Tag:Free Agent Buzz
Posted on: July 2, 2009 12:55 am

Avery in driver's seat

With word Wednesday night that Doug Collins has removed his name from consideration for the Pistons' head coaching job, Avery Johnson has emerged as the clear favorite to succeed Michael Curry in Detroit.

As he did with the Sixers' job earlier this offseason, Collins flirted with the idea of returning to the sideline but ultimately couldn't resist staying in the relatively blissful world of basketball broadcasting. All in all, that's good for basketball fans because I think Collins is as good as it gets when it comes to NBA color commentators. A little over the top sometimes, but outstanding nonetheless.

So after Collins informed Pistons president Joe Dumars that he was no longer pursuing the job, a source familiar with the situation confirmed, it is now clearly Johnson's job to lose. The former Mavericks coach makes sense on so many levels. Dumars has stated that he wants a more experienced coach. Johnson was a winner in Dallas, and by now he's had time to reflect on some of the things he did wrong -- primarily being too rigid. The third box the Pistons can check off is that Johnson is still getting paid by the Mavericks next season, so he comes at a discount. For similar reasons, I believe Sam Mitchell will get the job in Minnesota. Dollars and cents and past success equals a new opportunity for both. Stay here for updates.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 10:19 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2009 11:34 pm

Trading one Knick reject for another

There must be more than meets the eye when it comes to the trade reported by the Los Angeles Times in which the Clippers send Zach Randolph to the Memphis Grizzlies for Quentin Richardson. Z-Bo makes $6.6 million more than Q-Rich and has two years left on his contract as opposed to Richardson's one. Memphis is under the cap, so the trade doesn't have to satisfy the 125 percent rule. Still, the Clippers should feel fortunate to have found such a willing taker.

But let's not let that get in the way of our euphoria -- our flat-out ecstasy -- over this trade.

Quentin Richardson was one of the first bad contracts acquired by Isiah Thomas when he took over as president of the Knicks. Zach Randolph was another one. One of the worst. It was a miracle that Isiah was there to take Z-Bo from the Clippers Blazers on draft night a couple of years ago.

Now we have one bad Knicks contract traded for another one. Eureka! Mike Dunleavy and Chris Wallace, the respective GMs, have found the holy grail. Next they will pay down the federal debt, cure cancer, and meet in the Western Conference Finals.

We should all enjoy this moment, but we should be a little bit afraid. Trading one Isiah production for another is sort of like Desmond forgetting to push the button on Lost. This trade could unleash a tidal wave of forces way beyond our comprehension and control.

What's next? Eddy Curry for Jerome James?

But I digress. The real, honest-to-God basketball significance of this trade is two-fold. One, for some reason, the Grizzlies have decided to do the Clippers a favor by taking back Randolph, with two years left on his contract, in exchange for Richardson, who has only one year left. So as I mentioned, there has to be something else going on here. And two, the Grizzlies are officially out of the David Lee sweepstakes. With Randolph at power forward, the Grizzlies have no use for the Knicks' restricted free agent.

So to recap: A trade involving one obscene contract previously acquired by Isiah Thomas for another obscene contract previously acquired by Isiah Thomas results in a trade that ... helps the Knicks?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. And throw some salt over your shoulder while you're at it.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:26 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 1:00 am

Pistons agree with Gordon, Villanueva (UPDATE)

The Detroit Pistons struck first Wednesday, getting commitments from their top two free-agent targets, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

Gordon agreed to a five-year, $55 million deal, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Villanueva also agreed to a five-year deal in the $35 million range -- or slightly above the anticipated mid-level exception of $5.6 million per year -- a person involved in those discussions said. The exact figures won't be known until the deals are signed on July 8, after the league and players association agree on the salary cap and luxury tax for the 2009-10 season.

After firing coach Michael Curry Tuesday, Pistons president Joe Dumars acted swiftly in targeting Gordon and Villanueva with the salary-cap space produced by the controversial decision to trade Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson and his $22 million expiring contract last November. But the signings posed two potential problems: 1) There isn't enough room in the same backcourt for Gordon, Richard Hamilton, and Rodney Stuckey; and 2) The Pistons will no longer be major players in the much better free-agent summer of 2010.

Not able to afford another miserable season for the mere chance that a big-ticket free agent would come to Detroit in '10, Dumars decided to strike now. The Pistons were among only a handful of teams with significant cap space this summer, and thus could dictate which players they pursued. Next summer, they might've ended up on the periphery of the excitement when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and others were looking for not only money, but also a championship-ready roster to join.

The Pistons don't have a championship roster, but they did have money. As a buyer in a seller's market, Dumars obviously felt the time to act was this summer, not next.

