NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Nelson confident Mavs will land Smith or O’Neal; Heat stars lobbying for J-Smoove; Howard makes his plea in Houston — Another day has come and gone and the list principal parties interested in signing ex-Pistons forward Josh Smith hasn’t changed much. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson is confident the team will ink either Smith or free-agent big man Jermaine O’Neal (or, perhaps both). Out in Miami, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are also pushing for J-Smoove to join them, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald. And, lastly, out in Houston, Dwight Howard says he’s been in contact with his former AAU teammate to join him in Texas, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson expressed confidence that the Dallas Mavericks would soon bolster their bench with the addition of Jermaine O’Neal or Josh Smith.
The Mavs, who are searching to replace traded backup center Brandan Wright in their rotation, are among several teams who have expressed interest in O’Neal and Smith, a pair of high-profile available veterans.
“I feel pretty good that we’ll be able to come to terms with one,” Nelson said Tuesday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “Certainly to come up with both would be just hitting a grand slam home run. Look, there’s a long line for suitors on both fronts.
“I think the fact that Jermaine has chosen Dallas to be his home in the long term certainly has its place and resonates with time with family and such. And here’s a guy who has a long history not only with our coach but with our point guard/quarterback. That certainly has a place.
“With Josh, again, we’re one of a number of potential teams and suitors. It’s got to be right with him and with us. We’re kind of in the swings of putting our best foot forward. If we’re able to hit that one home, it just would be a real, real nice get for us.”
Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Houston Rockets are confident that they have the inside track who land Smith, who was released by the Detroit Pistons on Monday less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million contract and is expected to clear waivers Wednesday.
The Rockets have their biannual exception, valued at $2.1 million, to offer Smith. The Mavs can only offer the veteran’s minimum of $1.45 million.
Wade and Haslem would like Smith to join Miami and help fill in for injured power forward Josh McRoberts. Smith was released by the Pistons on Monday and is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday. McRoberts underwent season-ending knee surgery on Monday, and the Heat applied for the Disabled Player Exception in hopes of using $2.6 million on Smith.
“He’s an amazing talent,” Haslem said. “He definitely could help us. He’s another big guy who can handle the ball and make plays similar to what Josh can do.”
Smith fell out of favor with Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy, but Wade said Smith could thrive in the right environment. His implication, of course, is that Miami is the right environment for the free-shooting forward.
“My initial thoughts with Josh Smith is the same as anyone’s initial thoughts,” Wade said. “He’s a very talented guy who can, in the right situation and right place, can help a team and a team can help him.
“From there, he has a decision to make. A lot of teams will be open arms for a guy like that and we’re no different, but that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about that until the decision is made.”
And, lastly, here’s Creech on Howard pitching for his buddy to join him in Houston:
“I would really love to see him here, Howard said. “I think he would bring some more defense to our team.
“He is one of those guys who can play the three, four or the five. We played together back in high school and he actually played the three. We were very successful as a unit together.”
Howard said he thought Smith could bring another dimension to the Rockets’ defense.
“I would be great to have him here,” Howard said. “He could do a lot of stuff for us on the defensive end. Blocking shots, rebounding, playing against some of those big two and three guards in the league. I think having him would take some of the pressure off of some of our other wing defenders.”
Howard said he has had some communication with Smith about the Rockets.
“Yeah I’ve been in his ear,” Howard said. “The only thing I told him was if you want to win this would be a great place for you. We are headed in the right direction as a team. We have won together in AAU. Let’s get another one.”