- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Even before he expounded on a recent Weekend Dime conversation by declaring this week that the "Bank of Cuban is open," Mark Cuban and his Mavericks were already known to be aggressively exploring their trade options in the wake of the team's worst start since Dirk Nowitzki's second season.
No matter how eager the boss is to do a deal, payroll relief is the only significant asset Dallas can offer teams between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline, since Cuban has made it clear that Nowitzki is off limits … and with Dallas' 2013 first-round pick either required to stay in Big D if it falls in the top 20 or otherwise already owed to Oklahoma City through a previous trade with the Lakers (Lamar Odom) that ultimately put the pick in the Thunder's hands as part of subsequent trades headlined by Derek Fisher and James Harden.
Cuban is serious when he says he intends to make some sort of swap before the trade buzzer sounds, but my sense is that the most likely scenario has Dallas taking the bulk of its financial flexibility into the summer as long planned. If the Mavs have waited this long for a shot at Dwight Howard, after Cuban's controversial decision to let several free agents from his 2011 title team scatter, what's another six months to wait and see if they've got any sort of shot at the famously fickle big man?
Dwight definitely wants things (and needs them) to work out in L.A., for his image and also because he loves the Hollywood scene, but let's be honest: Who knows how he'll feel about Lakerland come July?
And that's why, in the short term, Dallas is more apt to try to trade Vince Carter to a contender that could use an extra shooter, or pitch the likes of Brandan Wright to a team in search of one more big man in hopes of securing an extra draft pick or shedding a little extra salary.
The "Bank of Cuban" reference was a typically colorful reminder from the Shark Tank patriarch that the Mavs are in position to make a splashy acquisition by taking on a big contract as opposed to merely counting on a free-agent savior after missing out Deron Williams last summer. But that option will be there for them in July with their cap space, too, so holding off on taking in a big contract now -- even if their Dwight odds are microscopic -- only makes sense.
Which helps explain why sources close to the situation tell ESPN.com that the Mavs are not among the teams that have expressed interest in Grizzlies' highly available Rudy Gay.