Countdown: No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
The curious case of Kelenna Azubuike as a member of the Dallas Mavericks started March 22 when the club released athletic big man Sean Williams, who had spent most of the season with the D-League Texas Legends.
A week earlier, the San Antonio Spurs had traded for Stephen Jackson and were closing in on signing Boris Diaw to bolster their roster for a deep playoff run. What were the defending champion Mavericks up to in releasing Williams and opening a spot on the 15-man roster? Who was on their radar that could provide an immediate jolt one month from the true start of their title defense?
Last year, Dalllas signed veteran sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and the move paid off handsomely. At this point in the season, they could use someone like him. Three-point shooting -- heck, shooting in general --- had taken a significant dip throughout the truncated schedule and the Mavs would need firepower down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Could 3-point specialist Jason Kapono, recently released by the Lakers, be on his way? Maybe the 6-foot-7 Andres Nocioni? Sure, he was down on his luck, but still he was a 37.3 percent 3-point shooter throughout his career.
Turns out Kapono wasn't coming and neither was Nociono.
Who'd the Mavs have up their sleeve?
Azubuike, an intriguing shooting guard, oh, about three seasons ago before a torn patellar tendon put his career on indefinite hold.
And the Countdown ticks down to No. 10 ...
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 215
Experience: 5 years
Age: 28 (Dec. 16, 1983)
2011-12 stats: Played total of 18 minutes in three games
Contract status: Team option for next season
2011-12 salary: $280,192
2012-13 salary: $992,680
His outlook: The Mavs believe they have the best head athletic trainer in the game today in Casey Smith and an elite orthopedic crew headed by team doc T.O. Souryal. Azubuike will be three years removed from the horrific knee injury that put his burgeoning career in jeopardy and one that remains terribly difficult to watch on YouTube. But here's the hope for Azubuike: A second surgery in March 2011 was performed to fix the first surgery that wasn't done properly. Azubuike confirmed that fact on Twitter in March 2011, saying: "The 1st surgery in '09 wasn’t done right. Gettin it done right this time!” The Mavs' medical and training staffs have a track record with patellar tendon injuries after Caron Butler's awful injury on Jan. 1, 2011, in Milwaukee, which happens to be where Azubuike also blew up his knee. There's no guarantee that the the former Kentucky Wildcat will ever regain his explosiveness, but watching Butler this season with the Los Angeles Clippers has to be encouraging that he can at least be a productive player. At less than $1 million next season, Azubuike is low-risk and if he turns out to be high-reward, the Mavs will have made a shrewd move at a time when many were scratching their heads at the timing of the signing.
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Coming Tuesday
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.