Caron Butler not contacted by Mavs yet

Updated: December 1, 2011, 1:50 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

Unrestricted free agent Caron Butler has received early interest from six teams, but the Dallas Mavericks are not yet one of them, a source close to the situation said Wednesday.

The NBA relaxed the lockout rules and permitted teams to contact players' agents beginning at 8 a.m. CT. Those that quickly expressed interest in the 6-foot-7 Butler are the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets and Chicago Bulls.

Agreements, oral or written, cannot be consummated during this early period of talks. Dec. 9 is the target date when players can sign contracts.

Players, including free agents, will be allowed to access their teams' practice facilities Thursday, but Butler is not expected to be in Dallas. He has been training in Chicago for much of the offseason.

A source with knowledge of Butler's thinking said the veteran's No. 1 destination remains Dallas. When asked Wednesday if he's surprised that the Mavs did not make an early overture, Butler answered, "I'm just in Chicago ready to defend the title or go get one."

During his nine-year career, Butler has had a stint with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as well as with Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Last month Butler played in a charity exhibition game in South Florida with Wade and his Heat teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Butler and Wade also apparently have been corresponding. Last Saturday, Wade tweeted to his followers: "Just got a strongly worded text from the big homie @realtuffjuice haha."

Butler ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee on Jan. 1. He underwent surgery a few days later and missed the rest of the season. Butler, the Mavs' starting small forward at the start of last season, was emerging as the club's second-leading scorer while splitting time with Shawn Marion.

After Dallas won the championship, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Butler was part of the fabric of the franchise and that the team wanted to re-sign him.

Dallas' top priority is re-signing center Tyson Chandler. Backup point guard J.J. Barea is also a key free agent to retain. DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic are also free agents.

Nelson and Mavs owner Mark Cuban will have to decide how high to take the payroll and how many years they can offer each player with a more punitive luxury tax coming in the 2013-14 season, plus a stiffer fine for repeat offenders that begins accumulating this season.

"We are going through and digesting all the new rules, and waiting on others," Cuban said Wednesday via email. "Once everything is in place we will have a far better idea on what we can and can't do. In the meanwhile, we certainly are going to be talking to everyone's agent."

Apparently, Butler's agent, Raymond Brothers, is still waiting.

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.

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