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Blog Entry

Free-Agent Tipoff

Posted on: June 28, 2010 2:32 am
The free-agent frenzy doesn’t officially begin for another two days, but the speculation already is rampant. Here’s the first edition of the Free-Agent Tipoff, a morning look at the news of the day from front-office executives and agents:

• We won’t know for a few days, or maybe longer, whether LeBron James sees his free-agent opportunity through the same prism I do. But as the week begins, the consensus among rival executives and influential agents is that the Knicks are in for a tough time when the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Word circulating over the weekend was that Knicks president Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni faced a “very tough sell” to the top free agents, according to one rival executive monitoring the free-agent buzz. The reason, according to an agent involved in the process: “They’re going to have a lot of convincing to do for guys. There’s not a lot of pieces there to make it attractive.” According to other sources, it’s even worse than that for the Knicks. A representative for one prominent free agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiating period hasn’t begun, said the Knicks may have as hard a time – or even harder – persuading second-tier free agents to go to New York. “If you come in there, expectations are so high you almost can’t – unless it’s LeBron, anybody else will have a really hard time living up to it,” the agent said. “What if the team makes playoffs and loses in first round? Is that a success? Probably not. You’re starting off negative. That’s the way you want to start off? Everybody should be happy about getting two All-Stars, but they’re not the ones you thought you were getting or were sold on getting.”

• Having said that, Hawks free agent Joe Johnson is expecting a hard sell from the Knicks in the event LeBron opts to go elsewhere. Johnson has set up shop in Los Angeles with his agent, Arn Tellem, who has an excellent relationship with Walsh. As of early Monday, Johnson had yet to schedule any free-agent visits – in L.A. or elsewhere. One person with ties to Johnson suggested a possible reason why he is 1) in L.A., and 2) in no hurry to entertain visitors. Don’t be surprised if his strong connection to Clippers GM Neil Olshey explains why Johnson is conveniently ensconced in L.A. for the purposes of signing a max deal with the Clips. As a trainer for Tellem when Johnson was entering the draft, Olshey worked with Johnson and has maintained a strong relationship with him. The Clippers situation is ideal because Johnson wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden as the franchise cornerstone, a title and responsibility that will fall on Blake Griffin. The Clippers, with enough cap space for one max player, will make their run at LeBron, but the answer is expected to be a swift and polite, “No, thanks.” At which point you can expected them to move on to Johnson as their Plan B.

• Henry Thomas, the agent for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, shot down reports Sunday that Bosh had already decided to join James in Chicago. “Completely untrue,” Thomas told “He hasn’t decided anything.” Be that as it may, rival executives already are bracing for a LeBron-Bosh tandem in Chicago. “They’d immediately be the favorites to win the East, I think,” one of them said. The same exec said he believes that if LeBron and Bosh do team up with the Bulls, that would quickly set the next domino into motion – Amar’e Stoudemire signing with the Heat to play with Dwyane Wade.

• Stoudemire will be receiving visitors in Los Angeles, a person close to him said. As of Sunday night, no visits had been set up. Stoudemire made a few waves over the weekend when he tweeted about having dinner in Chicago with his agent, Happy Walters, and discussing free agency. He went on to mention how good it was to see his friend, Dwyane Wade, at the Nike Skills Academy in the Windy City. (It turns out, there were numerous people at the dinner, not just Amar’e and Wade. So slow your roll, conspiratorial internet rumor mill.) But the person close to Stoudemire provided some insight into what the man they call STAT is looking for in free agency: “He wants to be in a situation where he can win, and where there’s a team around him,” the person said. “He doesn’t want to be the only guy, obviously, and he wants to be in a city he wants to be in. I think everyone forgets that a lot of these guys are going to get pursued by teams that aren’t under the cap and people are going to want to do sign-and-trades.” That’s right, the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat and Clippers aren’t the only teams capable of landing a marquee free agent in the next couple of weeks.

