Dallas Mavericks: Drew Gooden
A conspiracy theory: The Rockets emerged as a rumored frontrunner to throw folks off the scent that Dwight Howard has been ticketed for Dallas all along.
Those are whispers that ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne has heard on the West coast.
|ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard. |
Start with the Shawn Marion situation. If this was a done deal, wouldn’t Fegan have convinced his client on the Mavs’ roster to cooperate and make things much easier for everyone?
The best-case scenario for the Mavs would have been Marion exercising the early termination option in his contract and then returning to Dallas on a three-year deal with a salary reduced enough to squeeze Howard’s max deal under the cap. Technically, the Mavs couldn’t have negotiated Marion’s new contract before he opted out, but we’re talking wink-wink, nudge-nudge deals here.
How can the Mavs create enough cap space to sign Howard now? Dumping Marion’s salary in a trade is the most likely scenario. If this was all a pre-arranged deal, would Fegan put another veteran client in danger of being shipped to an undesirable team? (Yes, Marion would pocket an extra $1.4 million with his trade kicker, but if this was all just a money grab for Fegan, he’d be determined to get Howard to stay in L.A. instead of bolting to Dallas.)
It’s true that Cuban and Fegan have a strong business relationship, even a friendship, and have worked together to get several deals done. Hey, maybe Fegan really does feel like he owes Cuban for that Erick Dampier contract!
But, if Marion gets dealt this summer, add that to the list of business decisions made by Cuban that disappointed Fegan clients.
*The Mavs shipped Fegan client Drew Gooden to Washington in the deal that got rid of Josh Howard and brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas.
*Jason Terry fired Fegan in part because of frustration stemming from the Mavs’ lack of interest in making a long-term commitment to him during his last year in Dallas.
*The Mavs waived Delonte West, a Fegan client at the time, after twice suspending him for conduct detrimental to the team last fall.
It helps for an owner and agent to have a good relationship, but it guarantees nothing for either side.
Jennings, 23, is averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 assists in his fourth NBA season. He arguably fits Mark Cuban’s description given for potential trade targets: a young talent who would immediately be a top-three player on the Mavs’ roster with the potential to develop into an All-Star.
“I’ll analogize it to Steve Nash,” Cuban said Monday, speaking in generalities about the type of player the Mavs would target. “Whatever we saw in Nash and (Michael) Finley with Donnie (Nelson]) back then, same type of thing. There’s been lots of players we picked up over time that weren’t All-Stars that turned into cornerstones. We’d take those.
|The Mavs are reportedly interested in Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings. It's not a perfect trade scenario, but it has many positives. Ben and Skin say this could help Dallas land a "big fish." |
Darren Collison has put up decent numbers for Dallas this season, averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 48.2 percent from the floor, but it’s been evident that the Mavs don’t see him as their point guard of the future. After all, they demoted him to start Derek Fisher during the 37-year-old’s nine-game stint with the Mavs and had 37-year-old Mike James close a few games when he was fresh out of the D-League.
Jennings, however, comes with a couple of red flags. Like Collison, his size (6-foot-1, 169 pounds) often puts him at a significant disadvantage defensively. Jennings is also a volume scorer who shoots a poor percentage, hitting less than 40 percent of his shots from the floor this season and throughout his career.
The Bucks would likely want to dump power forward Drew Gooden in a deal, but that’d be a steep price for the Mavs to pay for a player who has fallen out of Milwaukee’s rotation. Gooden, who played 46 games for the Mavs in 2009-10 before being included in a blockbuster deal with the Washington Wizards, is due $6.7 million in each of the next two seasons.
Have the Dallas Mavericks featured a stronger power forward combo since the days of Dirk Nowitzki and Eduardo Najera? Or Maybe it was Dirk and Kris Humphries or Drew Gooden? A Dirk-Elton Brand duo is a pretty nice tandem and arguably one of the most diverse and potentially productive pairings in the league. Nowitzki has plenty of motivation heading into the 2012-13 season. He's coming off his lowest scoring average since his first two seasons in the league and hearing questions about his durability, stemming from the early season right knee issues, as he enters his mid-30s -- Father Time, bro, will live on. ... Elton Brand gives the Mavs a 30-minute-a-night reserve who can score, rebound and play defense behind Nowitzki. Brand's time will also be spent at center, but Dallas has never had a backup 4 with Brand's pedigree and it should go a long way to managing Nowitzki's minutes. ... We're only guessing here, but it makes sense for Brandan Wright to see more time at his preferred power forward position than at center, the position the Mavs played him at last season even though it became painfully clear that his lean frame is not suited to go up against true NBA centers.
How it came together
The Mavs pulled one over on the media, if not the rest of the NBA. Dallas was said to be putting together an "aggressive" bid for Philadelphia 76ers amnestied Brand and some estimates sailed to $5 million. One source said the Mavs were going to save the 76ers a bunch of money on Brand's $18 million salary for next season. Dallas had the high bid and won Brand's services in the amnesty bidding process, but that "aggressive" bid was a very pedestrian $2.1 million. That's the amount the Mavs will pay the veteran, giving Dallas easily the best value in the league for a backup power forward and center of Brand's stature. ... For the most part, the Mavs loved what they got from Wright, a former lottery pick who had been dogged by injuries. Even though Wright had a forgettable playoffs, he showed enough energy, athleticism and skill for Dallas to pick up the final year on a contract that will pay him less than $1 million.
Nowitzki says he's got at least a couple more years of elite-level play in him and there's every reason to believe that he will come into training camp at the end of September in excellent condition. Everyone knows the story from last year -- championship run followed by the Olympic qualifying tournament, the lockout, the sudden resolution, the two-week training camp, the knee issues, the struggles and Charles Barkley, bro. Nowitzki has had a long offseason and one that seemed to be fun-filled, including his Heroes charity baseball game, Wimbledon, traveling Europe, a ceremony with fiancee Jessica Olsson in Kenya and perhaps even formal nuptials to close out the summer. So the 7-footer should be refreshed and focused. ... Brand acknowledged during an ESPN Dallas radio appearance that getting amnestied wasn't exactly flattering. So, he's got a thing or two to prove as well just as some are wondering how much he has left in the tank at 33 and coming off the lowest scoring average of his career (11.0 ppg) and his second-lowest rebounding average (7.2). Brand is in a contract year and should have no problem fitting in and can easily squeeze in 30 minutes a night shuttling between power forward and center. His solid physique, long arms and smarts make up for a lack of foot speed on the defensive end, where he's quite effective. ... If Wright moves back to power forward, it could help his confidence. If he can remain healthy, as he did last season for the first time in his career, it could be a breakout year for him. He has to impress early to get playing time behind some crafty veterans at either position.
So what if Dirk, and Brand for that matter, have lost more than we think? It's not Nowitzki's 21.6-point scoring average from last season that is of concern, but rather his 45.7 percent shooting percentage, down six points from 2010-11 and his low since his rookie season. Some of it was due to a terrible stretch early while he struggled through right knee stiffness and swelling. Other issues are Nowitzki's increased 3-point attempts and a decrease in driving -- again early on due to the knee issues -- a part of his game that had really taken off and was so effective during the championship run. In 62 games last season, Nowitzki took 212 3-point shots, his high since taking 220 in 77 games in 2007-08. He took just 168 attempts in 73 games in 2010-11 and 121 attempts in 80 games in 2009-10. While Nowitzki really thrived in canning 3s in transition, an argument can be made that Nowitzki's high long-ball total was partly due to the Mavs having few scoring options last season and him being forced to launch more 3s than he would like late in the shot clock. The Mavs would probably rather see more work more from his elbow, mid-range game and penetrations. ... Brand wasn't an offensive focal point for the 76ers last season and his scoring average dipped four points to a career low. He's a high-mileage veteran and at some point, the tank starts to run dry.
Once again, owner Mark Cuban opened his wallet in making moves that he believed would help the franchise get back into the thick of Western Conference contention. Dallas finally traded Josh Howard to Washington and in return received scorer Caron Butler, an agile big man with good hands in Brendan Haywood and an extra defender in DeShawn Stevenson. With the addition of Shawn Marion in the offseason, even the pundits couldn't help but notice the size, strength and toughness of this revameped roster.
Through some wild swings throughout the 82-game regular season, it was the Mavs who outlasted Utah, Denver and Phoenix for the No. 2 seed, and after a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers during a 13-game win streak following the blockbuster trade, the Mavs themselves were buying into the hype -- and the growing expectations.
Nowitzki, who had another outstanding regular season, avergaging 25.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, said this team had more talent than any he played on in his dozen seasons in Dallas. Jason Kidd, who had played in two NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets, said this was one of the best teams he's played on.
Yet, somehow, it all came crashing down in a familiar postseason letdown.
The Spurs, led by the Big Three plus the emergence of George Hill and revolving role players, made big shot after big shot and defensively suffocated Kidd, who struggled to get the Mavs on the run. With a stagnant halfcourt offense, Dallas failed to score more than 90 points in four of the six games, leaving more questions than answers about the club moving forward.
No one, not in this season, expected the Mavs to be licking their wounds again before the calendar turned to May.
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Record: 55-27 (1st in Southwest)
Playoffs: Lost to San Antonio (4-2)
Team payroll: $88.9 million*
Highest-paid player: Dirk Nowitzki ($19.8 million)*
Offseason transactions: Traded 21st overall draft pick C B.J. Mullens to Oklahoma City for 24th draft pick G Rodrigue Beaubois and a future second-round pick; in four team deal, traded F/G Devean George and G Antoine Wright to Toronto, and G/F Jerry Stackhouse plus a future second-round pick to Memphis for F Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries and Nathan Jawai (from Toronto), plus Greg Buckner (from Memphis, later released); signed G Quinton Ross (free agent); signed F Drew Gooden (free agent); signed F Tim Thomas (free agent); signed F Kris Humphries (free agent);
In-season transaction: Jan. 11, 2010: Traded Kris Humprhies and Shawne Williams to New Jersey for Eduardo Najera; Feb. 13, 2010: Traded Josh Howard, Quinton Ross, James Singleton and Drew Gooden to Washington for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.
The low: San Antonio 4, Dallas 2. Sure, the Spurs were not your typical No. 7 seed, but so what? The Mavs lost the home-court advantage by losing in Game 2 and then dropped two in a row at San Antonio to go down 3-1. The Mavs melted down in the third quarter of Game 4 and then in the do-or-die Game 6 they opened the first quarter with eight points. Despite taking the lead briefly in the third quarter, Dallas suffered its third first-round defeat of the last four seasons. This one particularly stung because of the big trade that had Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd calling this club one of the best either had ever played on.
F Dirk Nowitzki (25.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 48.1% FG)
G Jason Terry (16.6 ppg, 43.8% FG)
G/F Caron Butler (15.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 44.0% FG in 27 games)
G/F Josh Howard (12.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg in 31 games)
F Shawn Marion (12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 50.8% FG)
G Jason Kidd (10.3 ppg, 9.1 apg, 5.6 rpg)
F Drew Gooden (8.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg in 46 games)
C Brendan Haywood (8.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg in 28 games)
G J.J. Barea (7.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, 19.8 mpg)
F Tim Thomas (7.5 ppg in 18 games)
G Rodrigue Beaubois (7.1 ppg, 51.8% FG in 56 games)
C Erick Dampier (6.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
F Kris Humprhies (5.2 ppg in 25 games)
F Eduardo Najera (3.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg in 33 games)
F James Singleton (2.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg in 25 games)
G Quinton Ross (2.0 ppg in 27 games)
G DeShawn Stevenson (2.0 ppg in 24 games)
G Matt Carroll (1.8 ppg in 25 games)
OK, maybe strangers is too dramatic, but consider:
All three meetings this season occurred prior to the Mavs shipping four players, including Josh Howard, to Washington as Dallas recast its team on the fly with Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. The Spurs also haven't seen hustling forward Eduardo Najera in a Mavs uniform since 2004.
