12.28.04

Payton To Dallas?

Posted in Basketball at 7:42 pm by


(Gary, accepting the ESPY on behalf of Tom Sizemore)

Dallas needs a point guard and Gary Payton is unlikely to stay in Boston past next spring. The Fort Worth-Star Telegram’s Art Garcis explores the possibility, however remote, of the Mavericks making a move.

The Mavericks could be one of the many teams to enter the Glove Sweepstakes, if and when Payton hits the market. Payton will be on display tonight as the Boston Celtics open the Mavs’ five-game homestand at American Airlines Center.

The Mavs aren’t seriously pursuing Payton or point guards at this juncture, despite speculation. That doesn’t mean that can’t or won’t change by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations for the Mavs, maintains contact with front offices around the league. Though owner Mark Cuban would rather stand pat, the Mavs are in the upgrade business if the deal is right.

If the Mavs weren’t concerned about point guard, the team wouldn’t have traded for Darrell Armstrong. Don Nelson has already started all three of his point guards, with Jason Terry the current first-teamer.

The Mavs are last in the NBA in assists per game at 17.5. Terry’s average of 3.6 assists would be the lowest in franchise history for the team leader if it holds up.

The Mavs would take a hard look if Payton were shopped, but it’s difficult to gauge what’s going on in the Payton saga. In one breath, Payton says he’s out of Boston after the season, returning to his home on the West Coast. The next, he’s leaving his options open for a return to Beantown.

Ainge has said it’s important to get something for Payton before he walks. Ainge has also said Payton is the perfect role model for the team’s young players, and it might be best to keep him for the season without any assurances of a return.

There are several reasons why Payton in a Mavs uniform would make sense. Despite being 36, he doesn’t have a long-term or high-paying contract. Payton is on a one-year deal worth $5.4 million.

As a true All-Star-caliber playmaker, Payton would serve as a perfect mentor for Devin Harris. The rookie from Wisconsin is the future at point guard, and having Payton on board (unlike Jason Kidd) doesn’t disrupt those plans.

Payton is one of the main reasons the Celtics, despite their 12-14 record, are in the Atlantic Division title hunt. While trading him is a viable option as Ainge builds for the future, the Celtics can probably do much better than anything the Mavs would offer.

The Mavs aren’t going to move young talent — Marquis Daniels, Josh Howard, Harris, etc. — for a short-term fix. Financial considerations might be more important in a deal for Payton or another high-caliber player.

The Mavs would prefer to move significant contracts, such as Tariq Abdul-Wahad or Booth.

Abdul-Wahad is an interesting option — only half of Abdul-Wahad’s contract for next season ($7.3 million) is guaranteed. The guarantee is 25 percent on $7.9 for the following season, the last on his contract. Though Abdul-Wahad’s “full” salary counts against the salary cap in those two years, the team would only be on the hook for a total of $5.6 million.

The selling point is a team can trade salaries within 15 percent of Abdul-Wahad’s cap value. If the Mavs throw in the maximum $3 million trade kicker, a deal for Abdul-Wahad benefits the bottom line.

It’s unlikely Payton fits into an Abdul-Wahad scenario. But expect the Mavs to take a look.

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