- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
Editor's note: As part of "The Stein Line" every Monday, ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein gives his take on things in "Slams and Dunks."
The Mavericks can still get the brutish power forward they need. Problem is, it'll have to wait until summertime.
After declining to trade for Miami's Brian Grant, Dallas would be wise to earmark part or all of its large salary-cap exception -- estimated to be $4.97 million next season for all teams -- for use in signing one of the veteran big men who will be available come July.
There's a chance Karl Malone and even Alonzo Mourning, the big man Dallas has coveted most of all, will also be available at that price. Of course, that depends on Malone's willingness to leave Utah and take a pay cut ... and Mourning's uncertain health situation, although it's assumed he will try at least one more comeback.
Not everyone on the list is desirable (can't see DC in Big D) but it's a much deeper crop than usual. None of this helps them this season, but if the Mavericks manage to land one of those guys, they'll be glad they kept Nick Van Exel and added to a core that, for all its warts, sports a 44-12 record and should have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
If Dallas winds up regretting a move this season, it's more likely to be its inability to sign Michael Redd away from Milwaukee rather than passing on Grant. Milwaukee, after much hedging, matched Dallas' four-year, $12 million offer to Redd, a restricted free agent. One wonders if the Bucks would have matched a four-year, $18 million offer, had the Mavericks overpaid at the time. Redd, suddenly a Sixth Man Award favorite, looks like a bargain at that price now.
Michael Jordan apparently didn't appreciate last week's Stein Line, which suggested that he's merely the second-best 40-year-old in NBA history. In his second game as a fortysomething, Jordan popped 43 points against New Jersey on Friday.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, our choice as the best 40-year-old ever, had the previous record for fortysomethings with a 27-point game. Kareem got our vote because the Lakers won a championship the year he turned 40 (1987), with Abdul-Jabbar still contributing 17 points and seven rebounds a game.
Can Jordan supplant Kareem as the best 40-year-old of all time if the Wiz fail to reach the playoffs? I'd have to vote skyhook in that scenario, but it doesn't diminish what MJ did, one night after Charles Barkley celebrated birthday No. 40 on the TNT set.
Since we know you're bound to ask, Tracy McGrady 's 52 points in three quarters Friday against Chicago rank fourth all-time on the list of players who did their scoring damage in 33 minutes or less.
George Gervin had a 63-pointer for San Antonio in 1978 in 33 minutes. Utah's Malone went for 61 in a 33-minute appearance for Utah in 1990, and Boston's Larry Bird struck for 53 points in similar circumstances in 1983. The Lakers' Kobe Bryant had 51 points in 31 minutes against Denver on Feb. 12.
As you were repeatedly forewarned here, the Lakers didn't make a trade Thursday, even when they received an unexpectedly intriguing offer just before the trade-deadline buzzer: Sam Cassell for Robert Horry. Even the chance to get a tough, championship-tested point guard couldn't convince Phil Jackson to part with the triangle-tested Horry, L.A.'s second-clutchest player after Kobe.
The Lakers ultimately opted to stick with faces they know, since they're potentially facing a playoff journey that looks daunting even to the thrice-defending champions. Unless L.A. can climb to No. 6 in the West, there's a good chance it'll have to play all three of the West's best teams -- Sacramento, San Antonio and Dallas -- to get back to the NBA Finals.
5hMichael C. Wright