Nico Harrison

Mavs’ Harrison Talks Offseason, Doncic, Jones, Assistants, More

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mavericks head of basketball operations Nico Harrison said that he doesn’t expect to make any significant changes this offseason to the core of the roster that won the Western Conference this spring.

“I think we have the pieces. I think we just need to get better ourselves,” Harrison said, per Mike Curtis of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). “Since I’ve been here, our front office staff has looked to make it better and we’ll continue to do that. But the core is intact. If you look at our top seven or eight players that really played. I don’t see anything happening with that.”

There has been speculation that the Mavericks could turn to the trade market in the coming weeks to make one more big move to solidify the team’s place as a legitimate title contender. While Harrison didn’t entirely rule out that possibility, noting that the front office is always open to ideas that would improve the roster, he suggested that they key to getting better is having Dallas’ own players come back “10 to 15% better.” That includes MVP runner-up Luka Doncic.

“We’re not where we’re at without Luka,” Harrison said, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “I think that’s important to point out, and we also won’t be able to get where we want to go without the best version of Luka. If you look at a guy who after Game 3 (of the NBA Finals) had the world on his neck — the scrutiny, which was crazy, the amount of scrutiny that he had to face — for him to focus in and do what he did in Game 4, I just think it just shows the character of him. He’s willing to fight through adversity, and I think he’s going to continue to get better.

“He’s 25 years old. I think just going through the Finals, him seeing what he needs to do to be at his best in the Finals after going through a grueling end of the year and then three tough, tough (playoff) matchups, I think you’re going to see the best version of him.”

Here are a few more of Harrison’s most notable comments from Friday’s presser, via Curtis, MacMahon, and Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com:

On his expectation that Doncic will play for Slovenia in its Olympic qualifying tournament next month:

“That’s probably one of his biggest joys. I think as long as he can walk, he’s probably going to go out there and play for them.”

On the Mavericks’ desire to re-sign Derrick Jones despite salary limitations:

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but he’s a priority. He’s priority one — 1A and 1B. I think he fits in with our team. He loves it here and we have to figure out obviously the dynamics to get him to stay. But that’s a priority and we’ll do what we have to do to get it done.”

On the importance of the playoff experience that four Mavs’ newcomers got this spring:

“To get to where we were, we relied on four players who had little to no playoff experience. (Dereck) Lively, (Daniel) Gafford, Derrick Jones and P.J. (Washington). Those four players played huge minutes for us and had little to no playoff experience. So how do they come back and incorporate that in their game from the start. I think that’s going to be huge.

“P.J. specifically, I think he can add a few more points a game, taking the ball off the rim, pushing it, posting up smaller players, shooting a little higher percentage from the three-point line, penetrating when they run him off the line. So he can add a few more points. And he’s going to. He’s poised to continue to get better. But the experience all four of those players got in the playoffs is going to carry them into next season.”

On assistant coaches Sean Sweeney and Jared Dudley drawing interest from rival teams:

“We love both of them and we respect them. They’ve been valuable in getting us to where we’re at, but at the same time, it’s about people. Our goal is to develop players and staff. If opportunities present themselves, we’re going to support them. They know how much we want them back, but it’s about growth. You can’t hamstring players or staff from growing. We’re going to support them, but we do want them back. We’re hopeful that they’ll be back.”

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Jones, Roster, Cuban

In the wake of the Mavericks‘ disastrous finish to the 2022/23 season, there was plenty of speculation a year ago about Luka Doncic‘s future in Dallas, with some media members suggesting the team would have to make real strides within the next year or two in order to secure the star guard’s long-term commitment.

Following an NBA Finals run this spring, that no longer seems like a concern, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who says all indications are that Doncic will be willing to sign a super-max extension in July 2025 once he has the necessary seven years of NBA service. The 25-year-old said after Monday’s season-ending loss that he feels “great” about the Mavs’ future.

“We did some great (personnel) moves,” Doncic said. “I would say we’ve been together for five months. I’m proud of every guy that stepped on the floor, all the coaches, all the people behind (the scenes). Obviously, we didn’t win Finals, but we did have a hell of a season.”

