Mavs hope trade helps them contend

DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks' trade for Caron Butler(notes) and Brendan Haywood(notes) doesn't have their Western Conference rivals trembling just yet.

The Mavericks acquired Butler, Haywood and guard DeShawn Stevenson(notes) from the salary-shedding Washington Wizards in exchange for forwards Josh Howard(notes), Drew Gooden(notes), James Singleton(notes) and guard Quinton Ross(notes) on Saturday night. Physicals have been waived for the trade and the rejuvenated Mavs will debut at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Although the Mavericks added three players who have been starters most of their careers – and who should improve Dallas' scoring and depth – last season's two Western Conference finalists didn't seem too concerned.

''I'm never nervous,'' Kobe Bryant(notes) said. ''Just more cautious because I know what [Butler] can bring to the table.''

Butler could move into the starting lineup at Dallas' shooting guard position. He doesn't have Howard's drama, can play inside and outside, is tough and defends better than advertised. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes Butler can return to an All-Star level.

''I think he's very excited,'' said Bryant, who played with Butler on the Los Angeles Lakers. ''It gives him a chance to contend for a championship. I think the hunger and the passion will come back.''

Haywood's addition shouldn't be underestimated. He ranks fifth in the league in blocks and is averaging more than 10 rebounds per game. He gives the Mavericks a bruising big man who can body up Lakers center Andrew Bynum(notes) or Nuggets center Nene.

With Erick Dampier(notes) slowed by knee issues, Haywood could start. Dallas also recently added rugged forward Eduardo Najera(notes). If there is a knock against the Lakers, it's that their big men can be pushed around. Dallas now has the beef to do that.

While the Lakers still own a clear advantage in talent, one longtime scout thinks the Mavericks could become a stronger contender than the Nuggets to make the West finals.

''That's a real good move,'' Carmelo Anthony(notes) said. ''But I don't get nervous.''

The Mavs won't have much time to jell. At 32-20, they have just 30 games left. They've also lost five of their past seven games, which is a big reason why they made the deal now.

''If those pieces fit," Jason Kidd(notes) said, "it could put us right there with the elite teams of this league."

Added Dirk Nowitzki(notes): ''Obviously, when you've lost [five] out of your last [seven] games you got to look at doing something.''

Like Bryant, Lakers forward Pau Gasol(notes) doesn't seem overly worried about the rejuvenated Mavs.

''I guess they'll have to prove it,'' Gasol said. ''It's all about proving it and seeing if they are stronger. It does take time. It's not a one-player deal, so it does take time for those players to adjust inside the court and outside the court with the guys.

''I guess they felt like they had to make a move and they made it. It brings good players to their team. It might be positive. It might not be. We will have to see how it plays out.''

Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) said Cuban deserved credit for being willing to do what it took financially to get the deal done. It wasn't a move for a big name like Phoenix's Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) or Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala(notes), but the Mavericks didn't need a superstar. They have that in Nowitzki. The Mavericks needed a couple more pieces and a wake-up call to pick up their game.

Now, they just might have enough talent to force the Lakers, Nuggets and the rest of the West to take them more seriously.

''We'll find out,'' Cuban said. ''That's why they play the games. You never know until you go out there and play.''

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