Mavericks' Free Agency: Kidd Returning, Polish Hammer Looming

We can no longer confuse the Dallas Mavericks' silence with inactivity.

Let's hope we never confuse Marcin Gortat with the franchise's legacy of Great White Nopes.

The Mavericks last night agreed to re-sign 36-year-old point guard Jason Kidd to a three-year, $25 million contract and inched closer to landing a new starting center as the Orlando Magic seem unwilling to match their offer for the 6-foot-11 Gortat.

After a week on the sidelines while the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Ron Artest, Ben Gordon and Richard Jefferson found new addresses, the Mavericks are on the verge of inking their starting point guard and center for next season.

So, you jazzed or what?

As I've said before, the signing of Kidd may not be sexy, but it's essential. Without him, the Mavs wouldn't have a realistic - though skinny - chance at competing for a title next season and would be severely weakened in attracting free agents next summer, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc. are on the market.

In fact, without the committment to Kidd, I wouldn't have been surprised if Dirk Nowitzki opted out of his contract and became a free agent next summer as well. Nothing, in other words, about J.J. Barea or Rodrigue Beaubois smells like a championship.

The Mavs still have work to do. Again, if they don't trade Jerry Stackhouse for a starter by Aug. 10 then Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson should fire each other.

And then there's Gortat, the Polish Hammer. I know what you're immediately thinking because I feel it too: Big. White. Stiff.

Hard not to go there when you follow a franchise that has trumpeted Tom LaGarde, Ralph Drollinger, Scott Lloyd, Pat Cummings, Kurt Nimphius, Uwe Blab, Bill Wennington, Greg Dreiling, Cherokee Parks, Loren Meyeer, Chris Anstey, Eric Montross, Raef LaFrentz, Christian Laettner, Evan Eschmeyer, Keith Van Horn, Nick Fazekas and - the Ivory Tower kingpin - Shawn Bradley.

In a league dominated by George Jefferson, the Mavs keep trotting out Archie Bunker.

Gortat, fingers crossed, will be different. Only saw him play extended minutes once this season. When Dwight Howard was suspended for Game 6 against the Sixers in the first round, he responded with 11 points and 15 rebounds in 40 active minutes. He caught the ball in the post. He dunked with either hand. Bottom line: He was better than Erick Dampier.

Re-signing Kidd and acquiring Gortat isn't going to drastically alter Dallas' outlook for 2009-10. But - finally - it's a start.

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