Doncic’s enthusiasm about the franchise’s direction is shared by his backcourt partner Kyrie Irving, who is under contract in Dallas for at least the next two seasons.

“I just feel like the sky’s the limit,” Irving said, per MacMahon. “I have an opportunity to be on a special team that can be one of the teams that dominates in this era. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out the past few years, of how to be on a great team, be in an organization where I’m trusted, and also we’re able to succeed and fail together, and doing it in a way where we still have each other’s backs, and no one is giving up on the dream or the goal. Our goal is still to win a championship.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Based on their current salary projections, Dallas won’t be able to offer more than the taxpayer mid-level exception (about $5.2MM) to free agent forward Derrick Jones, though the team could potentially open up some or all of the non-taxpayer MLE ($12.9MM) with some tweaks to the roster, MacMahon writes. Mavs general manager Nico Harrison wants to find a way to bring back Jones. “He’s a part of our core going forward, so hopefully we can figure that out,” Harrison told ESPN.
  • Regarding the rest of the roster, Harrison said he likes where it stands but acknowledged that there’s always room for improvements. “I think we have a really good core and really good complementary pieces,” Harrison told MacMahon. “Having said that, I mean, I’ve been here for two years and so I think my reputation is starting to (form). If there’s an opportunity to make it better, I’m going to do that for sure.”
  • Former Mavericks majority owner Mark Cuban no longer has control of the team’s basketball operations, MacMahon confirms. Still, as Howard Beck of The Ringer writes, Cuban – now a minority stakeholder – can take credit for three risky moves that set up the club for this year’s success: hiring Harrison as GM; hiring Jason Kidd as head coach; and trading for Irving. Harrison had worked at Nike rather than for an NBA team, Kidd had been fired from two previous head coaching jobs, and Irving’s value had fallen due to injury issues and off-court controversies. “For sure, they were risks,” Cuban told Beck. “I mean, there were a lot of people who just like rolled their eyes at me. But each of them brought a unique set of skills to the table that I didn’t have, that the organization hadn’t had, and I thought were valuable and important.”
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) previews the offseason in Dallas, writing that the Mavericks have some trade assets available – including its 2025 and 2031 first-round picks and Tim Hardaway‘s expiring contract – and suggesting they could use another play-making guard, perimeter depth, and a floor-spacing big man.

Southwest Notes: Harrison, Kyrie, J. Smith, Spurs

When Mark Cuban, the majority owner of the Mavericks at the time, first reached out to longtime Nike executive Nico Harrison about the team’s general manager vacancy in 2021, Harrison declined an invitation to talk about the job, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. However, Harrison eventually decided to listen to what Cuban had to say and came around to the idea of accepting the top front office role in Dallas.

“We talked for an hour,” Harrison said of his initial conversation with Cuban. “He told me his process, which was going to go for a few weeks. And then the next day, he skipped the process and wanted to hire me. I think he was just thinking outside the box. And the one thing he always says is that I had a real job. He respected the background that I had at Nike and all the people that were in my organization, managing the budget and all that stuff. He always says, ‘You had a real job. You had a real job.’ So I think that was one of the things.”

During his time at Nike, Harrison established a relationship with Kyrie Irving, which came in handy at the 2023 trade deadline when the star guard became available with his stock near an all-time low following a handful of off-court controversies. As Amick details, that relationship emboldened Harrison to “ignore the outside noise,” as he puts it, and take a shot on Irving.

