Another big bang of free agents on tap

LeBron James has chosen to test the free-agent market this summer. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

LeBron James has chosen to test the free-agent market this summer. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Most scientists believe it was roughly 14 billion years ago when a single point exploded to create the universe. Of course, it was a more thoroughly documented Big Bang four years ago that blew a hole in the NBA space/time continuum, sending the celestial bodies of LeBron James and Chris Bosh south to join Dwyane Wade in Miami.

Two championships and four Finals trips for the Heat later, the potential for another explosion is on us.

Carmelo Anthony’s declaration that he will opt out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks was the first stick of dynamite ahead of the July 1 start of the annual free-agent scramble. Then, Tuesday, LeBron told the Miami Heat that he was going to test the waters, too.

You can feel the ground quiver as the movers and the shakers in the league start to do their thing …

Who has the space?

There are a lot of big-name free agents on the market — or there will be July 1. But the number of teams who have enough space under the salary cap that would enable them to sign some of those big-money players … well, that’s a lot smaller. Here’s a list:

Miami Heat: Up to $55 million, assuming virtually everyone opts out of contracts.
Dallas Mavericks: Up to $32.4 million
Utah Jazz: Up to $29.6 million
Philadelphia 76ers: Up to $29.0 million.
Phoenix Suns: Up to $28.4 million.
L.A. Lakers: Up to $28.2 million.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Up to $23.4 million.
Orlando Magic: Up to $22.2 million.
Detroit Pistons: Up to $22.0 million.
Charlotte Hornets: Up to $19.5 million.
Atlanta Hawks: Up to $13.9 million.
Milwaukee Bucks: Up to $13.0 million.
Memphis Grizzlies: Up to $12.0 million, if Zach Randolph opts out of his final year.
Chicago Bulls: Up to $11.3 million if they use their one-time amnesty on Carlos Boozer.
Boston Celtics: Up to $9.3 million.

Many other teams could clear salary space, though they’d have to make trades. Among that group:

Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets
Golden State Warriors
Houston Rockets
Indiana Pacers
L.A. Clippers
Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail Blazers

The first domino

It’s the old riddle about the spot where a seven-ton elephant sits. (Anyplace he wants.) No matter what photos are posted by his wife on Instagram or what the leaves at the bottom of a teacup say, the only one who has a real clue about where the game’s best player will call home next season is LeBron himself. And with The Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs still fresh, he is likely not sure yet.

Step 1 was LeBron making the decision to opt out of his contract, which was really no surprise. It doesn’t mean he’s leaning one way or another. It does give Heat president Pat Riley the first bit of breathing room — and applies the pressure — to retool the Heat.

If he stays in Miami, James would be choosing the heavy lift of putting the derailed championship run of the Heat back on the tracks. Many other suitors seemingly given him an easier way of adding to his jewelry collection. The Rockets surprised many in the relentless pursuit of the top free-agent prize a year ago and successfully landed Dwight Howard. Though he and James Harden are not the most perfectly-fitting puzzle pieces, just in terms of raw talent the Rockets would seem to provide James with the most immediate springboard back into title contention. General manager Daryl Morey would have to move the contracts of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, but he’ll get that done if James gives him the nod.

If it’s just Texas that LeBron wants to call home, the Mavericks could have the salary cap space to sign him outright to play along Dirk Nowitzki.

There’s also talk about him in Chicago, with Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose. Some have speculated a trip West to join buddy Chris Paul and coach Doc Rivers with the Clippers might be a possibility.

Or, if James really wants a challenge, he could go back to Cleveland to rejoin a team that has young talent, but plenty of holes.

Breaking up The Heatles

Many are still banking that James will simply stay put in Miami where, it should be pointed out, he can get an extra year on a contract and more money than anywhere else (a reported five years and $114 million). But at last glimpse, the Heat were worn out, beaten down and thoroughly befuddled by the Spurs’ play in The Finals. As they walked off the court that night in San Antonio, it hardly looked like James, Wade and Bosh were going to be able to reach that promise of “not one, not two, not three, not four…” championships.

