NEWS OF THE MORNING
Report: Heat’s Big Three not working in concert | Reports: Several suitors for Gasol | Report: Kobe returns to L.A. for ‘Melo meeting | Report: Clips, Nets talk deal for Pierce | Report: Bulls plan to amnesty Boozer
No. 1: Report: Heat’s Big Three might not all be working on deal together — Last week, the Heat’s superstar trio of free agents, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, held a meeting together over dinner in Miami. Although few details emerged from the meeting, the common notion being they talked about their future together in the city as a group. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reports, though, that Wade and Bosh are unsure of what James is planning next:
When the Miami Heat’s “Big 3″ went their separate ways after a lunch meeting last Wednesday, they went not knowing whether they had played their last game together, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
While Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were committed to returning to the Heat, LeBron James was unsure of what he would do, the sources said.
The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.
James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.
But sources who have spoken with two of the Big 3 said that was not the case. Bosh and Wade are intent on returning to Miami, but neither of them knows what James will do.
“It’s not a done deal,” said one source, when asked about James’ return to Miami. “That’s for sure.”
Bosh and Wade were so uncertain about James’s future after last week’s meeting that one of them spoke about what the Heat might look like without James, according to one source.
While both players expect to sign larger contracts overall, each is willing to take less money annually.
Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.
Those figures, combined with a max-level contract that would begin at $20.7 million for James, would not clear the cap room it would likely take to sign free-agent targets such as Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng and possibly Pau Gasol.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel gives Heat fans some hope, though, about LeBron returning … and it comes in the form of the Cavs having interest in Gordon Hayward:
With James yet to put himself in front of free-agent suitors, and with the Miami Heat more than at peace with the likelihood of James’ new contract starting at the 2014-15 NBA maximum of $20 million-plus, came word of the Cavs considering pouring their salary-cap space into an offer sheet for Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.
Such a gambit by Cleveland, which was reported by ESPN and other media outlets, would effectively tie up the Cavaliers’ cap space until at least July 13, with July 10 the first day free-agent contracts can be offered, and with teams receiving offer sheets having up to three days to match.
A source familiar with Cleveland’s offseason machinations, which have included an NBA-maximum contract extension to guard Kyrie Irving and the selection of Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft, Wednesday told the Sun Sentinel that it was his impression the Cavaliers have decided to move past a short-term reunion with James, who left Cleveland in July 2010 to sign with the Heat.
The same source, however, said it is possible that even if Cleveland obtains Hayward, it could eventually be through a sign-and-trade transaction that could have the Cavaliers’ cap space back in place.
The fact that Cleveland would be willing to consider tying up valuable cap space for an extended period is an indication of the league-wide sense that James is returning to the Heat, if even for a short-term contract that yet could have him back on the market next summer.
No. 2: Reports: Spurs, Thunder among suitors for Pau Gasol — Carmelo Anthony‘smeeting across the NBA map as well as the future of Miami’s Big Three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have dominated most of the discussion in free agency. But don’t overlook the widespread attention former L.A. Lakers’ star Pau Gasol is getting, too. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Thunder, Spurs, Knicks and Bulls are among the teams that either have or will reach out to the big man. And, of course, Gasol has had some chats of late with the Lakers, too:
The Oklahoma City Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook acting as lead recruiters, have unexpectedly emerged as a leading contender for the services of Los Angeles Lakers free-agent center Pau Gasol, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Durant and Westbrook made a face-to-face pitch Wednesday to Gasol in Los Angeles to join them in Oklahoma City despite the financial limitations the Thunder would face in signing him.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti also spoke Wednesday by phone to Gasol, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com, while sources say Memphis Grizzlies sharpshooter Mike Miller is also among the free agents Oklahoma City has pursued this week since the market opened Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. ET.
One source described Gasol as “opening up to the possibility” of joining forces with Durant and Westbrook even though Oklahoma City is limited to roughly $5 million in spending cash under the luxury-tax line at present.
Chicago Bulls officials, meanwhile, have scheduled a Thursday trip to Los Angeles to court Gasol, according to sources close to the process.
Sources added that the San Antonio Spurs, fresh off their fifth championship in franchise history, will also get legit consideration from Gasol if he decides he’s willing to play for a team with limited funds to spend on him. The Spurs, Thunder and New York Knicks are believed to be the only three such teams Gasol would consider joining in those circumstances.
