DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks have surrounded Dirk Nowitzki with a bunch of veteran newcomers and a lot of players with one-year deals.
After being unable to persuade Deron Williams to come home to play and team up with their 11-time All-Star, the Mavericks now seem like they are holding season-long auditions. While trying to get back in the playoffs this season, they are also keeping financial flexibility if they want to take another stab at a big-name free agent next summer.
"We had some big fish available and we didn't get them. So you can do either of two things, blow the whole thing up and start over, or keep signing guys to short contracts to stay a player in the free agent market the following year," Nowitzki said. "For basically saying we still want to be a player next summer, we still put a decent product out there. We're going to compete and see what happens."
One big kink in the plan is that Nowitzki won't be playing with Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo or the three draft picks at the start of the season.
Nowitzki, 34 and going into his 15th NBA season, is recovering from his first surgery and the eight newcomers will have to start without him.
The 7-foot German had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 19 after problems with swelling early in training camp. He will likely miss at least the first 10 games, and probably more. Nowitzki had issues with the same knee two seasons ago when the Mavs won their only NBA title, then skipped a week last January to strengthen and condition that knee.
Collison, who came from Indiana in a trade with Jones, takes over as the starting point guard after Jason Kidd left in free agency for the New York Knicks.
"We have new players on the team, you have to know how to jell, that's going to be our biggest issue," Collison said. "The talent is definitely there. Everybody can score, but we've got to learn to play together."
Coach Rick Carlisle wants Collison to be like Kidd in setting the pace for the offense while calling the plays.
Kaman, when healthy, gives the Mavericks a legitimate center. Durability is an issue for the 7-footer who missed 152 games the last five seasons and was bothered in training camp with a sprained back and a strained right calf.
Before playing in New Orleans last season, Kaman was with the Los Angeles Clippers for eight years, five of those with Brand. Kaman played with Nowitzki on the German national team.
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