- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Mavericks have decided to pass on D-League center Dwayne Jones after bringing him in for a job audition Tuesday.
Dallas has a need for an extra big man to fill the sudden vacancy created by Erick Dampier's finger injury but abandoned the idea of signing Jones to a 10-day deal after flying him in from Austin for an afternoon workout.
Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said the team decided that one newcomer on a 10-day contract was sufficient to add to their roster after the recent acquisitions of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson from Washington. The Mavericks plan to go ahead with the anticipated signing of guard Von Wafer on Wednesday to a 10-day contract.
The Mavericks are also holding out hope, faint as it is, that they will have a shot to sign former All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas after Ilgauskas completes his forthcoming buyout from the Washington Wizards, which is expected as early as Wednesday. Although the overwhelming expectation around the league is that Ilgauskas will return to Cleveland following a mandatory 30-day wait, Dallas is still on the list of Ilgauskas suitors -- albeit pessimistic suitors -- along with Atlanta and Denver.
"We still haven't been told 'no' yet," said one Mavericks source.
Wafer arrived in Dallas on Sunday but his signing has been delayed until Wednesday to allow the Mavericks to take a longer look at a back injury that has plagued the ex-Houston Rocket this season and to keep Wafer eligible for as many games as possible. Signing Wafer on Wednesday would make him available to play six games over the next 10 days starting with Wednesday night's home showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But Dallas has been looking for an extra big man as well after losing Dampier to a dislocated finger in its first game out of the All-Star break and Jones -- averaging 16.8 points and 15.4 rebounds for the Austin Toros -- was given first crack to win the job. It was the second NBA tryout this season for Jones after an earlier failed audition for the Portland Trail Blazers
"The workout was great," Nelson said. "[Jones] looked really good. For right now, we're going with a shooter and after 10 days we'll re-evaluate. Anything is possible."
That comment would seem to suggest that Jones could still receive consideration from the Mavericks, who have also weighed re-signing Jake Voskuhl to a 10-day contract after Voskuhl was Dallas' last cut in training camp. At present, Haywood has no formal backup apart from 6-foot-8 veteran forward Eduardo Najera, who has been playing as an emergency fill-in at center depending on matchups.
Scouts regard Jones as a non-scorer -- virtually all of his D-League scoring comes through his work on the offensive glass -- but he has legit size (6-11 and 251 pounds) and is regarded as an NBA rebounder. In three previous NBA stints with Boston, Cleveland and Charlotte, Jones has appeared in 80 games but only averaged 1.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 7.9 minutes.
The decision just to bring Jones in for a tryout stems from the fact that many of the veterans Dallas hoped to have a shot at scooping up off the waiver wire have not been made available.
The Los Angeles Clippers continue to insist that ex-Mav Drew Gooden -- shipped to Washington in the deal for Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler and then routed to L.A. in the three-way deal that landed Antawn Jamison in Cleveland -- will stay on their roster for the rest of the season. Had he been able to secure a buyout from the Clippers, Gooden would be eligible to sign with Dallas after a 30-day wait.
Sources say that the Mavericks, like several playoff-bound teams, were also hopeful that the Milwaukee Bucks would buy out veteran power forward Kurt Thomas after the former Hillcrest High and TCU star was not dealt before last Thursday's trading deadline. Yet one source with knowledge of the Bucks' thinking told ESPN.com that Milwaukee is adamant about keeping Thomas, 37, for the rest of the season.
It's believed that the Mavericks will be considered at some level by Ilgauskas, who as a Lithuanian has a connection with Nelson even though he hasn't represented his country in international play since coming to the NBA in 1999. Nelson worked for years as a coach with the Lithuanian national team.
Yet one source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday night that the Hawks -- who have a thin bench and could use a long-term backup to All-Star center Al Horford -- have the best shot of the teams holding out hope that Ilgauskas' return to the team that drafted him in 1997 and kept faith in him in the face of numerous foot injuries isn't a done deal.
Players under contract must be waived by March 1 to be eligible to appear in the playoffs with another team, but the league office confirmed to ESPN.com this week that players don't have to clear waivers by March 1 to secure playoff eligibility. They merely have to be released by Monday.
Senior writer Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.
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