Caron Butler injury pains Mavericks

DALLAS -- For a man fresh off a vacation in the Cayman Islands, Mark Cuban sure wasn't in a very good mood Tuesday evening before the Dallas Mavericks' 84-81 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Ain't no sunshine on the day your two-time All-Star small forward undergoes season-ending surgery to repair a knee injury. Plus, Cuban got a wee bit perturbed by the predictable question from reporters:

How does the loss of Caron Butler affect the Mavericks' approach in the trade market?

"We do the same thing regardless," Cuban said with a huff. "Our approach never changes."

The Mavs are always "opportunistic," which might be Cuban's favorite word that's fit to print. They always work the phones hard. They always explore every opportunity that doesn't involve dealing Dirk Nowitzki.

That's how they ended up making blockbuster deals right before two of the past three trade deadlines. They'll be smack dab in the middle of trade rumor mill again this winter, especially with Cuban saying that the looming uncertainty with the NBA's labor situation won't limit his willingness to take on significant salary if the Mavs can strike a deal that makes them significantly better.

That doesn't mean such a deal will go down.

"The other side has to want to make the trade," Cuban said, reminding folks of a minor inconvenience often forgotten when fans and media start throwing trade scenarios against the wall.

We know the Mavs' chances of getting Carmelo Anthony are closer to none than slim. That's better than their chances of landing Chris Paul, long a pipe dream around these parts, now that the NBA owns the Hornets.

Maybe they rekindle the talks they had with the 76ers a year ago about Andre Iguodala. They'll probably make a call to Houston to ask about Kevin Martin, although Rockets general manager Daryl Morey might hang up in a hurry. Cuban might call his old friend Michael Jordan, who donated Tyson Chandler to the Mavs this summer, to check on Stephen Jackson. There will be plenty of other names that pop up -- some realistic, others ridiculous -- in connection with the Mavs in the weeks to come.

It doesn't help that one of the Mavs' best trade chips happens to be Butler, and he's not nearly as valuable as he was a week ago. Now, he's just a $10.6 million expiring contract, not a 15-point-per-game scorer a team can plug into its starting lineup the rest of the season.

And the Mavs' best trade asset has yet to play a minute this season. You remember Roddy Beaubois, right?

Oh, yeah, he's the one major midseason addition that the Mavs are pretty much guaranteed to get. There is a distinct possibility that it will be in the Mavs' best interests to just add Roddy B. to the mix and try to make a run with the current roster intact.

There still isn't a definitive timetable on his return from a broken foot suffered in August. It's still a matter of weeks, not days.

Cuban sarcastically predicted April 11, the regular-season finale, as Beaubois' return date. He amended that to March 11 after acknowledging that Beaubois would probably need about a month to chip off rust and mesh with the rest of the Mavs before playing up to his potential.

The Mavs hope the reality is that Beaubois returns much sooner than that, but the subject ranks right up there with trade rumors on the list of things the team's decision-makers enjoy discussing.

"I'll talk about it when it becomes an imminent thing," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't think right now it's appropriate because we've got 12 other guys in that locker room that's got to get the job done for us."

The guys in the locker room right now have managed to become one of the league's better defenses. That's a trend that needs to continue to give the Mavs a legitimate chance at making a playoff run.

But they also need a consistent, dynamic scoring sidekick for Nowitzki. Butler's chance to be that guy is unfortunately gone, at least for this season. Jason Terry can still do it in bursts, but he's maddeningly inconsistent.

The French blur who was a fringe rotation player as a rookie is the Mavs' best bet, assuming he's still here after the trade deadline.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.