Mavs have long-term plans for Haywood

DALLAS -- The Mavericks' brass hopes big man Brendan Haywood's stay in Dallas isn't brief.

One of the Mavs' most important goals this summer will be to find a starting center with Erick Dampier's contract coming off the books. Haywood, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is now Plan A.

The Mavs had the short term and long term in mind when they insisted that the Washington Wizards include him in the seven-player deal. It's telling that Mavs owner Mark Cuban mentioned Haywood before Caron Butler, a two-time All-Star widely considered the central figure in the trade, when discussing the deal.

The 7-0, 263-pound Haywood fills an immediate need for a true center with Dampier dealing with knee problems. The Mavs desperately need the interior presence provided by Haywood, who ranks 10th in the league in rebounding (10.3 per game) and fifth in blocked shots (2.1) as well as averaging 9.8 points on 56-percent shooting.

"Centers come into their own right around 29, 30 years old," Cuban said. "That’s where he is now. His numbers show it. All the evaluations we’ve done of him show it. Hopefully, he’ll be a long-term piece for us."

Dallas thought it had a long-term solution at center when it signed restricted free agent Marcin Gortat to an offer sheet for the midlevel exception. They were surprised when the Orlando Magic matched it.

Trading for Haywood automatically makes the Mavs the frontrunners to sign him this summer, since they'll have his Bird rights.

"We think Haywood is a quality center," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Good centers in this league are not easy to find. Age 30 for centers is relatively young. We feel all those things are positives, and I would echo Mark’s sentiments that this is a move with a look toward the future as well."