Showdown Out West

The Phoenix Suns will wait another week before their big trade acquisition makes his debut. The Dallas Mavericks hope the same is true for them.

While Shaquille O'Neal remains sidelined for the Suns (36-16), the Mavericks (35-17) wait to see if their deal for Jason Kidd can be finalized, leaving their roster in a state of flux Thursday heading into Phoenix.

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A week after the Suns acquired O'Neal from Miami, the Mavericks are trying to swing their own blockbuster trade before the All-Star break. On Wednesday, it was announced the New Jersey Nets were expected to deal Kidd to the Mavericks along with forward Malik Allen in exchange for Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse and reserves DeSagana Diop, Devean George and Maurice Ager, cash and draft picks.

The deal hit a snag later Wednesday night, however. George blocked the trade, unwilling to give up his "early Bird rights," a provision earned by being in his second year and on his second contract with the Mavericks.

"We're not trying to hold things up or be difficult, but just like teams make tough decisions all the time - about cutting players or making trades - they do what's best for their team, and it's my obligation to do what's best for Devean," his agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Wednesday night.

"You don't want to stop teams from doing their business, but we don't feel like it makes sense at this time. He's starting right now and things are going pretty good."

George started Wednesday in Dallas' 96-76 win over the Portland Trail Blazers while Diop came off the bench. Harris and Stackhouse were inactive because of injuries, and Ager is in the NBDL.

George, struggled through a terrible game - going 0-for-11 in 33 minutes without a point - and admitted hearing it from the home fans, who held up signs jeering him for holding up the trade.

"All the finger-pointing is at me," he said. "I'm the bad guy. I'll take that."

Kidd and Allen were with the Nets in Toronto on Wednesday, but inactive.

Provided the deal goes through, Kidd will return to the team that chose him second overall in the 1994 draft. Dallas went 36-46 in 1994-95, and traded him early the following season to Phoenix. He's spent the last seven seasons with New Jersey.

The 34-year-old Kidd, who is one triple-double shy of 100 for his career, is averaging 11.3 points, 10.4 assists and 8.1 rebounds this season. He's been the constant subject of trade talks after being outspoken about his unhappiness in New Jersey, where the Nets are 23-30.

Stackhouse, who believes the Nets will buy out his contract - allowing him to re-sign with Dallas in a month - believes the trade of the 24-year-old Harris for the veteran point guard will provide immediate advantages in a tightly contested Western Conference race.

"I think Devin has a lot of upside, but Jason Kidd is the type of all-league point guard our teams needs," Stackhouse said. "We just need a jolt. Adding a player like him can re-energize a team, hopefully."

Dallas is in third place in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind the New Orleans Hornets and one game behind the Suns. The Mavs avoided a third straight loss on Wednesday as Dirk Nowitzki had 37 points and 12 rebounds, and Jason Terry added 24 points.

"It was a weird day for everybody, having to play a game after all the talk," Nowitzki said. "But everybody was a professional and put on the uniform for the organization."

While the Mavericks aren't certain what is going to happen with their possible trade, the Suns are a bit more settled following their big deal.

O'Neal worked out before the Suns' 120-118 loss to Golden State on Wednesday, but the 7-foot-1 center said he was going to hold off playing a little longer until after the weekend. O'Neal has played just 32 games - four since Dec. 28 - and he has been sidelined since Jan. 21 because of a hip injury.

"The hip feels pretty good," O'Neal said. "I have to get the wind up a little bit more and get in tune with what's going on. You want to fit in. You want to be a piece of the puzzle that fits in. You don't want to be a piece of the puzzle that's too small or too big. You want to just slide right in like I've been here for a while."

Wednesday's loss kept Phoenix from winning its third straight. Amare Stoudemire scored 29 points, but Leandro Barbosa's potential game-winning 3-pointer bounced off the front rim.

"That's the play I know we can get," D'Antoni said. "He hit a couple of 3s and was pretty hot. He got a good look and it just didn't go in."

The Mavericks beat the Suns 108-105 on Dec. 19 for their fifth win in the last seven games between the teams - including two postseason victories. Dallas has won four of the last six regular-season games in Phoenix.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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