That’s still true – which is why Rick Carlisle knocked on Haywood’s door the minute free agency officially opened – but the plan doesn’t provide nearly as much hope as it did when the 7-footer arrived in Dallas during the All-Star break.
Haywood, who averaged 9.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks during his final half-season with the Wizards, was inconsistent during his brief time in Dallas. His numbers dropped (8.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg). That can partially be attributed to a slight decline in playing time, but there were too many nights that Haywood appeared unmotivated, especially after Carlisle refused to commit to him as the starting center following Erick Dampier’s return from a finger injury. That's an extension of Haywood's issues in Washington.
Donnie Nelson declared Thursday that the starting job was Haywood’s to have. Now the Mavs’ brass hopes to convince Haywood to accept it.
They should proceed with caution. If motivation is an issue for a player who is fighting for playing time in a contract year, what happens when he gets a big contract and a guaranteed starting job?
The Mavs are willing to take that risk, as long as the price is right.
Haywood, who is reportedly receiving interest from a handful of teams including the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, wants a significant raise from his $6 million salary. The Mavs aren’t likely to get in a bidding war for the big man, probably drawing a line in the sand somewhere between $8 and $10 million per year.
The problem for the Mavs – and the reason Haywood is a priority – is it’d be difficult for Dallas to fill the gaping hole in the middle that Haywood’s departure would leave.
There aren’t attractive, affordable options in the free agency market. (Shaquille O’Neal and Brad Miller are big names, but they’re defensive liabilities in the twilights of their careers.) The Mavs might be able to trade for a big man (Al Jefferson? Marcin Gortat? Andris Biedrins?), but those scenarios are far from sure things.
That leaves the Mavs wooing a big man that hasn’t earned their love.