NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Carmelo weighing salary against winning — As cold and crass as it might sound, the fact is Carmelo Anthony‘s potentially career-defining decision about whether to opt in for another year in New York with the Knicks or to bolt in free agency is really about trying to win titles or trying to cash in on one last huge payday. Because no one is convinced he can do both by staying with the Knicks. His decision is due Monday, giving Anthony one final night of restless sleep to figure out his future. His options, as Benjamin Hoffman of The New York Times details, are set in stone both ways:
If Anthony does nothing with his contract and chooses to stay with the Knicks for the 2014-15 season, he will earn $23.3 million. If he opts out and signs a maximum contract with the Knicks, he can earn about $129 million over five seasons, depending on the final salary-cap ceiling. If he signs a maximum contract with a team other than the Knicks, he can get up to $95 million over four years. If he forgoes his rights to re-sign with the Knicks and wants to form a Big 4 in Miami with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it is hard to envision a way in which he could earn more than $58.8 million over four seasons.
It is that cold, hard reality that has Pat Riley, the Heat’s president, calling the idea of obtaining Anthony a “pipe dream” — even if he did not specifically use Anthony’s name.
The question now, with the deadline for Anthony to opt out of his contract coming Monday, is how much he values winning. The Knicks seem unlikely to contend next season, and Anthony will be voting with his own money if he chooses to walk away from the rebuilding franchise.
At 30, and with more than 800 games played, including the playoffs, Anthony will probably never again have as strong a case for demanding a gigantic payday. He just had one of his best all-around seasons, even if it came in a frustrating season for his team, and any team looking to sign him can reasonably expect the durable Anthony to be productive for the length of the contract.
The prospect of playing with the Heat’s threesome, all of whom he has shared time with on the United States men’s national team, would certainly be enticing, but the Heat’s ability to manipulate the salary cap can go only so far.
With nearly every contract on the roster involving some form of option, the Heat are currently committed to more than $80 million in salary next season, which is far in excess of the estimated $63 million salary cap. In a highly unlikely move, the team could reduce its salary commitments to $8 million if it declined all its team options and if every player eligible opted to become a free agent. That $8 million would have to fill 10 roster spots, leaving roughly $55 million to sign Anthony, James, Wade and Bosh. Split evenly, they would each earn less than $14 million next season. Anthony last made that little money in 2007-8 and would potentially be leaving $70 million on the table over the duration of the contract.
As good as the Big 4 would be, the Heat would need more than them to re-establish themselves as title contenders.
No. 2: Love deal reportedly on hold, Thompson’s smiling — Mychal Thompson is among those inside and outside of the Thompson clan glad to see the proposed Kevin Love deal for his son Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors’ budding star shooting guard, cool off in recent days. The elder Thompson is in the camp that believes the Warriors’ power struggle over the future of Thompson and Steph Curry as a backcourt pair is too enticing to give up now, even for a talent like Love. Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group has more:
Warriors guard Klay Thompson understands that trade discussions involving him and Minnesota’s Kevin Love are part of the business and has the “right attitude,” Mychal Thompson, his father, told NBC Sports Radio on Saturday.
“He’s got the right attitude,” Mychal said. “He’s not getting personally offended by his name being rumored to go someplace. He understands that unless your name is LeBron James or it’s Kevin Durant, anybody could be thrown into a trade or talked about in a trade.
“So he’s got a professional approach about it, and if he ends up with the Lakers, great. He’ll make the most of it. He’ll be thrilled to be (in Los Angeles). But if he stays with Golden State, then he’ll be happy to stay up there with those guys. If he got traded to Minnesota? I told him, ‘Hey, you get to play with Ricky Rubio, the best passer in the game.’”
Mychal, a recent Los Angeles Lakers analyst, was happy to hear any trade involving his son was reportedly on hold. In recent days, reports surfaced of the Timberwolves’ asking price for Love including Klay and also the Lakers looking to land the shooting guard as part of a three-way deal.
“Jerry West and Steve Kerr, they both want to keep that backcourt intact,” Mychal said. “It looks like that’s the power play that’s going to win out.”
Mychal doesn’t believe a backcourt of his son and Stephen Curry should be broken up because to him, the only thing the Warriors needed improvement on was at backup guard where he speculated they could sign free agent guards such as Patty Mills and Jodie Meeks.
“When you have two shooters with the capability of Steph and Klay, that is rare,” Mychal said. “I’ve never seen this before, so why would you split it up when you have it right there in the palm of your hand?
