DONUT 1: Well, Cuban's cheap! ...
You don't mind if I swat the slowest fly first, do you?
The Dallas Mavericks under Mark Cuban have been willing to spend as much as anyone in the NBA in their chase for 12 straight playoff berths, two WCF titles and, finally, an NBA championship. His approach has been a success. A very expensive success.
The hard number: The Mavs last season spent about $105 million on player payroll, in salary and tax.
And then a championship? Worth it!
Years in which there is not a championship? C'mon, Tony Cubes, buy us some more toys!
But as I've pointed out many times, the fact that Cuban is a spendy billionaire doesn't mean there isn't a budget here. The concept of a budget is enforced by the new CBA, in which the general framework is intended to lower salary outlays and discourage teams from spending freely. (The luxury-tax penalties alone make it financial suicide to operate without a budget).
So can we dismiss this one with no more argument? Cuban has traditionally paid top dollar for pieces that fit -- pieces that fit the roster and pieces that fit the previous rules. Jason Terry will, I think, go down as a classic case of the shift.
Jet's been "overpaid'' but Dallas needed him. Jet won a title under that system. Jet's now about to face a financial squeeze due to the new rules.
Nowhere in there is the owner "cheap''; he's simply using his wallet to push as far as it is reasonable to push. The Mavs aren't "cheap,'' "dumb'' or "not trying.''
Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't "wrong.''
DONUT 2: Tyson for $20 mil ...
Chandler left Dallas last fall for a Knicks deal that pays him four years and $14.5 mil a year. In the Mavs' estimation, that represented an overcommitment in both departments -- dollars and years.
The Mavs' attempt to counter those sort of offers was to present TY with a one-year deal worth a rather incredible $20 million. There were three support beams of logic there:
*That dollar figure is quite a reward for having won a title. It comes with no guarantees of winning another one in 2011-13, but if this is a "transition year,'' why not transition with a championship-winning center?
*The one-year deal with a "max-superstar'' contract prevents Dallas from being permanently tied to a player management doesn't evaluate as being a max-superstar.
*The short-term deal keeps the Mavs' powder dry for future free-agent chases (Deron, Dwight and the like), and ...
DONUT 3: Tyson could re-sign after the one year ...
This is the part of the Chandler-Mavs negotiation, as ill-fated as it was, that's been grossly unreported: The $20 mil offer represented a huge windfall for TY (without the long-term security, obviously.) But it also included the possibility of him re-upping with Dallas in the summer of 2012.
He didn't necessarily have to leave after two years in Dallas, just like he didn't have to leave last fall. The choice would be his.
It's worth remembering, somewhere in this equation: Tyson Chandler was a free agent. The system allows him to shop himself. He did that. He received two blockbuster offers. He took one.
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DONUT 5: How the Mavs could've kept everybody ...
DB.com's David Lord did the number-crunching last fall. I am told the Mavs front-office did the same thing and came to many of the same conclusions. We knew at the time Tyson (and Caron, and Barea) desired to stay. We also knew that the Mavs wanted to retain those guys, if possible.
Was it possible?
Sure. All that had to happen was that all involved needed to recognize the Donut 1 of budget issues and tax-repeater penalties. Everybody wasn't going to be able to "get theirs''; they'd all have to give a tad.
So Tyson, Caron and Barea (along with DeShawn and Cardinal) would have to be willing to accept salaries that fit within the Mavs ongoing salary structure.
And voila! The title team would return intact!
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DONUT 7: A "so-what'' sidebar ...
So, the title team returns intact! The gang is all back!
So what? Does that guarantee a title? Meaning no disrespect, Dear Reader, but the notion that a re-signed Tyson Chandler equals back-to-back Mavericks titles is ... an immature one.
We were subjected to this knee-jerk from some quarters every time Barea had a good game in Minnesota or every time Barkley let the words "DeShawn'' spill out of his mouth. "Those guys'' won a title and Dallas would still be winning titles if "those guys'' were still here.
That's a great method to use to run a sports-talk radio show but a lousy way to run a sports franchise.
(Care to conduct a research project on who among your friends or who on press row is fully educated on how this thing works?
Ask 'em how critical they believe it is for the Mavs to budget to avoid being classified as a Tax Repeater.
Ask 'em which years in the next five such a designation, which is made if a team is a taxpayer in any four out of five years and adds an extra $1 in tax for every dollar above the tax line in addition to the other taxes being paid, should be pinpointed as the down-budget years.
Ask 'em ... aw, forget it. I can tell y'all's eyes have already glazed over.
