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Posted on: July 1, 2010 10:36 am
Edited on: July 1, 2010 11:36 am
 

Free-agency layup line: LeBron's gift edition

All of the little free agency stories that flow through. We'll have several of these throughout the day, updated regularly.

A mystery team dropped a "small square box" containing a gift off at LeBron James' house at 11PM Wednesday night, according to the New York Daily News .  Our best guesses as to the gift are the heart of a lion, whatever was in the suitcase in "Pulp Fiction ", or a Russian doll containing $2.4 million in bonds.  (HT: FanHouse )

Richard Jefferson opted out of his contract, but that doesn't necessarily mean much for the team basketball-wise. Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell reports that with the team significantly over the cap still, Jefferson's opt-out doesn't clear them to make any significant moves and leaves them with a hole at small forward. You have to wonder if Tony Parker and his contract may be even more on the block.

Chris Bosh is predictably keeping track of his free agency exploits on Twitter. As of 4EST, he had met with the Bulls, Raptors, Heat, and Rockets (check out more on our discussion of Houston's chances ). You have to wonder if it's better to be early or late in these discussions. The Knicks seem to be taking the latter approach, since they went and visited Mike Miller first thing last night.

Darren Rovell of Sports Biz reports that part of the Nets' offer for LeBron James is a clothing line via Jay-Z . These are the kind of advantages teams have to pull out. There's so much more going on here than just money and a good core of players, though those things are up-front the most important.

Via Wizards blog Bullets Forever , Yahoo! Sports reports that Washington is looking to fill that whole at small forward quickly . They've already spoken to both of their expired small forwards (Mike Miller, Josh Howard) and are looking at Ryan Gomes, Travis Outlaw, Rasual Butler and even Josh Childress who is still in Greece. With the acquisition of Kirk Hinrich, the Wizards have to be thinking on the cheap with this contract, and likely won't want to commit to anything long-term. Then again, they traded for Kirk Hinrich and Yi Jianlian, so there's no telling what they're going to do next.

John Hammond is "cautiously optimistic" that the Bucks will be able to re-sign John Salmons. Then again, we think Hammond is "cautiously losing his mind" for giving Drew Gooden a 5 year, $32 million deal when he has Ersan Ilyasoava and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute along with rookie Larry Sanders to pair with Andrew Bogut. Hammond's either gone around the bend or is in pursuit of something...


Posted on: July 1, 2010 9:51 am
 

Clippers 'honored' to visit LeBron

The Clippers can't even suck up right.

As Free Agency began, the Clippers sent out a press release to their fans to inform them that they have reached out to various free agents. Fair enough. A little unnecessary, and kind of a goof move if your pitch doesn't land anyone, but hey. But then there's the language. Via Clippers press release (bold mine for emphasis):

“We are perfectly positioned to engage this summer’s free agent marketplace and we have every intention of playing an active role.  A little after midnight eastern time on July 1, we contacted the representatives of several free agent players in whom we have interest.”
 
We are honored to be one of the select organizations to have been invited to meet with LeBron James and his team. At that time, we intend to present the many reasons why his joining our organization is the best possible choice he could make .”

“Key among those reasons is our extraordinary nucleus of players. We have a core group in place which is made up of talented players at every position, a component which would prove attractive to any free agent. “

As events unfold and in accordance with NBA rules, the Clippers will provide updates as necessary.

Now, I get that this is what you're supposed to do, kneel at the feet of the King. But really, Clippers? You felt the need to send out a press release telling everyone that you're "honored" to meet with LeBron? You should have actually referred to him as "the King". Or "our liege." "My lord" may be going too far, but you're already halfway there.

What's best about this is the approach they're taking and how delusional they must be in this scenario. The Kings and Grizzlies have cap space. They're not pitching LeBron. You know why? They know they won't have a chance and have better ways to spend their resources. But the Clippers instead have elected to say the following:

"Yo, LeBron! You should totally come to the Clippers, man! We've got:

1. An exciting group of players including the top overall rookie in 2009 who hasn't played a single game for us despite being drafted last year.
2. No coach, whatsoever!
3. One of the most inconsistent, injury prone point guards you'll ever see in the league, and we've got his contract for several more years!
4. An undersized shooting guard who's pretty good!
5. Chris Kaman!"

Somehow I imagine that the King didn't feel nearly as "honored" to extend the invitation, but he is listening to all offers. As long as they're in a major market.

I sincerely hope the Clippers extend a similar email for when they meet with Richard Jefferson.

-Matt Moore
Posted on: July 1, 2010 9:28 am
 

Daryl Morey: Moving in from the shadows

And around the outside, here come the Rockets.

All year Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been talking about wanting to be involved in this summer's free agency extravaganza. But with Yao Ming potentially on the books and a need to re-sign several free agents (including Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry), the Rockets didn't seem to be contenders. They weren't listed on Bosh's "wish list" a few months ago, despite his Texas roots, and were generally considered to be on the outside.

Daryl Morey does not stay on the outside when the stakes are this high.

As KB filled you in this morning in the Free Agency Buzz , Morey was able to get a meeting with Chris Bosh immediately following the opening of the 2010 NBA Free Agency signing period. And, in typical Morey fashion, he posted to Twitter about it afterwards to get everyone to pick up on the scent. This shouldn't stun us. Morey's arguably the best general manager in the league. And despite a long series of moves which bely a savvy and an ability to identify quality value players, he's maintained the need for superstars in this league.

Morey's pitch to Bosh is interesting in and of itself. Morey chose to pursue the championship angle. Bosh, moreso than Dwyane Wade or even LeBron James, has been more focused publicly on being wooed, the market he'll be playing in, and the money he'll be paid. But Morey chose to push championships. But that's not all he can offer.

Houston is a major market, though rarely considered to be so. It's a Texas city, even if it's not Bosh's hometown of Dallas. There are significant connections between the Rockets and Chinese endorsement opportunities, many of which are far more lucrative than anything he can get stateside. And he can feel assured he'll be playing for a top notch coach in Rick Adelman who knows how to win, and play for a GM who is constantly working shrewdly to get the most out of his squad. Throw in a versatile roster that features Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, and Trevor Ariza along with Ming (not to mention every Knicks draft pick for the next bazillion years, though they'd lose some in a sign-and-trade), and the fact that Houston can accomplish a sign-and-trade with Toronto very easily to get him his absolute max contract, and all of a sudden? Houston looks pretty good.

The Rockets were left off the wish list for a reason, if the list was in fact accurate. But Morey's ability to get in first says something about how serious he is in pursuing this. And Bosh will listen to all offers. Morey may have just managed to land the Rockets into this race.


-Matt Moore

Keep up with the latest Free Agency news on Ken Berger's Free Agency Buzz .

Posted on: June 30, 2010 6:07 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2010 11:40 am
 

2010 free-agency begins: Top 10 questions

It's here. It's finally here. The Free Agency Summer of Doom. At midnight tonight, everything goes down, like a lion or a lamb. Odds are we'll be surprised by what shakes out over the next two months, in some fashion. With that in mind, Ken Berger and Matt Moore answer some of the key questions about the biggest free agency period in NBA history, which starts in less than six hours. We talk about how the media is covering this circus, the impact of coaches, and Ken Berger makes a very surprising prediction...

1. Let's start with an easy one, the one almost everyone is talking about. Ken, you've said before you don't believe James will re-sign with the Cavs, but also that he won't elect for the three-headed monster of Bosh, Wade, and himself. So as teams pack their bags for the first visit, where do you think James is leaning?