• To that point, the Magic are said to be actively considering trade scenarios that could provide Dwight Howard with a post-up power forward to play with, a play-maker to replace what Hedo Turkoglu brought to the 2009 Eastern Conference championship team, or a dynamic point guard. It would be easy enough to move Rashard Lewis to small forward and satisfy Howard’s first wish – something he feels strongly enough about to begin “heavily recruiting” free agents that fit the description, according to a source. As for the second item, if I were GM Otis Smith, I’d be exploring a Vince Carter-for-Joe Johnson sign-and-trade; what an upgrade that would be for a team that sorely missed Turkoglu in the conference finals against Boston this year. The third option is the most interesting: A person with knowledge of the Magic’s plans said a trade for Gilbert Arenas, the one-time superstar whose reputation took a massive hit with his gun suspension last season, remains a “definite possibility.” Smith has a good relationship with Arenas, but a stumbling block could be the fact that Howard has questions about whether Arenas would fit in. If Howard gets the answers he’s looking for, there could be legs to the Arenas-to-Orlando scenario.

• An aside on the potential LeBron-Bosh tandem in Chicago: Bulls GM Gar Forman will have a hard sell in this respect: Persuading both players to come on board with straight signings instead of through sign-and-trades. The pitch would be this: Despite losing a sixth year and 2.5 percent more in annual raises, they’d have a better shot at a title if the Bulls didn’t have to give up, say, Joakim Noah or Luol Deng to get them.

• Rod Thorn is telling colleagues that his impending departure from the Nets is “not about the money,” but that horse has left the barn. It’s well known in front-office circles that Thorn was asked to take a massive pay cut on a new contract, perhaps as much as 80 percent, according to two sources. It’s possible that after a cooling-off period, Thorn could be retained in some sort of advisory capacity while owner Mikhail Prokhorov pursues the young, dynamic voice he’s said to be seeking. Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti would make sense, and already there are rumblings that Presti is on Prokhorov’s list of targets. But in addition to Jerry Colangelo, another name that surfaced Sunday doesn’t fit that description: Spurs GM R.C. Buford, who is not one of the young guns in the NBA’s GM club but has done as good a job as anyone building a perennial contender on a small-market budget. Now that the Spurs’ run is nearly over, it’s scary to imagine an executive as shrewd as Buford turned loose with the limitless financial backing of a Russian billionaire. In any event, rival executives are scratching their heads as to why the Nets would allow themselves to enter free-agent pitch sessions with a lame-duck GM and no replacement on board. Makes you wonder whether Kevin Pritchard, fired by the Trail Blazers on draft night, could switch gears quickly enough to join Thorn on the recruiting trail as his official replacement. Also makes you wonder whether Pritchard would be emotionally prepared to work for another eccentric billionaire so soon after getting canned by one.
Category: NBA

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: June 28, 2010 11:02 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

It's not like baseball where the Yankees can outspend everybody. If Lebron James and Chris Bosh could make $100 million more with the Knicks than anywhere else, they'd be in NY in a heartbeat. Money makes the world go 'round. 

Since: Dec 2, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2010 11:00 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

Being in New York, from what I see, Knicks fans want to see progress. If Lebron comes to the Knicks, I don't think fans expect a title in 2010 so the expectations aren't too high because its around building a future as well with a free agent in 2011 with Curry coming off the books and they might have a decent draft pick for once. Joe Johnson, if he signs with the Knicks is a good complementary piece because I believe Wade and Bosh will team up in Miami. If Lebron wants to have high pressure, then go to Chicago and constantly be compared to Jordan after every game. I thought that was why he changed his number in the first place, but playing in Jordan's shadow is a huge concern. I think the Knicks have a great chance to get Lebron James because they have some good pieces for the future that won't win in the 1st year, but can win a title soon after.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2010 10:18 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

These articles are utterly ridiculous.  It's like sports writers feel they just have to throw crap against the wall and hope somehow one of their ridiculous predictions come true.

