- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Mavericks will make a trade eventually in the wake of Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury.
How can we be so sure?
Simple: The Mavs always make a trade.
Yet while sources with knowledge of the team's thinking say there is indeed some sentiment within the organization to pursue Stephen Jackson -- who was hoping to land with the Mavs last season when Golden State dealt him to Charlotte instead -- one source told ESPNDallas.com that the smaller-scale acquisition of a player who can fit into the Mavs' available $3 million trade exception ranks as the more likely move for now.
Could that stance change? Sure. The trading deadline isn't until Feb. 24.
But the immediate plan, as covered in this cyberspace Sunday, is giving the players on the current roster some time to prove they can -- or can't -- cover for Butler. Pointing to the Boston Celtics and how they've consistently weathered injuries without much dropoff since their championship season in 2007-08, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said: "That's more the model than anything else."
Some evidence to illustrate Dallas' deliberate-for-now pace when it comes to making changes: Word arrived Wednesday that the Mavs want to take their time filling the roster spot vacated by Wednesday's release of little-used Steve Novak as opposed to immediately signing a fill-in to a 10-day contract.
The Mavs, though, are indeed huddling to assess their trade options already, so they're ready to pounce if Roddy Beaubois' worryingly slow recovery from a broken foot continues to drag. Or if the regular-season load on Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd gets even heavier than it is now, when it's already pretty daunting.
Team officials consider the Mavs' in-house harmony to be the best seen in their locker room for years, but sources say that it's really not chemistry concerns that would put them off the edgy Jackson. Not with Nowitzki and Kidd -- veterans Jackson respects -- around to bond with him. And not with Jackson's proven abilities to make 3s, play dogged D and perform in the playoffs ... all of which would have sounded appealing even with Butler healthy.
The pause with Jackson would be mostly financial, since Jackson turns 33 in April and is only in the first year of a new three-year contract valued at $28 million. Dallas would be discouraged further if Bobcats owner Michael Jordan holds out for more than a mere Butler-for-Jackson salary dump.
The ex-Warrior wouldn’t be as pricy as going for Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala -- who isn't as well-rounded offensively as Jackson and thus not nearly as appealing from a fit standpoint -- but one source close to the situation says Cuban would have to be sold that acquiring Jackson is an “over the top” move.
Even in a West far more wide open than anticipated, Dallas isn't quite sure.
Houston's Kevin Martin remains a fantasy target -- coveted by the Mavs since last winter -- but the Rockets have made it clear that trading Martin is not in their plans ... and that trading him to an in-state rival probably never will be.
As Cuban noted in his Tuesday night session with reporters, speaking generally about players he'd want to go for: "The other side has to want to make the trade."
Memphis' O.J. Mayo, although he's not a small forward, is an interesting name and presumably not untouchable given all the troubles Mayo is having in Memphis. Sacramento's Omri Casspi -- whose modest $1.3 million salary more than fits into the $4.3 million and $3 million trade exceptions Dallas has available through July 13 -- is a small forward and is another name known to intrigue the Mavs.
The price for either, however, would be high. The Grizzlies are expected to ask for a lot in return for Mayo, no matter how mad they are about his role in this week's fight with teammate Tony Allen on the team plane, largely because they gave up Kevin Love to get him in the 2008 draft. Casspi, meanwhile, has several teams chasing him, but sources say Sacramento wants a point guard or another need-filler in return for the Israeli, who is treasured by Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. It remains to be seen whether the Kings will eventually be willing to work with a team offering, say, a future first-round pick and a willingness to take on Francisco Garcia's or Beno Udrih's contract.
But Dallas apparently has begun scouring league rosters for potential trade targets in the $3 million-or-less category who, thanks to their trade exceptions, could be acquired for as a little as a future second-round pick if another team out there is simply looking to get off some money.
The Mavs, meanwhile, also continue to cling to hope that a big second-half comeback looms for the dynamic-in-theory Roddy Beaubois, who has the unquestioned ability to provide scoring on the weakside opposite Nowitzki in ways no one else the roster (including Butler) can ... but who still hasn't practiced once since October's re-aggravation of the foot he broke in August.
Will Beaubois be the closest thing to a marquee in-season addition we see from the Mavs? You never want to assume anything with Mark Cuban's operation, but that is the vibe emanating from Mavsland as we speak, with the trade deadline still 50 days away.
"Other than the Spurs," Cuban said Tuesday night, "it's not like the other teams aren't having their issues, too."
Translation: Cuban wants to see how the deepest team Dallas believes it has assembled in years can cope with a season-ending injury before deciding it's fatal to their title chances.
"We're a much better team with Caron, obviously, but we're still a better team than we were last year even without Caron," Cuban said.
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