- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Dirk Nowitzki says the Mavs hit “rock bottom” with the setback in Memphis that saddled injury-riddled Dallas with its first five-game losing streak since Rick Carlisle’s first month on the job in November 2008.
Mark Cuban tweeted a “hang in there” message to Mavs fans minutes after the defeat.
The quiet word in Mavsland, meanwhile, continue to suggest that no trade is imminent, no matter how jittery those fans might be in the wake of a 2-8 slide that began with the losses of Nowitzki (for nine games) and Caron Butler (for the rest of the season) to knee injuries.
Sources close to the situation say that the Mavs are indeed in the mode of assessing their trade options through discussions with numerous teams. But they also prefer to see how things look with Nowitzki back before committing to any trigger-pulling … and Nowitzki’s comeback only lasted 15 minutes in Memphis thanks to his third-quarter ejection. The Mavs thus believe it’s still too soon, in other words, to draw deep conclusions about where they are (without Butler and Roddy Beaubois) compared to where they were at 24-5.
It is not too soon, however, to assess some of the names that have emerged as potential Mavs targets. A big second-half comeback from Beaubois remains their dream scenario, but plenty of time looms for them to change course and go the trade route, with 39 days left before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
So here are five of the names, for starters, on the Mavs’ radar:
Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson: As ESPNDallas.com reported Jan. 5, there is an undeniable level of sentiment within the Mavericks’ organization to make a run at the 32-year-old swingman. Yet there are two nagging impediments despite the fact that Jackson – with his undeniable 3-point range and unforgettable insistence that he’s uniquely wired to “make love” to playoff pressure – is the most intriguing name on this list.
Dallas remains unsure whether taking on Jackson’s contract, which has two more years to run on a three-year deal worth nearly $28 million, is a gamble that can definitely restore the Mavs to their 24-5 form and get them out of the West. Cuban would have to be convinced on those fronts before a serious push is made for Jackson.
Bobcats officials are telling teams, with a 6-4 record under new coach Paul Silas and the playoffs again within sight, that they do not want to surrender Jackson or Gerald Wallace in a mere salary dump. Although there is undeniable skepticism around the league about Charlotte’s position – there are teams out there who do indeed believe that Bobcats owner Michael Jordan will be willing to move Jackson or Wallace in a deal that saves a lot of money between now and the deadline – Dallas would have huge resistance to giving up anything more valuable than Butler’s expiring contract in a Jackson deal.
Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince: Prince isn’t nearly the threat offensively that Jackson would be, which is a problem because Dallas’ needs are primarily on the offensive end. But Prince is in the final year of his contract ($11.1 million) and thus combines affordability with his proven playoff resume. The more immediate roadblock to acquiring the lanky lefty, sources say, is that the Pistons have been reluctant to consider Prince trade scenarios while waiting to see if the three-way deal for Carmelo Anthony involving Rip Hamilton finally gets done after a week-plus of trade limbo.
Denver’s J.R. Smith: Sources say the Mavericks have likewise discussed the possibility of trading for the enigmatic Smith with the Nuggets. Denver, though, has taken a similar approach with the likes of Smith and veteran center Nene as Detroit with Prince, telling teams it wants to let the Melo Drama reach a conclusion before seriously contemplating trades with other Nuggets. From the Mavs’ perspective, furthermore, Smith is unquestionably more affordable than Jackson or even Prince – with an expiring contract valued at $6.7 million – and has seemingly limitless 3-point range. But he’s also the riskiest name on the board when it comes to fit and chemistry. The Mavs’ in-house harmony isn’t nearly what it was when they got off to the 24-5 start, but Smith’s on- and off-court unpredictability rank as certain sources of hesitation.
Milwaukee’s Corey Maggette: ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher mentioned in a Thursday night visit with 103.3 FM’s Ian Fitzsimmons that the Mavs and Bucks have discussed Maggette’s availability. Maggette, though, is even more expensive than Jackson, with more than $21 million left on his contract through 2012-13 after this season. Jackson is likewise a far better fit with his ability to stretch the floor, passing eye, defensive ability and proven toughness. If Philadelphia’s younger and more versatile Andre Iguodala is too expensive, Maggette is way too expensive for what he can deliver.
New Jersey’s Devin Harris: As noted in this cyberspace a week ago, Dallas does have legit interest in a Harris reunion. Sources say that the Mavs have discussed the idea with the Nets and, upon being informed that New Jersey has to keep the 27-year-old to plug into Melo scenarios, have let Denver know that they are interested in talking about Harris if he winds up a Nugget.
The Mavs, though, are realistic. They know there will be strong interest in Harris -- whether he stays with the Nets or lands with the Nuggets -- that will make it tough to reacquire the 2009 All-Star because Dallas isn’t overflowing with trade assets. The Mavs also concede that -- as confident as they are that Harris could play alongside Jason Kidd and Jason Terry just like J.J. Barea does because Harris is a better scorer on the drive and a quicker defender than any of those guys – they have a greater need for an athletic small forward who can score and stand up to playoff tension than what Harris can give them.
The most appealing aspect of trying to get Harris back might be the fact that moving him on again, if necessary, wouldn’t be hard given the leaguewide appetite for lead guards.
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