Still, Riley made his pitch to the Big Three’s pride — and his own self-interest — saying that it takes more character to stay and pick up the pieces. But can the Heat make the needed upgrade at point guard — Kyle Lowry? Patty Mills? — and sign another forward they so desperately need to make another run in the Leastern Conference? Could Riley pull another rabbit out of his hat and convince all three of his current stars AND Anthony to form a Fantastic Four?

It would seem to a longshot. But if 2010 taught anything at all, it’s that Riley is never to be dismissed.

VIDEO: Carmelo decides to test free-agent waters

Whither Carmelo?

If Anthony signs somewhere else, he (like any free agent who leaves his current team) can sign for only four years. That’s the built in advantage for every current team in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the case of Anthony, that’s a difference between $129.1 million (for signing with the Knicks) and $95.9 million (for going elsewhere).

Still, it was a foregone conclusion that Anthony would opt out and see what he could get on the open market, something he missed out on four years ago when he forced a trade from Denver to get to New York. Some thought the arrival of Phil Jackson in the front office would help convince Anthony to stay. But the Zen Master brought only his 11 championship rings along with him, not any All-Star talent. Which has Anthony at least considering playing elsewhere for less money.

The Bulls and Rockets both seem ready to make the biggest push to land the perennial All-Star. Assuming Rose returns healthy, the addition of Anthony to a lineup with Noah and coached by Tom Thibodeau just might vault Chicago to the top of the Eastern Conference. It’s a tougher row to hoe in the Western Conference. Rockets coach Kevin McHale would have his hands full coming up with an offense that could keep ‘Melo — and everyone else in Houston — happy. Still, making Anthony a third star along with Howard and Harden would rival what Miami did in 2010 for glamour and give the Rockets firepower.

Then again, ‘Melo could take his talents to South Beach. That’s been rumored, too.

Same old Spurs

Did anybody really watch the joy with which the Spurs shared the ball during their playoff run, and see the smiles in the afterglow of the fifth championship in franchise history, and think they were not going to keep the era of good feeling alive for at least one more year? Tim Duncan made it official on Monday, announcing he would be re-joining Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich  for a chance to go back-to-back. The Big Three all have contracts that run through the 2014-15 season.

The Spurs do have other business. Probably first on the list is re-signing free agent Boris Diaw, who was such a critical element in the middle of the lineup with his passing and defense. Australian point guard Patty Mills is also an unrestricted free agent and could get a big offer from another team based on his playoff run.

Would he turn his back on the team that finally gave him a chance to play in the NBA for a bundle of cash? Would he even jump across The Finals aisle to the Heat, who badly need a point guard?

Remember the Lakers?

Wondering what happened to the glitz, the glamour, the excitement that used to surround the Lakers? Well, it went down the hall of Staples Center to the Clippers. Now what’s left are a bunch of purple and gold question marks. With Nick Young opting out of his contract, only Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and possibly Kendall Marshall are under contract for next season. The Lakers do have the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft, which could be paired with a contract or two as a means of replenishing the talent level more quickly. The Lakers have an urgent need to return to relevance quickly as Bryant’s career nears a finish. They have no coach and, it seems, no firm plan. The Lakers were rumored to be trying to find their way onto the edges of the Kevin Love dealing with the Timberwolves. Would one of the biggest names of the big free agents — LeBron, Carmelo — even consider throwing in with Kobe? It is one of the summer’s great conundrums.


  1. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but good topic.

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  2. imissthethunder says:

    The fakers are a joke. And so is the Leastern Conference. Lebron James will never play in the West. Forget about it. He wants to be the King of the Castle.

  3. if lebron goes to the sixers he can have the roy point guard and thad nerlenes and exum with like 10 mil they can get another great guy like paul pierce off the bench!

  4. Defdun says:

    Easy on LeBron guys – he hasn’t decided/communicated anything yet. He just hates to lose which is why he had to leave CLE. All he had was Wade and Bosh to help him and a bunch of role players at the start. That’s similar to what Jordan had in Pippen and Grant/Kukoc/Rodman. Every dynasty team has had 3 stars – and mind you Chris Bosh was not a top 20 player!