LeBron in Chicago makes no sense.  If the Bulls didn't have Rose it would, but Rose and LeBron both have to have the ball in their hands the majority of the time.  So why would LeBron go somewhere with a pg like Rose?

Only delusional Knicks fans and some stupid sports writers think the Knicks will land LeBron!  Why go to one of the worst teams in the league?  Seriously!  He won't make any more money there and the only way to become a bigger global icon is to win a championship, and the Knicks are far away from that (even with LeBron).

Since: Jan 23, 2008
Posted on: June 28, 2010 10:09 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

What it actually has is endless amounts of people begging for autographs and sleeping on his residence to get one.That's an interesting point.  I mean, as a life-long New Yorker I can attest to the fact that we are a city of autograph whores who will sleep in athlete's front yards just to get a glimpse of a professional athlete.  It's not like we can ever just see them walking around on the street or anything.  They live in caves and secret hiding places.  LeBron should really stay the hell away for fear of his safety.
I'd avoid the decaying city at any cost possible, even if I were in his posisition and the only other option was half the pay.Unfortunately, you're not in his posisition.  Hopefully, you'll avoid our decaying city regardless.

Since: May 26, 2010
Posted on: June 28, 2010 9:56 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

A lot of NBA insiders that have access to conversations that not everyone does, were the first ones to start specualting that Lebron is going to the Bulls based on the fact that they have the salary cap space to sign him and they probably have the best group of remaining players to add Lebron to, to be championship contenders.

I agree that Bosh didn't say that Miami is the top contender, he said they are in top contention.  That is a huge difference.  He also said that about Chicago.  He has said several times that he would like to go wherever Lebron goes which is why the Bulls cleared more cap space and why there is so much speculation about Lebron and Bosh going to Chicago.

One other thing, the Bulls did not clear all that cap space to sign one big name.  They will sign 2 big free agents.  It may not be Lebron and Bosh but they will sign two players.

Since: May 31, 2010
Posted on: June 28, 2010 9:25 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

Derrick Rose is a budding star for him to play with - nobody on Cleveland even close to that.  And you'll have Noah to run the floor with him and do lots of the dirty work.  Add LeBron and Bosh to that combo and look out. 

Since: Oct 14, 2008
Posted on: June 28, 2010 9:10 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

I don't think LeBron really matches up well in Chicago, if he is if fact considering going there. You have Rose, who looks to score first, pass second, Kirk is gone, and then what, Luol Deng? Brad Miller? This young "core" that Chicago fans seem to have sold the country on is eerily similar to that of Cleveland. There are some decent players, but no All-Stars. If Chicago's attempt to get another big star falls through, LeBron could find himself in the same situation all over again. 
But has he been planning this all along? Was he changing his number to honor Jordan, or because he knew that he wouldn't be able to wear it next year?

Since: May 4, 2008
Posted on: June 28, 2010 8:19 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

Writers , have the inside track and we don't get it my only comment to this! But who really knows?

Since: Jun 10, 2010
Posted on: June 28, 2010 8:18 am

Free-Agent Tipoff

Great question.  I have seen no solid evidence at all that LeBron is even considering Chicago.  It's almost like, one day, a sportswriter decided to write a dream-article about LeBron trying to be the next Jordan, and VIOLA!, now all the other writing-heads are jumping all over each other trying to find anything that suggests he may go to Chicago.

I'm a Cavs fan.  While I dislike the Bulls, and especially Noah, I like Chicago very much.  It's a great city.  I just don't see why Lebron would go there as opposed to staying in Cleveland (Akron), his home.

Since: Dec 15, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2010 7:49 am

Free-Agent Tipoff


An east coast writer admits that its not going to be even remotely simple for The Knicks to get LeBron. Face it, you had to go to New York at the latest the 70's to become the so called "international icon". Thanks to the internet and other cities growing, it simply doesn't have that anymore. What it actually has is endless amounts of people begging for autographs and sleeping on his residence to get one. I'd avoid the decaying city at any cost possible, even if I were in his posisition and the only other option was half the pay.

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