Dallas Mavericks: Unable to Land Marquee Free Agent

Dallas Mavericks fans are still waiting for the team to sign a marquee free agent. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi
Dallas Mavericks fans are still waiting for the team to sign a marquee free agent.
Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Darius Williams

Like a repeating scene from the 1982 teen flick The Last American Virgin, the Dallas Mavericks and the City of Dallas indirectly seem to always be standing in the kitchen with a broken heart. Tears welling up as the player they wined, dined and were led into believing will become “an item” is hugged up kissing the more popular and more handsome team…yet again!

If you are under age 40, a trip to your local movie rental store to rent this dramatic comedy may be in order to relate to the above paragraph. Maybe just being someone who has throughout life had a tendency of always coming up just short of attaining something that was greatly pursued. Such rejections can send you spiraling into depression if not equipped with the intestinal fortitude to overcome the disappointment.

Depressed generally is not the way the Mavericks are viewed. Seems like every National Basketball Association off-season the Mavericks front office is playing host to some young hot-shot player who has made it to free agency and “really would love to be a Maverick.” Never do the tour of the American Airlines Center and trip to Uptown for luxurious loft viewings lead to that player inking a long-term deal with the team. The DVD players in each player locker and the plush chairs have yet to prove effective in uprooting the player from his current residence. The 20,000-threadcount robes the players have hanging in their lockers must not be as soft as advertised obviously because not a single top-tier free agent in the last decade has decided to don one.

Dallas, Texas, should be a place that often is targeted by prospective free agents. Currently ranked as the ninth-largest city in America with more than 1.2 million residents, Dallas compares favorably with any large metropolis. Better known as the home of ‘America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, the city has more than 50 years of credibility as a sports town. The fan base won’t be confused with the fanatics you may see at an Oakland Raiders game or spew the same venom as the collection of misfits who fill the stands for the Philadelphia Eagles. Support from those who follow the Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars and Rangers can be unlike any other in the country. The Mavericks in particular have played in front of a sold-out crowd for the better part of 15 years.

If we all had to give a description of the perfect boss to work for, in those narratives would probably appear Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The fan turned billionaire owner always is on the cutting edge of some technological perk that he invests in his team. With maybe exception to Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo, he sees every player who has made a stop through town for coffee and donuts as a member of his family. He has maintained great relationships with many of his former players, some have even returned after their playing days have passed to take on some type of role within the organization.

“Dallas ain’t got a good night life,” said former NBA star Kenyon Martin who was raised in Dallas. “Only about two clubs to choose from when visiting teams are in town for the night after the game.”

For all it has to offer to the common man, Dallas doesn’t come across as appealing for the young, hip and rich 25 year old. Let’s face it, chances are if it is a “big fish” free agent to be courted, he most likely will be African-American given the current racial make-up of the league’s top players. The league caters to the urban culture and the culture absolutely loves NBA players. It often has been said that athlete wants to be entertainers and entertainers want to be athletes.

There is some truth to that fabled theory. Many athletes, those in the NBA in particular, have made attempts at recording a rap album or single. Many waste money in building studios in their mini-mansions and starting their own record label to give a stab at being the next Jay Z. Have you checked out the entertainers on the court for the celebrity game during NBA All-Star Weekend? Watching a three-man fast break of Justin Bieber, Common and Bow Wow can bring instant comic relief. These two worlds often are intertwined and they love the company of each other.

Dallas has nothing to offer in terms of being a mecca for the entertainment industry. You won’t catch Drake, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg or Ice Cube sitting courtside at Mavs games. Dallas is not home to a larger celebrity who isn’t an athlete. There’s not much of a history of hip hop artists making it off the mean streets of Oak Cliff to some gated community on the outskirts of town. The biggest selling rap act, if you can call it that, to come from the Metroplex may have been the often-ridiculed and mocked Robbie Van Winkle, aka ‘Vanilla Ice’ some 25 years ago.

The night life in Dallas as it compares to other NBA cities seems desolate. Clubs in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago aren’t making “last call for alcohol” announcements at 1:45 a.m. like the club goers here are faced with nightly. As fickle as it may seem, to a young player who invests as much in his social status as he does his scoring average, a happening scene could help determine his next NBA  home.

Since 2003, the face of the franchise became solely that of one Dirk Nowitzki. Born in Germany and coming to America after he was drafted in 1998 at age 19, the shy and sometime introvert hasn’t been exactly the player to help draw in a marquee guy to team up with him. Although well respected by all throughout the league, he doesn’t seem to possess a game appealing to a young star player looking for a partner in crime. The DeAndre Jordan saga from this past free agency period that saw him make a verbal commitment to Dallas only to renege days later and return to the Los Angeles Clippers could have fallen in the Mavericks favor if he knew he was coming into a situation where he had more in common with the franchise star. Well maybe not since Jordan has since proven to be a knucklehead, so it probably didn’t matter who was here to team up with him.

“Dallas is gonna have to draft a young star with hopes of him being able to overcome the view of Dallas and recruit the free agents,” Martin said.

Maybe that is the route to take to help change Dallas from being just a place to visit on a free agent tour. Maybe one day soon a rapper will emerge from Oak Cliff and become a megastar and sit front row at the  AAC with his entourage. Maybe Dallas suddenly will become a hip spot to the visiting teams. Teams with  young, talented free agents to be. Free agents who will finally decide that Mavericks and the city of Dallas is the place to ply their craft for multiple years to come.