In the second meeting just one week later in Dallas, a 99-94 Mavs win, Parker again didn't play and Manu Ginobili lasted just 7:28 before a groin injury forced him out. As for the Mavs? Howard, Shawn Marion and Erick Dampier did not play. Check out this starting lineup: Jason Kidd, Roddy Beaubois, Quinton Ross, Dirk Nowitzki and Drew Gooden. Off the bench, the Mavs used Jason Terry, J.J Barea, Kris Humphries and Tim Thomas.
Honk if that lineup sounds familier.
On to the third meeting more than three months ago in San Antonio. It was actually the healthiest either team had been in the series, but it still predated significant changes by both clubs. The Mavs, obviously, made the blockbuster trade during All-Star weekend. San Antonio still had yet to move second-year guard George Hill into the starting lineup, where he's blossomed as a dangerous scorer, and Ginobili had yet to catch fire as a starter after Parker went down with a broken hand in the first week of March. Defensive-minded guard Keith Bogans and rookie center DeJuan Blair are now key role players off the bench instead of everyday starters.
The one constant in all three games? Nowitzki, who averaged 32.0 points and 9.7 rebounds and remains a nightmare matchup for the Spurs.
So the final meeting at 7 tonight at the American Airlines Center ultimately is rife with the potential for another playoff series and numerous new storylines for two Texas franchises that have slugged it out for the better part of a decade.
After an underachieving start, the Spurs have won 19 of 27, almost magically peaking under coach Gregg Popovich once again at the right time. They enter Wednesday's game looking for a sweep of the NBA's six division leaders within the past three weeks.
Parker is back but has come off the bench in each of the five games he's played. Hill is also back earlier than expected from a sprained ankle. Popovich immediately returned Hill to the starting lineup as the point guard, where he was brilliant in place of Parker and with Ginobili as his backcourt partner. Richard Jefferson still has his struggles but also shows flashes of being the scorer the Spurs had hoped. And as Duncan's scoring has declined for a second consecutive season after the All-Star break, he remains a dominant low-post threat.
“As much as people said we had a bad season, I think we’re ready to battle anybody in the West,” Hill told reporters after the Spurs clobbered Minnesota on Monday, 133-111. “I think our whole team is pretty confident we can go against anybody and give our best punch and take their best punch.”
The Mavericks have won four in a row, most impressively having taken Portland's best punch last Friday, and restored hope for a long playoff run after a 5-6 mark followed a 13-game winning streak. That's how good, but also unsteady, this team has been, especially and suprisingly on its home floor, where it will meet the Spurs for Game 82 of the regular season Wednesday night and quite possibly for Game 1 of the postseason this weekend.
Official Bill Kennedy hit Nowitzki with two quick technical fouls for complaining about a no-call early in the second half. It was only the third ejection of Nowitzki’s 12-year career, and the first that didn’t involve a flagrant foul.
Carlisle called out Nowitzki in the locker room after the game, letting him know that he put the team in a bad situation by continue to complain after getting called for a technical. Carlisle opened his postgame press conference with similar comments.
“[Stuff] happens, right?” Nowitzki said after Thursday’s shootaround, his first interview since the ejection. “I mean, he did it already after the game in the locker room. It is what it is. Sometimes you get away with saying after the whistle and both parties kind of walk away and it’s over. He had a quick whistle that day, so I guess it’s my fault. …
“The good thing is we won the game and we move on. Obviously, if we lost that game, that would have been bad. That would have been really bad. But the guys came through. I guess I’m a little lucky that we pulled that one out.”
Nowitzki said he didn’t take Carlisle’s comments too seriously, but the All-Star power forward acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of controlling his emotions.
However, Nowitzki said he was “shocked” that Kennedy ejected him so quickly.
The confrontation with the official came after Nowitzki was called for fouling Drew Gooden on a layup attempt. Gooden got away with pushing Nowitzki in the back to get an offensive rebound on the play, prompting the complaints.
According to Nowitzki, Kennedy told him he didn’t see the push. Nowitzki replied by telling Kennedy he needed to get in position.
“And he didn’t like that, so he T’d me up,” Nowitzki said. “Then I probably deserved the second one.
