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Washington Wizards in serious talks to trade Butler, Haywood and Stevenson to Mavericks for Josh Howard, two others

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 13, 2010; D01

The Washington Wizards are in "deep conversations" with the Dallas Mavericks about a deal that would exchange starters Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood and reserve DeShawn Stevenson for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and other yet-to-be determined secondary pieces, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The deal may be finalized by early next week. The teams have been discussing a trade for the past few weeks, but the talks stalled with the Wizards insisting on including Stevenson in any package. The Mavericks regained interest when Haywood was added to the proposal, according to a league source. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are still ongoing.

The conversations intensified the past two days with team President Ernie Grunfeld and Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson in Dallas for All-Star Game festivities. The deal would be the first step toward shedding salary and altering the direction of the franchise in the aftermath of the season-ending suspensions to Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton.

While the Wizards have yet to agree on whether to acquire Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas or James Singleton from Dallas as part of the trade, the teams have essentially agreed upon the principals -- Butler for Howard -- meaning that the deal is unlikely to collapse, according to a league source.

Butler, a two-time all-star, is having his worst season since joining the Wizards in 2005. He has been unable to adjust to new Coach Flip Saunders's offense and is averaging just 16.9 points per game and shooting 42.2 percent from the floor. He has been mentioned in recent weeks in trade rumors involving several teams, including Houston and Portland.

Butler has sounded resigned to being dealt and recently joked about going to Dallas. He is set to make $10.5 million next season. If Butler and Stevenson are moved, the Wizards could save close to $15 million from their 2010-11 payroll.

Haywood, who is making $6 million in the final year of his contract, is averaging 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. One source said that the deal could possibly get done without Haywood, but it would be unlikely.

Dallas has been struggling of late, losing five of its past seven games, and Mavericks center Erick Dampier has also been slumping because of a knee injury. A person close to Haywood said that the Mavericks have been interested in the 7-foot center for some time. Haywood had also drawn interest from Portland and Houston, among others.

Howard is a former all-star, but he has dealt with injuries for most of the season. He is averaging just 12.5 points, but he is essentially in the final year of his contract with the team holding an option for next season, when he could earn $11.8 million. Gooden is signed to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million.

Amid high expectations in the preseason, the Wizards have had a disappointing, distraction-filled 17-33 campaign, forcing Grunfeld to reevaluate his commitment to a team built around three former all-stars in Arenas, Butler and Antawn Jamison. That trio was just 8-14 together this season, with injuries and Arenas's suspension limiting their time.

Grunfeld said this week that he would "explore all options" as it related to trades. "Do I think if this group, if they played together long enough and had time to come together, would they win? Yeah. I think they could," he said. "But it hasn't been there, so we'll have to look and evaluate the things that we can do."

The Wizards also discussed a possible three-way trade that would send Butler and Haywood to Houston, Tracy McGrady to the Knicks and Al Harrington to the Wizards. They have also discussed trading Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Cavaliers have yet to make an offer, according to multiple league sources.

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