Guards top list in another Mavericks makeover
DALLAS — Monta Ellis says he had to do “60 percent of everything” in Golden State and Milwaukee.
Since the new Dallas Mavericks guard might use that to explain why he shot an alarmingly low 29 percent from 3-point range last season, he’s about to find out if a little help will make any difference.
That’s because new backcourt mate Jose Calderon wants to be the facilitator for Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki and everyone else on a roster that is going through its third makeover in as many seasons.
“Maybe not going to be fancy passes for me,” Calderon said with a smile. “Just effective. That’s what I do.”
Ellis and Calderon were among seven free agents introduced in Dallas on Thursday. The list included an old Maverick in Devin Harris, who started his career in Dallas as a top five pick nine years ago, and a returning one in Brandan Wright, who figures to be the backup to another newcomer in Samuel Dalembert.
Harris was in a walking boot after toe surgery that could sideline him until early in the season. The others on stage with him were guard Wayne Ellington and forward/center DeJuan Blair, who’s coming over from the rival San Antonio Spurs.
Calderon and Ellis were the focal point because they are eight-year veterans coming in on long-term contracts after a failed one-year experiment with Darren Collison at point guard and O.J. Mayo in the shooting role.
It’s the first time Dallas owner Mark Cuban has committed to anything beyond a year since he decided not to bring back key pieces of the franchise’s first championship team in 2011.
“Forget last year,” said Cuban, whose team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000. “I think we’ve got a good basketball IQ at the point guard with Jose and when Devin comes back. I think Monta is a smart basketball player whether he’s playing the one or the two. So I think we’re going to be able to do a lot more, a lot of different things than we were able to do last year.”
Ellis made the playoffs in his only full season with Milwaukee, but it was a rough year. He matched his career low by shooting 42 percent overall, and his scoring average dropped for the third straight season. The Bucks were swept by Miami in the first round.
“When you’re in a place where you’re unhappy, it’s very hard to perform to your best ability,” said Ellis, declining to discuss his time with the Bucks in more detail by saying he “left it in Milwaukee.”
“So this is a new beginning, a new fresh start, better organization, better teammates,” he said. “It’s going to make everybody, everything a lot more better.”
The 27-year-old Ellis figures he has one other reason to think his numbers will improve: Rick Carlisle. He says the Mavericks coach “took the initiative” to start building a relationship with the player who could be Dallas’ first leading scorer not named Nowitzki since 2000.
“That was a great sign for me to know that he’s here for me,” said Ellis, who signed a three-year deal worth between $25 million and $30 million. “He’s here for the team. Every player on the roster is the same. I heard that through a lot of players who played with him and I played with them. That’s his personality and I think it’s going to help us a lot.”
Ellis averaged 19.2 points per game last season, three years removed from his career high of 25.5 in 2009-10 with Golden State. Ellis also was with the Warriors in 2007 when they stunned the 67-win Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs.
That’s the only playoff series victory for either Ellis or Calderon, who had first-round exits in two postseason trips with Toronto. He spent his first seven seasons with the Raptors before a midseason trade to Detroit last January.
But the 31-year-old has plenty of big-game international experience with Spain, losing the gold medal game to the U.S. in the past two Olympics and winning a world championship in 2006. He signed a four-year, $29 million contract with Dallas.
“Yes, the last few years I didn’t make the playoffs with my team, but I already played those kinds of games,” said Calderon, who has career averages of 10.1 points and 7.2 assists per game. “No problem at all, so hopefully we can do something here in a few months about being in those playoffs.”
The Mavericks missed out on Dwight Howard in free agency, with the 7-foot center choosing state rival Houston. During a news conference attended by several hundred season ticket holders, Cuban reiterated his belief that the Mavericks ended up in better shape because they got several players instead of one.
And Carlisle showed that he’s once again ready to lead a retooled team.
“It’s exciting to have this kind of new blood on our roster,” Carlisle said.
The new roster starts with the new guards.