- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks have completed a seven-player trade that launches Washington's long-anticipated rebuilding project in earnest and sends Wizards mainstays Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the Mavericks.
The teams agreed on the principal pieces Friday: Butler, Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas for Josh Howard and Drew Gooden. Mavericks reserves Quinton Ross and James Singleton were added to the deal Saturday and are also Washington-bound, with Dallas receiving cash considerations in addition to the three players.
"It makes us significantly better," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.
The Wizards had 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 Stevenson in any Butler deal.
When Washington agreed late in the week that it would add Haywood to the deal, talks picked up Thursday night and only grew more serious Friday, resulting in the trade that is widely regarded as the first major domino needed to loosen things up on the trade market in advance of Thursday's annual trading deadline.
The acquisitions of Butler and Haywood, meanwhile, are 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.
"Caron is an established professional and an All-Star with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor," said Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations. "Brendan will solidify our center position with athleticism, shot-blocking and defense. DeShawn has also shown that he can be a talented asset to this team."
Acquiring Haywood and having the chance to re-sign him this summer likely fills 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 wanted Rodrigue 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 retaining Antawn Jamison to either keep or move in a separate deal before Thursday's deadline -- that they couldn't pass on Dallas' offer.
"We're all disappointed in how our season has gone. We need some freshness and we're getting proven players who will help us, and it gives us some flexibility down the road," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "We want to remain competitive and maybe this group can provide a spark. The group had gotten stale, and we needed a change."
As for the possibilities of more deals before the deadline? Grunfeld said, "There's still a lot of conversations going on."
Butler averaged 16.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 47 games this season. Haywood was the Wizards' top rebounder with 10.3 per game.
Butler thanked the Wizards and their fans in a statement and said, "[I will] continue to play with the same desire and intensity that I have had throughout my entire NBA career."
Howard played 431 games for the Mavericks, and was the team's second-longest-tenured player behind All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Howard was limited the first couple of months while recovering from offseason surgery on his left ankle and started only nine games, averaging 12.5 points in 31 games. He also had surgery on his left wrist last summer.
"Different teams go through different situations. The Mavs went through it in the '90s, the Wizards are going through some issues right now," Cuban said. "Sometimes giving guys a fresh home I think re-energizes them, and will work the other way, too. I think Josh will find himself re-energized with the Wizards."
Howard was an All-Star in 2007, when he averaged 18.9 points in 70 games. He had his best season in 2007-08, when he averaged 19.9 points.
In an interview on the ESPN radio station in Dallas on Saturday before the trade, Howard said he'd like to stay in Dallas but had been told by his agent that a trade was possible.
In the same season of his All-Star appearance, Howard said in a radio interview during a first-round playoff series against New Orleans that he occasionally smoked marijuana. Later that same series, he angered then-coach Avery Johnson by throwing himself a birthday party after a Game 4 loss to the Hornets.
Then last summer, a video posted on YouTube showed Howard disrespecting the national anthem while attending a charity flag football game. On the first day of Mavericks training camp, Howard made a statement and apologized before taking questions from reporters.
Cuban said physicals were waived, meaning every player should be in their new uniforms right after the All-Star break. Washington is home Wednesday night against Minnesota.
"We haven't been playing well, that's for sure. Sometimes people might think that moving someone or making a trade can help," Jason Kidd, another Mavs All-Star, said Saturday before the trade was announced. "We have a big week coming out of the All-Star break ... 30 games left, it's a sprint now, not a marathon. I think we're going to be ready for that."
After learning of the trade, Kidd seemed excited about the possibilities his new teammates provide the Mavericks.
"It gives us a chance to win," Kidd told ESPN The Magazine's Sam Alipour Saturday night. "When you're talking about Caron, Haywood and Deshawn Stevenson, you have three quality players. The West is strong. This hopefully gives us a chance to compete against [the Lakers] and Denver."
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com