Mavericks settle for minor deal

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone. The Dallas Mavericks, as we expected, did nothing.

Oh, they did send backup guard Dahntay Jones to the Atlanta Hawks for backup guard Anthony Morrow, who's joining his fourth team in five seasons and isn't going to significantly change the Mavs' fortunes this year. Neither will losing Jones.

Morrow has career averages of 11.5 points per game while shooting 42.5 percent on 3-point attempts. He's averaged 5.2 points and made 39.2 percent of his 3-point attempts this season in limited playing time.

The good news is Morrow won't have any impact on the Mavs' salary cap at the end of this season.

Now the Mavs must hope and pray Dwight Howard hates playing with Kobe Bryant so much that he turns down the extra one year and $30 million he would receive by re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Then the Mavs can compete with other teams with enough salary cap space -- Houston, Utah, Milwaukee and Atlanta come to mind -- to try to persuade Howard to sign with them. And their pitch will revolve around Howard getting to play with then 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, who remains the Mavs' best player. Good luck with that.

Who really believes Howard will join the Mavs? Not me. You either, if you're honest.

Frankly, even if Howard joins the Mavs, he displayed such a loser mentality with Orlando last season and the Lakers this season that you can't expect him to lead the Mavs to a title based on what we currently know.

Still, none of us could argue that not having Howard makes the Mavs better.

Oh well.

Until Howard decides whether he's staying in Los Angeles or going elsewhere we can spend our time analyzing and debating whether the Mavs should've broken up their 2011 championship team or given it a chance to defend its title. Folks love to say the Mavs were a perfect combination of talent, teamwork and luck since the Miami Heat were in their first season LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and hadn't jelled into a championship club yet.

We'll never know, but to think the Mavs were ever going to land Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Howard just seemed like folly. It still does.

For now, the Mavs will continue their improbable push to the playoffs with Dirk, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion doing their best "Grumpy Old Men" impersonation.

The Mavs, 11th in the Western Conference, are 4.5 games behind Houston for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Houston's home win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday night didn't help Dallas' cause.

The Mavs probably need to go 19-10 in their last 29 games to have a shot at surpassing the Lakers and catching the Rockets for the eighth playoff spot and an opportunity to get obliterated by San Antonio in the first round. The Spurs have beaten the Mavs by an average of 23 points in three games.

That said, if the Mavs are going to make this playoff run they're going to going to need Dirk to play his best basketball of the season, unfair as that may be. No team should ask a 34-year-old to be the best player on the team, especially a player who missed the first 27 games recovering from knee surgery. But Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson failed to acquire a player in the offseason to take the burden off Dirk to be the best player, so it is what it is.

Dirk, who has a career average of 22.7 points, has scored more than 20 points just four times this season. Only twice has he had consecutive 20-point performances.

While Dirk appears to be moving more fluidly in the past couple of weeks, he still hasn't consistently found the rhythm that has made him one of the NBA's best players for more than a decade.

Sooner or later, he will. Hey, it's Dirk.

He remains the only player on the roster capable of dominating a game at winning time. The question is whether the Mavs will still have an opportunity to make the playoffs when he does.