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NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Field of Anthony suitors gets deep — New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony officially opted out of his contract yesterday, making him the No. 1 unrestricted free-agent target this summer. As such, he’ll get plenty of calls from the teams many expect to pursue him … and a lot more that might surprise you to be among the fray, too. According to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, no less than seven teams are expected to chase Anthony, although who will talk to him first and when remains unknown:
Carmelo Anthony has yet to publicly reveal the process by which he plans to entertain other teams in free agency now that he has opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks, but the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams that expect to have the opportunity to make their pitch to him starting July 1, according to sources close to the situation.
Teams can’t formally contact free agents until 12:01 a.m. ET July 1, but sources told ESPN.com that the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat are two more teams that could join the race for Anthony, depending on how things play out before, during and after Thursday’s NBA draft.
The Bulls are widely regarded as the early favorite to steal Anthony from the Knicks, with sources saying Monday that Chicago has been quietly planning for this free-agent pursuit for months, going back to the January trade of Luol Deng to Cleveland. Sources say every move Chicago made during the season’s second half — including the seemingly minor signings of veterans Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amundson and Mike James to very tradeable contracts — was made with the hope they might be helpful in a potential sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony.
Sources say the Rockets, meanwhile, have begun working on trade exits for center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin to clear enough space under the salary cap to make a representative offer to Anthony.
The Lakers are in the advantageous position of having enough room under the salary cap to make a maximum offer to Anthony without having to clear any salary, but it is believed Anthony would want them to strengthen their roster before he would seriously consider a move to L.A. Sources say the Lakers, to that end, have been exploring their options with the No. 7 pick in Thursday’s draft and have told teams they are prepared to package the pick with the expiring contract of Steve Nash (owed $9.7 million next season) for the right offer.
ESPNDallas.com reported Sunday that the Mavericks, armed with plenty of cap space themselves, likewise expect to be granted a face-to-face sit-down with Anthony.
Earlier this month, ESPN.com reported the Heat had begun internal discussions about pursuing the former scoring champion to try to grow their Big Three into a Big Four, but the Heat could pursue Anthony only if LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade opt out of their current deals later this week and are willing to take less money to re-sign and play alongside Anthony.
The Hawks would have to clear approximately $10 million to $12 million in salary-cap space to pursue Anthony, but sources indicate that is one of the many options Atlanta is considering, making it a sleeper team to watch.
No. 2: Report: Scott favorite for Lakers’ vacancy — The Los Angeles Lakers have just three players — Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre — under contract for next season. That makes the roster a work in progress for the most part … kind of like the situation with their coaching staff. The team has interviewed several candidates since Mike D’Antoni resigned as coach, but no clear frontrunner has emerged — until now. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, former Lakers legend Byron Scott is the favorite to land the vacancy on L.A.’s bench:
While the Lakers remain focused on Thursday’s draft and the start of free agency July 1, sources tell ESPN.com that former Lakers star Byron Scott has emerged as the leading candidate for the head-coaching job after impressing in three interviews with the team.
Talks with the former Nets and Cavaliers coach have not progressed to the contract stage, as the Lakers continue to weigh whether to hold off on hiring a coach before they make their pitches to free agents.
The possibility of soliciting opinions of free agents before making a hire is a large part of the reason the Lakers have taken such a deliberate approach to their coaching search since Mike D’Antoni resigned after the season.
Scott, former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, former Suns coach Alvin Gentry and former Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy have had formal interviews with general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss.
No. 3: Kings’ Thomas discusses his on-court rise, free agency — Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas has come a long way since being the last man picked in the 2012 Draft. Last season, he entrenched himself as the team’s starter, beating out the since-departed Rookie of the Year winner Tyreke Evans and several others along the way to take that perch. He enters this summer as a free agent and is one player the youthful Kings would no doubt like to keep. In an conversation with BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy, Thomas talked about his career, free agency and his mentor in the free agency process, Clippers guard Jamal Crawford:
Now, after his breakout season, Thomas is entering one of the most important summers of his life. Once the Kings extend a $2,875,131 qualifying offer to him, he’ll become a restricted free agent who is free to meet with other franchises. The Kings can match any offer that he receives, but it will be his first time being able to meet with his teams and explore their offers. The 25-year-old isn’t sure what will happen when he hits the free agency market, but he’s ready for the process.