The backcourt logjam lends credence to the idea that Dumars isn't finished shuffling the deck this summer. Some league executives have speculated that once Dumars landed Gordon, a prolific scorer who doesn't do much else, he would begin exploring trade possibilities for Hamilton. That's somewhat ironic, given that Hamilton's contentious relationship with Curry led, in part, to the coach being fired after only one season. Hamilton has four years and nearly $50 million left on the extension he signed shortly before Billups was shipped to Denver and the demolition of the Pistons began. Moving Hamilton would give Dumars a Gordon-Stuckey backcourt, which presumably either Doug Collins or Avery Johnson -- the two front-runners to succeed Curry -- would find intriguing.

UPDATE: As he did with the Sixers' job earlier in the offseason, Collins has pulled his name out of consideration for the Pistons job, according to a person familiar with the situation. Johnson now has an unobstructed path to the job.



Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:18 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 2:20 am

Free-Agent Buzz: Artest to Cavs? (UPDATE)

You want buzz? How's Ron Artest playing on the same team with LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Cavs -- and LeBron himself -- are recruiting Artest to form a new Big Three in Cleveland that would be entertaining, potentially combustible, and perhaps even really, really good. The possibilities are endless -- great quotes, controversies, Artest advocating for LeBron in the LeBron-Kobe debate. Maybe even a championship.

Artest has been fielding offers from several teams, but so far the most impressive has to be Cleveland's courtship, which included LeBron making an in-person pitch recently when both players were in Los Angeles for events. This could develop quickly; a person close to Artest indicated that the small forward was expecting to start sorting through offers as early as Wednesday night.

By joining the Rockets last season and not making any waves -- not to mention his mostly effective contributions in the playoffs -- Artest earned himself one more free-agent score. And the value won't necessarily be measured in dollars, but in the opportunity to win a championship. For that reason, and in order to repay the Rockets for taking a chance on him, Artest had been leaning toward returning to Houston. But the possibility that Yao Ming could miss the entire 2009-10 season has changed everything.

Artest made several conspicuous appearances at Lakers home games during the Finals, and L.A. could be a formidable competitor for Artest's services -- especially if the Lakers lose either Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza, both unrestricted free agents.

The most the Cavs can offer is the mid-level exception of about $5.6 million, and Artest figures to do better elsewhere -- in terms of dollars but not opportunity. At various times during the past two years as he approached free agency, Artest repeatedly said he wasn't looking for one more pay day, but rather for the chance to win a championship. The opportunity has arrived.

Here's more free-agent buzz from conversations with executives, agents, and others in the know:

* After CBSSports.com reported early Wednesday that the Trail Blazers were aggressively pursuing Hedo Turkoglu, the free-agent forward will receive a visit from Portland coach Nate McMillan Wednesday night in Orlando. Turkoglu is expected to accept the team's invitation to tour Portland and the Blazers' facilities on Thursday. An offer -- believed to be a five-year deal in the $50 million range -- is expected to be extended at that time. As many as five teams have inquired about Turkoglu -- some with cap room, some without, according to agent Lon Babby. One of them is not the Detroit Pistons, who have focused their attention on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

UPDATE: The Raptors are debating whether to make a pre-emptive offer to Turkoglu that would top Portland's, but that would require renouncing the rights to Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino, and Anthony Parker. Another option is to keep those players and sign a mid-level free agent. If the Raptors decide to go for a bigger name, Turkoglu isn't the only one they're considering. They also have interest in Knicks restricted free agent David Lee.

* The Knicks rolled out the red carpet for Jason Kidd at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, but the Mavericks still have the advantage in their efforts to retain the future Hall of Fame point guard. A person familiar with the talks said there are strong indications that Mavs owner Mark Cuban is willing to offer Kidd a three-year deal, which is well beyond what the Knicks are prepared to offer.

* Suns free agent Grant Hill received an in-person pitch from Steve Kerr in Orlando after free agency opened at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and has been invited to visit the Knicks next week. The Celtics, who are heavily recruiting Rasheed Wallace, also have expressed interest in Hill.

* If Trevor Ariza feels slighted that all the Lakers can offer him is the mid-level exception, it's not clear where he's going to do better than that on the open market. One rival executive believes the Lakers have prioritized Ariza over their other unrestricted free agent, Lamar Odom, and several sources believe they still have a chance to retain both. The Spurs have expressed interest in Odom, as well as Marcin Gortat (courted by the Rockets), and Antonio McDyess.


Posted on: July 1, 2009 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2009 6:46 pm

Filling the Boozer void (UPDATE)

With Carlos Boozer off the free-agent market, other free agent forwards are getting ready to cash in.

