By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010; D04
Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson entered the all-star break last in the Southeast Division and opened the second half of the season first in the Southwest Division.
The coach-to-first-class upgrade provided by their trade from the Washington Wizards to the Dallas Mavericks wasn't lost on Butler as he spoke with reporters in Dallas on Monday.
"We had 30 games left and we had to win, probably, 23 of them to just get to the playoffs or be fighting for a spot,'' Butler said of the situation in Washington. "Looking at Dallas and being in the thick of things, expectations are different. It's a breath of fresh air."
Butler, Haywood and Stevenson were welcome additions in Dallas, where the Mavericks believe the trade -- which sent Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross to the Wizards -- greatly increases their chances of contending with the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference title.
"This gives us a real chance to do some damage in the West,'' said Donn Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations. "It's like a nuclear arms race out here. From top to bottom, there's 11 that look like they're viable and eight that are going to make it. But we feel [the trade] gives us a real chance to take this next step.''
Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle said: "We felt we were strong contenders to begin with. We wouldn't make the trade unless it made us better. We're going to make it work."
Although the Mavericks (32-20) received a two-time all-star in Butler, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the deal would not have been made without the inclusion of Haywood, who is averaging 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots. "It's a great compliment, but at the end of the day, I got to go out and compete and prove it,'' Haywood said.
The three players were unable to practice Monday, but they were still expected to make their debuts with Dallas on Tuesday in Oklahoma City. During a news conference at American Airlines Center on Monday, Butler addressed how difficult the past few seasons have been in Washington.
"The toughest thing about it was having expectations and not being able to achieve them, underachieving in the last two years," Butler said. "Having injuries last year and having expectations to compete for a title this season and having so much go on with adversity and not being able to overcome it, that was very tough.''
Butler was hoping to rebound from a difficult final season in Washington, where he averaged just 16.9 points and shot 42.2 percent.
"I'm looking forward to coming in and bringing that edge and nastiness to Dallas," he said. "Obviously, contending for a title, that's the main goal. I definitely feel we got what it takes in this locker room to win it.''
The Wizards will introduce their four new players at Verizon Center on Tuesday afternoon. The teams waived physicals on this deal, so they all are expected to practice and make be in uniform against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.