"If I'm not playing in Texas," Van Exel said, "I'm done."
"All the teams in Texas are [title] contenders. Going for a championship and being in Texas, that's what it boils down to."
Van Exel made the disclosure before his Golden State Warriors lost to the Mavericks 107-93 at American Airlines Center.
The 11-year veteran spent just 1½ seasons with the Mavericks before being dealt to Golden State last summer for Antawn Jamison, but Van Exel considers Texas home. The Wisconsin native makes his offseason home in Houston and has a teen-aged son living in the Dallas area.
Playing in Texas certainly brought the best out of Van Exel, who stood as Dallas' playoff hero last spring during an unexpected run to the Western Conference finals. Although he was braced for a trade out of town after Dallas' early exit in the 2002 playoffs, Van Exel clearly didn't want to leave.
In fact, he helped facilitate his trade to Dallas in the spring of '02 by waiving salary protection on the final year of his contract. In effect, he forfeited nearly $12 million -- but it helped convince the Mavericks to make the deal with Denver.
Van Exel thus has only one season of guaranteed money left on his contract after this season. He has an option to terminate the contract this summer and become a free agent but admits that he probably can't afford to opt out, saying, "I gave up a lot of money already."
The subject of Van Exel's future comes up frequently these days amid speculation that he could be dealt to Portland with Erick Dampier for Rasheed Wallace. Such a swap would enable the Warriors to clear significant salary-cap room in July, a year before the Trail Blazers would become major free-agent players. Van Exel told ESPN.com a month ago that he wonders about his next destination "all the time" after a half-season in Oakland fraught with knee trouble and philosophical differences with coach Eric Musselman.
Van Exel also shared Tuesday that he recently received a conciliatory phone message from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The two haven't spoken since Van Exel was dealt away in August, but the fiery guard said Cuban urged him not to view the trade as an act of disloyalty. In the message, Van Exel said, Cuban promised to be there for Van Exel long after his playing career is over, as Cuban has done with several retired Mavericks.
"That's why I'm keeping Mark Cuban's [phone] number," Van Exel said, joking about future business opportunities with his former boss. "You never know. I'll keep it just in case he comes up with a robot that can feed us food in bed."