“I don’t want to call it a life raft or lifeline, but it was like family reaching out,” Irving told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “… This has been the greatest … portion of my career. To be able to now give wisdom and also speak from a place of experience. When you’re a young person, again, you’re trying to speed through life, you’re trying to get through everything.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Acting as an “NBA correspondent” at Wednesday’s NBA Finals media day, Rockets forward Jabari Smith asked Celtics star Jayson Tatum what advice he’d give to a young player entering his third season who feels like he hadn’t lived up to his pre-draft expectations. That characterization describes Smith, who made major strides in his second season but apparently believes he should have accomplished more after being drafted third overall in 2022. According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required), Tatum advised Smith to avoid rushing the process. “It takes however long it takes,” Tatum said. “But as long as you work hard, you believe, you got the right support system — obviously, you do down in Houston; I know all those guys, coaches — everything will take care of itself how it’s supposed to.”
  • Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic analyze the Spurs‘ options in the draft as they weigh how to best build around franchise player Victor Wembanyama. Vecenie loves the potential fit of UConn’s Stephon Castle next to Wembanyama, but says San Antonio should entirely rule out UConn’s other lottery talent, Donovan Clingan, since the two big men wouldn’t fit alongside one another. Vecenie also suggests that the Spurs should be open to trading down for extra value if Clingan is still on the board at No. 4 or even at No. 8.
  • Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required) takes a closer look at Matas Buzelis‘ skill set and considers how he might fit with the Spurs, outlining the case for San Antonio to use one of its two lottery picks on the former G League Ignite forward.

Mavericks Sign GM Nico Harrison To Contract Extension

Less than a month after signing head coach Jason Kidd to a long-term extension, the Mavericks have also locked up general manager Nico Harrison, announcing today in a press release that they’ve finalized a new multiyear deal with their top front office decision-maker.

“Nico Harrison has demonstrated his leadership and capabilities in the Dallas Mavericks organization,” team governor Patrick Dumont said in a statement. “His vision, along with his efforts on behalf of our players and staff have propelled our team to two playoff appearances in three seasons and of course this year’s NBA Finals. We are proud to have him as part of our team for the long term, and we are excited to watch him continue to build on the foundation of success he has helped establish.”

Harrison, who was hired by the Mavericks as their head of basketball operations in 2021 after spending nearly two decades at Nike, is wrapping up the third year of his initial four-year contract. With Dallas set to compete in the 2024 NBA Finals, it was essentially a foregone conclusion that the franchise would work out a new deal for Harrison rather than letting him enter next season as a lame duck.

Harrison’s key moves since arriving in Dallas include hiring Kidd as head coach and signing Luka Doncic to a rookie scale extension in his first summer with the team, trading for Kyrie Irving at the 2023 deadline, drafting Dereck Lively last spring, and acquiring P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at this year’s trade deadline.

While the Mavericks had a disappointing 38-44 season in 2022/23, that year was sandwiched by a 52-30 showing and a Western Conference finals appearance in ’21/22 and a 50-32 record and an NBA Finals appearance this season. Overall, Dallas has gone 140-106 (.569) during the regular season under Harrison, with a playoff record of 21-14 (.706).

“I am incredibly grateful to Patrick and the entire Dumont and Adelson family for their continued trust and confidence and to Mark for his willingness to hire an unconventional candidate,” Harrison said in a statement. “Patrick and his family have accepted me as their own from day one and I am honored to work alongside them, as well as Jason Kidd, as we continue to build a winning culture in Dallas.”

Mavericks Notes: Playoff Success, Irving, Doncic, Finals Matchup

The Mavericks didn’t mind being under the radar when the playoffs started, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas didn’t get much notice after going 50-32 and finishing as the No. 5 seed in the West, but the team was much more dangerous than its record indicated. The Mavs closed the regular season on a 15-1 run and were fully confident heading into the postseason, as Kyrie Irving explained after the team punched its ticket to the NBA Finals Thursday night.

“We’ve grown over the past few months,” Irving said. “This has been a journey for us. I like to think that being fifth took some pressure off of us coming into this postseason. Everybody was looking at the top three seeds, so I felt like we snuck in there a little bit and surprised a few teams. But the guys in the locker room have always had that utmost confidence in one another.”

The Mavericks’ journey from a lottery team last season to potential NBA champs was punctuated by a pair of deadline deals in February that brought in Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington. Combined with the addition of Dereck Lively II in last year’s draft, that created a versatile supporting cast around Irving and Luka Doncic.

