Posted on: June 29, 2010 3:20 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2010 6:55 pm
The Heat picked up $356,000 in additional cap space Tuesday by agreeing to a buyout with James Jones, but the only move that would give them a clear, uncomplicated path to fitting max free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh under the cap with Dwyane Wade -- trading Michael Beasley -- is proving to be the most difficult task of the NBA offseason.
The buyout with Jones, which according to a person familiar with it will be official by Wednesday, means his contract will count only $1.5 million on Miami's cap -- a $356,000 savings on the $1.856 million that had been guaranteed. Jones' full salary had been $4.65 million, but most cap experts already were figuring only the guaranteed amount in Miami's obligations. The buyout was first reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel .
But the real key to orchestrating three-max coup when the negotiating period begins Thursday at 12:01 a.m. is removing Beasley, a former No. 2 overall pick, and his $4.9 million contract from Miami's books. Those efforts have fallen on deaf ears among the few teams left with cap space that have displayed a willingness to absorb contracts.
"They literally can't give him away right now," a person with knowledge of the Beasley dilemma told CBSSports.com. "No one is going to take that money on their cap."
According to the person familiar with the situation, the Nets turned down Miami's offer of Beasley for Keyon Dooling's $500,000 non-guaranteed contract. (For obvious reasons. The Nets are trying to clear space for two max free agents, as well, and in fact dumped Yi Jianlian on the Wizards Tuesday to save $3 million.) Minnesota also turned down the Heat's offer of Beasley for Ryan Gomes, the person said.
If the Heat are unable to dump Beasley by July 8, the first day free-agent contracts can be signed and trades approved, they'll have to get creative in trying to pull off the LeBron-Wade-Bosh trifecta they're believed to be working on. Short of pure cap space for re-signing Wade and signign the other two, someone would have to agree to a sign-and-trade (smaller raises and one less year) or take less than the max, which starts at $16.6 million next season.
Meanwhile, speculation and conflicting reports continue to swirl about whether a free-agent summut occurred in Miami this past weekend involving James, Wade and Bosh. A person with direct knowledge of the players' offseason plans told CBSSports.com that the trio -- who are friends and are represented by the same agency, CAA -- have spoken with each other about their offseason strategy since their respective seasons ended. However, the person said there was no meeting in Miami this past weekend. Wade was in Chicago Saturday to conduct business meetings and take his children to the Cubs-White Sox game before flying to an undisclosed location -- not Miami -- on Sunday. Gossip reports in New York placed James on the social scene in Manhattan over the weekend, including a post-draft party at pal Jay-Z's 40/40 Club and a 40th birthday party for marketing maven Steve Stoute at Rockefeller Center.
Posted on: June 29, 2010 12:43 am
D-Bron-Bosh on the same team? No. Dear Basketball Gods, no.
That is where the speculation headed Monday, the first work day of the week for most Americans but just another day in the Summer of LeBron rumor mill for the rest of us. At this point, it’s impossible to pinpoint where this particular rumor started, and far be it from me to squash it now. Why spoil everybody’s fun? But it’s worth noting that a reputable writer from a legitimate news organization, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel , has a person in Dwyane Wade’s camp saying the Heat guard believes Pat Riley is about to make the Earth explode. Well, not exactly. He’s about to make my head explode by pulling off the unthinkable: pairing Wade with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in South Beach. The top free agents signed, sealed and delivered to Miami.
So, if that happens on the first day of free agency, does that mean we can all go back to our lives?
I don’t believe it’s going to happen. For reasons I detailed here , I believe James – and probably Wade, too – have a keen enough understanding of what’s good for the NBA being good for them not to sign up for such an apocalyptic scenario. And this would be very bad for the NBA.
It’s not that it can’t happen. Miami would sign Wade first, then quickly get commitments from James and Bosh while Riley worked out a deal to send Michael Beasley and his $4.9 million salary to Siberia. Or Sacramento, Minnesota or Oklahoma City – all teams with cap space that could absorb Beasley without sending any salary back and take a chance on the former No. 2 pick. Or Toronto, in a sign-and-trade for Bosh, whom Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has twice acknowledged this week is likely gone. But the latter scenario creates issues because Bosh would get more money under the CBA via a sign-and-trade than James would get in a straight-up signing with the Heat. Not going to happen.
