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McDyess clears waivers, becomes unrestricted free agent

The first step in Antonio McDyess' expected return to the Detroit Pistons became official Monday afternoon when the Denver Nuggets announced that they have waived the veteran forward.

The second step followed Wednesday, when McDyess cleared waivers at 2 p.m. and became an unrestricted free agent.

McDyess was traded with Chauncey Billups and Cheikh Samb to Denver for Allen Iverson on Nov. 3, and then accepted a contract buyout from the Nuggets worth an estimated $6 million.

Now that McDyess has cleared the 48-hour waiver window, he is eligible to sign immediately with any team except Detroit. To rejoin the Pistons, McDyess must wait 30 days from last Thursday, which is the point when all conditions to the trade were satisfied by the Nuggets and Pistons.

Detroit, though, continues to be regarded by numerous team executives as a heavy favorite to re-acquire the 34-year-old. Dec. 7 would be the first day Detroit is eligible to re-sign McDyess, reminiscent of last season when the San
Antonio Spurs traded Brent Barry to Seattle for Kurt Thomas and re-signed Barry after a month.

Memphis is the only team in the league which had the salary-cap space to put in a waiver claim on McDyess. But the Grizzlies ultimately passed, after NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Monday night that the Grizzlies were giving some consideration to snagging McDyess, most likely to trade him elsewhere with so many teams interested in signing him.

McDyess has already attracted feelers from more than half of the league's 30 teams through agent Andy Miller, including Detroit's chief Eastern Conference rivals in Boston and Cleveland. Title contenders such as the Celtics, Cavaliers and Spurs have held out hope that they can convince McDyess to change his mind before he's eligible to return to the Pistons, with the forward likely to receive formal free-agent pitches from those and other teams in coming days.

Yet sources close to the situation told ESPN.com on Friday and reiterated Monday that it would be a major shock if McDyess did not return to the Pistons as long as he gets the choice to pick his next team, which is consistent with McDyess' well-chronicled aversion to relocating at age 34.

"Dice only wants to play in Detroit," one source close to the situation said.

If he sustains that refusal to budge and rejoins the Pistons next month, McDyess will almost certainly emerge from this saga having left significant money on the table. Even after a trade kicker worth $1.3 million was triggered by the Iverson deal and applied to his two-year, $13.6 million contract, sources said McDyess agreed to forfeit nearly $9 million in guaranteed salary in his buyout with the Nuggets.

The Pistons' best offer to McDyess for the rest of this season can only start at their $1.9 million bi-annual salary-cap exception. Cleveland, by contrast, still possesses $5.1 million of its annual mid-level exception, with Boston ($2.4 million) and San Antonio ($2.1 million) also able to outbid Detroit.

Yet it's believed that McDyess is motivated by the thought of getting back to Detroit far more than money. The Pistons will also have the financial flexibility to offer McDyess a more lucrative one-year contract in the offseason to recoup some of his losses without affecting the Pistons' plans in the 2010 free-agent market.

The Nuggets had hoped to convince McDyess to stay for his third stint in Denver, but they are expected now to re-sign veteran forward Juwan Howard to add frontcourt depth. The Nuggets were forced to waive Howard last Monday to make enough roster room for Samb.

In the event that the Grizzlies did decide to swoop in to import McDyess, knowing he'd almost certainly have zero interest in serving as a mentor to their young team, it's believed that they wouldn't lack for potential trade partners, with so many teams eager to keep McDyess from returning to Detroit.

Pistons coach Michael Curry acknowledged before Sunday's loss to Boston that his club was desperate to bring back McDyess, telling The Detroit News: "I said on the day of the trade that losing [him] would create a big void for us. The last two games, you can tell that Dice wasn't out there with that second unit. When we had to take Rasheed [Wallace] out of the game, we had a veteran player [in McDyess] who could spread the floor and allow Rodney Stuckey to get to the basket. Now with Max [Jason Maxiell] and Kwame [Brown], we don't have that shooter who can do that."

Boston's Kevin Garnett, also represented by Miller, told The Boston Globe that he would "root for" McDyess to join the defending champs instead as the Celtics' replacement for P.J. Brown.

"Dice and I are very cool," Garnett told The Globe. "Obviously, we're competitors. We don't spend a lot of time [together]. But when I do see Dice, I make it my business to speak. I consider him family with Andy and all of us. [Miller's clients are] tight-knit. We're family ... I do consider him family and I always worry about his well-being."

When asked if he was confident about McDyess returning to Detroit, Curry said: "I wish I was confident. It would make my life a lot easier. But I don't know what is going to happen with the situation."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.