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Mavericks land Buckner, finalize trade for Croshere

DALLAS -- Having lost out on scoring guard Mike James, the
Dallas Mavericks instead went for defense by agreeing to a deal
Wednesday with guard Greg Buckner.

Buckner's three-year contract is expected to be finalized
Thursday. Dallas turned to Buckner after James spurned their
three-year offer for a four-year deal with Minnesota.

Buckner spent the past two seasons in Denver, but is quite
familiar to the Mavs. He spent his first three NBA seasons in
Dallas, breaking in during the 1999-2000 season after a year in the
CBA.

Buckner, 29, is valued mostly as a perimeter defender, something
the Mavericks sorely lacked against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat
in the NBA finals.

"Buck is a winner in every sense of the word and a glue guy
that makes his teammates better," said Donnie Nelson, the
Mavericks president of basketball operations. "He's capable of
defending three, even four positions. We used to put him on big
point guards all the way to finesse (power forwards)."

Buckner averaged a career-best 6.7 points per game last season,
but that was only slightly higher than what he averaged previously
with the Mavericks. The key is that much more of his scoring came
from the outside.

Buckner was 135-of-364 on 3-pointers during his two years in
Denver, compared to 17-of-49 his first time in Dallas. Far more
important than the slight increase in accuracy (37.1 percent, up
from 34.7) is the drastic increase in confidence indicated by the
radical increase in attempts.

"Good players in this league, they grow," Nelson said. "When
Buck first came in he was known more as a tough-nosed defender. But
he spent a lot of time in the gym shooting into the wee hours and
his shooting has drastically improved."

The arrival of Buckner and first-round pick Maurice Ager
solidifies the Mavericks at off guard, a weakness the Heat exposed.

Adrian Griffin is a free agent who could return in a reduced
role, while Marquis Daniels was traded to Indiana for Austin Croshere in a deal that became official Wednesday.

Croshere was excited to finally arrive in Dallas and meet with
team officials. He also spoke by phone for the first time with his
new coach, Avery Johnson.

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Croshere will replace free agent Keith Van Horn as Dirk Nowitzki's backup, while occasionally playing
alongside him. Croshere will be counted on mainly for outside
shooting, but proudly says he also likes to drive the basket and
fight for rebounds.

"Everyone has said this has the potential to be a great fit and
I couldn't agree more," said Croshere, who played nine seasons for
the Pacers, his only NBA team.

Having watched the Mavs from afar, he's liked what he's seen.

"You can tell everyone is on the same page, that they get what
it's all about," said Croshere, noting that he endured the
Pistons-Pacers brawl in 2004 and the fallout from it. "I have a
great perspective of the opportunity that is here. I'm very, very
grateful for that opportunity."