No. 1: Lakers busy as free agency begins — If you missed it yesterday, go give David Aldridge‘s Morning Tip a read when you have time. In it, he expertly spells out 11 deals that should happen in free agency, including several for the cap room-boasting Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. didn’t waste any time once free agency opened at midnight Tuesday, talking with their own free agent (Pau Gas0l) as well making plans to chat with several other heavy hitters (hello, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony), too. Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com have more here:
The Los Angeles Lakers will meet with free agent forward Carmelo Anthony Thursday in Los Angeles, sources told ESPN.
Anthony and his representatives were one of the Lakers’ first calls Monday night as free agency officially opened at 9:01 p.m. local time. They also placed a call to the agent for Miami forward LeBron James and their own free agent center Pau Gasol within the first hour of the negotiating period.
The Lakers’ top priority is trying to convince both James and Anthony to leave their respective teams and join together in L.A.
Unlike last summer when the Lakers kicked off free agency with GM Mitch Kupchak greeting Dwight Howard at a Beverly Hills hotel, Gasol did not have a face-to-face meeting with the team he spent the last 7 ½ seasons with, nor with representatives for any other suitors. Gasol simply took calls from interested teams Monday night from an office in Los Angeles.
ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported the Lakers’ interest in Chris Bosh, but it is believed that the Lakers’ ties to Bosh, much like their designs on winning over James, will have to lay dormant until Miami’s Big Three – along with Dwyane Wade – mutually decide what their fate will be with the Heat.
Kupchak also contacted free agent forwards Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza and point guard Kyle Lowry on Monday night, according to sources.
Sources indicated that the Lakers also contacted representatives for Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas – all of whom are restricted free agents.
And as for that long list of players who suffered through the Lakers’ 27-55 season as players on the team last year and are now hitting the free agency marketplace, the Lakers reached out to about half of them on Monday, including representatives for Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and Kent Bazemore.
No. 2: Durant opens up on MVP, OKC’s playoff run — The 2013-14 season was a magical one for Kevin Durant as the claimed his first MVP (and delivered one of the most iconic MVP speeches in NBA history). That moment, along with OKC’s playoff run, highlighted a solid season for the Thunder. But Durant, in an interview with our Lang Whitaker, says he was ‘a little bitter’ during the San Antonio Spurs’ run to the 2014 championship as he looks back on last season. Take a look at the whole interview below:
No. 3: Blazers’ Lillard makes own short list of free-agent targets — The Portland Trail Blazers improved their regular-season win total by 23 last season, thanks in large part to an All-Star season from point guard Damian Lillard. While Lillard (and fellow All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge) drove Portland’s rise, what became evident in the playoffs is its bench is still a bit thin. That fact hasn’t been lost on Lillard, who has his own wish list of sorts for free agency, writes Chris Haynes of CSNNorthwest.com:
The Trail Blazers only have the midlevel exception and the biannual exception at their disposal this summer with at most, two roster spots available. It is important that they be pragmatic in whom they pursue, so not to waste any precious time. Time is of the essence.
Sunday night when CSNNW.com asked All-Star point guard Damian Lillard if there are any free agents of his preference, first and foremost, he went with his dynamic backup.
“Yeah…Mo Williams,” Lillard responded in a text.
After last season, Williams said he is seeking a three-year deal and it remains to be seen if that will be problematic.
GM Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts are huge fans of Williams and recognize the value he provides, so there’s favor in that regard.
But there’s other needs the team must address. When pressed for other players he’d like the team to bring in or at least look at, Lillard sent a response text that included four names.
“Channing Frye, Vince Carter, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza,” read Lillard’s text in that order.
Carter is “open” to the idea of coming to Portland and helping boost the bench up, we’re told by someone close to the veteran guard. Dallas is the clear frontrunner, but his mind is nowhere near made up.
Ariza is a long shot being that he’s still starting-quality. Hawes could work considering he’s a Pacific Northwest native. Rumors have linked him to the Trial Blazers the last couple of years.
No. 4: Bradley wants to stay with Celts — Over the past few seasons, the Boston Celtics have watched as guard Avery Bradley has matured into one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. As Bradley enters free agency, he hopes to continue his growth with the only NBA team he’s ever known. Bradley got a qualifying offer from Boston yesterday and, during his basketball camp at UMass-Boston, told ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg of his hopes of staying put:
On the eve of restricted free agency, Avery Bradley reaffirmed a desire to be back with the Celtics, but said his offseason focus remains on simply improving as a player and letting his future take care of itself.
“I haven’t been worried about [free agency],” said Bradley, wearing a Celtics cap and colors as he instructed campers on the final day of his Avery Bradley Skills academy at UMass-Boston. “I’ve been worried about getting better. I try not to think about anything I can’t control. All I can do is continue to try to get better every single day, and I know everything else will work out.”
Asked about talks with Boston, Bradley added, “We really haven’t [spoke about] any numbers or anything. Obviously, I want to be here. And I let those guys know that. When the time comes, we’ll just see what happens, and see if we come to an agreement.”
After four seasons, Bradley went out of his way to stress a desire to be in Boston moving forward, and that sentiment was echoed later Monday by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“Avery is a big part of our future,” said Ainge, who would like to see a deep guard rotation with the likes of Bradley, rookie Marcus Smart and Rajon Rondo.
Bradley didn’t read too much into the fact that the Celtics utilized their two first-round picks to select players that have some overlap with his position in Smart and swingman James Young.
“You can’t really worry about that,” said Bradley, who offered high praise for Smart and his on-court toughness. “Whoever is on the team, the coaches and the management, they’ll make sure they we all work together. I try not to worry about that; all I can do is worry about how hard I can play, and whatever team I am on — and hopefully it’s the Celtics — just what I can bring to that team, however I can help my teammates. That’s my only focus.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pacers plan to talk with ex-Cavs sharpshooter C.J. Miles … The Pistons, Hornets and Pacers could be hot on the trail of recently waived Magic point guard Jameer Nelson … Should Al Jefferson take on the role of recruiter for the Hornets this summer? … The Pistons waived Chauncey Billups yesterday. What’s next for him? … The Timberwolves plan to take their time before jumping into the free-agent waters …