“I’m just going to approach it with an open mind because I don’t really know what to expect,” Thomas said of free agency. “I’ve never done it and never been a part of it. I’m just going to go in with an open mind. I’ve done the best I could possibly do and I’ve controlled what I can control and that’s by going out there and giving it my all and leaving it on the floor. The rest is in God’s hands. It’s up in the air and I know everything happens for a reason. I’m going to be alright.”
Thomas admits that he reads all of the latest NBA rumors and reports on websites like Basketball Insiders and HoopsHype, but he tries not to focus on them too much
“I read the stuff, but it doesn’t bother me because I know the business of basketball,” Thomas said. “I know one guy can say one thing and it’s not even true and it’s around the whole United States; that’s just how it is. That’s why they’re called rumors. I definitely do read it because I like to stay in the loop, but they don’t bother me.”
One team that could be an intriguing option for Thomas is the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. has just three players under contract for next season (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre), and plenty of cap space to be active in free agency. It’s well-documented that Thomas grew up a diehard fan of the Lakers since his father is from Los Angeles, and he has idolized Bryant since he was a child. When asked what it would mean to sign an offer sheet with the Lakers, Thomas admits that it would be special.
“It would mean a lot,” Thomas said of receiving an offer sheet from the Lakers. “Not even just the Lakers, but just to have other teams trying to get you, it means you’re wanted. Like I’ve said in interviews before, I just want to be wanted. I want to be wanted for being 5’9 and I want to be wanted for being a scoring point guard. That’s all that I can say. If that’s the Lakers, I’d be happy. If that’s the Kings, then I’d be happy. I just want to be wanted and I want to win.”
Crawford is confident that Thomas will be highly coveted this summer and continue to thrive in the NBA.
“Isaiah is someone who has earned everything; he’s never had anything given to him,” Crawford said. “People said he was too small or that he wouldn’t make it to the NBA or that he couldn’t be a young star in the NBA, but he has done it. He’s a guy who is constantly working and constantly asking questions to get better. He has everyone’s respect. I couldn’t be more proud of him, and I know the best is yet to come for him. He’s one of the best free agents on the market this summer.”
VIDEO:Kings.com counts down Isaiah Thomas’ top 10 plays from 2013-14
No. 4: Parker’s father denies talk of his son tanking workouts — Former Duke standout Jabari Parker is considered to be a top contender to be the No. 1 pick in Thursday night’s Draft. As we get closer and closer to the big night, reports about player workouts with teams start to emerge — some negative and some positive. One popular report circulating about Jabari Parker was that he tanked his workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team with the No. 1 overall pick, so that he could fall to the Milwaukee Bucks (which are closer to his hometown of Chicago). Parker’s father, Sonny, denied any talk of his son tanking workouts in an interview with Mike Helfgotof the Chicago Tribune:
Reports that Jabari Parker has gained weight and tanked his workout with the Cavaliers on Friday are not true, according to his father.
Sonny Parker called the persistent reports of Jabari’s weight gain “made up” and scoffed at an ESPN report that claimed Jabari purposely didn’t put his best foot forward for the Cavaliers because he hopes to play for the Bucks instead.
“He would never do that,” Sonny Parker, an NBA first-round draft pick himself in 1976, said. “His character is different. He plays the same way regardless. He is very thankful to be in this situation.
“I’m sure he likes certain teams over other teams, but whoever picks him, that’s where he’s going to go. When you’re picking a school, you can do that. Now he can’t control it. He has too much character and respect and love for the game to tank so they won’t pick him. That is not him.”
The ESPN report, which cited unnamed sources, also said Parker looked overweight.
There were similar anonymously sourced reports about Parker gaining weight last month, but he seemed to put those to rest during a workout for NBA scouts that can be seen on YouTube.
“I don’t know where they get this information from,” Sonny Parker said. “Did you see his body on the video? He is not overweight. He takes care of his body. He has always been a big kid. He is broad. But the only time he wasn’t in shape was when he got hurt.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: San Francisco Warriors? The Philadelphia 76ers with Ben Franklin? Could be some new logos on the NBA horizon … The Jazz might be trying to work a trade with the Cavs to land the No. 1 pick … Andrei Kirilenko has opted in to his deal with the Nets for 2014-15 … Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has become quite the social media star … One Dallas-area columnist thinks the Mavs should stay far, far away from signing Pau Gasol …