Wizards add league's reigning sixth man

Updated: June 25, 2004, 1:55 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks turned last season's top reserve into three players they expect to contribute off the bench next season.

And, they insist, that's all there is to Thursday night's trade of Antawn Jamison to Washington for the rights to No. 5 pick Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner.

Then the Mavs sent a future first-rounder to Utah for 7-foot-5, 245-pound center Pavel Podkolzine, whom the Jazz had taken 21st.

The intrigue remains in whether any or all of these players will wind up playing for the Mavericks. Laettner is going into the final year of his contract, which makes him a commodity, and Podkolzine certainly has the size to possibly replace the void Shaquille O'Neal would leave in Los Angeles.

"Dialogues are ongoing with other teams about potential movement, but we're happy about tonight," Nelson said. "We feel real good about our basketball team."

ESPN.com learned earlier Thursday that the Mavericks had offered the No. 5 pick to the Warriors (in a package for Erick Dampier), to the Cavaliers (in a package for Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and to the Celtics (for Boston's three first-rounders), to no avail.

Nelson praised Harris, a junior from Wisconsin, as the immediate backup and heir apparent to Steve Nash at point guard. Nelson added that Stackhouse already has told the club he's excited about being their sixth man and that Laettner can come off the bench to play forward or center.

Jamison was acquired last summer to be a starter, but agreed to be a reserve after Antoine Walker arrived in training camp. He handled it so well that he was honored as the league's Sixth Man of the year, although he was hoping to become a starter again this season.

The Wizards decided it was better to bring in Jamison than select another young player to help revive the longtime losers. Jamison has a four years and $58 million left on his contract.

"He's going to complement our other young players very well," Washington President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said. "We felt like it was important to get someone who will it give it to you every night on a very consistent basis. Sometimes younger players have a tendency to be a bit up-and-down. He's been a very solid, very consistent player throughout his career."

Washington is still waiting for a significant contribution from Kwame Brown, the first overall pick in 2001.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Harris started every game at Wisconsin since the start of his freshman year. He broke Michael Finley's single-season scoring record this past season and averaged 14.8 points over his college career.

Although he averaged only 3.07 assists per game over three seasons, Nelson raved about his ability to distribute, saying his playing style and attitude are similar to Nash's.

"A lot of things he does remind us of Stevie," Nelson said. "He has terrific heart, great leadership. Guys are going to love playing with this guy."

Nash is a free agent this summer, as is fellow starting guard Marquis Daniels. Nelson spoke as if both would be re-signed, maintaining that Harris was not taken as an insurance policy in case either goes elsewhere - or if they're dealt for O'Neal.

"Having Marquis Daniels allows us to bring this guy along slowly," Nelson said.

Nelson said a team can never have enough point guards. He said this move was reminiscent of when he was an assistant at Phoenix and the Suns drafted Nash even though they already had Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd.

Harris never worked out for Dallas, nor even spoke to team officials. Nelson said he didn't have to, joking that he knew enough about him because he's from Milwaukee, where Nelson grew up.

Stackhouse has been a starter his entire nine-year career, averaging 21 points per game. But he played only 26 games last season because of injuries and apparently realizes he can be valuable as a scorer off the bench. He's due $22.5 million over the next three seasons.

"We've talked to Jerry and he's excited and accepting of the sixth man role," Nelson said. "Having that punch is a pretty good asset. He's a guy who can score with the best of them."

Laettner played 53 games for Dallas in the 2000-01 season, then was traded to Washington in the eight-player deal that brought Juwan Howard.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.