Posted on: July 8, 2010 12:17 am
Edited on: July 8, 2010 12:50 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

In anticipation of LeBron James' free-agent decision, stock in Madison Square Garden Inc. jumped 6.4 percent to $21.57 per share on five times the normal trading volume Wednesday. If only James could capture some of that value as part of signing with the Knicks.

Well, despite a Forbes Magazine report last month that James could pull off such a coup, he can't. Please return to your regularly scheduled free-agent absurdity.


The Warriors and Knicks are in advanced talks about a sign-and-trade arrangement that would send free-agent power forward David Lee to the Bay Area for Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf, two people involved in the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com. The trade is being set up as a contingency plan for the Knicks if James chooses to sign with another team Thursday. If James chooses to sign with the Knicks, they will have to renounced his rights -- and thus the rights to sign and trade him under the Larry Bird exception -- in order to clear the necessary salary cap space. Lee's agent, Mark Bartelstein, also is believed to have maintained contact with the Nets, who are in danger of getting shut out in the free-agent chase. But the Golden State scenario for Lee has legs, to an extent.

"It's got legs," one of the people involved in the talks said. "But it needs arms, a torso and a head."

The Knicks, who like other teams in the hunt for James have no clue what he's going to announce Thursday, are exploring other scenarios in which they re-sign Lee -- although Lee is believed to be ready to move on. If James says no to the Knicks, and team president Donnie Walsh orchestrates the Lee trade, then Randolph and Turiaf will go down in ignominy as the players the Knicks got instead of LeBron. If nothing else, that would take some pressure off Amar'e Stoudemire, who will be introduced Thursday in a news conference at MSG.


After Ray Allen agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal to return to the Celtics Wednesday, with a player's option on the second year, Boston continued to explore acquiring a big man to fortify the frontcourt while center Kendrick Perkins is out with a knee injury suffered in the NBA Finals. A person familiar with the Celtics' plans said they were in discussions with free agent Jermaine O'Neal, who also was talking with the Nuggets and Mavericks.

Posted on: July 5, 2010 3:28 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2010 7:04 pm

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Ray Allen will give the Celtics “every chance of re-signing him,” but has been in contact with the top-tier free agents and wants to wait until they choose a team before making a decision, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Monday.

Allen’s conversations with Celtics brass have been “productive and cordial,” the person said. But Allen, like other free agents, can’t have a complete picture of his value or the best situation for him until the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide where to sign. It is not clear whether Allen, 34, has spoken with those players, but a person close to one high-profile free agent said Allen has been in contact via text message as the Big Three try to assemble a supporting cast for next season and beyond.

“I don’t think Player X has asked him, ‘If I sign here, will you come with me?’” the person said. “It hasn’t been in any formal way, but they’ve been in contact.”

Allen also has received “general inquiries” from several teams, including those with significant cap space, including the Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Nets, one of the sources said. The Celtics have been informed that Allen would prefer not to make a decision until the so-called cap-room teams find out which players they’ll be able to attract.

With Doc Rivers back for one more season and Paul Pierce returning on a four-year, $61 million deal, Allen will feel tremendous pull from within the Celtics’ organization to re-up for one more championship run. But Allen is seeking a three-year deal, and could be presented with some intriguing options once James and Wade decide where to play. According to people familiar with their strategies, both players have prioritized recruiting a low-post scorer and 3-point shooter as they decide whether to stay with their existing teams or venture elsewhere.


Now that the Knicks have agreed to terms with free-agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire, the process of surrounding him with talent capable of winning a championship begins.

"The Knicks are back," Stoudemire told the assembled media at Madison Square Garden Monday after agreeing in principle to a five-year, $99.8 million deal.

Stoudemire also said that he'd be reaching out to LeBron James with a recruiting pitch. If that doesn't work, what are the Knicks' other options? Sources confirmed Monday that the primary target would be Carmelo Anthony, who'd be an unrestricted free agent next summer -- or available at the February trade deadline -- if he doesn't accept the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million extension offer. CBSSports.com first reported Saturday that there's "zero chance" Denver officials will agree to trade Anthony this summer.

In the meantime, the Knicks will continue searching for a pick-and-roll partner for Stoudemire to operate with -- and if it isn't James, free-agent point guard Raymond Felton will be a primary target. The Knicks have had discussions about a sign-and-trade for Felton that would involve their own free-agent power forward, David Lee, a person with knowledge of the talks said Monday. But the Bobcats are lukewarm on such a proposal for the same reason they've had zero conversations with Felton's agent, Tony Dutt, about re-signing him -- the luxury-tax implications. But don't rule out such a scenario yet; a person with close ties to Felton said Monday that the Bobcats point guard is intrigued by the possibility of pairing with Stoudemire in coach Mike D'Antoni's triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense.


