While the business side of the NBA turned blockbuster Monday night and the Dallas Mavericks took a square shot to the chin in a 95-88 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Center, owner Mark Cuban confirmed the Mavericks are monitoring the trade market and looking at ways to improve the roster long term.
Such is life in this stage of the transition to a new-look Dallas Mavericks in the soon-to-be post-Dirk Nowitzki era.
And while the speculators spun more rumors over local radio and social media on his future status in Dallas, forward Wesley Matthews maintained his usual professional posture despite the Mavs losing for the fourth straight time and seventh time in the last eight games.
“I don’t think about it at all,” he said. “It’s a business and you go out and play as a professional every night.”
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Asked if he had a preference on staying or going: “I prefer where I’m at.”
Monday marked the official cascading of the first waterfall of mid-season trades as the Clippers’ Blake Griffin was dealt to the Pistons in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a first- and second-round draft pick.
The move could be significant in Dallas because speculation indicates it could be the first of several that the Los Angeles Clippers make, including dealing former Mavs free-agent target DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan originally agreed to terms with Cuban and the Mavericks in the summer of 2015 before a dramatic “dead week” of negotiations ended in the big man re-upping with Los Angeles.
Since then, Dallas has had some rough luck in the veteran market.
The Clippers also sent Brice Johnson and Willie Reed to the Motor City along with Griffin, the former Oklahoma standout.
But the stage Monday at the AAC was for Matthews, as speculation continued to mount that moving the veteran forward might be a boon for the Mavericks.
He scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds, exceeding his season averages and continuing to show up as a viable option for a contending team.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks (16-35) with 20 points, while Dennis Smith Jr. had 14 and Nowitzki had 10.
Hassan Whiteside had 25 points and 14 rebounds to lead Miami (29-21) as the Heat pulled to within a game of Cleveland for third place in the Eastern Conference and completed a season sweep of the Mavs.
Josh Richardson had 14 points, Goran Dragic scored 13 and Kelly Olynyk 12 in supporting roles for Miami.
Dallas currently has around $13 million in cap space available to take on an expiring contract along with draft picks or prospects that could bolster the roster.
Matthews and center Salah Mejri seem to be two of the Mavs’ most valuable options.
“I can’t comment at all really,” Cuban said. “But we are looking and continuing to take a look at what’s out there and talking to every team. It’s a business.”
Guard Devin Harris returned from injury as well, giving the Dallas backcourt some fresh legs but only maintaining the recipe as J.J. Barea missed the game with an oblique strain.
The Mavs did make things interesting late, fueled by Matthews and Smith, to pull within 91-88 with 44.9 seconds remaining.
But Dallas couldn’t close the deal.
MIAMI (95)—Richardson 4-8 2-4 14, J.Johnson 2-4 2-2 6, Whiteside 10-15 5-6 25, Dragic 6-14 0-0 13, T.Johnson 2-6 2-3 8, Winslow 2-4 2-2 6, Olynyk 4-12 2-2 12, Adebayo 1-3 0-0 2, Ellington 3-9 0-0 9. Totals 34-75 15-19 95.
DALLAS (88)—Barnes 8-18 3-4 20, Kleber 4-6 0-0 9, Nowitzki 3-11 2-2 10, Smith Jr. 4-17 5-6 14, Matthews 7-12 2-2 19, Powell 2-2 0-0 4, Mejri 2-3 0-0 4, Ferrell 2-9 2-2 6, Harris 1-7 0-0 2, Collinsworth 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-86 14-16 88.
3-Point Goals—Miami 12-31 (Richardson 4-7, Ellington 3-9, T.Johnson 2-4, Olynyk 2-7, Dragic 1-2, J.Johnson 0-1, Winslow 0-1), Dallas 8-29 (Matthews 3-6, Nowitzki 2-6, Kleber 1-1, Barnes 1-5, Smith Jr. 1-7, Ferrell 0-2, Harris 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Miami 41 (Whiteside 14), Dallas 40 (Powell 10). Assists—Miami 23 (J.Johnson 6), Dallas 20 (Smith Jr. 10). Total Fouls—Miami 19, Dallas 22. A—19,555 (19,200).