KB:
I still think he's leaning toward Cleveland, but that's because he hasn't heard what anyone has to say yet. Despite all the opportunities at his fingertips -- the stage in New York, the talent in Chicago, the possibility of a Dream Team in Miami -- we still can't discount the Cavs. They have the most money to offer, and the comfort of home. Staying in one place has value in sports, too. When the process is over, however, I don't think LeBron will be able to pass up the allure of the Big City, the exposure he'll get there, what Mike D'Antoni's offense will do for him, and the opportunity to put whatever pieces he wants around him -- this year, and next, because the Knicks will have cap space next summer, too. So I'm in the minority on this, but what the heck, somebody has to predict it. I say he's going to the Knicks. If he does, it changes everything. Every other significant (and insignificant) free agent will be maneuvering to join him. If he doesn't, the Knicks will have a very good chance of striking out completely. None of the non-LeBron free agents want to be the guy who has to go to New York and live in the shadow of a player who never even played a minute there in the home jersey. It's all or nothing for the Knicks, I believe. But what a coup if it happens.

MM: The Bulls have to be the most obvious target. They combine a major market with huge endorsement and business opportunities with a playoff roster that's ready to contend and has years in front of it. They have the cap space. They have the idea of his name being next to his idol Michael Jordan (even though his game is more Magic Johnson). They can offer him a little of everything he wants, except the sixth year he can get with the Cavaliers. But in all honesty, this was likely never about the money. James knows his value goes far beyond what his salary from the NBA is. And the Bulls have all the pieces in place to make the best overall pitch.

2. We've had every conceivable rumor thrown out in the last week. The Nets are meeting with James first, the three met in Miami last weekend, the Knicks want Joe Johnson more than they want LeBron, the list goes on. What do you attribute all this conflicting chatter to? Who's gaining and advantage by feeding all this info, whether it's right or wrong?

KB: It's the Wild, Wild West of the Internet. Information is instant and world-wide now, whether it's right or wrong. There are always agendas involved, and different reporters possess differing levels of experience and abilities in sorting through the agendas and getting to the truth. Often, we fail. Often, it's not our fault. But by and large -- and Matt,  I know you'll agree -- the NBA is covered more thoroughly and more aggressively than any other (Note:"Amen!" -Ed. ). The amount of content, analysis, opinion and news that is available to the NBA fan, and the platforms it's available on, must make it an incredibly fun time to follow the sport. And a fun time to write about it and drink lots of coffee. 

MM: Everyone's got an agenda. Try and realize how much money is in play here. You've got the most massive talent agency in the world, CAA heavily involved in this process (they represent James, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh). You've got competing agents. You've got Nike. You've got ADIDAS. You've got Gatorade. You've got the New York Media. And you've got all the people surrounding all these guys. There are going to be people talking who shouldn't be, saying things they shouldn't be. It's a unique boiling point in sports media.

3. Wade's been steadfast in saying his heart's in Miami, but he's also made sure to say he's going to keep his options open. Is this more a case of the Heat having to screw up what they do in the next month in order to lose Wade, rather than really having to succeed to get him to re-sign?

KB: Pat Riley won't lose Wade. Period. He has a great player, a superior, warm weather city, plenty of cap space, and the possibility that he'd come downstairs and coach all these guys if he had to. And my belief is that he probably wants to. I mean, is Riley doing to stand idly by while Erik Spoelstra wins four titles with Wade and LeBron? Hail no. Having said that, I still don't think Wade and LeBron wind up together, and I certainly hope they don't. How boring and unambitious of them it would be. Magic and Bird, who spent their entire careers trying to kill each other, should boycott the NBA forever if this happens.

MM: It certainly seems that way. There's been no indication outside of Wade simply maintaining that out in his public statements that he's going anywhere. Moving Michael Beasley may be part of it, though. They've managed to get rid of everyone but Chalmers, Wade, and Beasley. Wade may want a more reliable third option, even if they land Chris Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire. But Wade has been very committed to the community, it allows him to live as he wants, and he has won a ring there. He knows his legacy is greater if he sticks in one zip code. But more so than any of the other free agents, winning a championship is Wade's top priority. He's more singularly focused, and his decision will reflect that. Riley's come a long way in getting this done, and Wade's met him halfway. They've just got to seal the deal.

4. How much impact are Carlos Boozer and Amar'e Stoudemire going to have on this free agency period?


KB: A very large one. Stoudemire will continue to discuss an extension with the Suns, but he's clearly 1(b) to Chris Bosh's 1(a) in the power forward department. Assuming Dirk Nowitzki stays in Dallas (and I do), then Boozer is the next best thing. All of these guys -- LeBron, Wade, Joe Johnson -- want a go-to scorer on the block to make their lives easier. If push came to shove, any of the above is better than anyone they're currently playing with.

MM: Boozer will have more than he should, Amar'e less. Stoudemire is likely to re-sign with the Suns , even after opting out. Boozer on the other hand is going to buddy himself up to whichever team doesn't land two superstars. If that's Miami, great. If it's Chicago, fine. If it's New York, so be it. Boozer is going to present himself as the default max player for whoever doesn't land Bosh (or Amar'e). And it's going to work, even though Boozer is a block magnet that's getting older. Stoudemire, meanwhile, is going to take the money and stay put, even though he has the kind of resume and ability to challenge Bosh for best second-banana to either Wade or LeBron. Stoudemire will go for the cash, and he'll get it. And hey, playing a few more years with Steve Nash can't be bad for a guy.

5. Outside of the top level of elite guys, what's one player you think will end up benefiting from all of these teams with crazy amounts of cap space and only a handful of max players?

KB: I'll give you two: Rudy Gay and David Lee. All these teams that have endured such pain to create cap space are going to feel the need to overpay someone to come and improve their team. Gay, being a restricted free agent, is very well positioned to get more than he's worth because teams know they have to overpay to force Memphis not to match. With the Knicks unable to get two max free agents and keep Lee (unless they trade Eddy Curry), someone (Phoenix?) will swoop in with an offer Lee can't refuse and try to steal him while the Knicks sort through their options. New York hopes Lee will wait them out and come back to them, but that's a lot to ask.

MM: I think Amir Johnson is a great target for some team looking to add youth and defense, two things coaches can't get enough of. J.J. Redick is going to have to get an answering service, considering he's a reliable three point threat in good condition with solid defense. And Anthony Morrow should get some attention, even as a restricted free agent. He's one of the most accurate shooters in the league, and young as well.

6. Should we expect a lot more cap-related trade movement in the next 72 hours as teams continue to try and pull things off? And if so, do you think Dallas will be one working the phones?

KB: Mark Cuban is never shy about making a big splash, but sign-and-trades are really his only option. He's high on Joe Johnson, and other than the Knicks, Dallas is probably the only team that wouldn't be afraid to pay Johnson max money for six years, entering a new CBA, when he's going to be 34 in Year 6. Beyond the Mavs, the Nets, Bulls and Heat still have more massaging to do if they're going to get the space needed to add the max players they want. Plus, there are a couple of teams that are over the cap to watch closely: Toronto, which has been trying to divest itself of Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon to create cap space to replace Bosh in the event they can't arrange a sign-and-trade, and Utah, which probably isn't going to be a major player but could nonetheless open a world of opportunities by finding someone to take Andrei Kirilenko.

MM: Mark Cuban almost never stays still when there's an opportunity. And even if he misses out, it's unlikely he'll stay out of the game completely. There hasn't been a summer where he hasn't made a significant move to try and improve. Meanwhile, you have to think that some of the teams with assets will start talking to teams that whif on the max guys in an attempt to fleece them in exchange for saving face by landing a marquee player over the summer. That's what's so dangerous about the free agents "teaming up." Not only does it shift power dramatically, but it means a few teams are going to get left in the cold.

7. What's surprised you the most about how this free agency period has developed as we come up on the opening bell tonight?


KB: I'd like to say nothing surprises me anymore, but the sheer volume and pace of information has been impressive. You still can't call this the biggest free-agent class in NBA history, because Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutumbo, etc., still hold that honor in 1996. But that free-agent summer was covered on paper, and occasionally even on TV. This is wall-to-wall, minute-by-minute, multi-platform madness. It'd be fun, if only I had time to eat.

MM: I'm surprised Shaquille O'Neal hasn't cashed in on all this media coverage by talking about himself more.

