If the Mavericks are to acquire Jason Kidd, Devean George will have to change his mind.
As odd as it might seem, the Mavs' reserve swingman holds the key to the Mavs and Nets completing the blockbuster deal. As of tipoff Wednesday night, George had exercised his right to block the mega-deal, according to his agent Mark Bartelstein, that would send Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, DeSagana Diop and George, plus money and draft picks to New Jersey for Kidd and forward Malik Allen.
George, who was in the starting lineup against Portland, has a provision in his one-year contract that stipulates he must agree to a trade. If he does agree to be traded he then loses his early Bird rights, which, theoretically, could cost him money for his next contract when he becomes a free agent July 1.
"Just like teams have to do things sometimes that are uncomfortable, Devean has to think about his best interests," Bartelstein said Wednesday night, just as George was lining up at the free-throw line in the final minutes of the first quarter against Portland. "He feels like he is in a good rhythm with the Mavs. There's a lot of ramifications for him to do the trade."
Bartelstein said George, who makes $2.4 million this season, could relent at some point. The deal, for all intents and purposes, was in the late stages of completion late Wednesday afternoon.
"I don't like to draw a line in the sand," Bartelstein said. "Things can move so quickly. In this situation, they [the Nets and Mavs] needed a quick answer, there's a lot of players and a lot at stake, but he's not ready to do it."
Mavs owner Mark Cuban was clearly agitated just before the start of the game when asked if the deal was going through. He quickly said, "I don't think so," before disappearing into his bunker suite.
Two weeks ago, George voiced his complaint about his lack of playing time and said he'd prefer to be traded if he he was not going to be a part of coach Avery Johnson's rotation. Since, George has been logging about 20 minutes a game and producing while Stackhouse has been out with a hamstring injury.
Up until Wednesday, the Mavs had consistently denied they were interested in trading for Kidd, namely because Kidd's salary would require the Mavs to include four or five players to make the deal work. Two weeks ago, Cuban emphatically downplayed any chance of the deal happening.
But early Wednesday afternoon, things heated up. Stackhouse said in an AP report that the trade would go through. The Nets figured to buy out the remainder of Stackhouse's contract, allowing him to re-sign with the Mavs after 30 days, which he said he planned to do.
Stackhouse backpedaled before the game with Portland.
"That's all it is right now is talk," he said. "I haven't really heard anything officially from anybody that the deal was done, but obviously the news and reports on the wire and stuff pretty much said what's about to happen. It's kind of mixed emotions, but we'll just wait and see. Obviously, if everything pans out the way we talked about, having the opportunity to come back here, that would be my first choice, to come back to where I've kind of established myself and built a home."
Before Wednesday's game, Johnson did not call the deal completed. He said it remains only speculation.
Bartelstein, George's agent, said he didn't believe the Mavs would, in a sense, blackball George for nixing the deal that would have brought Kidd back to where he started his career, a move that would have countered the Los Angeles Lakers' deal for Pau Gasol and the Suns' recent acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal.
"I don't think so. The Mavs are about winning, they understand," Bartelstein said. "These are hard things, emotional things, there's a lot at stake. We have tremendous respect for Mark Cuban. We don't want to be a thorn in anybody's side. We're just trying to evaluate everything and do what's in his best interest."
-- Jeff Caplan