The other idea would be to trade James Jones and his $1.8 million salary to a team that’s also under the cap, paying that team $3 million and maybe a draft pick for its trouble. Then, Miami could give LeBron a five-year max deal starting at $16.6 million and give Bosh a little less – which would be right, except with Bosh. These are all professionals involved, so I’m sure they could work it out. But they shouldn’t.
Do you mean to tell me that the Big Three of 2010 waited three years for this landmark opportunity to reshape the NBA landscape forever, and all they could figure out was to play for the same team? How boring. How shortsighted. How bad for business.
And hopefully, nothing more than a pipedream.
As we hear the buzzer on Day -2 of free agency, here’s some of what was learned from agents and front office sources with (at this writing) less than 48 hours to go before the negotiating period begins:
• Amar’e Stoudemire and his agent, Happy Walters, have “further conversations” scheduled with Suns officials before free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, though it’s unclear whether Phoenix owner Robert Sarver will step up with a last-ditch max offer to keep the prolific power forward. It’s a bizarre situation, with outgoing GM Steve Kerr and assistant David Griffin out of the loop at a critical time for the franchise. Sarver and coach Alvin Gentry will be the point men for the meeting with Stoudemire in Los Angeles, and it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that a max offer is the only hope Phoenix has of keeping Stoudemire from testing the free-agent waters. And even that might not get it done.
• Lakers coach Phil Jackson has yet to receive the full green light from doctors to coach again next season, but a person with strong ties to him said Monday early indications are that Jackson’s postseason physical went fine. If that’s the case, health won’t be the reason Jackson, 64, retires if that’s what he decides to do. The gut feeling with the source, who is familiar with Jackson’s thinking, remains that the 11-time champion will be back on the Lakers’ bench next season. As for the money required to keep Jackson there, that is expected to be worked out once Jackson indicates his willingness to return for an attempt at his 12th championship and third in a row. Two men affected by Jackson’s decision, Byron Scott and Brian Shaw, are in the running for the Cavaliers’ head coaching job. Shaw, a Lakers assistant, was in Cleveland Monday to speak with Cavs officials.
• Still no word from Celtics coach Doc Rivers to some of his closest confidants as to whether he will be back on the Boston bench next season. Vinny Del Negro, who along with Dwane Casey is a finalist for the Clippers job, is on the Celtics’ short list of candidates to replace Rivers if he steps down to spend more time with his family.
• A common misconception about the start of this historic free agency period is that rosters and cap space are stagnant until free agents begin making their decisions. Not so. For example, the Knicks are believed to be continuing to explore moves that would clear the extra cap space to retain unrestricted free agent David Lee while adding two max free agents. The only move that would do it is almost impossible, according to one rival executive, but that doesn’t mean Knicks president Donnie Walsh won’t try: trading Eddy Curry and his $11.3 million contract. To do so, Walsh would have to incentivize another team that’s under the cap to take Curry. The price for such trouble would almost certainly be 2009 No. 8 pick Danilo Gallinari ($3.3 million). The problem would be that Gallo is the most attractive existing Knicks to prospective free agents. This might result in an unusual conversation in the Knicks’ recruiting visits with James and other free agents: Who would you rather play with, Gallinari or Lee?
• As for developments in front-office free agency: former Cavs GM Danny Ferry has emerged as the top candidate to replace Kevin Pritchard in Portland; Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey and Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien, whose contract is up Aug. 31, have spoken with the Suns; and Thunder GM Sam Presti will be pursued by the Nets if team president Rod Thorn sticks with his decision to step down July 15.
Posted on: June 26, 2010 11:42 pm
If Mikhail Prokhorov's grand plan in forcing Rod Thorn out of the Nets' presidency involves hiring Jerry Colangelo to replace him, this is news to Jerry Colangelo. The managing director of USA Basketball told CBSSports.com Saturday night he has yet to hear from the Nets.
