When the Dallas Mavericks first made a trade to acquire three key pieces, the Lakers viewed that move as one of the best in the NBA.
Wednesday night, when the Lakers play the Mavericks at American Airlines Center, they get to see firsthand how much Dallas has improved since it acquired guard Caron Butler, center Brendan Haywood and reserve guard DeShawn Stevenson from the Washington Wizards on Feb. 13.
“I think they’ve added a little brawn,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said after Los Angeles defeated the Memphis Grizzles, 99-98, on Tuesday on a Kobe Bryant three-point shot with 4.3 seconds left.
“Caron, Stevenson and Haywood, they are big muscular guys in all the positions. So they’ve added a little strength as a basketball club.”
It has been five games since the threesome has been acquired.
Butler has started in all five, averaging 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals with the Mavericks.
Haywood has started four games in place of injured Erick Dampier (dislocated right middle finger).
The 7-0, 263-pound Haywood is averaging 11.2 points, 11 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots with the Mavericks.
Stevenson has played in three games.
“When they get Dampier back, they’ll be even deeper coming off the bench with size,” said Bryant, who played in his first game Tuesday night after missing five straight with a sprained left ankle. Bryant had 32 points on 13-for-19 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how they develop and how they play and how well we match up with them.”
The Mavericks defeated the Lakers at Staples Center last October, but the Lakers won the last two games.
The Lakers and Mavericks could possibly be a playoff matchup in the second round.
The Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference, seven games ahead of the Mavericks, who are in the fourth position, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns.
Dallas, at 36-21, leads the San Antonio Spurs by 3 1/2 games in the Southwest Division.
“I think Dallas has gotten better defensively,” Lakers center Andrew Bynum said. “It should be a fun matchup.”
Bryant and Butler were teammates on the Lakers’ 2004-05 team and became close.
At 6-7, 228 pounds, Butler gives the Mavericks size and toughness at the shooting guard position.
Butler and Bryant will go head to head Wednesday night.
“He can play-make for others,” Bryant said. “That’s always big to have on a team, somebody that creates opportunities for other people. And he’s tough as nails. He’s going to play hard no matter what. [He has] quick hands defensively and he can get balls back for them with a lot of the intangible things that he does.”
The Mavericks have won four consecutive games.
They have done a good job of integrating Butler and Haywood into what they do.
“They are playing well,” Jackson said. “They’ve got some wins with this new personnel. We’ll see how they play with the added influence of these guys on their basketball club.”