8. Henry Thomas has been really straightforward about knocking down speculation on things involving Wade and Bosh, while Leon Rose has been really quiet. Is that more of a strategic decision, or one based on the rift you wrote about inside LeBron's camp?

KB: The rift between Maverick Carter and William Wesley in LeBron's camp is specific to LeBron and doesn't affect Wade or Bosh. I think CAA as a whole has been very shrewd in terms of letting the three clients talk quietly amongst themselves and plot this out as friends, potential teammates, or potential rivals -- depending on how it shakes out. But when it comes to LeBron, the internal pressures and relationships specific to his camp really take on a life of their own.

9. Let's say the Cavs do manage to pull off convincing LeBron to come back. Should we expect them to be active throughout the summer to try and make good on promises to LeBron?

KB: That's the biggest challenge the Cavs face. They've capped and taxed themselves to death trying to make LeBron happy, and so now what do they do to keep him happy? For example, although it appears that Brian Shaw will get the job, they don't even have a coach yet.

MM: I don't know if they can be. No one's taking on Antawn Jamison, with the amount of money and years left on his contract. No one's going to be excited to get Mo Williams. Delonte West's not a top... ahem, target. J.J. Hickson is the only young asset they have and they don't really have any big expirings. Grant's going to have a hard time finding ways to improve on a team that won 61 games last season.

10. The Clippers and Cavs both enter this free agency period without a coach. Do you believe that will impact the decisions of these players at all?

KB: The Clippers will hire either Vinny Del Negro or Dwane Casey, and I'm not sure which top-tier free agent will be rushing to play for either one. Shaw has a chance to be an excellent coach, but it'll be his first rodeo. LeBron waited patiently as Mike Brown matured as a coach and grew into the job, and in the end it was never good enough. So is LeBron willing to do it again? How does playing for Shaw compare to playing for D'Antoni, Riley, Tom Thibodeau, or Avery Johnson? Only he knows the answer to that.

MM: The biggest thing about this free agency period is that you have six teams that are legitimately vying for these guys, so the competition is so high, it's not just about a good offer, or the best available offer. They can demand what they want, and get it. And these guys are going to want stability and someone they can trust and get along with. This uncertainty is a blemish on their face during the biggest beauty pageant they'll ever be in. This should have been handled a month ago.

-MM


Posted on: June 30, 2010 5:20 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 5:25 pm
 

Free Agency Layup: Chandler stays

Free Agency Layups are meant to fill you in on what's happening that isn't actually earth shattering. You know, like ninety percent of the transactions.

Bobcats center Tyson Chandler has elected not to opt-out of the final year of his deal , in a confirmation of what FanHouse's Chris Tomasson wrote several months back .
It's not stunning that Chandler decided to take the $12.6 he's owed next season. Chandler has a down year thanks to multiple foot injuries (which have been a red flag on him for two seasons) and he was unlikely to get the best deal he could even with all the suitors out there. Of course, being an unrestricted free agent next year means he's also going to have to deal with the new CBA. It was largely a lose-lose for Chandler. He has to come back and hopes that whoever is running point for the Cats next year can get him some alley oops.

-Matt Moore

Posted on: June 30, 2010 5:03 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 5:07 pm
 

The numbers say Stoudemire re-signs

Amar'e Stoudemire may not be leaving Arizona, but he's also going to get his money right now, not later.

As KB puts it to us, Amar'e exercised his opt-out and will become an unrestricted free agent at midnight. The news isn't shocking, even though the Suns have been working with Stoudemire and his agent on a deal for the past 24 hours in an attempt to avoid him going on the open market. Early reports had the initial offer as a four year deal . This is probably why Amar'e chose to opt-out. He's probably still re-signing with the Suns, but realized he could get more by applying leverage through the opt-out.

Need an explanation? Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun has it for you .

Here's how it boils down.

If Amare were to have signed the four year extension being offered, he would have walked away with $103.67 million over the next five years.

If he re-signs with the Suns now that he's opted out he can make $104.04 million for the same length of term (5 years including next season), and wait to try and get the sixth year out of owner Robert Sarver.

