Mavs use amnesty clause, waive Finley

Updated: August 16, 2005, 11:25 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DALLAS -- Michael Finley was waived late Monday night by the Dallas Mavericks, who took advantage of a one-time amnesty provision that will allow them to avoid luxury taxes on the $51.8 million owed their captain over the next three seasons.

The Mavs spent all day Monday exploring trade options, and waited until just before the late-night deadline to release Finley and take advantage of the provision in the NBA's new labor agreement.

Finley becomes an unrestricted free agent and is still guaranteed the money from his Mavericks contract, plus whatever he gets from a new team.

"This is the hardest part of our business," said Donnie Nelson, the team's president of basketball operations. "Mike and I started out in Phoenix together, got reunited here and obviously he was a key part in rebuilding this franchise. ... To share memories like that, it's been a very difficult several weeks for this franchise."

"Just what he's meant on and off the court, he's impacted every one from fans to the front office," Nelson said. "Ultimately, it's our responsibility to do what's in the best interest of the Dallas Mavericks, but Michael has a special place in Mark's heart, my heart, and a special place in the franchise. At the end of the day, this just feels right."

The Mavs avoid a dollar-for-dollar tax on Finley's $15.9 million salary for the 2005-06 season. The two-time All-Star is due $17.3 million and $18.6 million over the final two seasons of the seven-year contract he signed in 2001.

Finley isn't eligible to re-sign with the Mavericks until his original contract expires after the 2007-08 season, when he will be 35.

Among the teams expected to try to sign Finley are the Suns, Spurs, Heat, Pistons and Nuggets, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

The San Antonio Spurs have just over half of their $5 million mid-level exception remaining to woo Finley, and the top two teams in the East are offering more. The Miami Heat and the Detroit Pistons will be offering Finley a contract starting at the full mid-level exception, as will the on-the-rise Denver Nuggets.

The deadline for taking advantage of the amnesty provision was midnight ET Monday.

Finley was traded to the Mavericks from Phoenix on Dec. 26, 1996, and is the longest-tenured player on the Dallas roster. He averaged 19.8 points for the Mavericks over 626 games the past 8½ seasons.

The Mavericks reportedly have already found Finley's replacement.

Reports out of Texas said the Mavericks have reached an oral agreement with veteran swingman Doug Christie on a one-year, $3 million deal. Before Christie officially becomes a Maverick, he must wait seven days to clear waivers, according to league rules.

Christie was waived Thursday by the Orlando Magic under the same amnesty clause.

Finley was an All-Star before Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki were, then together that trio became known as the "Big Three" -- taking the Mavericks from being one of the league's worst teams to having at least 50 wins and going to the playoffs four straight seasons. Nash left as a free agent last summer to the Suns.

This past season, Finley had some of the lowest averages in his 12 NBA seasons, scoring 15.7 points a game -- his lowest ever in Dallas. He shot 42.7 percent from the field and averaged a career-low 4.1 rebounds.

Since averaging at least 20 points a game in his first five full seasons in Dallas, Finley's scoring average has dropped each of the last three seasons.

In June, Finley had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right ankle, which bothered him most of the season and even made him miss 15 games before Christmas. The surgery was successful, and he should be fully recovered by the start of training camp.

Christie, who played for the Sacramento Kings before being traded to the Magic in January, will still get about $8 million for Orlando. He's also played for the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors, averaging 11.4 points and 1.9 steals per game over his career.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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