“If you look at our regular season, I don’t think it tells the whole truth of who we are — or who we were,” Irving added. “I felt like the second half of the season, everybody got to kind of see what we were made of.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Minority team owner Mark Cuban believes Dallas was able to rejuvenate Irving “by listening to him and not telling him,” Marc Stein notes in a Substack column. There were plenty of doubters when the Mavs traded for Irving in February 2023 and again when they re-signed him last summer, but he and Doncic have figured out how to be successful together. The organization has created an ideal environment for Irving, Stein adds. Jason Kidd is a head coach he respects, general manger Nico Harrison was Irving’s longtime business partner at Nike, assistant coach God Shammgod is a close friend who works with Irving every day, and Markieff Morris is a trusted teammate who provides emotional support.
  • Doncic took control early in Game 5 and sent a message that the Mavericks were ready to close out the series, observes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. He finished with 36 points, his highest-scoring game of the playoffs, and 10 of those came in the first 2:33 of action. “It was Luka magic mode,” Kidd said. “He set the tone, and then he made it easier for everyone else. Everybody else stepped up.”
  • The Celtics will present a fresh matchup problem for the Mavericks in the Finals, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger points out that Dallas likes to keep its centers close to the basket, even if that means giving up three-point shots to opposing big men, but that’s a risky strategy against Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.

Jason Kidd, Ty Lue Unlikely To Be Candidates For Lakers’ Job

Don’t expect Jason Kidd or Tyronn Lue to replace Darvin Ham as the Lakers’ head coach, Marc Stein reports in his latest Stein Line notes package.

Kidd, who has one year left on his contract with the Mavericks, will likely receive a contract extension in the near future after the team advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, according to Stein’s sources. Kidd was a top Lakers assistant coach under Frank Vogel.

As previously reported by ESPN, the Clippers are expected to pursue an extension with Lue, who also has one year remaining on his deal. Lue has stated he’s eager to sign an extension with their organization.

That would block not only the Lakers but the Suns from making a run at Lue. It’s also believed that the Cavaliers would be interested in a Lue reunion if they decide to change coaches. However, J.B. Bickerstaff strengthened his resume as the Cavs rallied to win Game 7 against Orlando on Sunday and advanced to the second round.

That’s why it’s not a far-fetched notion that J.J. Redick has a shot to replace Ham, Stein adds, despite Redick’s lack of coaching experience. Redick, who is also a candidate for the Hornets’ opening, is currently an ESPN analyst and podcaster after a long NBA career.

Like Kidd, Mavericks GM Nico Harrison is also on course for a contract extension from new Mavericks majority owner Patrick Dumont, Stein says.

Harrison’s trade-deadline acquisitions of P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford helped the team win 50 games again during the regular season and claim the No. 5 seed in the West. His risky acquisition of Kyrie Irving last season has worked out even better than most NBA observers anticipated.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens Named NBA’s Executive Of The Year

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2023/24 season, the league announced today (via Twitter).

In his third season as the Celtics’ head of basketball operations after eight years as the team’s head coach, Stevens put together a dominant Boston roster that posted a 64-18 record, easily the best mark in the NBA, along with a +11.7 net rating, the third-best mark in league history.

The Celtics were coming off a 57-win season in 2022/23, but Stevens shook up the roster drastically last summer, trading away longtime defensive stalwart Marcus Smart in a deal for Kristaps Porzingis, then moving key role players Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams in a a blockbuster for Jrue Holiday as training camps got underway.

Stevens also signed several Celtics players to contract extensions in the past 12 months, including Jaylen Brown, Payton Pritchard, and Holiday.

Unlike the NBA’s other major awards, the Executive of the Year is voted on by 29 team executives from around the league rather than 99 media members. Stevens received 16 of 29 potential first-place votes, along with six second-place votes and three third-place votes, for a total of 101 points (Twitter link).

The runner-up, Sam Presti of the Thunder, had 47 points, including four first-place votes. Tim Connelly of the Timberwolves also earned the top spot on four ballots en route to a third-place finish (29 points).

