According to a source familiar with Dampier's thinking, the 6-foot-11 veteran is prepared to not return to Dallas if his price isn't met.
Dampier is strapped to a $13 million, non-guaranteed contract, a monstrous trade chip the Mavs hope to cash in for a significant addition. The trading team would immediately waive Dampier and instantly reap the salary-cap savings. Even if the Mavs fail to trade Dampier, they'll cut him to avoid paying the $13 million.
Dampier would then become an unrestricted free agent. It has been something of a given that Dampier would then re-sign with the Mavs at a reduced rate.
The Mavs love Dampier's screen-setting and his attention to detail as the defensive anchor, however, they don't want to touch the MLE, which last year was $5.85 million. They're likely more in line with the bi-annual exception, which was $1.99 million last season.
Dallas dumped its entire MLE on DeSagana Diop two summers ago and quickly regretted it, trading the 7-foot, underperforming center in mid-season to Charlotte. Diop was just 26 when the Mavs decided to pay the career bucket-a-game scorer.
Dampier is far more accomplished, but the Mavs aren't going down that road with a 14-year veteran who turns 35 on July 14 and finished the six-game playoff series loss to San Antonio without a field goal.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is in North Carolina meeting with unrestricted free agent Brendan Haywood. At 30, Haywood is a younger, more athletic option. He'll have plenty of suitors and he could net a decent raise from his $6 million salary last season, although his "I just work here" comment and erratic performances in the playoffs didn't do him any favors.
Haywood is also a possible sign-and-trade option. One hot rumor Wednesday night was Haywood-for-Shaquille O'Neal, but a Mavs source quickly said "no" to that notion.
Dampier could just be thinking the Mavs will get desperate if they lose Haywood and fail to trade for a quality big man.
He won't get the MLE in Dallas. It would be stunning if he got it anywhere.