Obviously Marquis Daniels was on the way out. But didn't we think something better was on its way in? Because of his fat contract, a lackadaisical style that often irked coach Avery Johnson and the Dallas Mavericks' drafting of Maurice Ager, we knew Daniels would be traded this summer. But, come on, the best we could get for Daniels is a Keith Van Horn clone? The deal sending Daniels to the Indiana Pacers for veteran forward Austin Croshere won't be official until next week. But, at first take, it's officially bad. A favorite of former coach Don Nelson, Daniels eventually revealed a star's style but a sub's substance. One minute he's playing intense defense and slashing to the basket on an athletic drive; the next, he's picking up his dribble 35 feet from the basket, firing a cross-court pass seven rows deep or sitting out 30 games with a thigh bruise.
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Avery didn't trust Marquis, so getting rid of him and the remaining three years, $18 million worth of contract is a plus. But all the Mavs did with that asset is replace Van Horn with a similar player who isn't necessarily an upgrade. Croshere is a lanky, white--stop me when you've heard this one before--41-percent shooter who produces more turnovers than assists, naturally gravitates to the 3-point line and is, at best, the ninth player on a championship-caliber team. The good news, I guess, is that he makes only about half as much as Van Horn did and that his expiring $7 million contract will keep him in Dallas only one year. But for a team on the brink of a title, saving money and gaining future salary-cap room is hardly worthy of a parade. --Richie Whitt