Open Doors? Mavs Latest On Asik & Bynum

While Mavs ownership is talking publicly about the 'Bank of Cuban' being open in regard to trading for a center, the real action is occurring behind closed doors, where team officials recently convened to discuss the names Asik and Bynum. As trade season approaches, we take you behind the bluster and the hype and inside Mavs HQ:



On another level of game-playing -- far removed from the court -- is the Game of Bluster. As we gear up for February trade season, four major players in that Game of Bluster right now are:

1) The Dallas Mavericks

2) The Houston Rockets

3) The Andrew Bynum camp

4) Omer Asik's agent, Arn Tellem.

Let's begin with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who often has a habit of speaking publicly about trades and personnel ... without actually saying anything.

Do the Mavs need to use a trade to upgrade from Somnambulant Sam Dalembert?

"It depends on which Sam we have," Cuban said, a cleverly cryptic answer that barely hides the truth DB.com readers have been seeing in this space for weeks: The Mavs KNOW which Sam they have. They just aren't being very honest with themselves about what they signed on for.

"If we have the Sam of (solid performances),'' Cuban continued, "we're good. If we have the Sam that isn't as on key ... it's different.''

And therefore ... it's different. Which is why personnel man Tony Ronzone led a recent meeting to discuss, among other things, the availability and judgments of centers Andrew Bynum and Omer Asik.

I'm told the braintrust came to essentially the same conclusion it did in July, when it experienced a "silly'' recruiting meeting with Bynum and decided it wanted no part of him.

Now Bynum is available again, having lost the second half of his $12-million salary last week when Cleveland traded him to Chicago, which immediately waived him.

Those reports that "10 teams are interested in Bynum''? One NBA source tells me, "So 10 teams are interested yet he passed through waivers? Ten teams are interested but a week has passed and even teams desperate for centers haven't bid on him?''

Technically, teams really were never going to claim him; it required a $12-mil chunk of cap room (which only Philly has, and they've already been down this Bynum road.) or a $12-mil Trade Exception (which nobody has.)

But the source's point still applies. There are no "10 teams.'' When "10 teams'' are said to be interested in a player, that information cannot possibly be coming from a source inside each of those 10 teams; no reporter is that thorough, connected and industrious.

No, when a big casting of a net like that is announced. it's because it's announced by one source -- the agent.

Did the Mavs discuss Bynum privately? Indeed, and Cuban concedes this on the record by saying, "It's not to say we wouldn't consider him. We'll look at everybody and make a determination. (But) any free agent, we can only offer them the minimum."

I continue to believe Bynum is worth not even that. The Mavs' private meeting is apparently resulting in a similar conclusion ... and meetings in other NBA boardrooms are resulting in the same. Why haven't the Clippers -- supposedly "tops on his list'' -- hurried to acquire Bynum? The Nets and Hawks have injury issues with their standout starters; why haven't they gobbled up Bynum? If Miami is such an "obvious choice,'' why isn't it yet "obvious'' to Miami?
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I won't bother getting into the prediction business here except to tell you what I know: The NBA at-large is troubled by the J.R. Smith insanity in New York; the nutty Bynum's desire to get a decent contract is made more difficult with Smith's antics fresh on everyone's minds.

And in Dallas ... isn't one sometimes-unmotivated 7-footer enough?

Agent influence and media bluster are also behind the Asik situation in Houston. When you hear national media sources outlining all the attractive options the Rockets have with Asik, you are actually hearing the twin voices of Houston GM Daryl Morey and Asik agent Arn Tellem.

Far too few news items regarding Asik bother to include the facts that:

*Asik's contract - which features a $15 million "balloon'' cash payment in 2014-15 - lessens his attractiveness.

*Leaks that had Houston "almost'' trading Asik to the Nets for Deron Williams smell suspiciously like someone in Houston's front office wishes to create a mirage of activity and effort and action.

*What happened to Houston's openly-announced "deadline''? The Rockets were determined to move Asik on December 19. They announced it to the world while also intimating (through media leaks) that they demanded young talent and a draft pick.

And then suddenly, the "deadline'' came and went. And Asik still clogs the Houston payroll and roster.

It was on December 19 when Yahoo wrote, of "Houston's ... self-imposed deadline.'' Then shortly after that wrote, "But remember, the (real) trade deadline is still two months ago.'' And then, a minute later, wrote, "Houston has found too many teams leery of Asik's contract next season, and hasn't found a deal it wants.''

Whew! That was some fast-and-furious fake-deadline non-activity right there, eh?

The real deadline is Feb. 20. The real action will heat up leading up to that time, and not because Bynum's agent wants it to heat up now, and not because the Rockets wanted it to heat up in December.
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Says Cuban: "We're always exploring, but it's also harder to do deals now just because of the rules. But we're always wide-open. We'll do the deal that we need to do to accomplish what we need to accomplish."

There is a blockade, I'm told, to any eventual Asik trade talks involving the Mavs and Rockets. Hoopshype created a stir in November by claiming the Mavericks were "pushing'' for a swap involving Marion and Larkin for Asik; it was all baloney, as at that time Dallas had literally not had any discussions on the subject with the Rockets. None.

Will there ever be? Says a source: "The Rockets don't want to make that trade inside the division. That's why there aren't any talks.''

Except, of course, behind closed doors, among themselves for now, at Dallas Mavericks HQ.





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