While Charlie Villanueva was being courted by the Pistons, CBSSports.com has learned that restricted free agents David Lee and Paul Millsap were preparing to field offers as early as Wednesday night. Millsap, the Jazz forward who could benefit the most from Boozer deciding not to opt out of his contract, has heard from three of the four teams with significant cap space -- Oklahoma City, Memphis, and Detroit -- plus a fourth team inquiring about a sign-and-trade. Lee has heard from numerous teams, including Oklahoma City and Memphis, and was expecting inquiries to escalate into offers in the next 24 hours. Despite their focus on Wednesday's meeting at Madison Square Garden with point guard Jason Kidd, the Knicks were among the first teams to reach out to Lee's camp and expressed an interest in keeping him.

While Villanueva was seen as a strong possibility for Cleveland, which may need to replace free agent Anderson Varejao, people in contact with the Cavs' front office say Cleveland is in wait-and-see mode and appears to be strategizing for the second wave of free-agent activity.

UPDATE: OK, the wait's over. Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer reports that the Cavs -- and LeBron James himself -- are actively recruiting Ron Artest. There will be more developing on this front throughout the evening.

Rasheed Wallace got a visit from Celtics president Danny Ainge at his home shortly after midnight Wednesday and was getting interest from other contenders.

Like Artest (whose situation isn't directly affected by Boozer's), Lamar Odom (whose situation is) also was preparing to field offers Wednesday. The Suns and Spurs reportedly were among the teams courting Odom, while the Lakers were actively working to keep both of their unrestricted free agents, Odom and small forward Trevor Ariza.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 10:59 am

Pistons target Gordon, Villanueva

Eager to transform malaise from the salary-cap clearing Chauncey Billups trade into a new beginning, the Pistons believe they can land both Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva and are making their pitch on the first day of free agency, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com.

It is widely expected that Pistons president Joe Dumars will land Gordon, a pure scorer who is eager to get out of Chicago and will have no problem getting paid by the team with the most money to offer. One person familiar with Villanueva's situation said the Pistons believe they can get him with an offer a little north of the approximately $5.6 million mid-level exception. Cleveland also has interest in Villanueva, who became an unrestricted free agent when the Bucks decided not to give him a qualifying offer. But while the decision freed Villanueva from the Bucks' matching rights, it also stripped him of his Bird free-agent rights. Short of a sign-and-trade -- which is unlikely -- Villanueva will have trouble getting more than the mid-level from a team other than the Pistons, given the dearth of teams with available cap space.

The Pistons also are in the early stages of a search to replaced coach Michael Curry, who was abruptly fired Tuesday. TNT analyst Doug Collins and former Mavs coach Avery Johnson have emerged as the favorites, with a high-level coaching source telling CBSSports.com that it is Collins' job to lose. Detroit owes Curry $5 million over the next two seasons, making Johnson an attractive option, in part, because he is still owed money by the Mavs and thus would come at a discount.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 1:35 am
Edited on: July 1, 2009 11:11 am

NBA Free Agency Begins (UPDATE)

The NBA’s free-agent negotiating period opened with a flurry at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, with teams positioning themselves for what figures to be a hectic and unpredictable summer unlike any other. The Portland Trail Blazers came out determined to pull off the first impact move, making a strong push to sign Hedo Turkoglu, the prized free agent of the summer, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

While Portland had been expected to prioritize an upgrade at point guard by making a run at Andre Miller, the league source said Portland came out of the gate at 12:01 a.m. trying to lure Turkoglu with a $50-million deal. After acquiring Vince Carter from the Nets to hedge against Turkoglu’s departure, the Magic are not expected to be a factor in a discussion that begins in the $10 million-per-year range.

UPDATE: Several team executives confirmed the Blazers' interest in Turkoglu on Wednesday. But one agent who has been in discussion with numerous teams about free agents said Portland officials insist that the talks are in the formative stages.

Not one to be discouraged by the damaged economy and lack of top-shelf talent, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban traveled to New York to be the first to meet with free agent Jason Kidd – pre-empting the Knicks’ plans to lure Kidd back to the New York area, where he could be close to his children and play for Mike D’Antoni, whose wide-open offensive style suits him.

Team executives widely believed that Ben Gordon would quickly agree to terms with Detroit, a move that would almost certainly require other moves to create a spot for the Bulls’ shooting guard. The Pistons just endured a 39-win season and first-round playoff sweep, in large part due to the three-headed backcourt of Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, and Allen Iverson. The fallout led to coach Michael Curry’s sudden and unexpected firing Tuesday, with Doug Collins and former Mavs coach Avery Johnson emerging as the front-runners to replace him. A high-level coaching source told CBSSports.com that the job appeared to be Collins’ to lose.

UPDATE: The Pistons believe they can land both Gordon and Charlie Villanueva and are making their pitch on the first day of free agency, two people familiar with the situation confirmed.

Rasheed Wallace’s camp was expecting calls early Wednesday from the Celtics, Cavaliers, and Spurs, among others. Kevin Garnett, a league source confirmed, was working behind the scenes to recruit ‘Sheed to Boston. Wallace’s attitude – which obviously can be both good and bad – and his ability to stretch the front court would be assets to the Cavs in their quest to fortify their pre-draft acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal. Wallace will have to factor in whether anyone comes forward with more than the mid-level exception. He also is said to be wary of the strong egos in the Boston locker room, not to mention the fact that the Rajon Rondo situation needs to be resolved. The Celtics cleared a spot for Wallace by not extending a qualifying offer to power forward Leon Powe, who is coming off major knee surgery and became an unrestricted free agent.

The Nuggets also have long coveted Wallace, who nearly went to Denver before the team acquired Kenyon Martin in 2004. But according to a person familiar with the discussions, the Nuggets were meeting with Portland restricted free agent Channing Frye as the clock struck midnight ET. Nobody does more with less than the Nuggets, who would benefit from Frye’s pick-and-pop ability without breaking the bank.

Villanueva, who became an unrestricted free agent after Milwaukee decided not to tender him a qualifying offer, looks like a fallback option for Cleveland. The Spurs also are considering Antonio McDyess.

The defending champion Lakers intend to make every effort to re-sign unrestricted free agents Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza. They got welcome news from Finals MVP Kobe Bryant, who did not exercise his early termination option and will likely entertain an extension with the Lakers this summer, a high-ranking league source told CBSSports.com. That means that Bryant, who only last summer made noise about wanting out of L.A., would be giving up any leverage he had this summer or next – when he has a player option – to influence the direction of the team, including who succeeds Phil Jackson whenever he retires.

The Rockets, stung by devastating news that Yao Ming could miss all of the 2009-10 season – or longer – with a broken foot, went to work immediately on their Yao-less contingency plan. GM Daryl Morey announced on his Twitter account that he was meeting with Orlando restricted free-agent center Marcin Gortat and urged Houston fans to send an email to rocketsfanslovegortat@gmail.com to help his recruiting efforts.

Carlos Boozer’s decision not to opt out of his $12.7 million contract for next season gave more leverage to other free-agent power forwards, including his teammate, restricted free agent Paul Millsap. The Knicks’ David Lee was expecting calls from the three teams with the most cap space for a straight-up signing – Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Memphis – and figured to generate sign-and-trade talks among the likes of Chicago, Toronto, Golden State, Miami, and Dallas.

UPDATE: Lee's camp spoke with numerous teams after the negotiating period began at 12:01 a.m. Oklahoma City and Lee's current team, the Knicks -- who have matching rights as Lee is a restricted free agent -- were among them, according to a source. Lee's situation is expected to unfold over the next 48-72 hours, and a key aspect is how the Knicks decide to proceed with their eyes still firmly on a plan to clear significant cap space for next summer's free agent bounty.
Category: NBA
Posted on: July 1, 2009 1:18 am
Edited on: July 1, 2009 10:37 am

Blazers make play for Turkoglu

Determined to make the first splash of the NBA's free-agent negotiating period early Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers are making a strong push to sign Hedo Turkoglu, the prized free agent of the summer.

While negotiations across the league were in the early stages, a person with knowledge of the discussions said the Blazers are trying to lure Turkoglu with a deal in the $50-million range. Contracts cannot be signed until July 7, when the annual moratorium on signing and trading players is lifted.

Other teams expected to make a play for Turkoglu, who earned a huge pay day by helping Orlando get to the NBA Finals, were Toronto, Detroit, and Sacramento. The Magic, who acquired Vince Carter from the Nets on the belief that they could not retain Turkoglu, are not expected to be a factor in a situation that involves Turkoglu getting $10 million a year.

UPDATE: Turkoglu's agent, Lon Babby, told the Oregonian that the Blazers were the first team to call. "They were enthusiastic and well received by us," Babby said. "We are engaged in the process. We will see where it takes us in the next couple of days and take it from there."

GM Kevin Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn first called Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are seeking extensions from the team, the Oregonian reported. In order to clear cap space for Turkoglu, the Blazers likely would have to renounced their rights to both Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen, both playing overseas.

UPDATE: Several team executives confirmed the Blazers' interest in Turkoglu Wednesday. But as is usually the case, the Blazers were operating in somewhat of a clandestine environment. One agent who has been in contact with numerous teams since the free-agent bell rang at 12:01 a.m. said Blazers officials insist the talks with Turkoglu were still in the developing stages. It's difficult to imagine where Turkoglu would do better than the Blazers, though. The Pistons, according to sources, are targeting Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Oklahoma City -- another rare team with cap space -- appears to be focused on restricted free agent Paul Millsap or New York's David Lee.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com