Last week, I was in the midst of writing an article on Josh Howard, and how his career has deteriorated at his own hands.
I also was writing about how Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks seem to make wrong move after wrong move when it comes to free agent signings and trades. Then, in the middle of All Star Saturday night, which they are hosting, they made the best move they've made since acquiring Jason Terry. On top of everything, they're not going to overpay for underachievers, which is what they've done for the last few years. That fault was accentuated when they crumbled in the Finals in 2006.
Whether it was Erick Dampier, Jason Kidd, or more recently Drew Gooden and Shawn Marion, they never made the right move or fixed the right problem. Until yesterday. Between their loss in the finals to Miami or their upsetting loss to Golden State the following year, the one thing Dallas has always lacked is toughness. That problem was finally addressed.
When Josh Howard finally broke into his own in the 05-06 season, he looked like that reliable second option or sidekick that Dirk had been lacking. A semi-tough slasher who could rebound, defend, and more importantly score inside and outside. After a few years, and 15 minutes of fame and recognition, he is back to square one.
His game has regressed (this season shooting a career low 40.2% FG), he has become somewhat injury prone, and he doesn't seem to fit into the offense. I equate his regression to his huge mouth which surfaced when he got his contract and just seemed to spit ignorant and immature nonsense. First with his on-air admission of being a weed smoker, that he took the liberty of divulging in without being asked. Then, by saying that he doesn't salute the national anthem because he's black. That sort of ignorance destroyed his game, as well as his chemistry with his teammates.
Caron Butler on the other hand had his adversity when he was younger as a teenager. He cleaned up his act, grew up, and became a man. A respectable professional, who so far in his career hasn't had one legal incident or off the court problem since entering the league. He knows it is a privilege to play in this league, and knows what could happen if he blows the opportunity, because he's been at the other side of the spectrum. Sure he's been traded for the third time, but only because people want him....not because the team he plays for wants to get rid of him. Unfortunately, Butler and Jamison, and the rest of the Wizards, including the front office, have fell victim to Gilbert Arenas' dumbass antics. There's a firesale at the Verizon Center, everything must go. They have to implode, explode, and start from scratch. Damn shame. All because of one idiot.
The players that Dallas got in return are exactly what they need. Brendan Haywood is a step up from Erick Dampier. One major reason is he is a better and more consistent rebounder. A better defender. DeShawn Stevenson is lockdown defender, which Dallas has never had in the Nowitzki era. Look for these two role players to improve with Jason Kidd elevating their games, once they get acclimated to the system. Also, these three have tasted bitter playoff losses the last few years with the Wizards, so they won't be nervous or have stage fright.
For years, the Mavs have targeted the same type of players. Finesse over toughness. It's never worked. Time to go in a different direction. This move looks like they're finally turning around going in the right direction. The only question: Is it enough, and is it too late. We'll see. The second half will tell.