No. 3: Report: Bulls pursing trade for Magic’s Afflalo — The Chicago Bulls aren’t taking anything for granted with Carmelo Anthony and his decision whether to become a free agent this summer. That might explain the reports of the Bulls pursuing a trade for Magic swingman Arron Afflalo, who according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, has become the current object of the Bulls’ trade affections. A seasoned scorer, who doesn’t cost a fortune, is the ideal fit for a Bulls team that is in dire need of scoring help on the perimeter (and in general). The Bulls, working with two first-round Draft picks, have the assets to make all sorts of things happen. Woj provides some context:
Afflalo, 28, has two years left on his contract – including an Early Termination Option (ETO) provision next summer – and front office executives believe the Magic are prioritizing a trade for Afflalo over working to extend his contract.
It is unclear how the Bulls’ pursuit of Afflalo would impact the franchise’s free-agent interest in New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
The Bulls are searching for shooting to surround the returning Derrick Rose, and Afflalo is coming off his best offensive season, averaging 18.2 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting.
Chicago owns the 16th and 19th overall picks in the draft, and assuredly one of those selections would be included in a possible package with the Magic. Orlando has the fourth and 12th picks in Thursday’s draft and a rapidly developing young core of talent, including guard Victor Oladipo and center Nikola Vucevic.
The Bulls have shown a strong interest in moving one of their top picks in a deal and have been open to trading the 19th overall pick for a future first-round selection, league sources said. The Bulls are trying to be careful to preserve salary cap space for July free agency and are leery of two rookie-scale first-round picks on the roster, sources said.
Afflalo will make $7.5 million this upcoming season and can opt in to a $7.75 million deal in the summer of 2015.
No. 4: Embiid fits Lakers’ needs — Joel Embiid‘s injury misfortune could wind up being a basketball blessing for the Los Angeles Lakers on Draft night. It’s not often that a potential franchise 7-footer falls into your lap, but Embiid’s foot and back injuries could see him drop down the order on Thursday night. And that’s where the Lakers come into play with the 7th pick overall. And that’s where the franchise’s long and storied big man history might intersect with the process, as J.A. Adande of ESPN.com points out:
Joel Embiid is shaping up as the latest incarnation in the storied lineage of Los Angeles Lakers centers. He’s got the back problems of Dwight Howard and the foot problems of Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol.
That doesn’t mean the Lakers should not take him if the two screws implanted into the navicular bone in his right foot Friday scare away enough teams to leave Embiid available at the No. 7 pick. At the moment he’s a better fit for them than any other team in the draft’s top 10.
With Kobe Bryant under contract for two high-cost seasons, the Lakers don’t need to a pick for the long-term. They need to extract as much as they can from what’s left of Bryant’s career. With that mentality, it wouldn’t be as devastating to them if Embiid’s career is cut short by injuries. Even one or two high-level seasons would suffice. It’s the same risk they took when they brought in Howard fresh off back surgery in 2012; they shouldn’t get shy because it didn’t pay off.
Besides, the chances of getting a long-term franchise cornerstone at No. 7 are slim. None of the seventh picks from 2003 to 2008 has stayed with his team for the duration of his career. (Two of them, Kirk Hinrich and Corey Brewer, are back with their original teams after going elsewhere).
The long-term success of the Lakers isn’t strictly dependent on striking gold in the draft. They’ve shown they are capable of landing major free agents or making trades with confidence that players will re-sign with them. Hearing Julius Randle glow about the mystique of the Lakers and his admiration for Kobe after his workout in L.A. this week served as a reminder that the Lakers still resonate with the up-and-coming generation of players. They also have the financial means to go into the luxury tax to assemble and maintain their roster.
No other team with high draft picks has that fallback. They all need their picks in this deeper-than-normal draft to click if they’re going to have success.
The Lakers’ fan base wouldn’t freak out if they picked Embiid. While O’Neal had that problematic big toe and Gasol has dealt with plantar fasciitis, the Lakers don’t have the star-crossed injury history of say, Portland, with its litany of limping big men from Bill Walton to Sam Bowie to Greg Oden that would immediately make Laker fans fear for the worst.
Actually, Walton’s Portland years — one great season, four injury-plagued ones — would be more than enough for the Lakers from the No. 7 spot. Walton played more than 58 games in a season only once for the Trail Blazers, but that once was enough to get him a Most Valuable Player award, a championship and a cherished spot in the hearts of all Blazers fans. That might be more than Embiid fulfilling his potential, Bryant returning to 80 percent of his capacity and a key free agent could accomplish for the Lakers … but at least Embiid could entice with possibilities.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Grizzlies working on an extension for Zach Randolph … The Nets are targeting Jarrett Jack in a potential trade for Marcus Thornton … This is a pivotal offseason for plenty of teams around the league, not just the Heat, Knicks and Lakers … As always, Draft night is a huge night for Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder …