The first soon-to-be-public domino topples innocuously enough, with Dallas Mavericks rookie center AJ Hammons showing up for work in Frisco, expecting to be a starter for Wednesday night’s D-League game between the Mavs’ affiliate the Texas Legends vs. the LA D-Fenders.
At 3:36, I receive a text.
“Hammons is being recalled by the Mavs today.’’
And right about at this time, Legends coach Bob MacKinnon contacts Hammons.
“You’re going downtown,’’ MacKinnon tells the kid.
I ask a Mavs staffer if Hammons’ hurry-up drive south down the Tollway (a move made official at 3:49) had anything to do with the possibility of a trade-deadline-centered Dallas roster shuffle.
“You could surmise that, yes,’’ he tells me.
And then comes a Mavs practice. (It is suggested to me that the workout is largely a scrimmage, and that coach Rick Carlisle will supervise another scrimmage on Thursday as the team comes back from its All-Star Break and preps for a Friday game at Minnesota and a Saturday AAC meeting with Boogie Cousins’ Pelicans). And it is a Mavs practice that does not feature Andrew Bogut or Deron Williams.
“We were just told a trade might happen,’’ J.J. Barea reveals to the media collected downtown. “So they’re not here.’’
Both sit out, protectively bubble-wrapped in order to be safely delivered to their new teams by the 2 p.m. Thursday deadline — if the Mavs can procure from suitors just the right future-value bounty.
Says Carlisle: “If it turns out they're not here, they're not here and this is what we got. And if there are trades, there's a chance there's going to be some players coming back that could help us. But we'll see. We'll know by 2 o'clock tomorrow, and we'll go from there.’’
That “players coming back’’ part is a significant revelation to those of you who’ve been following how a D-Will-to-Cleveland trade might have to work. More on that below …
Assorted other vignettes, takes and dominos as part of “The Anatomy Of A Day In The Mavs’ Trade-Deadline Life”:
*Just 24 hours earlier, Dallas discusses with Utah the idea of trading Williams to the Jazz. It’s not an unappealing idea to D-Will (who once played in Utah and owns a home there and would seemingly waive his trade-veto rights to return). I’m told Utah is “not enthralled’’ with the idea of sacrificing whatever first-rounder (the Jazz have a cache of them) Dallas is asking for. But at least the conversations are on … and inside the Mavs headquarters on Wednesday morning, the idea remains a topic of discussion.
*The same is true of the concept of a Bogut trade to Boston (details here), though a source continues to tell me that a “bigger shoe’’ needs to drop first for the Celtics before they turn to the idea of giving up a 2018-or-later pick for the center.
*Mavs GM Donnie Nelson is the point man on many of the conversations, including the in-house ones in which the staff discusses ideas to pursue the likes of Utah’s Derrick Favors and Detroit’s Andre Drummond. Assistant Michael Finley is a key voice in the room.
*At some point after 10:37 a.m., the D-Will-to-Utah talks are supplemented by D-Will-to-Cleveland talks. This is happy news inside Dallas HQ; the Mavs believe this is the Cavs’ long-sought-after target. Maybe they’re right … but in the early afternoon I’m told Cleveland is also willing to ask Mario Chalmers to “come off the couch’’ to serve as the off-the-bench playmaker LeBron James desires.
*The ideal Deron trade brings back nothing but picks; there’s no desire to let a Channing Frye or a Man Shumpert clog the Mavs’ summer salary cap. So there are complicated ways to pull that off. A three-way involving another team, and letting the Cavs’ player go somewhere other than Dallas. A complicated swap with the Cavs that involves not only Deron but Bogut, too. All these are considered by Mark Cuban and staff … keeping in mind that because of Utah’s cap situation (as compared to Cleveland’s) a D-Will trade to the Jazz requires no filler, no matching, no cap gymnastics. (See David Lord's incomparable insight into these "deeply involved'' trade talks here.)
*Take this as either a) a sign that Deron and/or Bogut deal(s) are going down or b) that the Mavs are really, really doing their just-in-case preparatory homework. But consider the Mavs’ roster post-trade. If Carlisle’s forecast is right and Dallas gets “some players coming back,’’ this isn’t an issue.
Two players go out and fewer than two players come back. It’s so feasible that the Mavs staff decides it had better assemble a list of D-League prospects, a list of “guys on the couch,’’ a list of prospects playing in China who will soon be eligible to sign NBA deals.
How real am I being about this concept? I’m giving you names. If the Mavs have roster vacancies, they will consider quickly sending out weekend feelers to D-Leaguer Jalen Jones (of Maine and formerly of Texas A&M), to Manny Harris and Pierre Jackson (of the Legends), to Ray McCallum (now on his second 10-day with the Hornets), to Briante Weber (the D-League star now on a 10-day with Golden State), maybe to the aforementioned Chalmers, and eventually, when his China service is done, to J.J. Hickson, the former Wizards big man.
*The organization is still struggling to wrap its collective head around the ideas of being “non-competitive,’’ of “tanking,’’ of “organic tanking.’’ Somebody on the staff mentions out-loud how “Boogie and The Brow’’ are almost certain to lead New Orleans to a charge for the No. 8 spot in the West playoffs, leaving Dallas in the lottery dust.
I don’t know what Carlisle’s private reply to that is. I know his public answer.
“We’re in a dynamic business,’’ he says to the Wednesday afternoon media. “There’s plenty going on.’’