Deal or no deal?

Publish date:

Mavericks coach Avery Johnson, ever affable and usually engaging, wasn't in much of a talking mood. At least not when the topic turned to Jason Kidd.

Before Thursday night's game against Boston, Johnson was asked if he had talked to his team about the reported discussions between Dallas and New Jersey regarding Kidd.

"We're a veteran team," said Johnson. "We communicate a lot. We like our team. We're fine. We have a good ball club."

When pressed as to whether he had spoken to Devin Harris, who was back in Dallas recovering from a sprained ankle, Johnson clammed up.

"I've already made my statement on that," he said.

Johnson may have been done talking, but the rest of the league is not -- at least not until Kidd has been traded or the Feb. 21 trade deadline has passed. The Mavericks, for whom Kidd played 2½ seasons in the mid-1990s, are regarded as the All-Star point guard's team of choice. Dallas represents a championship-caliber team, having come two games short of an NBA championship two seasons ago.

But is Kidd the right fit in Big D? I have some reservations. Remember, it wasn't until Steve Nash, a pint-sized and better-shooting version of Kidd, left town did Dallas advance to the NBA Finals. Granted, Johnson's ascension to head coach -- and the emphasis he put on the defensive end -- after Nash's departure had something to do with it. But the fact remains that the Mavericks got there with Harris at point guard, not Nash.

(And before everyone goes crazy, that is not a knock on Nash. I still consider one of, if not the best, point guard in the NBA.)

But let's talk about Harris, who has to be the sticking point in these negotiations. The Mavericks don't want to give him up. The Trail Blazers would love to have him. And the Nets can't make a deal happen unless he is involved.

It's a huge risk for the Mavericks to give up the 24-year-old Harris, who has emerged as one of the conference's best defensive point guards. While not a prototypical point guard like Kidd or Nash, Harris has grown by leaps and bounds in each of his four seasons. In 39 games this year, Harris is averaging career highs in points (14.4) and assists (5.3).

You can imagine why Portland would love to get its hands on him. While Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard told local reporters last week that he "wasn't interested in making any trades" and that any calls are incoming, he has to be intrigued by the possibility of adding a brilliant young point guard.

Harris, who signed a five-year, $43 million contract extension last September, would instantly become the Trail Blazers' starter and join a nucleus that includes All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and (eventually) center Greg Oden. Pritchard -- who has shrewdly assembled the Blazers, first as director of player personnel and now as general manager -- is smart enough to figure out how to fill in the blanks. In two years, that team could be scary.

If you're Dallas, what do you do? Do you mortgage the future and get Kidd for potentially a two-year championship window? We know what Kidd can do in the playoffs; in the 2007 postseason, he averaged 14.6 points, 10.9 assists and 10.9 rebounds Or do you bank on the continued development of Harris to get you back to the Finals?

"I would make the trade," said one veteran personnel scout. "If they get Kidd, they can win right now. You can't pass up an opportunity like that."

Expect a resolution quickly. Teams, especially contending ones, do not want to let these things drag out. They can become distractions, as they did in Chicago. That's why Johnson didn't want to get into a discussion on the topic. If a move is going to be made, it likely will happen sooner rather than later.