“But I’m saying, usually when you get a T, there’s going to be an exchange and you get away with stuff because both sides are a little heated. You walk away and things will calm down. At this junction, he just wasn’t having nothing. He was actually pretty fired up from the beginning on. The first play of the game he already started yelling at the players. For some reason, he was pretty hardcore the other day. I shouldn’t have reacted. I just should have known.”
After Carlisle got done calling out Nowitzki, his teammates gave him good-natured grief for taking a game off.
“The guys were killing me,” Nowitzki said.
Drew Gooden has played for nine teams in eight seasons and sees the inevitable.
Gooden had just delivered his best individual performance of the season -- 26 points and 20 rebounds -- in the Los Angeles Clippers' 106-96 loss to the Mavericks, slamming home precisely why Dallas was so hopeful of re-signing him after Gooden was packaged with Josh Howard, Quinton Ross and James Singleton to Washington in the Feb. 13 trade that netted Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.
Had the Wizards reached a buyout with the veteran power forward, as they later did with Zydrunas Ilgauskas after acquiring Big Z from Cleveland in the Antawn Jamison deal, Gooden would almost certainly be back with a previous employer for the first time in his career. As he said many times before and after Tuesday's homecoming game at American Airlines Center, Gooden never wanted to leave Dallas and still hopes that the Mavs will consider re-signing him this summer.
The Wizards, though, didn't buy Gooden out. Instead they routed him to the Clippers as part of the three-way Jamison swap before the league's Feb. 18 trading deadline. And there would be no buyout in L.A. because the Clips, looking to bolster a front line weakened by rookie Blake Griffin's season-ending knee injury and the trade of Marcus Camby to Portland, told Gooden immediately that they needed to keep him for the rest of the season.
"It wasn't as easy it was last year for me with Sacramento," Gooden said, recalling how the Kings quickly bought out his contract after acquiring Gooden from Chicago at the deadline, enabling Gooden to sign with San Antonio for the stretch run.
"I think everybody knew that once I got a buyout that I would want to go back to Dallas and help [the Mavs] out even more. I think there [were] teams that didn't want Dallas to have their cake and eat it, too.
"I miss Dallas. I miss those guys over there. I committed myself to this team and left something on the table that was unfinished business for me. But that's the business."
The solace for Gooden is that his play with the Clippers isn't exactly discouraging the Mavs -- or prospective team No. 10 -- from keeping the 28-year-old in their offseason thoughts. Gooden is averaging a healthy 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in 16 games with the Clippers, which would represent the highest averages of his career in both categories if sustained for a full season.
"I've got to make sure I don't take for granted the opportunity I have now," Gooden said. "Even though, let's face it, we're not going to be a playoff team this year, I'm getting an opportunity to play and I'm going to do well.
"I do feel like I'm playing my best [basketball]. Maybe I don't jump as high as I used to, but my mental game is so much stronger than when I first got into the league. Even though I've been on a lot of teams, playing a lot of different roles, I've gotten better within those roles."
Asked if the Mavs miss Gooden's contributions off the bench, Dirk Nowitzki said: "Hell, yeah."
Oklahoma City's Kevin Ollie -- another Mavs alumnus -- has played for 11 teams, so Gooden isn't even No. 1 among active NBA vagabonds. The people who track such matters at the Elias Sports Bureau, furthermore, say Gooden doesn't get credit for making a stop in Washington because, even though he was issued a No. 90 jersey from the Wizards, he never played in a game for them.
Ollie, though, is 37. He's running out of time to get to 12 teams.
"I was a victim of basketball [business]," Gooden said of the deal swung by the Mavs to get Butler and Haywood, which materialized about a month after Gooden and his partially guaranteed one-year contract in Dallas at $4.5 million was offered to Utah in an attempt to swipe Carlos Boozer from the Jazz.
"I was never locked into a long-term deal," Gooden continued. "I was always a guy that was talked about at every trade deadline, no matter if I was playing well or not. But there's been nothing bad about what happened for me, playing on a lot of different teams."
He was quickly schooled on the business of basketball as a rookie, when Memphis -- after taking Gooden with the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft -- traded him to Orlando before his first season was finished.
"That was a situation that I kind of liked [being traded]," Gooden said. "All the other times that I got traded, I didn't want to get traded. But it wasn't the right situation for me in Memphis. I was playing small forward and I felt like I was more of a power forward playing out of position."
Gooden's selection by then-Grizzlies president Jerry West in West's first draft in Memphis is one of the few second-guessed picks of West's storied front-office career, since the Grizz already had Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift on the roster.
"I didn't think I was going to have that Memphis hat on long that night that I got drafted," Gooden said. "But Jerry West always said he was going to take the best player available."
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com and is a frequent contributor to ESPNDallas.com.
The Mavericks would have to wait 30 days before re-signing Gooden, who would be free to negotiate with other teams during that time. However, the Mavs would like for Gooden to return.
Gooden struggled defensively as a center, which is one of the reasons the Mavs pursued the seven-player deal with the Wizards that landed big man Brendan Haywood. But the Mavs could miss Gooden's scoring punch off the bench.
Without Gooden, the Mavs don't have much depth at power forward. Shawn Marion is likely to play most of the minutes there when Dirk Nowitzki is resting.
The Wizards are Gooden's eighth team in eight seasons, but he left Dallas on excellent terms. The Mavs appreciated the professionalism of Gooden, who accepted his role as a reserve after preseason talk that he might start most games at center.
"Drew did a great job," owner Mark Cuban said Saturday night. "He laid it out there every game for us to try to fill in as a 5. Going into the season we thought that would work and it just didn’t play out as planned."
"I've been a victim of the business of basketball," the journeyman forward/center said.
Now, Gooden can add an eighth sticker to his suitcase. The eight-year veteran is headed to the Washington Wizards as part as the seven-player deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
This was definitely a victim of the basketball business in this instance.
He did everything asked of him in Dallas, accepting a role as a reserve. He played hard and conducted himself with class.
"Drew did a great job," Mark Cuban said. "He laid it out there every game for us to try to fill in as a 5. Going into the season we thought that would work and it just didn’t play out as planned."
Gooden's stint as a Maverick was short because Dallas desperately needed a traditional big man. Gooden's expiring contract had to go for the Mavs to get back Brendan Haywood. That's the way the basketball business works.
This was a classic Mark Cuban trade. The Mavs took advantage of a team looking to cut costs. And Cuban didn't even have to pay a ridiculous price in the process.
DeShawn Stevenson's $4.1 million player option for next season is the price the Mavs had to pay to make significant upgrades at two positions. The financial sting was lessened when the Wizards accepted Quinton Ross ($1.14 million) as part of the return. (James Singleton is the other throw-in headed to Washington.)
Caron Butler is simply a better all-around player than Josh Howard. Butler is a better scorer. He's a better rebounder. He's a better fit for the Mavs because of his ability to create off the dribble.
Brendan Haywood fills a major void as a shot-blocking, board-crashing big man, especially with Erick Dampier dealing with knee problems. Drew Gooden provided some scoring punch, but he was a power forward pretending to be a center, something that was painfully obvious from watching the Mavs' defensive misery the last month.
Butler, whose career numbers suggest he could be an excellent second scoring option despite his struggles this season, is on the books one more season at $10.8 million. Swapping him for Howard doesn't limit the Mavs' potential to be sign-and-trade players this summer.
Haywood is a $6 million expiring contract, but he could be the most important long-term piece in this trade. The Mavs definitely wouldn't have pulled the trigger without him included. The summer search for a long-term starting center at least has a Plan A now that the Mavs own Haywood's Bird rights.
Does this deal make the Mavs legitimate challengers to the Los Angeles Lakers? Doubtful, despite Kobe Bryant's gushing about the trade Saturday morning.
Does it make the Mavs significantly better? Absolutely.
New names will probably pop up over the next few days and until the Feb. 18 trade deadline, but Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala and Washington's Caron Butler continue to dominate the Mavs-centric rumor mill.
The Mavs have serious interest in Iguodala, but a deal for the explosive Sixers swingman appears to be a long shot at this point. The word is that Philadelphia's front office has changed its mind and is no longer looking to unload the 26-year-old with the massive contract (four years, $56 million after this season).
