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Art Garcia

Erick Dampier's attractive contract makes him trade bait in Big D.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Dampier's team-friendly contract makes him a wanted man

Posted Jul 2 2010 1:15PM

DALLAS -- So how much interest is out there for Erick Dampier? Scratch that. How much interest is out there for Erick Dampier's contract?

The Mavericks hope plenty and they aren't in a hurry to move their biggest trade chip and the big (empty) number attached to Dampier's name. There's no need to rush thanks to contract clause that gives Dallas ultimate flexibility in moving the soon-to-be 34-year-old center.

Not only is the last year of Dampier's contract ($13 million) fully unguaranteed, but the Mavericks have until the start of the regular season to move the 14-year vet. Dampier's first paycheck for the upcoming season is due with the first game.

As long as he's waived before 2010-11 begins, Dampier isn't owed anything. His $13 million cap number can be used to make the math work in a trade without the receiving team being on the hook for one penny as long as they cut Dampier before the opener.

That's incredibly valuable for any team looking to get money off its payroll. The Mavericks also have the luxury of waiting for the best offer in any deal involving Dampier, and potential trade partners have been calling the Dallas front office with offers.

One league general manager who requested anonymity wondered how much heat is actually on Dampier with free agency already underway.

"Not a whole lot," the executive told Friday. "Everybody who was interested positioned themselves for this summer."

Still, the Mavericks aren't feeling any urgency to make a move now, according to a source with knowledge of the team's approach. Dallas could easily wait for the free agency landscape to settle out in the coming weeks before striking, surveying what teams did or didn't end up with. The Mavericks also may have holes to fill, depending on what happens with free agent Brendan Haywood.

If Haywood is lost -- multiple teams are meeting with 30-year-old center that's been promised a starting job in Dallas next season -- then there is suddenly a gaping hole on the frontline. Dirk Nowitzki, a free agent expected to agree to a new contract soon, and Eduardo Najera are the only two bigs from the current roster projected back.

General manager Donnie Nelson has said locking up Haywood is a priority. Should that happen, Dallas likely shifts its attention to the wing, where Caron Butler and Shawn Marion reside. Finding a true shooting guard, instead of playing Butler out of the position, is an option. Dallas had its eye on Joe Johnson, but the Atlanta free agent is probably staying put.

It's a virtual certainty that whatever team deals for Dampier will immediately take advantage of those instant savings. Once Dampier is waived and clears waivers, he becomes a free agent. The Mavericks would be interested in bringing the burly big man back, even though he averaged just 6.0 points and 7.3 rebounds last season and didn't have a field goal in the first-round playoff loss to San Antonio.

So for now the Mavericks are in a waiting game. As much as they want to get involved in a sign-and-trade scenario, it appears landing upper-crust free agents is doubtful. A straight-up trade, perhaps involving more than just another team, is the more likely option for Dallas to upgrade.

"There is value somewhere and Donnie always finds a way," the opposing GM said. "It just may take a little time."

The selling points for the Mavericks in addition to Dampier's contract include Butler's expiring deal ($10.6 million), draft picks and Mark Cuban's pocketbook. Promising guard Roddy Beaubois could also be dangled in the right deal.

The Mavericks discussed trading for Al Jefferson before the Draft, with Dampier's contract obviously the big attraction for Minnesota. Dallas didn't feel the need to pull the trigger on Jefferson at this point, figuring the offers are only going to get sweeter.

Maybe the Mavericks make a run at Chris Paul in New Orleans. Sure, the Hornets aren't actively looking to trade arguably the best point guard in the league, but if the team's shaky ownership issues aren't alleviated in the next several months and George Shinn needs to shave payroll, perhaps a money-saving package of CP3 along with Emeka Okafor would be in play.

Long shot? Sure, but the Mavericks like to swing for the fences and they believe this game is a long way from being over.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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