Bobcats coach Larry Brown was not with the organization's summer-league team Monday when play opened in Orlando. But don't draw any conspiratorial conclusions. A person close to Brown told CBSSports.com that the coach is on a previously planned family vacation and that the team is proceeding under the assumption that Brown will return to coach the team next season.

"We're looking at it as status quo," the person said.
Posted on: July 3, 2010 11:45 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2010 12:02 am

Pierce, Celts finalize 4-year, $61 million deal

Paul Pierce is officially staying in green-and-white, finalizing his four-year, $61 million contract with the Celtics Saturday night, a person with knowledge of the agreement told CBSSports.com.

Pierce had opted out of the final year of his contract, which would've paid him $21.5 million, in part to give the Celtics flexibility to retain free agent Ray Allen and make a run at another championship with coach Doc Rivers, who announced this week he was returning for the final year of his contract. Pierce, 32, accepted less than the maximum the Celtics could have paid him as a 10-plus-year veteran, which was $96 million over four years. But a person familiar with the situation said the fourth year was fully guaranteed, which had been a sticking point in the negotiations.

Now, the Celtics will focus on retaining Allen, a move that would keep the Big Three -- and point guard Rajon Rondo -- intact for a run at the franchise's 18th championship. Also Saturday night, NBA.com's David Aldridge reported that forward Rasheed Wallace -- who informed the team after the NBA Finals that he planned to retire -- is possibly reconsidering that decision.

Posted on: July 1, 2010 8:33 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 9:35 am

Pierce, Celtics close to deal (UPDATE)

Paul Pierce, who opted out of the final year of his contract and walked away for $21.5 million, is close to agreeing to a new four-year, $61 million contract, a person familiar with the deal told CBSSports.com.
Two sources cautioned that there's still work to be done on details, but the framework of the deal has been agreed to and is expected to be completed by Saturday.

Pierce, 32, has been negotiating exclusively with the Celtics and was motivated by Doc Rivers’ return to the sideline and his desire to make one more championship run with the core group that has been together since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were acquired in blockbuster trades this time of year in 2007. The challenge for Pierce and Allen, both free agents, is that both will have to give up some money to fit into the Celtics’ financial plans.

“Guys are going to have to decide, ‘Do you want to chase every last dollar, or do you want to be a Celtic?’” a person familiar with the team’s strategy said.

The question for Pierce was whether to push for a four-year deal or accept a more realistic three-year deal. One of the key issues still to be resolved is the guaranteed amount in the fourth year, sources said. Pierce will turn 37 in the fourth year of the deal.

Nonetheless, it was sensible for Pierce to opt out for several reasons. For one, he wants to help keep Boston’s core together, and a longer-term deal would give him more money in the long run while giving the Celtics more flexibility. Like other free agents, he’s facing uncertainty about a collective bargaining agreement that will be more punitive towards the players next summer. If negotiations with the Celtics had broken down, Pierce would've had no trouble getting a commitment from teams unable to satisfy their needs in the current chase for free agents.

Though he’ll turn 33 next season, Pierce is still capable of being the primary scorer on a winning team and probably could put up better numbers on a team without as many offensive options as the Celtics have.

Posted on: July 1, 2010 6:34 pm

Free-agent acquisiiton of day: Phil Jackson

Nobody was staking out Phil Jackson's ranch in Montana Thursday. There were no banners, no protests, no fleets of Mercedes, no fancy presentations, and certainly no Gulfstream jets. Depending on what happens with all this LeBron-o-mania in Cleveland, the most impactful transaction of this crazy NBA summer may very well have happened somewhere far, far away.

Phil Jackson is coming back.

For days, a person with close ties to Jackson was saying that all signs pointed to Jackson coming back. There were no early signals from his season-ending physical exam that indicated his health would be the factor preventing him from returning. Once Jackson got the green light from doctors to coach one more season, the only other question was money. That, evidently, was handled, too.

How could it not be?

"The money will be there," the person with ties to Jackson said.

Jackson, 64, follows Doc Rivers from the precipice of vacation/semi-retirement and comes back for one more run at one more title. Rivers may have a few left him, though only one with the current core in Boston -- assuming that core stays together. For Jackson, this will be it.

"It'll be the last stand for me," he said in a statement released by the Lakers, "and I hope a grand one."

There was little doubt that Jackson would be back, barring any physical reasons preventing it. But with Jackson, with the drama-prone Lakers, you never know until the i's are dotted and t's crossed. The financial arrangement tied to Jackson's return was still being finalized Thursday, according to a source. But the bottom line is that the Lakers -- in the face of the possible pie-in-the-sky creation of some dream team in Miami, or other bizarre, free-agent creations -- will be back to forcefully defend their title.