Knicks president Leon Rose (27 points; one first-place vote) was the only other executive to earn more than 11 points, though Nico Harrison (Mavericks) and Monte McNair (Kings) also received first-place votes, while Rockets general manager Rafael Stone earned a pair of them. A total of 13 executives showed up on at least one ballot.

Mavs Notes: Washington, Gafford, THJ, Lively, Kidd, Harrison, Kyrie

Few NBA teams could argue they had a better trade deadline this season than the Mavericks, who fortified their rotation by acquiring P.J. Washington from Charlotte and Daniel Gafford from Washington. Dallas has been on a roll since those two new additions debuted on February 10, going 21-9 during that stretch, including a 16-2 run from March 7 to April 10.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News takes a closer look at how Washington, who grew up rooting for the Mavs, got to achieve a childhood dream by suiting up for his hometown team, while Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News (subscriber link) explores the impact Gafford has had since he arrived in Dallas.

As Sherrington writes, the Mavs are 18-3 in games Gafford has started, as he and Washington have helped turn the team into a genuine threat to make a playoff run. Six weeks ago, just avoiding the play-in and having a competitive first-round series might have been a realistic goal for the club, but now the Mavs looks like they could be the best team in the West besides Denver, Sherrington says.

Here’s more out of Dallas:

  • Veteran Mavs swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t practice on Friday due to an illness, but he’ll join the team in Los Angeles, per head coach Jason Kidd, and there’s no indication his availability for Sunday’s Game 1 is in jeopardy at this point. (Twitter link via Townsend). Kidd also said that big man Dereck Lively (knee) has looked good this week and is trending toward playing on Sunday.
  • Kidd and Nico Harrison are both in the third season of four-year contracts, according to Townsend, who opines in a Morning News column that the Mavs’ head coach and general manager have done enough this year to warrant contract extensions this offseason. Those decisions will be made by a new-look ownership group led by governor Patrick Dumont.
  • Kyrie Irving would have accepted an invitation to play for Team USA this summer if he had received one, but won’t hold any grudges for not being selected, telling reporters on Thursday that “the deliberation process was a tough one” for USA Basketball, as Mike Curtis of The Dallas Morning News relays. “I would’ve loved to, but I wish my brothers well and I just didn’t fit in to this team,” Irving said. “… At this point in my career, I think my focus should be on winning the championship and in the summertime, just going to support those guys when I get a chance.”

Mavericks Notes: Luka, Kyrie, Harrison, Kidd, More

During Wednesday’s matchup in Miami, which was a blowout win for Dallas, members of the Mavericks organization wore shirts saying “Pravi MVP,” which translates from Slovenian to English as real or true MVP, referencing the excellent season by Luka Doncic, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Doncic, who has made the All-NBA First Team each of the past four seasons, is a top contender for the MVP award. However, it’s “generally expected” that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will claim the trophy for the third time in the past four seasons, Reynolds notes.

While he may not win his first MVP in 2023/24, Doncic’s coaches and teammates certainly think he deserves it.

