DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks acquired Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from Washington on Saturday, a seven-player deal that strengthens them for a playoff run and signals the breakup of a disappointing Wizards team.
Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson called trading Howard, who had spent his entire career in Dallas, an "excruciating decision." But couldn't pass up the chance to bring Butler, a two-time All-Star, to a team he acknowledges has been sputtering.
"Caron is kind of probably more of a conventional fit and a better fit of us," Nelson said. "It's never easy. You've got to give quality to get quality. We just got the pieces that are better fits for us at this particular time."
Howard was in his seventh season with Dallas, a span filled with promise and disappointment since being the 29th overall pick in 2003. Gooden, signed by Dallas last summer, will be going to his eighth team in eight NBA seasons.
It is a significant move for the Southwest Division-leading Mavericks (32-20), a deal announced just before the start of the Saturday night All-Star activities in their home arena.
Dallas lost five of its seven games before the All-Star break, and plays four games in five nights starting Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
"It makes us significantly better," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.
The Wizards (17-33) expected to contend for a playoff spot and instead have endured a miserable season that made it likely they would be active in slashing payroll before Thursday's trade deadline.
Washington had already lost Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton when both were suspended last month by the NBA for the rest of the season. Both admitted to bringing a gun into the locker room after a dispute stemming from a card game on a team flight.
"We're all disappointed in how our season has gone. We need some freshness and we're getting proven players who will help us, and it gives us some flexibility down the road," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "We want to remain competitive and maybe this group can provide a spark. The group had gotten stale, and we needed a change."
As for the possibilities of more deals before the deadline, Grunfeld said "there's still a lot of conversations going on."
Butler averaged 16.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 47 games this season. Haywood was the Wizards' top rebounder with 10.3 per game.
Butler thanked the Wizards and their fans in a statement and said he would, "continue to play with the same desire and intensity that I have had throughout my entire NBA career."
Howard played 431 games for the Mavericks, and was the team's second-longest tenured player behind All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Howard was limited the first couple of months while recovering from offseason surgery on his left ankle and started only nine times, averaging 12.5 points in 31 games. He also had surgery on his left wrist last summer.
"Different teams go through different situations. The Mavs went through it in the '90s, the Wizards are going through some issues right now," Cuban said. "Sometimes giving guys a fresh home I think re-energizes them, and will work the other way too. I think Josh will find himself re-energized with the Wizards."
Howard was an All-Star in 2007, when he averaged 18.9 points in 70 games. He had his best season a year later, when he averaged 19.9 points.
In an interview on the ESPN radio station in Dallas on Saturday before the trade, Howard said he'd like to stay in Dallas but had been told by his agent that a trade was possible.
The same season of his All-Star appearance, Howard said in a radio interview during a first-round playoff series against New Orleans that he occasionally smoked marijuana. Later that same series, he angered then-coach Avery Johnson by throwing himself a birthday party after a Game 4 loss to the Hornets.
Then last summer, a video posted on YouTube showed Howard disrespecting the national anthem while attending a charity flag football game. On the first day of Mavericks training camp, Howard made a statement before taking questions from reporters and apologized.
Cuban said physicals were waived, meaning every player should be in their new uniforms right after the All-Star break. Washington is home Wednesday night against Minnesota.
"We haven't been playing well, that's for sure. Sometimes people might think that moving someone or making a trade can help," Jason Kidd, another Mavs All-Star, said Saturday before the trade was announced. "We have a big week coming out of the All-Star break ... 30 games left, it's a sprint now, not a marathon. I think we're going to be ready for that."
AP freelance writer Rich Dubroff in Washington contributed to this report.