DALLAS — The champagne isn’t flowing yet, but it’s probably somewhere on ice near American Airlines Center.The Dallas Mavericks took a big step Wednesday toward a move back into the NBA championship picture when they reached a verbal agreement to sign Houston Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to a three-year, $46 million offer sheet, a source said.The agreement was expected to be signed at 11:01 p.m. Wednesday, which is the first minute the NBA’s moratorium on signing free agents and restricted free agents will be lifted. From the time Parsons signs the offer sheet the Rockets will have 72 hours to match it or lose the 6-foot-9, 227-pound small forward to the Mavericks.The Parsons deal will eat up the Mavericks’ remaining salary cap space. However, despite the agreement with the versatile rising star, the Mavericks still hope to re-sign at least two of their own free agents — Shawn Marion and Vince Carter.Marion, who has been high on Miami’s list, would have to accept a reserve role if he returns to the Mavericks because he and Parsons play the same position.And it’s likely the Mavericks will be able to use their $2.7 million exception to re-sign Carter, who has made it known that he wants to remain in Dallas.Bernard James and DeJuan Blair are also Mavericks free agents who could return next season.The Rockets have admitted that they hope to sign Miami unrestricted free agent Chris Bosh to a four-year, $88 million contract. But to get Bosh and keep Parsons, Houston must get a firm deal in place with Bosh, then do some cap-clearing to fit in Parsons financially — all within a 72-hour span.The Rockets could first sign Bosh and then exceed the salary cap to keep Parsons, under terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. However, if they are forced to match the Parsons offer before signing Bosh, they would exceed the salary cap and be unable to sign Bosh.Also, once the offer sheet is signed by Parsons, he can’t be part of a sign-and-trade with the Mavs or any other team, and he can’t be involved in any other negotiations. He either becomes a Maverick or stays a Rocket.If Parsons moves north, the Rockets are likely to pursue free agent small forwards Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza or Paul Pierce as a replacement. And if the Mavericks lose out on Parsons, they’ll probably still have time to reach out to Deng or Ariza.So the Mavs believe it was worth the gamble to sign Parsons to the offer sheet. Parsons has long been an off-season target of the Mavericks, who believe that matching the three-year veteran with Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler will give them one of the top frontcourts in the NBA. It also would elevate the Mavs among the league’s elite teams and could make them a title contender again next season.Last season, Parsons averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists in 37.6 minutes per game. He also shot 47.2 percent from the field, which was the sixth-highest among small forwards.He averaged 19.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the Rockets’ first-round playoff series against Portland.Parsons, 25, was Houston’s second-round pick (38th overall) in the 2011 draft out of Florida and has blossomed into one of the league’s young stars. In his three seasons with the Rockets, which include 207 starts in his 213 games, Parsons has career averages of 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. If this signing goes through, the Mavericks hope any further blossoming of Parsons will come while he is with their organization.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice