- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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They’d love to come back to Dallas, but the veteran free agents on the Mavericks’ roster will all be willing to listen to any contenders interested in their services this summer.
The mutual interest is strong enough that it’s a decent bet that Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris will re-sign with the Mavs in July. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision each of them getting intriguing offers from teams that can claim they’re better positioned than the Mavs to make a title run.
A look at a couple of contenders that could be fits for each of the trio:
Shane Battier, the Heat’s savvy, versatile veteran defender, intends to retire at the end of the season. The “Matrix,” whose defense was such a critical ingredient to the Heat’s lone playoff series loss in the LeBron James era, would make a lot of sense as Battier’s replacement.
Marion just happens to still have a home in Miami from his brief stint with the Heat in 2008 and ’09. His hometown of Chicago could also be a fit for Marion.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was rather perturbed when the Chicago front office traded Luol Deng in a salary-dump deal before the deadline. Marion has some of the same traits as Deng – toughness, defensive versatility – at a presumably much lower price. If the Bulls add Marion, they’d likely be able to lighten the load on Jimmy Butler, who averaged 38.7 minutes per game last season.
Miami, assuming its stars stay, would be able to offer Marion no more than the taxpayer midlevel exception ($3.28 salary for next season). The Bulls’ bid would likely be in that same range. But Marion, who has made about $133 million in his career, made it clear that the chance to win another championship is much more important than the size of his checks next season.
“When July 1 comes, I'll look at my options and see which options are best suited to me to add to my legacy,” Marion said. “It's not about money right now. I've made a lot of money in my career. I've been truly been blessed. I'm not taking any of this for granted. I've just got to weigh my options.”
Told that ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that the Toronto Raptors are kicking around the idea of trying to bring Carter back north of the border, the man formerly known as “Air Canada” couldn’t help but crack a big smile.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” Carter said, raising his eyebrows. “You never know. I think more than anything I’m hoping that a lot of teams that appreciate, at my age, what I bring to the table.”
Carter’s divorce with the Raptors in 2004 didn’t go well, but the idea of his return should be appealing to Toronto for many reasons other than a potential marketing boon. The Raptors could really use a boost to their bench scoring, and Carter could serve as a mentor for promising young wing players DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.
For Carter, a return to Toronto could complete the circle of his career and give him a chance to help the Raptors advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, when he was a rising superstar in his third season. The Raptors fell one game short in the first round this season, losing to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games.
Carter’s best chance to compete for a championship might come just north of the Red River. Oklahoma City considered the midseason signing of Caron Butler to be a key acquisition. Carter, a better shooter and athlete, would be an upgrade for the Thunder.
Of these three, money is most important to Harris, who had made much less than Marion and Carter over the course of his career. He’s hoping to get something in the range of the three-year deal for a little more than $9 million that he originally agreed to with the Mavs last summer before the discovery that he needed complicated toe surgery.
A couple of West playoff teams that might be willing to give Harris that kind of deal are the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. Both could be in the market for a quality veteran point guard this summer.
Portland’s Mo Williams doesn’t plan to exercise his option to make a salary of $2.77 million, preferring to test the market in hopes of getting a significant raise. Williams has been a good fit with the Blazers, but if his price tag is too high, Harris could be a good alternative for a combo guard off the bench.
The Warriors traded for Steve Blake this season, when he made $4 million in a deal that expires this summer. Harris could provide a similar veteran presence in a more athletic package for Golden State.