DALLAS -- While it was not long ago that the NBA champion Mavs were celebrating with a parade through the streets of downtown Dallas, the team that will take the floor this season at American Airlines Center barely resembles the group that won the title. Following the work stoppage that brought a new labor agreement, Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided to give the team something it has not had since he purchased the franchise in 2000 from Ross Perot, Jr. -- "Salary cap flexibility."
Last season saw the exit of Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic. This year, such mainstays as Jason Kidd and Jason Terry left via free agency, joining Lamar Odom and Brendan Haywood on the list of former Mavericks.
After attempting to use their new-found salary cap space to pursue the biggest of the NBA free agent big fish Deron Williams and subsequently coming up short, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson went on to add former top overall pick, power forward Elton Brand, center Chris Kaman, point guard Darren Collison and shooting guard O.J. Mayo. In a matter of days, Nelson had rebuilt the roster around superstar Dirk Nowitzki for what should be a much more exciting team than a year ago.
For the team's annual media day, members of the local press gathered around on the Mavs practice court beneath the AAC to chat with the players in between their posing for photos. Head coach Rick Carlisle, joined Nowitzki, Collison and Brand upstairs in the interview room to meet with the media. Carlisle spoke about adding eight new players to the mix and the team's pre-season trip to Europe. Collison casually pointed out that he was indeed younger than Jason Kidd (the 39 year-old veteran he is replacing in the starting lineup) while Brand, 33, said "I still have a lot of explosion and quickness left."
Dirk Nowitzki was the center of attention as he talked about his offseason that included getting married and coming in to camp in better shape following the uncertainty of last season with the lockout. When all was said and done, Nowitzki summed things up better than everyone else. "I feel good," he said. "And as long as I feel good, we're gonna be fine."
FOLLOW JAY BETSILL ON TWITTER @THEFAMOUSJAY