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Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Bigger plans than just Chandler and project

By Jeff Caplan

Clearly this is part of an on-the-fly master plan moving forward because relinquishing the coveted $13 million Erick Dampier trade chip for Charlotte Bobcats centers Tyson Chandler and underachieving 2008 first-round draft pick Alexis Ajinca would seem a move solely to create financial flexibility.

Headed to Charlotte with Dampier is the Dallas Mavericks' lone backup power forward Eduardo Najera and, interestingly, bench-warmer Matt Carroll, who returns to his previous team the day after Minnesota general manager David Kahn killed a Mavs trade proposal for Al Jefferson by refusing to take on Carroll's remaining $11.7 million over the next three years.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that the Mavs are now looking to shore up the power-forward position by signing Al Harrington, a strong, physical presence and a good scorer, starting at the full mid-level exception of $5.8 million next season. Harrington made $10 million last season and averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds for the New York Knicks, but with a shrinking market, the MLE will likely be his best offer. The 12-year veteran was part of the Golden State team that took down the No. 1-seeded Mavs in the 2007 playoffs.

Stein also reports that the trade was made to create as much financial flexibility as possible to keep pursuing a major deal, such as New Orleans' Chris Paul if the struggling franchise, as remote as it would seem, reverses field and decides to part ways with its star.

Among Chandler ($12.6 million), Caron Butler ($10.8 million), DeShawn Stevenson ($4.1 million) and J.J. Barea ($1.8 million), the Mavs currently hold nearly $30 million in expiring contracts. 

The Bobcats will waive Dampier and reap the $13 million savings (although Stein reports Charlotte might try to shop Dampier first to fill another void). Dampier will then become an unrestricted free agent and it is not expected that he will return to Dallas, a source with knowledge of Dampier's thinking said, which would end his six-year stint with the franchise.

The 7-foot-1 Chandler, who played so well for New Orleans, blocking shots and slamming lob passes from Paul during the 2008 season when the Hornets ousted the Mavs in the first round, has dealt with multiple injuries, but has said he's eager to show teams that he is healthy again as he enters a big contract year.

Chandler, at $12.6 million in the final year of his contract, becomes the highest-paid of four 7-foot centers now on the roster. Brendan Haywood was promised the starting job before he signed a six-year, $55 million deal. The other two centers are both projects from France, Ajinca, and Ian Mahinmi, who was signed on Monday to a minimum contract.

This should also finally put to rest any further speculation that Shaquille O'Neal is or ever was a Mavs target.

As badly as the Mavs and their fans wanted to see a significant free-agent splash come from the Dampier chip, it became obvious that it just wasn't going to happen. This trade, at best, gives the Mavs a second athletic center in Chandler, who, if healthy, can be an intriguing piece, as well as keeping the door open with additional financial flexibility to wheel-and-deal and further re-make the team moving forward.