Dallas adds to arsenal

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2003

DALLAS Antoine Walker is about to find out whether his team can win more if he does less.

After years of trying to do everything for the Boston Celtics, Walker was traded Monday to the Dallas Mavericks, joining a lineup of four other players capable of scoring 30 points on any night.

No longer will his only offensive options be pass to Paul Pierce or shoot. Now, he can look for Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Michael Finley or Antawn Jamison, or take advantage of opponents double-teaming them and put it up himself.

''As versatile as we are, we're going to cause a lot of mismatch problems,'' Walker said.

To get Walker and guard Tony Delk, Dallas gave up center Raef LaFrentz, swingman Jiri Welsch, forward Chris Mills and a first-round pick in next year's draft.

From the Mavericks' perspective, they swapped a player who wasn't living up to the $69 million, seven-year contract he signed before last season (LaFrentz), a project (Welsch) and a player likely to spend all season on injured reserve (Mills) for a 27-year-old, three-time All-Star (Walker).

Boston, though, sees it as giving LaFrentz a chance to return to the form that earned him the big money, trying to develop Welsch and using Mills' contract to clear salary-cap room after this season.

And, in losing Walker, new Celtics front-office leader Danny Ainge hopes to develop a more well-rounded team. Ainge made it clear during his days as a television analyst that he disliked Walker's game.

''Dallas likes to take chances and make things happen. They're on the cusp of winning a championship right now,'' said Ainge, who in May became Boston's head of basketball operations.

''I can't sit here and tell you that we're an NBA championship team right now. I just don't see that. But I'm not satisfied winning 44 games.''

The Mavericks are coming off a 60-win season that propelled them to the Western Conference finals. They did it mostly with offense, leading the league in scoring the last two seasons.

Now they're taking the notion that the best defense is a good offense a step farther.

''It's going to be interesting,'' said Donnie Nelson, Dallas' president of basketball operations.

This is the second time in two months Nelson has upgraded the roster without breaking up the Big Three of Nowitzki, Nash and Finley. The two trades also counter high-profile moves made by West rivals San Antonio, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The first deal sent Nick Van Exel to Golden State for Jamison. This trade bumps Jamison and his 22.2 scoring average last season to the bench, as Dallas coach Don Nelson plans to use him in the sixth man role Van Exel starred in last season.

Although Shawn Bradley or Danny Fortson will start most games at center, Nelson admitted his crunch-time lineup will be his top five scoring threats ''The Big Three and Antoine Squared,'' as Donnie Nelson calls it.

Walker takes Jamison's starting spot because of his all-around skills. He led Boston in assists the last three seasons and he's averaged 8.7 rebounds over his seven-year career. Don Nelson said his goal is for Walker to get a triple-double every game.

''I've been looking for a point-forward for a long time,'' Nelson said. ''Now we've got one of the best in the business.''

Walker averaged 19.9 shots per game last season, including 7.5 from 3-point range. As a result, he and Pierce averaged nearly half of Boston's points the last three seasons.

Can he handle the change?

''I'm looking forward to doing whatever it takes to win a championship,'' Walker said. ''My total mindset has changed. You've got a legitimate shot of winning the championship. It's tough in the West, but with those guys you've got to think nothing but championship.''

Delk will be a backup at both guard spots. He's third-string at the point as Dallas also has Travis Best.

''He's not afraid, he's tough and experienced,'' Donnie Nelson said of Delk. ''He's got a knack for making big shots and big plays.''

LaFrentz was acquired by Dallas from Denver at the trade deadline two seasons ago. The 7-footer averaged 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season as he often battled foul trouble.

Welsch, whom the Mavs coveted in their trade with the Warriors, is a 6-7 swingman from the Czech Republic who was a first-round draft pick last season.

Mills was seen as a trading chip from the time Dallas acquired him. He's played only 112 games the last four seasons, but has a big contract that expires after this season.



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