He’s the real MVP. … I think his resume is better than anybody else’s resume,” forward P.J. Washington said. “I don’t feel like there’s a complete argument that anybody had a better season this year.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving earned a $1MM bonus on Wednesday for a combination of playing 50-plus games and the Mavs winning their 50th game, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The bonus was considered unlikely since Dallas only won 38 games last season. As Marks observes, Irving’s cap hit for 2023/24 will now be $38.04MM, and his ’24/25 figure will be adjusted up to $41MM. Irving has been instrumental in the team’s success this season, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link), who notes that Dallas is 39-19 when Irving plays, including 24-7 over his past 31 appearances.
  • In an interview with Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required), Mavs general manager Nico Harrison discussed a number of topics, including the job performance of head coach Jason Kidd and his staff. Harrison praised Kidd, who reportedly has one more year left on his contract and hopes to sign an extension with Dallas this offseason. “The coaches have done a great job,” Harrison told Townsend. “One, when you have two superstar players, first and foremost, getting those guys to play together at a high level and respect each other’s play and to play together, you always have to take a little bit off your game for the success of the team. To be able to do that is remarkable. Jason and his staff have done that at a high level. We’re not successful if that doesn’t happen.”
  • Regarding the trade-deadline acquisitions of Washington and center Daniel Gafford, Harrison said that while the two players were high on Dallas’ priority list, the front office was also working on multiple other deals at the time in case talks fell apart. He said he’s been pleased with how the two veterans have fit in thus far, according to Townsend. “I think if you go back to last year, the exit interview that we did, admittedly we didn’t do what we wanted to do,” Harrison said as part of a larger quote. “But we didn’t have the right players around those two guys (Doncic and Irving). We feel like we started that during the summer, getting longer, getting more athletic, getting better defensively. And then also in the draft with (Dereck) Lively. And then we just continue. The message hasn’t changed. The goal hasn’t changed. Now you do it with P.J., now you do it with Gafford. We’ve just continued with building it the same way that we talked about.”

Mavs Notes: Kuzma, G. Williams, Washington, Gafford, Front Office

Following up on reports that Kyle Kuzma was nearly traded from the Wizards to the Mavericks last week, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link) that he believes Dallas was offering two first-round picks to Washington in its proposal for the veteran forward.

One of those first-rounders was almost certainly the 2024 pick that Dallas acquired from Oklahoma City, which will likely end up being the more favorable of the Clippers’ and Thunder’s first-rounders. According to Tim MacMahon on The Hoop Collective, the Mavs and Thunder “very quietly” agreed to the deal involving that pick several days before the trade deadline, even though it wasn’t reported until Thursday.

The second first-rounder the Mavs offered for Kuzma would’ve presumably been their own 2027 pick, which was ultimately sent to Charlotte in the P.J. Washington deal instead, with top-two protection.

Windhorst, MacMahon, and ESPN’s Tim Bontemps agree it’s probably safe to assume the Mavs were looking to include Grant Williams in that potential Kuzma trade, which means the proposal might have been something like Williams, Richaun Holmes, a 2024 first-round pick, and the Mavs’ 2027 first-rounder for Kuzma. It’s unclear whether the ’27 pick would’ve had the same light protection that Dallas agreed to in its deal with Charlotte.

Ultimately, after the Wizards decided not to move forward on the Kuzma trade, Dallas ended up sending one of those first-rounders and Holmes to Washington in exchange for Daniel Gafford, completing separate deals with the Wizards and Hornets rather than just a single trade for Kuzma.

Here’s more on the Mavericks:

  • After winning his first game with the Hornets, Williams raised some eyebrows with his postgame comments, which could’ve been interpreted as a shot at his former team in Dallas, notes Brian Robb of MassLive.com. “It’s great to get a win for the city and play for the jersey that’s across your chest, not on your back,” Williams told reporters. “Everybody touched the ball, we trusted one another, a team that never played, practiced together, every single person seemed like they had each other’s back.” MacMahon reported after the deadline that Williams had “personality clashes” and “rubbed a lot of people the wrong way” during his half-season with the Mavs, adding in the latest Hoop Collective podcast that the forward reported to Dallas out of shape this past fall.
  • Tim Cato, Josh Robbins, and Dave DuFour take a closer look at how Washington and Gafford will fit in Dallas, examining what the two newcomers will and won’t be able to do for the team.
  • New Mavericks governor Patrick Dumont spoke to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required) about the hierarchy within the front office under the new ownership group. While reports have indicated that Mark Cuban retained his control of basketball operations, Dumont didn’t exactly confirm that. “The way the structure works, just formally, is that I am the governor,” Dumont said. “The league wants one person to speak to, so that’s me. But I intend to get the benefit of Mark’s experience and his success. So working with him is actually a benefit to our organization. And that’s how I see it. Nico Harrison is the GM. He is the head of basketball operations. So we all get the benefit of working with Mark, but there’s one GM. That’s Nico.”