisle said. "That's a big deal, and you don't get a chance to draft a guy like that every day."
The coach described Crowder as one of the hardest-playing guys available in the draft and Cunningham as a competitive player.
"Getting three guys like this is a coup for us," Carlisle said.
As for free agency and the rest of the offseason, Nelson said it's clear that the Mavericks still have work to do. He wasn't ready to assess things yet.
"We're still out there with free agency and trade possibilities," Nelson said, again not offering specifics. "We're still in the process. We're looking forward to the opportunity of adding some players to the mix, and we're just in the middle of it right now. ... We want to be flexible for the future, and we want to be competitive now, and we're working our way through that."