Writing sure looks to be on free-agent wall

For Dallas Mavericks fans still holding out hope that Mark Cuban would bring the team back to defend its title, J.J. Barea became the latest to likely extinguish that hope.

Barea told ESPNDallas.com Tuesday night that his free-agent discussions with the Mavs aren't going as he hoped and he now believes he will follow Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler out of Dallas.

"It’s not looking good here in Dallas, I don’t think. I’m disappointed. I wasn’t expecting this," said Barea, who added, "It’s disappointing they’re not going to do what needs to be done to bring back the team."

It certainly appears that Dallas is prepared to let Chandler -- who first announced his belief that he will be playing elsewhere last week -- Butler, Barea and perhaps also DeShawn Stevenson walk. Such a scenario would set a plan in motion to get below the salary cap next summer to be able to make a serious run at potential free agents Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard -- assuming any of the three reach the open market.

Howard and Paul could be traded before this season even starts with the Mavs lacking impact pieces that would probably be needed to entice New Orleans or Orlando to send their stars to Dallas.

"It’s going to be very interesting to see how things unfold," Mavs forward Shawn Marion said prior to a workout Tuesday morning with a handful of teammates at the American Airlines Center. "But, we’ve got to stay optimistic and stay positive and hopefully we’ll be able to keep most of our team intact. That’s the positive side of it, hopefully we’ll be able to, but you never know."

Dallas has 10 players under contract and if the Mavs don't re-sign their free agents it would seem logical that they will seek to fill remaining rosters spots (13 minimum on the 15-man roster) with one-year, minimum salary veterans. Brian Cardinal would seem to fit that bill, as would Peja Stojakovic.

A few players on the Mavs' radar might be able to get better deals elsewhere. Agent Bill Duffy said Tuesday that power forward Jeff Foster, who played four of his 12 seasons at Indiana under Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as well as several other clients, possibly centers Francisco Elson and Joel Przybilla, and guard Earl Watson, have received interest from the Mavs, but are entertaining more aggressive overtures elsewhere.

"With whatever roster we come back with, your core nucleus is intact and you have a lot to be excited about," guard Jason Terry said Monday. "Again, we’re still a contender. We’re right there whatever happens."

Chandler is believed to be the No. 1 choice of Golden State, and Butler is visiting with at least four teams this week.

It certainly has been an interesting week starting last Wednesday when teams were allowed to begin speaking to player-agents. Many believed the Mavs' top priority was re-signing Chandler and then bringing back the others to make a run at a repeat. They'll make that run, but apparently without some key pieces, and with both eyes fixated toward a risk-filled summer.