The Dallas Mavericks have been out of the NBA playoffs for less than two weeks, and the team’s offseason has already been complete chaos. There have been hit pieces in the media, the team’s longtime head coach and general manager are out, and trade rumors are swirling around the players.
With all the turmoil, Mavericks governor Mark Cuban turned to the man who’s saved the franchise so many times on the court in the last two decades, Dirk Nowitzki. The question is, can Nowitzki save the Mavs off the court now as well?
The Dallas Mavericks need a new GM and head coach
The 2021 offseason started in earnest for the Dallas Mavericks after a second-consecutive playoff ouster at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers in a seven-game barn burner.
That’s when the drama began.
First, the Mavs’ second-highest-paid star, Kristaps Porzingis, took shots at Luka Doncic, sounding like he wants out of Big D. Then, a bombshell piece in The Athletic reported that Doncic and others in the organization were at odds with Haralabos Voulgaris, a professional sports gambler that Cuban hired as director of quantitative research and development in 2018.
Shortly after the report of the front office power struggle between Voulgaris and longtime general manager and president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, the GM and the Mavs reached an agreement for him to leave the organization, per ESPN.
A few days after Nelson’s departure, 13-year Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle announced he was leaving Dallas as well.
On May 25, the Mavericks held a 2-0 series lead over the Clippers. By June 17, the franchise seemed like it was a complete mess. That’s when Cuban called on the person who’s saved the team time and time again in the past.
Franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki is joining the Mavericks as a special adviser
With the ninth pick in the 1998 NBA draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected a 7-foot German prospect named Dirk Nowitzki. After 21 seasons, 31,560 points, 14 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA seasons, the 2006-07 NBA MVP Award, and winning the 2011 NBA Finals MVP while bringing the Mavericks its first and only championship, it’s safe to say the pick worked out well.
Nowitzki retired following the 2018-19 season and passed the torch to their new foreign-born star, Doncic. Now, Cuban has called on the team’s biggest superstar one more time to help the Mavs in their time of need.
According to ESPN, the soon-to-be Hall of Fame forward has accepted a “special adviser” position with the Mavericks. Nowitzki said of the role a statement:
Mark Cuban approached me about a role as special advisor and I am happy to support my Mavs. Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle were both mentors and played huge roles in my career and the success of this franchise, and I am going to miss them. It is important for me now to join Mark and contribute as much as I can as we move forward.
While the coach and GM are the first priorities for Nowitzki, they aren’t the most important.
Nowitzki and the Mavs need to resolve the Kristaps Porzingis situation and keep Luka Doncic happy this offseason
The off-court intrigue will be Nowitzki’s first challenge as part of the Mavs front office, but his success or failure will ultimately be judged on how the team fares on the court. The two most significant on-court issues of the offseason are what to do with the unhappy Porzingis and how to ensure that Doncic is happy so that he stays with Mavs for a long time, just like Nowitzki.
Bringing in the German big man is an excellent first step. The two played together in Doncic’s first season and Nowitzki’s last. They are close, and it seems that the young Slovenian respects the new special adviser more than he does Voulgaris and possibly Carlisle.
The next step is bringing in complementary stars to support Doncic. The Doncic/Porzingis pairing didn’t work, but, even though he won’t bring back a king’s ransom with his injury history, shipping out the Latvian could help bring in players that can help. P.J. Washington from the Charlotte Hornets, CJ McCollum from the Trail Blazers, or even a pair of former Toronto Raptors teammates are potential options.
Asking Nowitzki to build the organizational foundation for the next 20 years of Doncic’s career is a lot, but it is precisely what Cuban is doing. And, if anyone can put the Mavs on their back and carry them for two decades, it’s Dirk Nowitzki.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference