Tyson Chandler, the Dallas Mavericks' defensive anchor, is all but gone, waiting for the New York Knicks to make the appropriate cap room available for him to sign. Soon to follow out the revolving free-agent door is the Mavs' most tenacious perimeter defender, DeShawn Stevenson.
The shooting guard is in discussions with multiple teams and his agent said Thursday night that he would be surprised if Stevenson returns to Dallas.
Like the rest of their six free agents, Stevenson is being offered a one-year deal by the Mavs, who are determined to limit contracts to get under the salary cap next summer for the first time in Mark Cuban's ownership.
"It would surprise me if he's back," agent Mark Bartelstein said. "He would like to be back, but based on the direction of the Mavs, I doubt he will be back."
The 11-year veteran proved to be the ultimate teammate last season, starting the it buried on the bench only to take over as the starting shooting guard early on at the request of the team's leaders -- Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. He returned to the bench when Rodrigue Beaubois made his long-awaited comeback from foot surgery prior to the All-Star break, only to have the three team leaders again lobby for Stevenson and his fearless perimeter defense to start in playoffs.
Throughout the postseason, the 6-foot-5, 218-pounder played a significant role at both ends. In the Western Conference finals he defended Russell Westbrook and at times Kevin Durant. In the NBA Finals, he provided agitating, skin-tight defense on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. He also shot 39.7 percent from the 3-point line in the postseason and was deadly from beyond the arc against the Heat.
Stevenson will likely be the fourth Mavs free agent to leave after helping the franchise win its first championship. Chandler is reportedly set to sign a four-year, $58 million deal to join the Knicks; Caron Butler agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal Thursday with the Los Angeles Clippers and backup point guard J.J. Barea is mulling his options with at least a half-dozen teams.
Dallas did not have more two more intimidating and intense defenders as Chandler and Stevenson. The Mavs' much-improved, far more physical defense from its past versions finished last season ranked in the top 10 in both points allowed (96.0, 1oth) and field-goal percentage (45.0, 8th).
The Mavs will have to find new ways to channel the same defensive disposition, as coach Rick Carlisle likes to say, without the big man and the bulldog.
* Also, Bartelstein said his other Mavs client, forward Brian Cardinal, is not yet a lock to return to the Mavs and he did not put a timetable on when Cardinal would likely sign a deal.