- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks are closing in on a multiplayer trade that will launch Washington's long-anticipated rebuilding project in earnest and send Wizards mainstays Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the Mavericks, according to sources close to the situation.
Although the deal could take until Monday to be finalized, sources said that the teams have essentially agreed on the principal pieces: Butler, Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas for Josh Howard and Drew Gooden.
The Mavericks must add additional low-dollar contracts to the deal to make the salary-cap math work. According to ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher, the most likely player would be Quinton Ross. But they are not expected to surrender prized rookie guard Rodrigue Beaubois in the swap.
Sources told ESPN.com that the teams' negotiations only grew more serious and, barring an unexpected late snag, will result in the trade that will serve as the first major domino to fall to loosen things up in advance of Thursday's annual trading deadline.
Several sources with direct knowledge of the teams' discussions said Friday that the teams were closing in on a final trade construction that will enable Washington to truly launch its rebuilding efforts, realize significant financial relief in the midst of a disastrous season and achieve all those aims without giving up forward Antawn Jamison, which is the Wizards' preference.
The possible acquisitions of Butler and Haywood, meanwhile, would be a welcome spark for the sputtering Mavericks, with Butler moving into the spot vacated by Howard and Haywood arriving as another rim-protecting defensive anchor in the wake of a knee injury that has compromised the effectiveness of Mavs center Erick Dampier.
Acquiring Haywood and having the chance to re-sign him this summer would likely fill the void Dallas thought it filled last summer, when the Mavs signed Orlando center Marcin Gortat to a lucrative offer sheet, only for the Magic to unexpectedly match the offer to the restricted free agent.
Washington would inevitably want Beaubois added to the deal, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban said earlier this week that his young point guard is "pretty much untouchable" as Thursday's trade deadline approaches. But sources say the Wizards are gaining so much payroll and luxury-tax relief -- while also keeping Jamison -- that they couldn't pass on Dallas' offer.
The Wizards have been talking to several teams for weeks about deals involving Butler and Haywood, most notably Houston with Tracy McGrady's $22.5 million expiring contract. But talks with Dallas had stalled in the past week, partly because of Washington's insistence that the Mavericks take guard Stevenson in any Butler deal.
The potential for acquiring two front-line players -- since Butler and Haywood would immediately become key rotation players for Dallas -- renewed the Mavs' interest and convinced them to relent on Stevenson.
Speaking to a group of reporters Thursday, Cuban said: "We kind of know the parameters [under] which we would make a deal. If somebody meets our parameters, we'll pull the trigger. But if not, we're not going to do it. I don't see us doing something just to do something because that'll kill our flexibility this summer. But in the event that there's somebody that really upgrades our talent and really makes our team better, then maybe we'll do it."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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