July 5, 2013

Howard heads elsewhere, but the Mavs get Calderon

Rockets land free-agent prize Howard as Mavs come to terms with veteran point guard Jose Calderon.

Shortly after losing out on the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes, the Dallas Mavericks moved quickly and agreed to terms with point guard Jose Calderon on a four-year, $29 million contract.

Calderon, 31, fills one of the glaring needs the Mavericks went into the off-season hoping to remedy. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound playmaker helped ease some tension after the 7-foot Howard spurned the Mavs on Friday and decided to take a four-year, $88 million free-agent contract with the Houston Rockets.

In 45 games for Toronto last season, Calderon averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 assists and shot 47 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. After a midseason trade to Detroit, Calderon averaged 11.6 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and 52 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in 28 games for the Pistons. He led the NBA in 3-point shooting at 46.1 percent.

The Mavericks still need an inside threat and rim protector, and will likely turn to either Andrew Bynum (Philadelphia 76ers) or Nikola Pekovic (Minnesota Timberwolves).

This summer’s most coveted free agent, Howard had narrowed his choices to the Mavericks, Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks. But the free-agent center decided that his future lies with the Rockets.

“Got word we are out of the DH sweepstakes,” owner Mark Cuban wrote via email. “We gave it a shot and it didn’t work out.

“It was truly an experience. At some point I will post our video and presentation we made.”

Losing out on Howard means the Mavericks have no choice but to go to their second line of attack. Besides Calderon, who can’t sign his contract until Wednesday, the Mavericks also have shown interest in guards Jarrett Jack, Mo Williams and Monta Ellis, and in big men Bynum and Pekovic.

Not long after hearing the news about Howard, Cuban took to Twitter to tweet: “Time to get back to work. The Mavs are back open for business.”

The addition of Howard — to go with 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki — could have put the Mavs in position to acquire other quality players at an affordable price in hopes of competing for an NBA title. That’s the blueprint the Miami Heat used three summers ago when several players took less money to hop on board with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who also declined a maxed-out contract for the betterment of the Heat.

While the Heat used that format to capture the past two NBA titles, it’s back to the drawing board for the Mavericks.

Bynum could be a low-risk, high-reward play for the Mavericks, if they can get him at the right price. The 7-footer averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 60 games for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2011-12 season.

The Lakers traded him to Philadelphia on Aug. 10. But issues with his knees forced Bynum to sit out all of last season.

In March, Bynum, who made $16.1 million from the bench last season, underwent arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees and is on the free-agent market.

Despite those surgeries, Bynum, 25, reportedly doesn’t plan on working out for any of the teams who are pursuing him. Instead, his camp will offer an MRI and other medical reports to those teams.

Since failing to come to terms with Tyson Chandler after winning the NBA title in June 2011, the Mavericks have been in search of a center of Bynum’s caliber, but only if his medical situation doesn’t become an issue.

The other center on the Mavs’ list is Pekovic, who averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves and could fetch a four-year contract ranging between $40-$60 million. But the 6-11, 290-pound Pekovic is a restricted free agent, and the T-Wolves can choose to match any offer.

The Mavericks also have high regard for Ellis, who has averaged 19.4 points and shot 45.6 percent from the field in his eight-year career.

Despite the Mavericks having a significant amount of salary-cap space, it’s not a given that they’ll use it this summer. With Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Kobe Bryant, Danny Granger, James, Wade and Bosh among the players who could become free agents next summer, waiting another year is an option.

But the Mavericks don’t want that wait to end up like last summer when they lost out Williams. Coming to terms with Calderon is a positive step. The Mavs could use a few more steps forward in the coming days.

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