Colangelo said in a text message that there's been "no call" from the Nets and "no contact" between the franchise and the architect of USA Basketball's resurgence, which not coincidentally was fueled by several members of the elite 2010 free-agent class. In addition to Colangelo's track record as one of the game's shrewdest executives and innovators, his close relationship with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others who have thrived under Colangelo's leadership with USA Basketball enhances his value to teams looking to pursue those and other free agents.
Though he has yet to hear from the Nets, Colangelo remains interested in speaking with New Jersey officials if the team is interested in him. In that regard, nothing has changed since All-Star weekend in Dallas, when Colangelo said he'd listen to what then-prospective owner Prokhorov had to say if he wanted to discuss Colangelo running the team that will be moving to Brooklyn, N.Y., in two years.
Thorn's departure was surprising for its timing, but not stunning in the grand scheme of things. That's partly because Thorn has privately contemplated retirement in recent years and partly due to a new normal among NBA owners who have just endured two of the worst financial years in league history. According to two people familiar with the situation, Thorn was asked to take a massive pay cut -- as much as 80 percent, the sources said -- to stay with the team after his contract expired June 30. Thorn, described as "emotional" over the request, declined the insult but agreed to stay on through July 15 to help the Nets navigate the all-important free-agent period that begins July 1.
Thorn was by no means the first GM or team president asked to take a haircut on his salary in recent months and years, but the fact that it happened to one of the most experienced and respected executives in the sport sent a chill through the GM ranks over the past 24 hours. A year ago, according to a source, Sacramento GM Geoff Petrie accepted a similarly extreme pay cut when he agreed to a three-year extension with the Kings. This summer, Steve Kerr left the Suns after owner Robert Sarver insisted on a pay cut. Kevin Pritchard, already one of the lowest-paid executives in the league, was unceremoniously fired an hour before the draft Thursday night.
One of the people familiar with the Nets' situation said Prokhorov's motivation in low-balling Thorn was to force him out and bring in someone with a "younger voice." Of course, if Prokhorov winds up hiring the similarly seasoned Colangelo, the Russian billionaire will be in no position to scrimp. He'll have to pay top ruble for one of the most respected basketball men in the sport, especially given Colangelo's strong ties to marquee free agents who are fiercely loyal to him due to his resurrection of USA Basketball on the world stage.
Which brings us to another reason that Colangelo's candidacy for the Nets' job makes sense: Prokhorov's goal of making the Nets a global franchise, which coincides with LeBron's desire to be a global icon, would only be enhanced by Colangelo's international basketball reputation and experience. But of course, that would come at a price.
Posted on: June 25, 2010 11:06 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2010 1:17 am
Following a bizarre trend that apparently dictates that it's better to be devoid of leadership at the most critical time in franchise history, the Nets will be without the executive who led them to two Finals appearances and gave them the best chance of succeeding in free agency. Rod Thorn is stepping down as team president effective July 15, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday night.
You read that right: Thorn will be pulling the Summer of LeBron version of Kevin Pritchard's draft night, conducting the chase for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson -- a chase the franchise endured a payroll-gutting, 12-win season to engage in. When it's over, he's gone, according to the person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to announce the move.
While it was known that Thorn's contract was set to expire June 30, his departure is stunning considering his accomplishments and the importance of the free-agent negotiating period that begins July 1. Thorn has agreed to stay on until July 15 to help navigate free agency, but it's not clear what marquee player would choose to join the Nets in Newark, N.J., without knowing who's making the basketball decisions. The team won't move to its new digs in Brooklyn for two more years.
According to an executive with another team who is familiar with the situation, Thorn was asked to take a massive pay cut and balked. Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be a billionaire, but not when it comes to paying the person running his basketball team. "He wants a younger voice," the person said.
