Mavericks land Buckner, finalize trade for Croshere

Updated: July 12, 2006, 8:43 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- Having lost out on scoring guard Mike James, the Dallas Mavericks instead went for defense by agreeing to a deal Wednesday with guard Greg Buckner.

Buckner's three-year contract is expected to be finalized Thursday. Dallas turned to Buckner after James spurned their three-year offer for a four-year deal with Minnesota.

Buckner spent the past two seasons in Denver, but is quite familiar to the Mavs. He spent his first three NBA seasons in Dallas, breaking in during the 1999-2000 season after a year in the CBA.

Buckner, 29, is valued mostly as a perimeter defender, something the Mavericks sorely lacked against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the NBA finals.

"Buck is a winner in every sense of the word and a glue guy that makes his teammates better," said Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks president of basketball operations. "He's capable of defending three, even four positions. We used to put him on big point guards all the way to finesse (power forwards)."

Buckner averaged a career-best 6.7 points per game last season, but that was only slightly higher than what he averaged previously with the Mavericks. The key is that much more of his scoring came from the outside.

Buckner was 135-of-364 on 3-pointers during his two years in Denver, compared to 17-of-49 his first time in Dallas. Far more important than the slight increase in accuracy (37.1 percent, up from 34.7) is the drastic increase in confidence indicated by the radical increase in attempts.

"Good players in this league, they grow," Nelson said. "When Buck first came in he was known more as a tough-nosed defender. But he spent a lot of time in the gym shooting into the wee hours and his shooting has drastically improved."

The arrival of Buckner and first-round pick Maurice Ager solidifies the Mavericks at off guard, a weakness the Heat exposed.

Adrian Griffin is a free agent who could return in a reduced role, while Marquis Daniels was traded to Indiana for Austin Croshere in a deal that became official Wednesday.

Croshere was excited to finally arrive in Dallas and meet with team officials. He also spoke by phone for the first time with his new coach, Avery Johnson.

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Croshere will replace free agent Keith Van Horn as Dirk Nowitzki's backup, while occasionally playing alongside him. Croshere will be counted on mainly for outside shooting, but proudly says he also likes to drive the basket and fight for rebounds.

"Everyone has said this has the potential to be a great fit and I couldn't agree more," said Croshere, who played nine seasons for the Pacers, his only NBA team.

Having watched the Mavs from afar, he's liked what he's seen.

"You can tell everyone is on the same page, that they get what it's all about," said Croshere, noting that he endured the Pistons-Pacers brawl in 2004 and the fallout from it. "I have a great perspective of the opportunity that is here. I'm very, very grateful for that opportunity."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press