The point is, the aforementioned is the weapon to be used by the enlighten to combat the "Do Something!'' crowd. But the "Do Something'' crowd is large, loud and unruly. "Do Something'' works well on the radio. "Coming up next, we break down the ramifications of being a Tax Repeater'' does not exactly make radio program directors swoon.)
DONUT 8: Catch the Mavs and the DB.com Staff on Twitter! ...
DONUT 9: But let's go with it. All the fellas are back! ...
It would've been done within a structure pays the superstar (Dirk) like a superstar, that pays the starters and key semi-starters who contribute full-time in the $6.5-$10M range, that pays the part-timers and backups who play a big role in the $2-$4M range, and that pays the rest the vet's minimum or less.
There would be a logical flow to it all. … a balance that may even contribute subtly to the Mavs’ locker-room chemistry strength.
With $25 mil available to spend for 2011-12, Dallas could've fit all five free agents into that very same pay structure. Ready?
Cardinal would get one year and $1 mil.
DeShawn would get two years and $2 mil.
Barea would get $3.5 mil and five years.
Butler would get $6.5 mil and four years.
And ... Tyson Chandler would get a five-year deal worth $10 million annually.
It would've worked. It might not have represented a multiple-championship Mavs team, but for the duration of this season, you would've been happy because The Boys Were Back.
The problems with the plan popped up as soon as Minnesota went nuts with Barea, when the Clippers went nuts with Caron and when the Knicks went nuts with Tyson.
(Worth noting in more depth on another day: Those teams, with their new guys, do not seem to be very close to winning titles. But the teams satisfied their fans and the ex-Mavs got their big paydays, so everybody's happy, right?)
Anyway, for what it's worth, when Tyson Chandler declared that the new rules would keep him from returning to the Mavs, he was wrong. Nothing in the rules changes stood in the way of Chandler returning.
But the Mavs' logic prevented them from paying him like he's the second-best player on a championship team. And the players involved, God bless 'em, weren't very interested in the "contractual shared sacrifice'' of playing along.
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DONUT 12: What if the logic is wrong? ...
Well, in the immediacy of the moment, the logic IS wrong. I mean, if Chandler is available against OKC in Games 1 and 2 -- two contests lost by a total of four points -- surely he makes one play (better than Big Wood or The Ianimal) and the Mavs are 2-0 right now, right?
Chandler is 30, a top-level defensive center who'll win the NBA's top honor on defense. He's also a helluva guy, a "made man'' as a Mav, and deserving of every good thing that happens to him.
But his history shows three teams giving up on him due to extensive health concerns. And in the coming "SuperTeam Era,'' locking him in financially as the Mavs' No. 2 "star'' for the next five years didn't make championship-level sense to Dallas management.
That was the logic. At this moment, it's not very comforting, as TY is winning awards, Deron is rumored to hate New Jersey less, and Dallas is down 0-2 to the Thunder.
But the Mavs' logic wasn't about the emotion of today. So let's stretch this out: Could the Mavs have paired Dirk with Tyson and still chased Deron this summer? Yes. Would that make the Mavs better than they are this week? Yes. Would it make them championship contenders for the next five years -- with a greater chance than they would otherwise have if they take a different path?
That's the answer that you cannot hear ... not even if you turn the funereal music waaaay down.
We should be used to this by now, in this sense: The decision to avoid overpaying (in the Mavs' estimation) Tyson Chandler is not dissimilar to the same decision that led to Steve Nash's depature.
Every time the post-Steve Nash Mavs have lost a game in the last seven years, somebody dutifully notes, "They woulda won had they kept Nash.'' It doesn't matter if Cuban was right or wrong in his judgment of Nash's future and Dallas' future without him (truth: he was both; Nash is still going strong but the Mavs became an even stronger team following his departure). All that matters to the "Do Somethings'' is that TODAY WAS LOST AND NASHIE WOULDA HELPED.
So it is in the moment with the post-Tyson Chandler Mavs. It happened all season long, when the Mavs lost a game. It happened after Game 1 in OKC. It happened after Game 2 in OKC. If the Mavs lose this series ... or if they advance and then lose the next series ... or hell, if they go to the NBA Finals this year and lose then ... the chorus will sing again.
They woulda won had they kept Tyson!'
The Mavs evaluation on Tyson Chandler and the franchise's future without him might be wrong. At this moment, it feels like everything the Mavs have done this season is wrong.
Of course, if KD's Game 1 ball bounces in a more likely way, and/or Dirk's Game 2 does the same, we're not having this converation.
Until the next game.
Or the next series.
Or the next season.
Or whenever the defending champion Mavs lose again, so we can have the same conversation over again.