But that description contradicted a Bergen (N.J.) Record report early Saturday in which Jerry Colangelo was touted as the leading candidate to replace Thorn. The report, which hinted that Colangelo could have some role in the Nets' free-agent visit with James next week in Ohio, rekindled speculation that arose during All-Star weekend in Dallas. At that time, when Prokhorov's bid for the Nets was still being considered by the NBA's Board of Governors, Colangelo said he wasn't pursuing any jobs but would listen if the Nets called. The managing director of USA Basketball, Colangelo would be a key asset in the Nets' pursuit of James or other free agents from the 2008 Olympic team that won gold in Beijing.
Unlike the Cavaliers and Clippers, the Nets at least do have a coach in place -- and perhaps Avery Johnson is angling for personnel authority, given that he stressed his desire for such control in other job interviews this summer. But without Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe, whom Prokhorov fired through the news media several weeks ago, the Nets will be without a credible basketball management figure at by far the most crucial point in the history of this meandering, mostly second-rate franchise.
Reached via text message Friday night, Thorn replied, "Right now, I have no comment."
The Nets are by no means the only team to gut itself of basketball intellect on the cusp of irreversibly important decisions. Suns owner Robert Sarver decided to cut ties with GM Steve Kerr at a time when Kerr and his assistant, David Griffin -- who also is departing -- were trying to negotiate an extension with star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. The Cavs decided to stumble into the most important month in Cleveland sports history -- and one that could change the NBA landscape forever -- without a coach or GM. Chris Grant, the replacement for former GM Danny Ferry, is indisputably talented but also has never been faced with circumstances as pressurized as possibly losing his city's biggest sports star since Jim Brown.
The Clippers, also entertaining false hope of luring major free agents, have yet to hire a coach. And the Trail Blazers -- though not free-agent players -- made a mockery of the GM profession Thursday when owner Paul Allen fired Pritchard an hour before the draft while instructing him to make his picks and trades before going home for good.
The only thing any of this proves, besides incompetence, is that there's no better job than being an unemployed or soon-to-be unemployed GM in the NBA. Either you're still getting paid by the team that fired you, which is good, or you're salivating over numerous job openings. Or both. But something you're not doing if you're a team without leadership is signing James or Wade as a free agent.
Posted on: June 25, 2010 7:55 pm
Suddenly chastened by criticism he has received for making the NBA's spring and summer all about him, LeBron James has informed teams that he is not planning to participate in an elaborate free agency tour come July 1, a person familiar with the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday.
So much for a lavish recruiting dinner in a Manhattan penthouse or a tour of the best clubs South Beach has to offer. Not going to happen, said the person with knowledge of James' plans.
Maverick Carter, James' business manager, told ESPN The Magazine that teams were informed of James' plans Wednesday and that the free agent-to-be will meet with suitors at a neutral site.
The decision by James may help cleanse his battered image after speculation over his future singlehandedly hijacked the NBA postseason and draft. It also could be viewed as a blow to teams in big, glitzy markets that have been planning for months to roll out the red carpet for one of the most sought-after -- and attainable -- free agents in NBA history. The Knicks, for example, have been quietly contacting world renowned chefs in Manhattan to secure their services for a possible free-agent visit by James and other free agents. Titans of business, film, theater, and fashion also were at the ready to help the Knicks lure James to New York -- although a person with knowledge of the Knicks' free-agency prep work downplayed a published report this week of a penthouse extravaganza in James' honor in Manhattan on July 1.
But contrary to prevailing opinion, the Knicks were not planning to rely entirely on the allure of New York and its off-the-court cachet to lure James. Though James has stated that he wants to be a world-wide sports icon and billionaire, teams hoping to win him over during the free-agent negotiating period that begins July 1 have understood all along that basketball has to come first. Teams with the cap space and market size to attract James -- the Knicks, Bulls, Heat, Nets and possibly Clippers -- have "prepared for every contingency," according to a high-level management source familiar with plans to recruit James.
On the other hand, Knicks president Donnie Walsh has the answer to one of the key questions he has been contemplating about this unprecedented free-agent summer. And while Walsh privately is telling people he doesn't see this as a deal-breaker, he was known to be interested in seeing which free agents would want to give the Knicks a chance to show them what New York -- as a city and market -- could do for them. The message from James with just days to go before the recruiting process begins is perfectly clear. There may well be a LeBron free agency tour, but it'll be on his terms.
