Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Friday that he is still "actively" trying to make a trade score with Erick Dampier's lucrative non-guaranteed contract.
But Nelson, in an appearance on ESPN 103.3's "Galloway & Company" show, confirmed an ESPNDallas.com report from earlier Friday that there is suddenly a real possibility that the Mavericks will not use their vaunted Dampier trade chip.
"A good chance," one team source said.
In his radio appearance, Nelson confirmed that Dallas is determined not to ship out Dampier's fully unguaranteed $13 million contract just to take back someone else's long-term deal. The Mavericks are telling teams that they have to furnish a clear roster upgrade if they want the ability to acquire Dampier, cut him instantly and wipe $13 million off the books.
"We're not just looking for reasons to get players that aren't going to help us," Nelson said. "It wouldn't make sense if we all of a sudden got some fossil at the end of his career and it cost us $10 million, plus tax, and he didn't crack the rotation.
"We've got that [Dampier] chip. It's a valuable one. We're actively in discussions, but we'll pull that trigger if it makes sense and we can take a significant step forward."
Sources told ESPNDallas.com that the Minnesota Timberwolves have been urging Dallas to part with Dampier's contract -- and draft considerations -- in exchange for Al Jefferson, who has three years left on his contract at $42 million.
The Mavericks, sources said, keep telling the Wolves that they won't surrender Dampier's contract in a Jefferson deal because they have it earmarked for a Pau Gasol-type trade, such as the centerpiece of Dallas' longstanding pursuit of New Orleans point guard Chris Paul.
Dallas, though, does remain interested in Jefferson if the Wolves would accept a deal that does not involve Dampier's contract. Although Jefferson was a centerpiece of its trade with Boston in July 2007 that sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics, Minnesota is shopping Jefferson to ease a frontcourt logjam that got even more crowded Thursday when the Wolves acquired former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley from Miami.
It remains to be seen whether the Mavs' hard-line stance with regard to Dampier changes if they can't swing a significant deal in the coming week. For now, though, they intend to take a measured look at their options on the trade market for the next month or so, disappointing as it would be if they can't turn their best asset into tangible help for Dirk Nowitzki after so much hoopla.
Dallas, furthermore, remains highly interested in re-signing Dampier if it does end up dealing him to a team that simply plans to release him. Mavericks coack Rick Carlisle and Nelson cite depth at power forward and center as the Mavs' biggest concerns after accomplishing their goal of re-signing Nowitzki (four years, $80 million) and Brendan Haywood (six years, $55 million) to long-term deals.
"We'll try to address that backup 4 and 5 and try not to give up a lot doing it," Nelson said.
Dallas has been shopping guards DeShawn Stevenson ($4.1 million salary next season) and Matt Carroll (three years, $11.7 million remaining on his contract). It's also possible that guard Jason Terry could be featured in a package for Jefferson. Terry's contract has two years remaining for more than $20 million, but he can be bought out for $5 million after this season if his playing time is slashed to less than 1,500 minutes.
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Tim MacMahon is a reporter and columnist for ESPNDallas.com.