Mavs' Caron Butler And His FA Footsie

We asked the question, 'Why is Caron Butler playing free-agency Footsie on Twitter with Dwyane Wade?' Let's explore the Mavs swingman's real options - and the Mavs' options regarding re-signing him:

Caron Butler is part of the fabric of the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas GM Donnie Nelson tells that to anyone who will listen, and Nelson's motivations there are many.

He's stroking a professional athlete who needs to be stroked.

He's ballyhooing, however justifiably, the Mavs' supportive and familial atmosphere.

He's telling the truth, as the hard-rehabbing and soulful Butler provided inspiration to the champions even while being sidelined during the second half of the season and the title run with that nasty knee injury.

And finally, the reason Donnie wants the world to know that Caron is part of the fabric of a champion is because the GM wants to subliminally massage Caron into knowing that THIS is HIS team ... playing time and money and other friendships aside, THIS is Caron's team.

But two can play at that game. And Caron Butler (along with his agent) is playing.

Tuff Juice established over the summer (as well as possible) that his knee is fine. He did so by participating in a South Florida exhibition game hosted by his pal Dwyane Wade and attended by Heat fans who remember Caron's early NBA days, when he played in Miami.

When Caron and Wade tweet sweet nothings into each others feeds, as they did over the weekend, they are doing more than sending messages to each other; after all, can't they do that privately, on Twitter, by phone, by text, by email or in person?

They are sending a message that Caron is WANTED. The stroking of Caron by Caron (and Wade) is purposely and designed to maximize Butler's opportunities.
Now ... what exactly are those opportunities?

We've made it clear that we believe the Mavs should prioritize retaining the existing Dirk-led roster, keeping the Nowitzki Window open for as long as possible. That can mean Butler is given as much as $6.5 million this season ... which still allows Dallas to also bring back Chandler, Barea, DeShawn and Cardinal.

Is $6.5 mil too little? The Caron camp might argue that it's a too-drastic cut from the $10 million he's used to. But he is coming off a knee injury that cost half a season. The Mavs will argue that any remaining questions about his star-level ability must be cushioned by a salary much less than $10 million.

The Mavs will also almost certainly follow a traditional Mark Cuban gameplan and inform the player to seek out the best deal in America ... and then bring it back to Cuban.

The bet, obviously, is that no one is going to pay Caron Butler more than $6.5 mil. And it's a darn good bet.

Additionally, the Mavs are prepared to hand Tuff Juice a starting job, and it won't be at 2-guard as it was a year ago. Dallas can boast of a Jet/Marion led bench, which creates the starting-five opening for Butler. True 2-guards (including Rudy) will fight for the top job there.

Now, other teams can offer Caron a prominent spot, too, including teams like the Nets and Clippers. We would suggest that Caron has experienced a rebuilding mess having played in D.C. A slight salary boost isn't worth that nightmare.

So Miami? Here's the problem there that makes the tweeting seem so ... fluffy: The Heat reportedly will have a $7 million spending window. They could easily fit Caron and his $5 mil MLE in there, of course, and grab another helpful veteran as well. Too bad for Miami that it has a glaring hole elsewhere.

That other need: Center. As much as Wade might want to pal around on South Beach with Tuff Juice, we bet Pat Riley would rather spend that $5 mil on a center like Sam Dalembert.

Caron would be a luxury in Miami. Dalembert is a need.

So we think (and hope) that $6.5 million over the course of a four-year deal in Dallas sounds mighty attractive.

However, we're open to watching the Mavs play hardball ... or, maybe better said, watching the two sides negotiate their way to a more "temporary'' sewing together of fabric.

Proof that Caron's agent is doing his part: The CBS report that in a single breath lists the "Nets, Clippers, Bulls, Heat, Spurs and Knicks'' as "having expressed early interest'' in Caron, "per sources.''

Read between those lines: Did CBS get six texts, one each from the Nets, Clippers, Bulls, Heat, Spurs and Knicks, and then condense that into one tweet? Not likely. CBS was given its list not from "sources,'' but rather from ONE source: Tuff Juice's agent.

More hardball: In the agent's "leak'' to CBS, the Mavs were not mentioned. Yet we can assure you that Dallas has also "expressed early interest'' in Butler. That's an oversight with purpose.

Hardball. Let the games begin ...

Our original thought in going with the four-year contract for Caron is that it would be the max number of years he could possibly be offered (The Over-36 Rule would prevent a fifth year). We are demonstrating "financial fit" for the Dallas Mavericks by mentioning it, and we think it would be a thrown bone of faith on the Mavs' part.

At the same time, he is coming off a severe knee injury. In that context, would four years be too much of a risk? Perhaps. We're making the assumption that his downside risk will be age, not recuperation, and our four-year proposal is made accordingly. But the Mavs more than anyone know how close Caron was to returning (or not) in the Finals, and if significant questions remain in their minds, those same question marks will also be there as a damper on competitors offers.

(A naysayer might also note that Caron is a volume shooter, is a turnover guy without being an assist guy, and is more gritty that skilled on defense. But ... the Mavs as a team play well when he's in the lineup. And he's fam!)

So if Caron doesn't like the long-term dollars here ... but sure doesn't like the smaller dollars with the MLE elsewhere ... the Mavs certainly have the ability to try to bring him back on a one-year deal that gives both sides a better chance to fairly evaluate him before locking into a longer contract.
That would add talent and depth to the mix for this compacted season ahead. It would carry a no-trade commitment (by rule) ensuring both sides (as well as the entire league) would get to see how Caron performs for a full year. And both sides would have full freedom next summer after that showcase year to determine their preference for ensuing years.

But what if Caron really does decide it's more attractive to give into "suitors'' the Nets, Clippers, Bulls, Heat, Spurs or Knicks?

You wish him Godspeed. Happy trails. See you down the road. As much as he was/is part of the fabric here -- and we say the following not specifically about Butler but as a general rule -- the last thing the Mavs needs is a Mav who doesn't want to be a Mav.

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