Posted on: June 23, 2010 5:03 pm
The big news about 30 hours before the NBA draft didn’t involve John Wall, Evan Turner or DeMarcus Cousins. It revolved around a 64-year-old coach with artificial hips and a finger on the pulse on the coaching and free agency landscape – a fellow named Phil Jackson.
One of the biggest dominoes of the offseason didn’t exactly tumble Wednesday, but it’s teetering – toward retirement.
“I’m leaning towards retiring but I have not made up my mind,” Jackson told reporters as the back-to-back champion Lakers conducted their season-ending exit interviews.
Big news. Or is it? The Zen Master carefully worded the most definitive statement yet about his future, leaving the door open to returning for a chance at a three-peat. Given that Jackson conceded during the NBA Finals that he’s been told a significant pay cut would be required if he returned to the Lakers next season, this could be Phil’s way of forcing Dr. Jerry Buss’ hand.
It also could be a graceful way for the 11-time champion to exit stage left, turning the reins over to former Laker Byron Scott – whose candidacy for the Cavs’ coaching job is officially on hold while Jackson makes his final decision.
Scott is serious about the Cleveland job, and the Cavs are serious about him. But everyone involved understands that Scott’s dream job is coaching the Lakers. While Kobe Bryant has been adamant that he wants Jackson back, he’d be amenable to Scott taking over if that’s the way it had to be.
In some ways, it would be the perfect way for Scott to validate his coaching resume – taking over a team that is loaded with talent and poised to win at least one more championship while Bryant is still in his prime. One of the knocks on Scott is that he wears out his welcome in the locker room after two or three years, and that’s about all this Lakers dynasty has left, anyway.
Jackson has said there’s a 90 percent chance that he’s either coaching the Lakers next season or not coaching at all. Depending on your skill level with mathematics, that means there’s a 10 percent chance he’s coaching somewhere else. To that point, the Clippers and even the Cavs will continue to hold out hope that they could lure Jackson. Both presumably would offer a multi-year deal, whereas Jackson’s tenure with the Lakers has been made up of a series of one-year deals in recent years. But it’s difficult to believe that Buss would stand idly by and watch Jackson jilt Bryant for LeBron James. Could you ever imagine Jackson doing that to Michael Jordan in his prime? Also, at this point Jackson has earned the right to be taken at his word that health and the grind of the NBA season – 114 games for the Lakers this past season from preseason to Game 7 of the Finals – are the only factors he’s considering.
So we wait for Phil to make his next move, which will affect a lot of other moves across the basketball landscape.
Posted on: June 18, 2010 6:33 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2010 8:00 pm
LOS ANGELES – At the risk of looking ahead before the party at Ron Artest’s house is over, it’s time to consider how different the NBA landscape will look the next time someone hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Everyone but Gregg Doyel seemed to enjoy the epic, seven-game series given to us by the Lakers and Celtics. In fact, the series was ABC's most-viewed Finals and Game 7 was the most-watched NBA game since Michael Jordan's last championship shot in 1998 against the Jazz. At a time when owners and executives are understandably nervous about what the future will hold under a new collective bargaining agreement, it didn’t hurt for the sport to put its best foot forward for two weeks in June.
The momentum will carry right into the draft next week, when the NBA welcomes its next potential superstar, John Wall. Then, the main event: free agency, beginning July 1. The decisions and alliances that will be made during the first week of July could shift the balance of power and change the sport for the next decade.
Will LeBron James stay in Cleveland, to be joined by Chris Bosh or another high-profile free agent in a sign-and-trade? Will he form an alliance with Dwyane Wade in Miami, Derrick Rose in Chicago, or a superstar-to-be-named-later in New York? Will Kobe Bryant, fresh off his fifth title, push for a sign-and-trade scenario that would add Bosh to the Lakers’ embarrassment of riches?
