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Deal or No Deal?

Keith Van Horn, now more useful than ever
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All this dramatic transaction has been missing is Howie Mandel, 25 suitcases and a stage full of models. But now -- maybe, just maybe -- it’s over. With the NBA’s league office pondering the Mavericks’ reconfigured trade for Jason Kidd at this very moment, the deal that was no deal could officially be a deal today.

If so, your Mavericks will immediately become older, smaller, less athletic and not as deep. Good luck with all that. To be fair, they’ll also become tougher. And, in the very short-term, better.

Though the trade has generated headlines for Devean George’s kibosh and owner Mark Cuban’s oversight and Jerry Stackhouse’s loose lips and Keith Van Horn’s huge payday just for getting up off his retirement couch, ultimately the deal will be judged thusly: If the Mavs win a championship in the next two years, it was a great trade. If they don’t, it was horrible. Simple.

Give the Mavs credit for subbing Trenton Hassell and Van Horn for Stackhouse and George. And we can never, ever again criticize Cuban for not being proactive or not being willing to spend the money to win a title. (You listening, Tom Hicks?). But the dealing better not be done. If this latest lineup goes through, the Mavs are left with no depth at center in a West suddenly stuffed with Shaquille O’Neal, Andrew Bynum and Tim Duncan. In the pre-season they flirted with this guy. In a pinch, this guy is still on their payroll. I joke. Pray with me, please.

The risk is that Dallas is giving up too much of its future for a 35-year-old point guard. The reward is that an emotionally fragile team now has a veteran leader with the guts and guile to win it all right here, right now.

In the end, what’s more attractive: the Miami Heat, who rented an aging Hall of Famer for a chance at a title and two years later wound up in the lottery, or the Utah Jazz, who spent a decade winning 55-plus games and earned a trip to The Finals with no guarantee of a ring? The answer is in the results. Miami’s gamble worked. Utah’s perseverance didn’t.

One thing’s for sure. As Dirk Nowitzki said during last night’s All-Star Game, “It’s been the weirdest week.”

Of course, if Dirk plays defense like this, will any of this matter? --Richie Whitt

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