Answer 1: "Absolutely not,'' Mavs GM Donnie Nelson tells DB.com. "Brendan's going to be fine. There are a million phone calls always being made, but we're not interested in anything like that.''
The "million phone calls'' are occurring with the opening of the Dec. 15 window that allows trades of players with new deals. Haywood this summer signed a contract that guarantees him five years and $43 million.
"Listen, there is an adjustment period here,'' Nelson says. "Circumstances are fluid. Brendan is dealing with that.''
Translation: When Big Wood signed that deal in July, there was an assumption – and kind of even a "promise'' of sorts – that the starting center job would be his. "Fluidity'' occurred shortly after that time, when Dallas beat out other bidders and convinced Charlotte to give up Tyson Chander in trade for The DUST Chip.
In training camp, Chandler emerged as the clear winner of their head-to-head battles, and has since emerged as the player Dirk Nowitzki terms "our MVP.''
Answer 2: That brings us to Haywood's rather mopey approach to the job. … and the way his bosses are choosing to deal with it.
Hey, everybody can't be the inspirational leader that Chandler has proven to be. And maybe not everybody can be as energetic as young Frenchmen Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca are when they take the floor. But ignoring those sort of intangibles, Haywood has devolved as a player in this first third of a season. … and it's impossible to separate "attitude'' from "aptitude.''
We made this point with Bacsik on the DB.com Mavs Podcast on Wednesday: When most of the Mavs come charging from the locker room through the "basement'' concourse tunnel, they truly do come charging … led on by cheers from fans and boosters and team employees lining the hallway.
Big Wood does not come charging. He trudges.
Because he's too cool? Because everything is fine? Because everything is not fine? Because he's saving his energy for the 10 minutes he's about to play?
Says coach Rick Carlisle of the aforementioned "mopey'' approach:
"If that's the case, there's probably some frustration. This guy's been a starting center for 10 years. We're asking him to do something that's a big adjustment. Shawn Marion has made the same adjustment, too. Brendan, he works hard. I guarantee you … he'll be one of the first guys in here doing cardio and keeping himself ready. He's been working on his free throws, he knocked those two in, which was really big. He's still a big part of our team."
Indeed, by all accounts, he's not in the doghouse. Instead, insist the Mavs, he's sharing a penthouse suite with Tyson, Ian and Alexis. (And while Big Wood doesn't much talk to the press nowadays, he does seem to have the support of his mates.)
Answer 3: So Dallas is preaching "strength in numbers'' and issuing a vote of confidence. … and certainly recognizing that the time to trade a player is not when he is ebbing.
Is Haywood's contract an albatross? That's not specific enough: It's an albatross hanging around the neck of a player performing poorly.
"The backup center position, I'll just address that,'' Carlisle said late Wednesday, before any Haywood questions could be fired at him. "I think it's important. Brendan is our guy, but in situations where we feel we need a little more energy, quickness in the game, that's why I look to go to Ian. Brendan just had … a tough game for him. He was just unable to get much going around the basket or defensively …''
Nelson says it another way: "We've got four centers. We're very fortunate there. So if one guy isn't going well, Rick's got three other guys who he has confidence in. That can be a competitive situation, which is good. It can also be a ‘strength-in-numbers' thing, which I think it certainly is.''
There is certainly an argument to be made there. … but it's not a pro-Haywood argument. Rather, the strength-in-numbers issue is a blessing because of his failings, which include a one-game suspension on Nov. 26 in San Antonio (and Dallas beat the Spurs without him) and Monday's silly scene that featured the Bucks wisely fouling him intentionally (and recording an upset at the AAC in part because of that).
In Wednesday's 103-99 victory over Portland, Big Wood was allowed just 10 minutes of burn. He netted two rebounds, two fouls and two points –
stunningly, as Rick noted, those came at the free-throw line, the spot on the floor at which he is the NBA's worst performer.
While Brendan got first crack at the backup job, Carlisle wasted little time in getting Mahinmi into the second-quarter mix. Mahinmi was a three-minute-and-12-second dervish.
"Ian did a very good job when he got in there,'' Carlisle said. "But Brendan is going to be our guy on most nights."
"He's our guy.'' "Strength in numbers.'' "Vote of confidence.'' "Brendan is going to be fine.''
Those are probably the wise things to say about a player who figures to be a Maverick for a long, long time. Given that last point – the "long, long'' part -- maybe those terms are the only things to say.