Dallas Mavericks Lose Out on Marcin Gortat, a Small Part of Me Dies

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJuly 13, 2009

DALLAS - JUNE 20:  Owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks walks off the court after the Mavericks loss to the Miami Heat in game six of the 2006 NBA Finals on June 20, 2006 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  The Heat won 95-92 and win the series 4-2.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Congratulations Otis Smith. You've managed to do what only the NBA referees have been able to do. You have caused basketball to disgust me. 

Not the game itself, but the process. The concept of a restricted free agent. The whole city of Orlando. Anyone with the name "Otis." I hate you all.

Not only did you do something stupid, Mr. Smith, but it was downright cruel of you.

The entire world knew that Gortat wasn't in it for the money. He just wanted minutes.

Is that any way to show respect for Gortat as a human being, when you know he wanted to leave and was ready to take the next step as a basketball player? 

At least the Mavs did the classy thing with Brandon Bass. Bass wanted more minutes, but like Gortat, he just happened to have one of the top five players in the game today in the starting slot.

And it looked like things were going to work out swimmingly. You got Bass who could start at the four, and Rashard Lewis could replace Turkoglu at small forward. Lewis excels there anyway, due to his size and shooting ability.

And we got Gortat. It's not like he would play any meaningful minutes in front of Dwight Howard. He just wanted minutes. And like Bass, Gortat did it in a classy way. They didn't tweet about being unhappy or go to the media. They did it by busting their asses every minute they were on the court, and their teams were better off for it.

And when the Magic gave Bass an offer, the Mavericks let him go. They knew he would never be happy in Dallas as long as Dirk was playing, and they were essentially turning Bass into a major need for them, an athletic center.

Just as a good will gesture, Cuban and Co. helped the Magic out to the tune of an $8 million trade exception by facilitating Hedo's move to Toronto. In no way did the Mavericks have to do that.

When you look back, sure it made the numbers go a little smoother, but really it was a gesture. Sort of like a, "Hey, we really need Gortat and you don't, so here's a couple of million to just, *wink wink* let him go."

But Otis Smith had to get too smart for his own good.

Now what do the Magic have? Well, they're paying $35 million to back up the best center in the league. He's stuck there until at least December 1, and it's pretty clear that he's not happy to be there.

That should be real good for the locker room chemistry.

Then, you've got your first team All-NBA center, who is fresh off of a disappearing act in the playoffs. Now, you're sending him a message, "Look Dwight, we really need someone to back you up. We're going to pay out the wazoo to have someone to back you up."

Nice show of faith. It's already been shown that the Daily Double isn't the most robust player mentally. After a heartbreaking game two in the Finals, he was never the same.

So you've got Gortat until December 15? Then what? You send him somewhere. Houston is the most likely candidate. They made a pretty hard push for Gortat as soon as free agency opened up.

What are you getting from Houston? Kyle Lowry and Von Wafer? Yeah, those guys will take you far.

Then you send Gortat into an unfamiliar offense, with an unfamiliar coach in the middle of the season.

And what happens if Houston finds a big man in the meantime? With all the salary clearing happening around the league in preparation for the summer of 2010, who wants to sign a freshly inked big man?

I can't tell you how sick this makes me. The only thing I can liken it to is an unexpected breakup.

Not to trivialize relationships, but the feeling is the same. That black hole in your gut, a feeling that wasn't there earlier today. Earlier today the world was full of possibilities.

If the Lakers lose Odom, could the Mavs make a serious run at the title? With Marion on 'Melo, with the Celtics big three and Shaq a year older, and with no mismatch at the three with Turkoglu gone, could the Mavs have gone all the way?

Sure, by the time the season rolls around, I'll have convinced myself that I didn't really want to get Gortat anyways. Just like you convince yourself that you never really liked her all that much.

Like we needed another center (a foreign whitey to boot!) for the midlevel to pull a Diop. But every time you see Gortat in another uniform, part of you will wonder...

I can picture myself in my office this afternoon, sitting there all fat and happy, no idea of the train wreck that it about to hit me. Now we're in lean times, and the world is a little colder place than it used to be. 

This afternoon I had not a care in the world. I was talking to the Polish guy I work with, working on the proper pronunciation of "Marcin Gortat" and thinking of a nickname that involved changing lightbulbs.

Hours ago I was imagining Jason Kidd pulling down rebounds, with Marcin Gortat and Shawn Marion streaking on the wings, and Dirk trailing the play, ready to knock down a three if necessary.

Now all I see is Erick Dampier's rock-gloved hands, reaching out, not for a basketball that will surely bounce right off, but for my throat, and he's draining all the life out of me until at least February.

If you really want to get real, it's almost worse than a breakup. At least then you can call your buddy and say, "Hey, just got dumped, let's go get hammered on a Monday night."

If I call someone and say, "Hey, the Magic just matched the offer for Marcin Gortat, let's go get wasted on a Monday night," I'm just not getting that sympathy.

Of course, it won't hurt like this for long. Sure you might have pangs keeping you awake in the dead of night for the next few nights, but those go away.

But when those go away, so does a part of you. The part that knew what it meant to love. And in it's place is nothing, which is the scariest part of all.

So, Otis Smith you want to match the Mavs' offer for Gortat? Well, how about a fly down to Orlando and match a crowbar with Dwight Howard's kneecap? How does that sound.

The only consolation prize in this whole mess is that I can now use this line when the Mavs play the Magic:

"Dirk was really on fire in the paint last night. You'd think Gortat of all people would know what happens when you grant the German even the smallest of concessions, whether Panzer divisions or the one-legged Euro fade-away."

So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crank up Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield" and cry myself to sleep.

(Note to whoever edits this. Please find a way to put this on both the Mavs and Magic page, I would LOVE to hear what Magic fans can say to justify their GM's actions)



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