Posted on: July 2, 2010 4:59 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 11:30 pm
Amar'e Stoudemire will arrive in New York Saturday with "broad agreement" on the Knicks' five-year, nearly $100 million proposal, a person with knowledge of the deal said.
Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, broke off talks with the Suns Friday, almost certainly ending his eight-year tenure there. Stoudemire rejected a five-year offer from Phoenix that wasn't fully guaranteed in the final season with a clause that included playing-time incentives, according to the Arizona Republic .
After the Stoudemire talks broke down, the Suns agreed to terms with power forward Hakim Warrick on a four-year, $18 million deal. To consummate that contract on July 8, the Suns will have to renounce their rights to Stoudemire, meaning he couldn't be signed and traded at that point.
While a deal with the Knicks is preferable to the incentive-laden contract Phoenix was offering, there are concerns on both sides that will have to be addressed this weekend. Stoudemire, like other second-tier free agents, is worried about being the only superstar to come to New York, where fans have been speculating for two years that LeBron James would wind up in a Knicks jersey. Stoudemire was said to have spent Friday trying to recruit a fellow All-Star to join him, with the most likely targets being the Hawks' Joe Johnson and the Spurs' Tony Parker.
As for the Knicks, Stoudemire's knees and eye will be subject to thorough exams by the team's medical staff. Reports have indicated that Stoudemire's contract will not be insurable due to his injury history.
Warrick, who averaged 9.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 76 games last season with the Bulls and Bucks, was among the surprise deals of free agency thus far. "Mindboggling," one rival executive called it. "He played for $3 million last season and the Bucks couldn't wait to get rid of him."
Point guard Steve Blake agreed to a four-year, $16 million deal with the Lakers, insurance in case free agent Derek Fisher leaves, a person with knowledge of the agreement said. The Blake signing probably takes the Lakers out of th running for sharpshooter Mike Miller, but not entirely, the source said. When deals become official July 8, the Lakers would have the option to work out a sign-and-trade with the Clippers for Blake and still give their mid-level exception to Miller. That scenario, however, appears unlikely. Miller also has attracted significant interest from the Knicks and several other teams.
The Blazers, Knicks, Bulls and Clippers have expressed interest in Spurs free-agent guard Roger Mason, while the Jazz, Nuggets, Bobcats, Knicks and Heat are pursuing Suns free-agent forward Louis Amundson, sources say.
John Salmons' five-year, $40 million agreement to return to the Bucks was finalized Friday, pending the official paperwork after the moratorium on player movement is lifted on July 8, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to CBSSports.com.
Posted on: June 30, 2010 2:41 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 2:46 pm
Suns forward Amar'e Stoudemire has exercised the early termination option in his contract, which called for him to make $17.6 million next season, and will hit the unrestricted free-agent market, his agent, Happy Walters, confirmed to CBSSports.com Wednesday.
Walters, who met with Suns owner Robert Sarver and coach Alvin Gentry Tuesday in Los Angeles, will continue to negotiate with Sarver on an extension. But Sarver has yet to raise his offer to the max level, and Stoudemire clearly wants to see the process through after enduring three years of trade possibilities and speculation about his future in Phoenix.
This is Sarver's show now, after GM Steve Kerr and assistant GM David Griffin left the organization following the draft. The Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Nets are expected to be involved in some level of discussion with Stoudemire after the negotiating period begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
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 24, 2010 7:57 pm
NEW YORK -- Stunning news came down moments before the NBA draft began Thursday night. No, LeBron James didn't try to reinstate his college eligibility and join John Calipari at Kentucky. Something more unbelievable: The Trail Blazers fired GM Kevin Pritchard, telling him an hour before the draft that it would be his last day of work for the team.
Jason Quick of the Oregonian first reported the firing, which is surprising only for its bizarre timing. Pritchard's right-hand man, former assistant GM Tom Penn, was fired in March, and the writing has been on the wall for Pritchard ever since. Pritchard, who along with Penn was responsible for building one of the most competitive and financially successful franchises in the NBA, will presumably make the 22nd and 44th picks in Thursday's draft -- which he spent months preparing for -- and then start looking for work. Penn has found work already, at least temporarily; he was at the Theater at Madison Square Garden Thursday night working as a salary-cap analyst on ESPN's draft telecast.
