When The Dealing Begins

By Marc Stein

The NBA’s Feb. 18 trade deadline is less than two weeks away.

Not sufficiently close enough to prompt teams to make their best offers
… but obviously close enough to merit another round of the latest
chatter from the NBA grapevine as passed along by various league
executives, coaches, players, scouts, insiders, etc.

Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala and Caron Butler continue to be the three swingmen most frequently linked with Mark Cuban’s trade-seeking Mavericks, who have been stonewalled in their attempts to pry Martin away from Sacramento and thus have not ruled out a move for Butler.

Sources say that Washington and Dallas have maintained a Butler dialogue while the Wizards also continue talks with Houston in a larger deal for Tracy McGrady.

As stated previously in this cyberspace, Martin tops the Mavs’ list in their search for a dependable second scorer to flank Dirk Nowitzki. Sources say, however, that Dallas would likely have to recruit a third team to present the quality big man presumably needed to prompt the Kings to alter their thinking.

The Wiz and Mavs, meanwhile, have discussed a deal that would swap Josh Howard and one other player (such as James Singleton or Quinton Ross) for Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. But Dallas has little interest in taking back Stevenson and is still weighing whether Butler can help pull the All-Star Weekend hosts out of a spiral that has been openly addressed this week (see Box 4) by Mark Cuban.

"We’re just in a funk right now," Cuban said Wednesday night, publicly acknowledging his desire to make a move just a week before much of the league descends upon Big D.

As for a Wizards-Rockets deal, one source with knowledge of the talks says the obstacles preventing the teams from closing in on a McGrady deal haven’t changed much. The Wizards are believed to be willing to surrender coveted center Brendan Haywood along with Butler but want a player from Houston’s scrappy core — such as Luis Scola, Carl Landry or Shane Battier — that the Rockets aren’t willing to surrender in addition to McGrady’s $22.5 million expiring contract.

As my ESPN.com colleague Chad Ford wrote Thursday, Washington’s preference is moving Butler ahead of team statesman Antawn Jamison, who has been chased hard by Cleveland since last season and with particular vigor since the Cavs lost out to Charlotte in the trade race to acquire Stephen Jackson.


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