The first step in Antonio McDyess' expected return to the Detroit Pistons became official Monday afternoon when the Denver Nuggets announced that they have waived the veteran forward.
After being traded with Chauncey Billups and Cheikh Samb to Denver for Allen Iverson last Monday and then accepting a contract buyout from the Nuggets worth an estimated $6 million, McDyess must first clear waivers before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
As long as he goes unclaimed after 48 hours, McDyess would be eligible to sign with any team except Detroit as soon as Wednesday. To rejoin the Pistons, McDyess must wait 30 days from last Thursday -- the point when all conditions to the trade were satisfied by the Nuggets and Pistons -- as was the case last season, when the San Antonio Spurs traded Brent Barry to Seattle for Kurt Thomas and re-signed Barry after a month.
Dec. 7, then, would be the first day Detroit is eligible to re-sign McDyess.
McDyess has attracted feelers from more than half of the league's 30 teams through agent Andy Miller, including Detroit's chief Eastern Conference rivals in Boston and Cleveland. He's expected to receive formal pitches from those and other teams in coming days.
But NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Friday and reiterated Monday that it would be a major shock if McDyess did not return to the Pistons, backing up McDyess' oft-cited aversion to relocating at age 34.
"Dice only wants to play in Detroit," one source close to the situation said.
If he sustains that refusal to budge, McDyess will almost certainly emerge from this saga having left money on the table. Even after a trade kicker worth $1.3 million was triggered by the deal with Denver and applied to his two-year, $13.6 million contract, sources said McDyess agreed to forfeit nearly $9 million in his buyout with the Nuggets.
The Pistons' best offer to McDyess for the rest of this season can only start at their $1.9 million bi-annual salary-cap exception. Cleveland, by contrast, still possesses $5.1 million of its annual mid-level exception, with Boston ($2.4 million) and San Antonio ($2.1 million) also able to outbid Detroit.
Yet it's believed that McDyess is motivated by the thought of getting back to Detroit far more than money. The Pistons will also have the financial flexibility to offer McDyess a more lucrative one-year contract in the offseason to recoup some of his losses without affecting the Pistons' plans in the 2010 free-agent market.
The Nuggets had hoped to convince McDyess to stay for his third stint in Denver, but they are expected now to re-sign veteran forward Juwan Howard to add frontcourt depth. The Nuggets were forced to waive Howard last Monday to make enough roster room for Samb.
Pistons coach Michael Curry acknowledged before Sunday's loss to Boston that his club was desperate to bring back McDyess, telling The Detroit News: "I said on the day of the trade that losing [him] would create a big void for us. The last two games, you can tell that Dice wasn't out there with that second unit. When we had to take Rasheed [Wallace] out of the game, we had a veteran player [in McDyess] who could spread the floor and allow Rodney Stuckey to get to the basket. Now with Max [Jason Maxiell] and Kwame [Brown], we don't have that shooter who can do that."
Boston's Kevin Garnett, also represented by Miller, told The Boston Globe that he would "root for" McDyess to join the defending champs instead as the Celtics' replacement for P.J. Brown.
"Dice and I are very cool," Garnett told The Globe. "Obviously, we're competitors. We don't spend a lot of time [together]. But when I do see Dice, I make it my business to speak. I consider him family with Andy and all of us. [Miller's clients are] tight-knit. We're family ... I do consider him family and I always worry about his well-being."
When asked if he was confident about McDyess returning to Detroit, Curry said: "I wish I was confident. It would make my life a lot easier. But I don't know what is going to happen with the situation."