NBA: Mavericks, new additions embrace changes
By Eddie Sefko
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — Caron Butler stopped short of saying he felt like he’d just received a get-out-of-jail-free card with the trade out of Washington.
But when he looked at the schedule recently, it hit him how tough things were with the Wizards.
“We had 30 games left and we had to win, probably, 23 of them to just get to the playoffs or be fighting for a spot,” the new Maverick said. “Looking at Dallas and being in the thick of things, expectations are different. It’s a breath of fresh air.
“I’m looking forward to coming in and bringing that edge and nastiness to Dallas.”
Never mind that the 32-20 Mavericks may also have to win 23 of their last 30 just to get where they want to go. They’re more interested in keeping their eye on the short-term ball and moving forward with a new team.
Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson were introduced at an afternoon news conference Monday, although they could not go through practice because all of the Mavericks traded to the Wizards had not yet reported. There are not expected to be any other hang-ups and the goal is to have the new Mavericks available for shootaround today and to play against Oklahoma City Tuesday night.
It’s a virtual certainty Butler will start at shooting guard, with Jason Terry willingly going back to his sixth-man role.
Nobody knows how these new Mavericks are going to fit together. As real as that mystery is, it cannot overshadow the feeling of unbridled optimism they take into the stretch run after the trade.
“Obviously, contending for a title, that’s the main goal,” Butler said. “I definitely feel we got what it takes in this locker room to win it.”
Terry views the trade as something akin to what happened to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008.
“This is what we need,” Terry said. “We got another big man (the 7-foot Haywood). Drew Gooden played big for us, but there’s no substitution for actual length and size. Caron is a consistent 15 to 20 points a night. And DeShawn can fill it up, and we needed more scoring out of our bench.
“We remember what happened a couple years ago when the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, and hopefully our move this year will have the same kind of impact.”
While playing the last five seasons with Washington, Butler gained plenty of respect from his Eastern Conference brethren.
“Love him,” Cleveland’s LeBron James said. “He’s tough. There’s one thing about this league, you can’t substitute toughness.”
To that, Butler said: “That’s who I am. That’s my character off and on the court.”
Butler is not the only newcomer who will play Tuesday. Haywood also will have precious little time to learn the system before getting tossed into the fire.
“He’ll be playing immediately no matter what,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “What’s significant is we have another big body who is a proven player.”
Owner Mark Cuban said he would not have done the deal without the 7-footer from North Carolina involved.
“It’s a great compliment, but at the end of the day, I got to go out and compete and prove it,” Haywood said.
In Haywood, the Mavericks are getting a beefy center who is having his best season, averaging 9.8 points and 10.3 rebounds. On paper, he is exactly what the Mavericks need as a tandem with Erick Dampier.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Damp’s health situation influenced the importance of Haywood being in this deal,” Carlisle said. “We think Haywood is a quality center. And good centers in this league are not easy to find. Age 30 for centers is relatively young.”
And though his contract is up this summer, there is a distinct chance that Haywood may end up finding a home with the Mavericks.
He gives them flexibility for the summer, at the least, with an expiring contract. The Mavericks retain Haywood’s Larry Bird rights, meaning they will be able to offer him more money than other suitors.