Mavs Sources: Team 'Intrigued' By Josh Smith

DALLAS - How stunned were the Mavs by the news that Detroit waived Josh Smith? So much so that high-ranking officials weren't aware of the move until informed by a reporter - though during the noon hour was told by team sources that Dallas is 'intrigued' by making a move for one of Rondo's closest friends. The inside story:

The Dallas Mavericks have a roster vacancy thanks to the trade for Boston's Rajon Rondo, which strips Dallas of Brandan Wright. So the need for a backup big exists ... and the list of candidates is long, from DFW resident Jermaine O'Neal to China center Josh Harrellson to everybody in between.

Now, including Josh Smith.

The Detroit Pistons have waived the 6-9 forward, a move that should come with red flags. Attitude problems? Knucklehead factor? Eroding talent from his days as a high-flying threat? knows that owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson conferred on this over the lunch hour, and that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has nothing but good things to say about the player on the record.

“My opinion on Josh Smith? He’s a player whose ability I respect a lot,” Carlisle told the Dallas Morning News after the morning shootaround in advance of Monday's game against visiting Atlanta. “And he’s had enough big games against us. He’s the kind of guy who can put a team on his back and beat you. He’s done it to us a lot of times. So I don’t know details of what happened there. But he’ll be picked up soon, I know that.”

Well, not exactly "soon.'' Smith is a virtual lock to clear waivers so his claiming team doesn't have to pick up his $26 million in salary over the next two seasons. So there won't be a "claiming team.'' But after a two-day clearing period, he's free ...

Smith is coveted by the Rockets (where Dwight Smith is one of his best friends) and by the Kings (long admirers of his game). He's also close friends with Rondo, as they played on the same Oak Hill Academy high school team.

Acquiring Smith for nothing (Dallas can only offer the minimum; Houston can offer the BAE of twice that, and in any event, Smith ends up with salary on the range of that aforementioned $26 mil) would certainly fit the Mavs' Asset-Management profile. At the same time, don't forget Cuban's policy on knuckleheads: One is fine. Two start to hang around together to create a dangerous clique. And our Michael Dugat adds this: What if Josh comes here and turns out to be a bad fit and then is dismissed. How would free-agent-to-be Rondo handle that?

At his eight in Atlanta, the 29-year-old Smith was an 18/9 guy. He's shooting poorly now and maybe lacks a high-running motor with an awful Detroit team. But a Mavs source tells "13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game and he's been BAD?' Gotta look hard at it.''

And just as Houston envisions Josh with Dwight (and has for awhile) ... and just as Houston and Dallas would like to screw each other yet again in their Western Conference arms race ... Smith and Rondo have long envisioned a pairing, too.

"The conversation comes up,” Smith told The Boston Globe last spring. “We always tell each other how surreal a moment that would be for us to be able to reconnect again in that realm. ... “It can be far-fetched, but it could be possible too, at the same time. I’m always optimistic. I always think of different scenarios. It could happen, but who knows?”

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