Mavs Rebuild; Nellie and Finley Arrive
The Mavericks began the 1996-97 with the "Three J's" and the optimism of a new head coach. By season's end, Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson all had new addresses, and Head Coach Jim Cleamons had used an NBA-record 27 players. The lack of continuity led to a 24-58 finish.
In December, the Mavericks aggresively began their pursuit of a new direction, trading Kidd, Tony Dumas and Loren Meyer to Phoenix for A.C. Green, Sam Cassell and Michael Finley. That trade, made to improve the team's chemistry, proved to be only the beginning of a complete roster overhaul.
On February 7, the team hired Don Nelson as general manager to oversee the rebuilding. Nelson wasted little time. Within a week, the team waived Oliver Miller and Fred Roberts, and traded Mashburn to Miami for Kurt Thomas, Sasha Danilovic and Martin Muursepp.
Ten days later, the Mavericks and New Jersey Nets completed one of the biggest trades in NBA history. Dallas sent Jackson, Cassell, Eric Montross, George McCloud and Chris Gatling (who days earlier represented the Mavericks in the All-Star Game) to New Jersey. In return, they received center Shawn Bradley, forward Ed O'Bannon and guards Robert Pack and Khalid Reeves.
When all was said and done, only Derek Harper and rookie Samaki Walker remained from the opening day roster. Harper, a popular one-time Maverick who re-signed as a free agent, became only the 10th player in NBA history to collect 15,000 points and 6,000 assists.
The Mavericks headed into the 1997-1998 season hoping to build around a nucleus that included NBA shotblocking leader Bradley (13.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.40 bpg), Finley (15.0 ppg), Pack (14.3 ppg, 8.4 apg) and Erick Strickland, an undrafted free agent who contributed 10.3 ppg in his rookie season, eighth among all NBA rookies.
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