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Huge trade hits Mavs more ways than one

2/23/2011

In a mind-blowing, out-of-the-blue trade Wednesday morning, the Dallas Mavericks lost out on two hoped-for point guards. The Mavs had interest in bringing back Devin Harris in a steal in the short-term (before Thursday's trade deadline) and, like every other team in the league, had long-range hopes to land Deron Williams (a free agent in the summer of 2012), The Colony product considered one of the league's top players at the position.

Neither looks like it will come to pass now as the New Jersey Nets and Utah Jazz have apparently pulled off a stealth deal that sends Williams to the Nets and Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, last summer's No. 3 overall draft pick, and draft picks to Utah. Even more stunning is that the Jazz shipped Williams just two weeks after Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan stepped down. Williams can still become a free agent after next season and bolt (the Mavs would have to clear plenty of cap room to sign him or somehow swing an improbable sign-and-trade), but the Nets will have money and Williams should be able to recruit players to Brooklyn (assuming the move really happens). Players want to play with D-Will.

The move impacts the Mavs in other ways beginning with tonight's game against the Jazz at the American Airlines Center. After Tuesday's practice, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle cautioned that reeling Utah would be seething to get the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule up and running. The Jazz have an 11 a.m. shootaround scheduled at the AAC.

"They're a very motivated team," Carlisle said. "They're going to come in here razor sharp."

That still could be the case considering the beat down the depleted Denver Nuggets put on the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday, one night after Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups were dealt to the New York Knicks. The obvious difference is the Melo drama lingered all season with players knowing he would be gone. The Jazz, which will be vastly undermanned tonight, must be in a state of shock.

The trade continues to beef up the East while the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff picture takes another hit. The Mavs, the No. 2 seed in the West, would play the No. 7 seed if they remain in that slot. Denver is currently No. 7 and Utah is No. 8. The Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns will be targeting those spots.

In a conference where 50 wins has been the standard bearer for playoff inclusion, it might not take 45 this season, and it would appear -- although the Mavs will tell you from experience that anybody can beat anybody regardless of seeding -- that the top four teams in the West should advance to the second round with little problem.