If he goes to another team, he's looking at $99.74 million for five years.

So if money is the most important thing to Stoudemire, he'll be back in Phoenix. But the money may not be the important thing if Stoudemire is tired of how the Suns have dangled him over the trade ledge for two season, if he wants a change of scenery, or if he realizes he only has a handful of seasons left with Steve Nash.

There were reports that the Knicks would be meeting with Amar'e tonight after a rumored sitdown with Joe Johnson on the west coast, but ESPN New York is refuting that report today . If teams want to have a talk with Stoudemire, they had better get in the door fast, because it looks like Robert Sarver is serious about keeping STAT.

-Matt Moore


Posted on: June 30, 2010 2:31 pm
 

Rivers reuturns to Celtics

Well that didn't take long .

About thirty seconds after I got done telling you how complicated the Celtics' situation is, Doc Rivers made it simpler. Via Ken Berger:

"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."


And later:

"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."


It can't be overstated how much Rivers' decision may influence both Pierce and Allen. This team has thrived based on a common philosophy and a bond. Their chemistry has been instrumental in their success, and that, more so than X's and O's is a product of Rivers' work. His return means that Allen will find it that much harder to look elsewhere. The same is even more true for Pierce, who has never donned another jersey in his NBA career.

That siad, Rivers was on thin ice before the Big 3 came along. He's been instrumental in the development of Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, but struggled with Al Jefferson, and his rotations are notoriously spotty. For all the talk of wanting to focus on upgrading the current team, overcomplicating the lineup takes Rivers' focus away from what he does best, motivating. It'll be key to watch if the Celtics decide to keep the same blueprint with significant improvements, or try and expand the formula into something different. There are risks either way.
Posted on: June 30, 2010 1:10 pm
 

The Celtics are at a crossroads

You realize it was just three years ago that the Big 3 in Boston were formed? At the time, we knew that their window was short. All three were older, with only a few years left. After the first championship, it looked like they were destined for more. Then when the collapse in 2009 happened due to injury, we thought the window had slammed shut, and that carried through last season when they limped into the playoffs. Then they tore the East's head off and ate the remains, and going into the Finals it looked like everything was hunky-dorey. But even losing in the final minutes of a Game 7 aren't enough when the league moves as fast as the NBA does now.

And with the events of the past 48 hours, one thing is clear. The Celtics are at a crossroads.

Paul Pierce is opting out . Ray Allen is a free agent. And Doc Rivers is still trying to decide whether to come back or not. And all three of those decisions impact each other.

If Rivers comes back, he'll want to make sure he's contending for a title, not rebuilding. And Pierce and Allen will likely want to play for the coach that took them to the Finals, not Vinny Del Negro (no offense, Vinny).

So all sides have to come together to make another run at it, and then Danny Ainge has to decide exactly how much that run is worth. This is not an easy situation. You might say this is trickier than Amar'e Stoudemire in Phoenix or Dwyane Wade in Miami. The future in Boston is highly uncertain. They were unable to get to the summit with the squad as currently assembled. Do they believe they could get there with the same group a year older? Do they need home court advantage (read: should they actually try in the regular season?)? Do they have to upgrade? Are they willing to take a paycut to upgrade?

Rivers, to his credit, and unlike some other headline making coaches, is staying quiet . He's going to not say anything, make his decision, and live with it. Pierce is opting out, but there's no indication if he's doing so to make room for the team or to get the most he can or to explore his options elsewhere. After being dangled on the trade line, you can bet Ray Allen will be taking a good look around.

This team could be dramatically different next season, and that has impacts on Rajon Rondo, who would need to become the unquestioned leader of the team. For Kendrick Perkins, who will have surgery and won't be ready by the start of the season .

And where does that leave Kevin Garnett? All the Celtics have succeeded by one motto of staying together, playing together, fighting together. But the winds of change are at the door, and as a team, they have to decide what happens next.

Like I said, things move pretty quickly in the NBA. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss... wait. That's not right .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com