All that is left to do, aside from exploring sign-and-trade creations of their own, is to re-sign Derek Fisher, who will do what I expect Paul Pierce and probably Ray Allen to do in Boston: Follow the best chance for another ring. That chance rests with Rivers in Boston and with Jackson in L.A.
As if there was ever any doubt.

Posted on: June 30, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 2:03 pm

Source: Doc's coming back (UPDATE)

Doc Rivers has decided to return for the final year of his contract to coach the Celtics, a person familiar with the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com Wednesday. Rivers had been thinking about stepping down to spend more time with his family.

The news of Rivers' return for one more year, first reported by the Boston Herald, should calm nerves across New England as the Celtics faced the destruction of their successful nucleus with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce hitting the unrestricted free-agent market at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Rivers, though, is the glue that has held the Big Three together. With his commitment to return, the Celtics almost certainly will focus on upgrading the supporting cast rather than replacing Allen or Pierce.

Though Rivers, according to Yahoo! Sports, received a raise over the $5.5 million he was due for next season, his indecision about returning was not about the money. Those close to Rivers say he was seriously conflicted about returning to the bench vs. taking a year or two off to watch his children play high school and college sports. In fact, Rivers has been in San Antonio watching his son, Austin, dominate the FIBA Under-18 World Championships. As you can see, Austin has a little more hang time than his pop.

Rivers was emotional in the postgame news conference after the Celtics lost to the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, seemingly melancholy about the uncertain future for the Celtics of the Big Three era. Rasheed Wallace, recruited by Rivers, team president Danny Ainge, and the Celtics' veteran core to join them this past season, has decided to retire. Kevin Garnett has two more years on his contract, and Rajon Rondo has five years left. But Allen is unrestricted and Pierce opted out of his $21.5 million deal for next season. Both intend to return, but nothing is a given in the frenzied free-agent negotiating period that will begin about 11 hours after Rivers' decision became public.

The timing of Rivers' decision was no coincidence; only he in the Celtics' organization has the persuasive powers to convince Pierce and Allen to forego potentially lucrative invitations to compete for a championship elsewhere, possibly with other marquee free agents. Those invitations will come fast and furious, but the knowledge that Rivers will be back certainly will give Pierce and Allen pause about leaving.

Ainge has every intention of keeping Pierce and Allen, and both players prefer to stay in Boston and make at least one more run at a title together. Rivers is the best negotiating tool Ainge has.

On his way out of Staples Center after an emotional locker room session with his players and the emotional news conference, Rivers encountered a heckling Lakers fan who'd somehow gotten past security. The fan taunted Rivers, asking him how it felt to lose to the Lakers -- a team Rivers' Celtics had beaten in the Finals two years earlier. NBA security director Bernie Tolbert shooed the fan away. Rivers, displaying the class that has made him one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, offered no reaction -- just kept walking, into a summer of uncertainty that looks a lot more promising now for the Celtics.

Posted on: June 29, 2010 11:05 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 12:31 am

Pierce tells Celtics he's opting out (UPDATE)

Add Paul Pierce to the growing list of elite free agents. The Celtics' star notified the team Tuesday that, as expected, he'll exercise the early termination option in his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, said his agent, Jeff Schwartz.

Under normal circumstances, Pierce, 32, would be pretty well assured of returning to Boston in an attempt to chase down another championship. But these are not normal times for the Celtics. Ray Allen is an unrestricted free agent, too, and coach Doc Rivers continues to wrestle with the decision of whether to return to the bench next season or watch his children play college sports.

In some ways, it's a risky move for Pierce to leave $21.5 million on the table next season. But with so many teams chaseing free agents, Pierce will generate plenty of interest from those who strike out on the top-tier players. If nothing else, Pierce re-ups with the Celtics and surpasses that amount with a multi-year deal.

Though the Celtics want to retain Pierce, it's actually welcome news that he's opting out. Even if Boston pays Pierce the max -- $20.8 million next season for a player of his experience -- they still save $1.5 million due to luxury tax implications. Pierce will make up the difference on the back end, while also locking in for three or four more years under the current salary rules, which will be tilted in the owners' favor in the next collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, the Celtics will set about trying to determine if their core -- including Rivers -- is staying together.

Even in the unlikely event that Allen and Pierce both leave, it's farfetched for the Celtics to have enough cap room to afford a marquee free agent. They would have flexibility, however, for sign-and-trades.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 24, 2010 7:57 pm

Who wants to work in Portland now?

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.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com