    Ultimately LeBron will stay in Miami and force a much needed upgrade
    – at point guard (MJ had better PGs in Paxson, BJ Armstrong, Harper, Kerr)
    – at Center if Chris Anderson leaves
    – at “shooter” if Ray Allen retires

  5. Carlo says:

    Oh, man! Enough of this “loyalty-at-any-cost” bulls…!
    Players play for two reasons: a) money, and/or b) championship.
    If you are in a team which already is giving you a pay cut and doesn’t show the potential for extra wins, then… go away!
    Duncan/Parker/Ginobili stayed in SA because they felt that organization fitted their playstyle the best AND gave them the most opportunities (proof: 50+ wins plus PO’s each year).
    LBJ rightly left CLE ’cause he knew he’d never win there. Hey, Cavs’ fans, did you see how your teams FO manages the team and how able they are in dealing with coaches and picks? If you were LBJ, you HONESTLY had stayed there?

    Now, LBJ announced his optin’ out 1 week in advance than the 6/30 mandatory deadline. This gives all teams (including Miami) the time to work out solutions to keep/grab him. It also gives him a bit more time to evaluate those solutions. So, it’s a everybody-wins move.
    Now, the ball is on to Bosh/Wade. They are the “weak spot”. If they opt out too and accept a further pay cut to allow for hiring much needed personnel, this could convince LBJ that Miami still has a future.
    If they stay put (Wade to earn big money despite his decline) or opt out (Bosh) to exploit other offers, than LBJ will rightly conclude he’d better take his talents somewhere else.
    Not easy (despite what all misinformed fans think), because of salary cap restrictions and other problems.
    In my opinion, Houston could be the right fit for them. They have a good point guard (Lin) and a good center (Asik) they want to get rid of and that’s exactly what Miami needs. They could even suggest a sign-and-trade to Miami: Heat re-sign LBJ at an agreed sum, then trade him for Lin+Asik(+maybe something else).
    Doing so, Houston would have a championship team and Miami would have a much more balanced team than the current one-man-band. And we all know (and saw) how a well balanced team has more chances than a one-superman-plus-a-bunch-of-nono’s.

  6. LiamSo says:

    Kobe Bryant 5-2
    Tim Duncan 5-1
    Michael Jordan 6-0
    Magic Johnson 5-4
    Larry Bird 3-2
    Kareem Abdul Jabbar 6-5
    Bill Russell 11-2

    Lebron James 2-3

    One of these is not like the others

  7. Adam says:

    The truth hurts NSUK. Just because you don’t like my comment doesn’t make me a hater. Lebron fans better come up with an intelligent comeback than just call someone a hater because of his comments. Lame like James.

  8. Adam says:

    Lebron looking for a short cut again? Let me guess, he’ll come out of TV again and say “I will take my talents to…” When he left Cavs, his fans he didn’t have enough support. Now, he’s got Wade and Bosh in Miami and he still needs help? How many more superstars do you need now Lebron? Not one, not two, not three, but EVEN MORE! And to think your fans say Kobe would not win a ring if not for Shaq or Gasol, just one superstar support. Now, Lebron’s asking for more superstars? Oh i forgot, you’re suppose to eclipse Jordan as the best NBA player ever. Not! Whatta joke this guy is.

    • NSUK says:

      for threse past few days, you have been a joke ADAM, way to go hater, nothing else to do? Just go ahead and watch the world cup! seems like you could only be a kobetard or a hopeless fan of the 80’s nba, give it up and get a life!

      • Alvin says:

        If jumping from one team to another is the only way to win champion in this era of NBA, I would definitely take the 80’s and 90’s era, when you can see great players with character. Even though Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Malone and many others did not win a ring, they are respected and remembered as great players. Lebron? A good player who claims he can win “not one, not two, not three” championships? can win Slam Dunk but dare not take part? that he is the top 5 NBA player in history? yet can only win championship by surrounding himself with all stars?
        Thank god there is still a team like Spurs to show the young fans what is basketball.