The Dallas Mavericks took a giant step Wednesday toward a possible return to their glory days when they acquired popular center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton in a six-player blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks.
In exchange for the two Knicks’ starters, the Mavs shipped guards Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin, forward Wayne Ellington, center Samuel Dalembert and the 34th and 51st picks of Thursday’s NBA Draft to the Knicks.
The trade was greeted warmly by Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks’ perennial All-Star forward who started alongside Chandler when Dallas captured the 2011 NBA title.
At The Steve Nash Foundation Showdown in New York on Wednesday, Nowitzki told reporters: “[Chandler] helped me get a championship. We had great chemistry together. I’m more than thrilled.”
As they revamp their roster and try to win another world title before Nowitzki’s skills erode, the Mavericks also remain squarely in the hunt for New York Knicks free-agent small forward Carmelo Anthony, who plans to visit Dallas, Houston and Chicago after the free-agency period starts Tuesday.
The acquisition of Chandler and Felton might tilt the pursuit of Anthony in the Mavericks’ favor.
A source said: “I don’t know if Tyson and Felton are enough to draw Carmelo here.”
Nowitzki, though, is keeping his fingers crossed that the Mavericks can possibly pull off another stunner and capture Anthony, who was second in the NBA in scoring last season behind Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant with 27.4 points per game.
“He can score with the best of them,” Nowitzki said of Anthony. “If that’s really a possibility, then we’d love to have him.”
Nowitzki also would like the Mavericks to pursue Miami’s LeBron James, whose agent announced Tuesday that James will opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
“All the teams with [salary] cap room got to try [and acquire James],” Nowitzki said. “He’s the best player in the league right now.
“If he’s a free agent, which obviously doesn’t happen very often that the best player in the league is a free agent, then you got to obviously go at it. I don’t know what our chances are, but you at least have to try.”
After Wednesday’s whirlwind moves, the Mavericks have $26.5 million of cap space available on a salary cap that’s projected to be $63.2 million.
Chandler was the emotional leader and defensive stalwart for the Mavericks during their only championship season. But when the 7-foot-1 center became a free agent not long after the team’s downtown Dallas parade, the Mavericks refused to meet his contract demands, and he eventually signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Knicks.
In his first season in New York, Chandler was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. In his second season he earned a berth in the All-Star game.
Last season, however, Chandler missed 20 games from Nov. 8-Dec. 16 after he fractured his right leg, and he wound up playing only 55 games for the Knicks, averaging 8.7 points and 9.6 rebounds a game.
A 13-year veteran, the 31-year-old Chandler will earn $14.6 million next season and will become a free agent in the summer of 2015.
Felton, meanwhile, turns 30 Thursday and is due to make $4.36 million next season and has a player option that will pay him $4.54 million during the 2015-16 season.
Last season, Felton averaged 9.7 points and 5.6 assists in 31 minutes per game. The fifth pick of the 2005 draft has career averages of 13.1 points and 6.5 assists in 667 games.
Wednesday’s trade means the Mavericks have no picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft. The only other times in team history that the Mavericks had no draft picks was in 2004 and 2005.
Calderon, Dalembert, Ellington and Larkin all wound up spending only one season with the Mavericks. Calderon was the team’s starting point guard and averaged 11.4 points and 4.7 assists while finishing fifth in the league in 3-point shooting at 44.9 percent.
Dalembert endured an up-and-down season and wound up averaging 6.6 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game.
Ellington played in only 45 games and averaged 3.2 points in 8.7 minutes per game. Larkin played only 48 games and averaged 2.8 points after a broken right ankle forced him to miss the summer league, training camp and the first 10 games of his rookie season.
In all, the Mavericks brought in nine new players last summer and it netted them a 49-33 record and a first-round playoff loss in seven games to the eventual world champion San Antonio Spurs.
Wednesday brought more changes which the Mavericks hope will get them back in the championship conversation.
“I liked what we built last summer,” Nowitzki said. “Now we’ve got to build on it.”
The Mavericks believe Wednesday was a pleasant start.