That could change if a team is willing to also take back the contract of big man Samuel Dalembert or power forward/center Elton Brand. Dalembert, who is due more than $12 million next season, would push Mark Cuban near the breaking point of his financial pain threshold. Dallas won't even discuss Brand, who is due $51 million over the next three years.
A trade the Mavs would probably pull the trigger on is Josh Howard/Drew Gooden/Matt Carroll-for-Iguodala/Dalembert. Including Carroll ($11.7 million over next three seasons) in the package at least lessens the sting to Cuban's wallet, but the deal would still be a major cost-cutting move for the Sixers. The problem is the Sixers seem to have reconsidered their stance on the importance of shedding salary over being competitive.
The Mavs don't want to do a deal that's based on Howard-for-Butler because they don't believe that's a significant enough upgrade to forfeit the financial freedom the team option in Howard's contract offers this summer. They especially don't want to do such a deal with Washington insisting that DeShawn Stevenson, who has a player option for $4.1 million next season, is shipped off with Butler.
If Washington is willing to expand the discussions to include big man Brendan Haywood in the deal -- here are some specific possibilities -- the Mavs' interest would soar. That hasn't happened yet, as Washington is exploring other options with Butler.
Another factor as the Mavs consider the trade landscape is that Howard appears healthy and has recently shown glimpses of his old form. The Mavs believe now more than ever that unless they can make a major upgrade, they're better off holding on to Howard and hoping that he's at his best when it matters most, much like last season.
UPDATE: ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that the Mavs and Wizards are now discussing a deal that includes Haywood.
As usual, coach Rick Carlisle kept coy with his plans for Dampier's replacement in the starting lineup. Eduardo Najera started last week against Golden State when the Mavs went with a smallball lineup. Najera had no points and one rebound in 13 minutes that night, but he did provide energy and drew three charges.
With Tim Thomas out indefinitely due to a serious family matter, Carlisle's other realistic option is to start Bay Area native Drew Gooden. The problem with that is that the Dallas second unit desperately needs Gooden's scoring punch.
UPDATE: Najera is indeed getting the starting nod again.
And the 6-10 Gooden, who serves as the Mavs' backup center, isn't satisfied with how he's adjusted to coming off the bench. He's particularly concerned about his performance in the second half.
"I don't think I’m providing the same energy in the second half as I do when I come in the first half," Gooden said. "It's been bothering me."
The stats support Gooden's point. Here are his first and second half splits in 32 games as a reserve:
First half -- 4.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, .472 shooting percentage
Second half -- 2.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, .444 shooting percentage
Gooden is trying to figure out how to stay in a rhythm when he's sitting for such a long stretch. He'll usually come out of the game midway through the second quarter and not check back in until a few minutes remain in the third quarter.
"I've just got to find ways to get going," Gooden said.
One potential solution: Gooden is seriously considering riding an exercise bike at the beginning of the second half.
The best thing the Mavs can say about Howard is that he is being professional about his drastically reduced playing time. Just how few minutes Howard has earned is stunning, considering his recent status as a franchise cornerstone.
Howard played a season-low 11 minutes in Monday's loss to the Utah Jazz. Eleven. He had two points, three rebounds, two turnovers and three fouls in that span.
The Mavericks call Howard their sixth man, but it's clear that the coaches have more trust in reserves Drew Gooden and JJ Barea at this point.
The left knee effusion continues to bother Dampier, who sat out Sunday's rout of the Knicks and limped through 35 minutes during Tuesday's win over the Bucks.
Dampier's availability is kind of an all-or-nothing deal. When he suits up, coach Rick Carlisle doesn't want Dampier on the bench for extended stretches.
"Part of the issue is if you pull him out and sit him for a long time, then it stiffens up," Carlisle said.
It might be in the best interests of the Mavs and the big man if Dampier takes Thursday night off.
Dampier doesn't match up well with the Suns, especially when he's hobbled. Asking him to defend Amare Stoudemire doesn't seem fair. Putting him on perimeter-shooting center Channing Frye takes Dampier out of his defensive comfort zone.
Drew Gooden is much better suited to match up with the Suns than Dampier. Tim Thomas is more than capable of serving as a reserve center. Let Dampier rest his sore left knee for another night.
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