DALLAS -- Michael Finley was waived late Monday night by the Dallas Mavericks, who took advantage of a one-time amnesty provision that will allow them to avoid luxury taxes on the $51.8 million owed their captain over the next three seasons.
Finley becomes an unrestricted free agent and is still guaranteed the money from his Mavericks contract, plus whatever he gets from a new team.
The Mavs spent all day Monday exploring trade options, and waited until just before the late-night deadline to release Finley and take advantage of the provision in the NBA's new labor agreement.
"This is the hardest part of our business," said Donnie Nelson, the team's president of basketball operations. "Mike and I started out in Phoenix together, got reunited here and obviously he was a key part in rebuilding this franchise. ... To share memories like that, it's been a very difficult several weeks for this franchise."
The Mavs avoid a dollar-for-dollar tax on Finley's $15.9 million salary for the 2005-06 season. The two-time All-Star is due $17.3 million and $18.6 million over the final two seasons of the seven-year contract owner Mark Cuban gave him in 2001.
"Just what he's meant on and off the court, he's impacted every one from fans to the front office," Nelson said. "Ultimately, it's our responsibility to do what's in the best interest of the Dallas Mavericks, but Michael has a special place in Mark's heart, my heart, and a special place in the franchise. At the end of the day, this just feels right."
Finley isn't eligible to re-sign with the Mavericks until his original contract expires after the 2007-08 season, when he will be 35.
Finley was traded to Dallas from Phoenix on Dec. 26, 1996, and was the longest-tenured player for the Mavericks. He averaged 19.8 points for the Mavs in 626 games the past 81/2 seasons.
The Mavericks apparently already found a new veteran swingman, having reportedly agreed with Doug Christie on a one-year, $3 million contract.
Christie was waived Thursday by the Orlando Magic under the same amnesty clause. If no team claims him by Thursday, he'll be a free agent. The Mavs wouldn't sign him before then.
Finley was an All-Star before Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, then the trio became known as the "Big Three" -- taking the Mavericks from one of the league's worst teams to having at least 50 wins and going to the playoffs four straight seasons. Nash left as a free agent last summer and joined the Suns.
This past season, Finley had some of the worst averages in his 10 NBA seasons, scoring 15.7 points a game -- his lowest in Dallas. He shot 42.7 percent from the field and averaged a career-low 4.1 rebounds.
Finley averaged at least 20 points a game in his first five full seasons in Dallas, but his scoring average has dropped in each of the past five years since his career-high 22.6 in 1999-00.
Still, Finley is the Mavs career leader in 3-pointers (870) and 3-point field goal attempts (2,316), fourth in points (12,389), sixth in rebounds (3,245), fifth in assists (2,393), fourth in field goals made (4,834), second in steals (748), fourth in games played (626), third in games started (606), and third in minutes played (24,878).
Finley had arthroscopic surgery in June to remove bone chips from his right ankle, which bothered him most of the season and even made him miss 15 games before Christmas. The surgery was successful, and he should be fully recovered by the start of training camp.
Christie, who played for the Sacramento Kings before being traded to the Magic in January, will get $8.2 million from Orlando. He's also played for the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors, averaging 11.4 points and 1.9 steals per game over his career.
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