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Let The Show Begin

The time has finally come. After months of excitement over the possibilities that lie ahead, the 2010 NBA free agency period is beginning. Or should we call it the "Summer of LeBron"? Unless you have been living in a cave for the past year, you know by now that LeBron James will be an unrestricted free agent starting July 1. With this being the case, numerous franchises have been working fast and furious to free up salary cap space by trading players and draft picks to try and help court the King. On top of that, some teams have even pursued and hired new coaches and general managers to help satisfy the game's hottest comodity. It's almost as if LeBron truly is King and the rest of the league is obligated to do what is necessary to make him happy, even if in the end, some of these franchises are left in disarray. We have seen the Cavaliers fire head coach Mike Brown, say goodbye to GM Danny Ferry, and even put players such as Mo Williams and Delonte West on the trading block in an effort to keep their most valuable asset in tact. But they aren't the only team going the extra mile to lure in this year's biggest catch. The Knicks, Nets, Heat, and Bulls are also heavy contenders in the rat race for LeBron. After weeks of speculation, it appears as though the Cavaliers, Heat, and Bulls are the frontrunners. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh could play a pivitol role in his final decision. Earlier this week it was reported that LeBron met with Wade and Bosh to discuss their futures and even left open the possibility of the 3 teaming up in Miami. This trio would undoubtedly be like poison to other teams in the league, and could be kryptonite to the continuance of the Los Angeles Lakers dominance. Some believe this could be horrible for the league, while others see it as intriguing and exciting. But regardless of what has been said and what we think we know, only LeBron himself can make the final decision. One thing is for sure...the quicker he decides, the better it will benefit the franchises that lose this bidding battle, so that they can, in turn, pursue other players in an attempt to win the war, which is winning an NBA Championship. With many quality free agents on the market other than LeBron, many teams could still bolster their rosters without the King involved, rather than leave themselves in player poverty.

One of the other teams with a slim hope of bringing in LBJ is the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has not ruled out the possibility of a sign-and-trade for LeBron, but the Mavs can be considered nothing more than a dark horse at the moment. With that being the case, Cuban must start his own pursuit for other prospects. First and foremost, resigning Dirk Nowitzki is the top priority. Earlier in the week, Dirk informed the Mavs that he would indeed be opting out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Most people within the organization and the fans alike seem to be unfazed by this decision because they believe that this is all in an attempt to get a new contract with the team. Dirk is flying in from his native Germany to meet with the Mavs to start the negotiating process this week and hopes to get a deal done that will lock him into a new 4 year deal worth up to $96 million. Though the Mavs would like to bring the asking price down, they will do what is necessary to keep him in Dallas for the rest of his career. After the news that Dirk was flying in to start negotiating, Donnie Nelson sounded optomistic, saying that "this is a good sign." I think the fans would agree.

The next priority would be to bring in other talent to help in the process of bringing Dallas it's first ever NBA Championship. There are rumors that Mark Cuban will be flying out to meet with Joe Johnson and discuss a potential sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks. Having Johnson alongside Dirk and Jason Kidd would definitely boost their chances of bringing home a title, but the real problems in Dallas may lie deeper than adding another shooter. For years, it has seemed that the main problem that has plagued the Mavs has been their lack of a truly exceptional post player. Erick Dampier is a big body, but his lack of hustle and skill has proved him to be nothing more than a space filler at times. To help with this problem, Dallas brought in Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards this past season, along with Caron Butler, in hopes to solve that problem. Haywood was the Wizards leading rebounder and shot blocker, areas the Mavs needed help in desperately. He did boost production in the post, but still didn't get Dallas over the hump. Haywood would love to return to Dallas, and the Mavs have expressed interest in bringing him back, but many believe that it may be wise to look elsewhere. It was reported on Wednesday that the Mavs have talked with the Minnesota Timberwolves about trading for star center Al Jefferson. This would definitely have an instant impact on the franchise. Jefferson has averaged close to 20 points and 10 rebounds a game over the past 4 seasons in Minnesota and is a very attractive prospect. The only downside to Jefferson is his inability to stay healthy on a consistent basis. And at this point, this idea is just idea. If they are successful in bringing in Joe Johnson, it would be hard to believe that they could then acquire Jefferson as well. This would leave them with the option of resigning Haywood and maybe even bringing back Dampier, for much less money, of course.

What happens over the next few weeks could affect the entire structure of the league for years to come. A power shift is possible and some see it as inevitable. But to Mavericks fans, the main priorities are securing Dirk Nowitzki and rewarding him not only with a new contract, but with a player or 2 that can help him get closer to his dream of his first NBA Championship, a dream that he shares with the Mavericks organization and it's faithful fans. It's not out of the realm of possibility that this era of the NBA could be closing, and with it, so might the championship aspirations of certain franchises for years, especially if the stars of this free agent class choose championships over money. If this is to be true, it could mean that 2 or 3 teams could sweep up the prime talent and doom the chances of franchises left out of the circus of this summer. It's not hard to imagine that on opening day, teams like Miami, Chicago, New York, and defending champion, Los Angeles, could be stacked with the prime talent and handicap the remaining organizations around the league. It may be a negative on the league structure, but in a way, would be refreshing to see so many players choosing to sacrifice money in order to win a ring, rather than to play only for the money. For the Mavericks and their fans, we just have to hope that Mark Cuban can make the much needed improvements to stay competitive and be one of the winners of this summer, so that it may translate into being winners in June of next year, and for years to come. Only time will tell the rest of this intriguing story, but the right decisions must be made here and now to make this a storybook ending. Dallas has the opportunity to write the conclusion of this story themselves. While the rest of the league and its performers are looking to get a piece of the championship pie, it's now time for Dallas to step up and take a piece for themselves, before the clock strikes midnight and this story comes to a close.

Dylan White