Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
More than three hours into the first evening of NBA free agency, the Mavericks finally made a roster addition. Or, rather, they renewed a familiar acquaintance.
Trey Burke, who joined the Mavericks in the Disney World bubble and dazzled during that one-month run, agreed to a three-year, $10 million contract, according to sources.
Adding a 6-foot guard to an already guard-heavy roster probably wasn’t the size of splash Mavericks fans had in mind after the free agency window opened at 5 p.m. — but, after midnight central time, the fireworks began and the Mavericks pulled off a three-team trade that will bring bruiser James Johnson to Dallas and give the Mavericks salary cap relief.
Gone are guard Delon Wright and forward Justin Jackson, to Detroit and Oklahoma City, respectively, in basically what amounted to salary dumps by the Mavericks.
The Mavericks-Pistons-Thunder trade is apparently what a Mavericks source was referring to when telling The News shortly after 10 p.m.: “Lots of things flying around right now.”
Wright and Jackson became expendable after the Mavericks’ draft night hauls of Josh Richardson by trade and Josh Green, Tyrell Terry and Tyler Bey in the draft — and Friday evening’s first move in free agency, agreeing to terms with Burke.
Johnson is 33 and has played for six teams, with career averages of 8 points and 3.6 rebounds. He brings the Mavericks needed inside toughness. Though he is scheduled to make $15.8 million this season, it’s the last year on his contract. Also of on-court significance: He’s a karate blackbelt and former MMA fighter who will be the enforcer that Dallas lacked last season, most memorably when the Clippers’ Marcus Morris got rough with Luka Doncic during the playoffs.
Wright and Jackson were scheduled to make $9 million and $5 million this season, but now Dallas saves the $8.5 million that Wright was scheduled to make next season.
Earlier in the evening, the organization made retaining Burke a priority, and it did so affordably.
Burke, 28, averaged 12.1 points in 14 seeding and playoff games in the bubble and made 47% of his 3-point attempts in the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Burke’s return almost certainly signals the end of fan-favorite J.J. Barea’s run in Dallas.
It’s unclear whether the Mavericks are done dealing. On Friday, potential Mavericks free-agent targets Danilo Gallinari, Christian Wood and Montrezl Harrell agreed to new deals, while, theoretically, Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hassan Whiteside, Aron Baynes and others remain in play.
Any player the Mavericks add of significant salary at this point would have to be through a sign-and-trade. After a flurry of big-dollar contracts were agreed to early in the evening, the realities of the market appeared to be turning in favor of teams such as the Mavericks who are over the cap.
Yes, Gallinari, 32, agreed to an eye-opening deal with Atlanta, for three years and $61.5 million. And Wood agreed to a three-year, $41 million deal with the Houston Rockets. The Mavericks could not have completed either of those deals without a sign-and-trade, and in Atlanta’s case the Hawks had $44 million of cap space.
But now available dollars are shrinking, which explains Harrell agreeing to a two-year, $19 million deal with the Lakers and the second year being a player option.
We’ll learn in the coming hours or days whether the Mavericks are done, but what was immediately clear Friday is how much they wanted Burke back.
Burke originally came to Dallas as part of the seven-player, two-pick deal with New York that netted Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. in February 2019.
Burke impressed coach Rick Carlisle and staff during the limited opportunities he received during the last half of that season, but the Mavericks allowed him to leave in free agency and he signed with Philadelphia.
On a guard-heavy and dysfunctional Sixers team last season, Burke averaged 5.9 points and played in just 27 games before getting waived in February.
During the coronavirus hiatus, Burke signed a $229,200 deal to join the Mavericks for bubble play, as a roster replacement after Willie Cauley-Stein opted not to go to the bubble.
Burke was late in joining the Mavericks in Orlando because, as he later explained to The News, he contracted COVID-19 and had to pass league testing protocols before he could practice and play.
Just three days after taking part in his first practice, Burke came off the bench in the first seeding game, against the Rockets, and poured in 31 points.
Playing the sixth man, microwave-scoring role that Jason Terry for many years and more recently Barea did so well, Burke had four more double-digit scoring games to close out seeding play.
Then in the playoff series against the Clippers he had games of 25, 16, 15 and 10 points.
“Talking to Coach [Carlisle], he let it be known that he loves what I brought to the team, loves the effort I gave in the bubble and would love to have me back,” Burke told The News in September.
“We both understood that it was too early to talk any free agency talk. I kind of leave that up to my agent.”
Obviously, Carlisle was sincere and now, the Mavericks and Burke are reunited for a third go-round.