According to the Oregonian, owner Paul Allen informed Pritchard of his dismissal Thursday night and instructed him to conduct the draft before leaving the organization. The Portland GM opening now joins a few leadership black holes around the league. The Suns didn't renew GM Steve Kerr's contract, and assistant GM David Griffin decided to leave the organization after being informed that there would be a formal search for Kerr's replacement. Denver GM Mark Warkentien's contract expires Aug. 31, and the organization has made no efforts to re-sign him. Danny Ainge's future in Boston also is up in the air with the possibility that coach Doc Rivers could step down.
As for the gaping hole left in the Portland front office by Pritchard's classless dismissal, the question becomes: Who would want to work for a franchise that treats its people the way the Blazers have treated Pritchard and Penn? The lure of the Blazers' roster and rabid fan base will be a huge calling card for any potential candidate, but buyer beware. Apparently, the money isn't great, either. One of the points of contention that led to Pritchard's ouster was his displeasure with his approximately $1 million salary -- not much more than assistant GMs make in other cities and a quarter of coach Nate McMillan's compensation. Pritchard had one year remaining on his contract.
According to a person familiar with the Blazers' internal dynamics, one option would be to appoint team president Larry Miller, head of the team's business operations, to serve as the figurehead replacement for Pritchard and hire a competent No. 2 to handle the day-to-day basketball decisions.
Posted on: June 15, 2010 6:19 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2010 9:01 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Steve Kerr's stunning announcement Tuesday that he will not return as the Suns' president of basketball operations next season sent shockwaves through the team's No. 1 plan for this summer: retaining Amar'e Stoudemire.
Stoudemire has been open to exploring his options as an unrestricted free agent by opting out of his contract in the event an extension could not be reached with the Suns. But the departure of Kerr, who had been handling the early stages of the negotiation with Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, cast a cloud of uncertainty over the process.
A person familiar with Kerr's decision to step down and return to the television booth in Doug Collins' analyst spot with TNT said it unfolded over the past couple of the weeks and left a sour taste on both sides of the Stoudemire negotiation. Kerr's contract was set to expire after the June 24 draft, and it appears to be another episode of penny-pinching by owner Robert Sarver that spurred Kerr's decision to leave the organization only weeks after the Suns made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals. Kerr, according to sources, was asked to take a significant pay cut on his new deal, a slap in the face given the Suns' successful season.
But another person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that Kerr's decision also was related to frustration that Sarver had not yet committed to a full-length, maximum-salary contract for Stoudemire. The Suns have made several offers to Stoudemire this summer, but the person familiar with the situation said the parameters of the offers are "not where they need to be." Now, with the departure of Kerr -- who is trusted by both Stoudemire and Walters -- Stoudemire's future in Phoenix is more uncertain than ever.
As the situation unfolded Tuesday, it was not immediately clear whether Kerr's top lieutenant, assistant GM David Griffin, would be promoted to the No. 1 job or the Suns would orchestrate a search for Kerr's replacement.
Kerr's departure was first reported by the Arizona Republic and KTAR in Phoenix, the Suns' flagship radio station.
Several of Kerr's personnel moves fueled the Suns' run to the conference finals, including reversing course on his controversial acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal by trading him to Cleveland; acquiring Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley from Charlotte; and drafting Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic in 2008. All four players played prominent roles in the Suns' return to the Western Conference elite this season.
Stoudemire, who is working out and strategizing with his agent in Miami, will enter the final stages of his renegotiation with serious doubts about the direction of the organization. The Heat, with enough cap space to add a max free agent alongside Dwyane Wade, are among the most likely destinations for Stoudemire if he does not re-sign with Phoenix.
Posted on: May 30, 2010 2:36 am
PHOENIX – If this was Amar’e Stoudemire’s last game as a member of the Suns, it will be a tough one for both sides to carry with them into an offseason of uncertainty.
“I’m still not sure what the future holds right now,” Stoudemire said after scoring 27 points as the Suns were eliminated 111-103 by the Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. “I’m just going to take a couple of days, enjoy the family and enjoy the rest and start figuring out what the next move is.”
