Greetings from the Super 8 Motel in Hope, Arkansas, birthplace of the 42nd president of your United States, and my stop on night two of my trip to Dallas for the All-Star game.
The goal behind this trade for the Mavericks? Get better.
The goal for the Wizards? Start the re-building process.
Here's the deal as rumored: Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and role player A (Tim Thomas, James Singleton, or Quinton Ross) to the Wizards for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson.
What does this mean for the Mavs? Is this the fabled "Gasol trade" that the Mavs have been seeking?
It's pretty close.
After all, the Mavericks weren't getting much from Howard, and Butler comes in out of a bad situation (where he was rumored to have more than one clash with Arenas and the rest of the team) into a team that needs his skills to win a championship.
But the real money in this for the Mavericks is Brendan Haywood. Living in Washington, I've coveted him for a long time, as he is exactly what the Mavs have needed for so long: a center who can block and protect the rim, as well as finish down low, grab offensive boards, and post up other centers.
I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.
Butler brings to the Mavs everything they hoped to get from Josh Howard this year: Tough D, an instinct to go to the basket, and the ability to rebound on both ends of the floor.
Butler's main flaw is the tendency to pull up for bad three-pointers, but I'm hoping that he caught that disease from Antawn Jamison, and playing for the Mavs will sharpen him up again.
For the Wizards, Butler is an unfortunate case, because he's the most talented of the Butler, Jamison, Arenas troika at this point, but due to the recent contracts signed by Arenas and Jamison, he's also the easiest to move.
That loss is the Mavs' gain.
I know it seems a bit redundant to get another small forward when the Mavs have a freshly-signed Shawn Marion, but there's no reason Butler and Marion can't work the wings together, and Marion has had some health issues throughout the season, so Butler will help take the strain off him.
Now, to keep the Wizards happy, the Mavericks will have to take on the contract of DeShawn Stevenson, which makes me a little nauseous.
Stevenson is the worst player in the NBA, and the thought of him wearing a Mavs jersey is absolutely sickening to me.
I've seen Stevenson directly cost the Wizards multiple games, including one where he tried to flop, didn't get the call, complained to the refs so much as to get a technical, and that free throw ended up being the difference.
Or how about against the Celtics, when Kendrick Perkins was breaking for an uncontested lay-up, and Stevenson pushed him into the crowd, and Perkins made it, giving Perkins two shots on the flagrant, plus the ball, and it gave the Celtics a chance for a seven-point possession?
Hopefully he'll be buried far behind Matt Carroll on the bench, and the Mavs can muzzle him from talking trash, like he did about LeBron a few years ago.
To make the numbers work, the Wizards will also need a minimum-salary player, such as Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas, or James Singleton. I wouldn't mind losing any of them to the trade, but I think Singleton is the most expendable among that group, given the glut of forwards on the Mavs' roster already.
He would also probably get the most burn in Washington, which would be key to the deal, since Singleton could void any deal, like the way Devean George did in the Harris-Kidd trade.
But Washington would clearly give Singleton more playing time than he's get on the Mavericks, where he's often the fourth, fifth, or sixth forward off the bench.
Now, this swap of players works under the numbers, but the good folks at Dallasbasketball.com have proposed one final wrinkle, one that involves the use of a trade exception of $2.9 million that the Mavs got when they sent Kris Humphries to the Nets.
The Wizards have a few players that they could send to Dallas for the trade exception, such as Fabricio Oberto, Nick Young, Andray Blatche, or JaVale McGee.
For the Wizards, that would be another $2.9 mil in savings, and the Mavs, well, they can pick and choose the player, since the trade that sent Najera to the Mavs freed up a roster spot, since they sent away Humphries and Shawne Williams.
Oberto would be a good rebounding presence off the bench, Nick Young is a scorer who can create his own shot, McGee is a dynamic young center who is a more polished version of Ryan Hollins (who the Mavs really liked, just didn't have the time or desire to develop him), and Blatche is basically, well, worthless.
As long as the Mavs don't take on Blatche, they'll be getting a piece that will help them in the present and maybe even the future.
With a strong starting center (and possibly a very serviceable third-string center) to give Erick Dampier's bum knee some rest. Remember, the last time the Mavs went to the Finals, they had a two-headed center monster, and Haywood is much better in all aspects of the game than DeSagana Diop.
Caron Butler can give the Mavs everything that Josh Howard could, only with much more toughness, because Butler is a much more physical player than Howard.
And both players should be re-energized by getting out of such a chaotic situation in Washington, where the madness that surrounds Arenas is replaced with the leadership of Jason Kidd and the calmness of Dirk.
The trade doesn't rank up there with the Gasol trade in terms of producing an instant favorite in the West, but it certainly helps. With the Lakers and Celtics injury issues, not to mention the one-dimensionality of the Cavaliers and the inconsistency of the Magic, the title could be wide open this year.
And next summer may give way to a super team, some combination of LeBron, Bosh, and/or Wade, that will win titles for the next decade to come.
The Mavs might have just found the trade to put them over the top, as they don't sacrifice anything and gain some much needed skills to go with the formidable team they already have.
For a team that needed a spark, Cuban and co. have provided them one, and now it's on the players to turn that spark into a championship.
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