The possibilities are endless, though Bryant was in no mood to contemplate all of this after celebrating his second straight title Thursday night. Asked by an enterprising reporter about the daunting possibility of facing a team with, say, LeBron and Wade in next year’s Finals, Bryant shot back, “What is it with you? You want to just emotionally drain me? I don’t want to think about that. Those guys, I’ve seen those guys up close and personal. I don’t want to think about playing against both of them at the same time. I want to enjoy this for a little bit.”
Not for long.
Once the free agency dust settles, the focus will shift from the Summer of LeBron to an army of lawyers, actuaries and accountants who are wrestling with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the collective bargaining agreement. As thrilling as the Lakers-Celtics series was, it only underscored how concentrated the power – and titles – are among the big-market, high-revenue teams. Despite the fact that the players will include a plan for changing the league’s revenue-sharing model when they submit a proposal to the league in the next two weeks, sources indicate that NBA negotiators remain adamant that revenue sharing will not be part of the bargaining process. Months after getting an early start on negotiations, the owners and players still disagree on the validity of $400 million in losses stated by commissioner David Stern. Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a long, ugly fight with the goal of preventing a work stoppage when the current agreement expires on June 30, 2011.
Which brings us back to how things will look the next time the confetti is falling as Stern hands over the championship trophy 12 months from now. Stern’s NBA could be embarking on the most impactful era of basketball since Jordan retired, with big stars in big markets and world-wide interest in the sport perhaps even surpassing the Jordan era. And this could also be true next June: The NBA could be days away from a lockout that would kill all the momentum.
These are important times with a lot at stake, and with no time to do what Bryant pleaded with reporters to let him do: Enjoy it for a little bit.
Posted on: June 15, 2010 8:00 pm
LOS ANGELES -- With Tom Izzo's decision Tuesday to stay at Michigan State, the Cavaliers are right back where they've been since their stunning playoff loss to the Celtics: in LeBron limbo.
Izzo couldn't come to terms with leaving East Lansing without knowing if he'd be coaching LeBron James or not -- even if it was for $6 million a year. LeBron has strategically removed himself from the Cavs' coaching search, and in fact hasn't said a word publicly about the organizational demolition that the loss to Boston fueled. Unless you count the Larry King love fest on CNN, James hasn't publicly addressed the firing of coach Mike Brown or the unceremonious departure of general manager Danny Ferry.
Word is that while he didn't reject the notion of Izzo coaching the Cavs, he didn't entirely endorse it, either. In any event, LeBron apparently wouldn't even speak with Izzo about his intentions when it comes to his impending free agency. In fact, one person who has been in contact with the Cavs' front office said LeBron has been incommunicado with team officials, as well.
So once again, the Cavs are held hostage by LeBron. They can't move forward with any serious offseason plans -- franchise-shaping plans -- until they know whether LBJ is staying or going. Cavs GM Chris Grant has the least enviable job in the NBA, other than the media relations director of LeBron's next team, whatever that might be. (I'll expand on that another time, but for now, to say that LeBron is high maintenance is like saying Shakira has been known to slightly gyrate her hips from time to time.)
Two NBA team executives told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the Cavs were busily proceeding with their coaching search even before Izzo's decision became public, with much of the focus centering on former Hornets coach Byron Scott. One of those people said the Cavs were screening numerous candidates. But Scott, or any other candidate, would want the same information Izzo was unable to glean about LeBron's future. And Scott's situation also will be affected by how the Finals end for the Lakers. If Phil Jackson decides to step down, Scott is the most plausible candidate waiting in the wings to replace him.
Those executives also said Grant was performing his due diligence on the trade front, asking several teams about acquiring draft picks. The Cavs have no picks in the 2010 draft, having traded them to Washington (first round) and Phoenix (second round). But even in that pursuit, the executives said Grant's hands are tied because he can't possibly know what kind of trades to make if he doesn't know whether LeBron will be on the team. Grant is trying to proceed as though LeBron will stay, but as Izzo's situation proved, that's an exceedingly difficult tightrope to walk.