It was too soon, the pain from the loss too raw, for Suns president Steve Kerr to even contemplate Stoudemire’s future.
“We’ll deal with that later,” said Kerr, who once the sting dissipates will be able to walk away from this season feeling positive about the organization’s future.
“I’m just really proud of all our guys, every single one of them – coaches, players,” Kerr said. “It was a fantastic season. It ended a little too soon, but that’s the way it goes.”
Asked what will stick with him as he evaluates the season, Kerr said, “The togetherness, the unity, the complete and total unselfishness. It’s just a great mix of youth and veterans and it was a lot of fun watching them try to work together. They have fun every day and they couldn’t wait to get to work.”
The future is bright for the young core of Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, Louis Amundson and even first-round pick Earl Clark, who didn’t play in the series. But everything the Suns do between now and the start of next season will be predicated on Stoudemire’s imminent leap into the unrestricted free-agent market. Stoudemire has said he will opt out of his contract, and reiterated Saturday night that there’s only a 50-50 chance that he stays in Phoenix.
“Absolutely still there,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure there will be a conversation between myself and the organization and my family and we’ll figure out what the best scenario is and make a smart decision.”
Dialogue between the Suns and Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, remains open. But Kerr wasn’t ready to focus on the most important aspect of the Suns’ offseason – not this soon.
“A year ago, nobody knew how good Dragic would be, how good Lopez would be,” Kerr said. “Jared Dudley and those guys stepping up and delivering for us really has solidified our future – which is important because two years ago, we were looking old and we were looking like we could be in some trouble. So it’s been gratifying to watch those guys grow.”
Now comes the hard part: Keeping them together.
Posted on: May 29, 2010 8:12 pm
PHOENIX -- In responding to Ron Artest's assessment of Steve Nash's quasi-guarantee of forcing a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals, Suns coach Alvin Gentry launched into a light-hearted defense of Nash and channeled his inner Herm Edwards.
"I don't really understand that," Gentry said before Game 6 Saturday night. "What's he supposed to say? We're supposed to try to win the game. We think we're going to win the game."
Then Gentry paused, smiled, and said, "You play ... to win ... the game. Hello?"
It was a classic moment about an hour before Game 6, one that lightened the mood with the Suns facing elimination and one that inadvertently caused my worlds to collide. I covered the Jets when Edwards was the coach, and was in the press conference room when Edwards launched into his "play-to-win-the-game" diatribe in 2002. As his team was playing out the string in a lost season, Edwards was asked how he planned to keep his players from quitting. Given Gentry's light-hearted Herm moment Saturday night, it's worth revisiting the original rant. One of the iconic moments of my career, and one that I can take absolutely no credit for. Like Artest Thursday night at the buzzer, I was just in the right place at the right time.
Gentry's version was done in fun, and was sparked by questions about Artest's comments at practice Friday in which he said Nash's statement showed "no respect." Artest expanded his analysis to say that Gentry didn't respect him because he was leaving him open to shoot the entire series.
For the record, after the Suns lost Game 5 on Artest's wild putback of Kobe Bryant's airball at the buzzer, Nash said, "They held home court. We'll go back and do the same and we'll come back here for Game 7."
As Gentry said, what else was he supposed to say?
"We expect to win the game," Gentry said. "If that's guaranteeing it, then write it down, that we guarantee we're going to win the game. We're supposed to try to win the game. ... You guys really have run out of angles."
As for his strategy to concentrate on Bryant at the expense of leaving Artest open throughout the series, Gentry said good-naturedly, "Do you think Ron knows who I am? Listen guys, it has nothing to do with disrespecting Ron. It has everything to do with respecting Kobe."
Informed of Gentry's comment in the locker room before the game, Artest said, "I guess it's both. Respect and disrespect. Who knows? It's OK. We'll get our respect back."
Not to add fuel to the fire, but the Suns -- as they should -- absolutely believed Game 6 would not be their last of the season. On a white board in the Suns' locker room before the game was the following line: "Poker game @ 1 p.m. on Sunday on da PLANE."
You play poker to win the game, too.