The Lakers’ meeting Tuesday with Gasol, according to one source, “went very well.” Knicks president Phil Jackson and Heat president Pat Riley, sources said, are also among the big names to recruit Gasol via phone this week, while Chicago has long coveted the 7-footer.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times confirms the Bulls’ intense interest in Gasol as well:
In recruiting Anthony, the Bulls hoped the Knicks would be interested in a sign-and-trade for Boozer’s expiring contract, but they have been rebuffed several times. The Bulls are assuming they’ll have to acquire Anthony as a free agent, and they felt good about their position after meeting with him Tuesday in Chicago.
That doesn’t mean the Bulls aren’t being proactive.
They’re headed to Los Angeles for a meeting with Lakers free-agent big man Pau Gasol, not only as an alternate plan if Anthony re-signs with the Knicks — the only team Bulls officials think is a threat in the sweepstakes — but also to sell Gasol on the idea that they can fit him under the salary cap with Anthony, but they’d have to get creative.
And Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News spells out how Gasol might fit into the Spurs’ salary cap situation:
The Spurs currently have 11 players under contract for an estimated $58 million after agreeing with Patty Mills on a three-year deal that Stein pegged at around $12 million. First-round pick Kyle Anderson is slotted to make roughly $900,000. The 2014-15 salary cap is projected at $63 million, with a tax threshold of $77 million.
Barring some sort of sign-and-trade with the Lakers, Gasol would likely have to take the mid-level exception for little more than $5 million — a substantial pay cut from the $19.3 million he made last season, his seventh in Los Angeles and 13th overall.
It remains to be seen whether adding Gasol would preclude the Spurs from retaining free agent forward Boris Diaw, a key contributor to their recent championship.
No. 3: Report: Kobe returns to U.S. for Anthony’s meeting in L.A. – The Los Angeles Lakers have had serious interest in wooing Carmelo Anthony to California all summer … and now we know just how serious of interest they have. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, L.A. superstar Kobe Bryant his vacation early and flew home so he could be a part of the Lakers’ pitch to Anthony today:
UPDATE: 2:43 p.m.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant flew in late Wednesday night from a European vacation so he could attend and play a key part in the team’s pitch to free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony on Thursday, sources with knowledge of the situation said.
Bryant has a long history and friendship with Anthony and has been courting him for some time but felt it was important to be there when the Lakers made their pitch to him at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles.
The Lakers have made Anthony and fellow superstar free agent LeBron James the main focus of their offseason, going so far as to hold off hiring a coach and signing other free agents until they could make their pitches to the two players.
While they have called Rich Paul, James’ agent, and were hoping to meet with him soon, sources maintain James and Paul have yet to grant formal meetings to any teams.
Anthony is far from a consolation prize, however. Sources indicate the Lakers are enamored with his game and believe he would complement Bryant well. The Lakers hope to pair the two wings with center Pau Gasol, whom they met with on the first day of free agency.
The Bulls, Mavericks and Rockets all have made pitches to Anthony this week. The New York Knicks are expected to make the final pitch to him, according to ESPNNewYork.com.
No. 4: Report: Clips may try to reunite Pierce with Rivers — Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers have shared a bond ever since Rivers came aboard as the Boston Celtics’ coach in 2004-05. Together they helped Boston rise to an NBA title (in 2008) and led it on several lengthy playoff runs. But when that duo parted ways last summer — Rivers to L.A. as coach of the Clippers, Pierce (and Kevin Garnett) to Brooklyn in a trade — there was always a sense for some that the duo might reunite down the line somewhere. That may be coming to pass, perhaps, as ESPNLosAngles.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk report the Clips are interested in acquiring Pierce:
The Los Angeles Clippers have engaged in conversations with the Brooklyn Nets to try to construct a sign-and-trade that would reunite small forward Paul Pierce with Doc Rivers, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Rivers, the Clippers’ president and coach, has had several conversations with Pierce since he became a free agent July 1.
Because Brooklyn holds his Bird rights, a sign-and-trade also would allow Pierce — who made $15.3 million last season — to sign for more than the midlevel exception.
The Clippers likely would include some combination of Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and last year’s first-round pick, Reggie Bullock, according to sources. It’s possible a trade could expand to more teams as discussions progress.
Sources say that the Clippers’ pieces aren’t enough at the moment for the Nets, should Brooklyn opt to go the sign-and-trade route. While nothing is imminent, it’s possible a potential trade could expand to more teams as discussions progress.
No. 5: Report: Bulls will amnesty Boozer – Four summers ago, the Chicago Bulls had salary-cap space and ultimately ended up spending it on former Utah Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer. The relationship hasn’t worked out for either party and it seems the expected end to the Boozer-Bulls marriage is on the horizon. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Chicago has informed Boozer it will use the NBA’s amnesty provision to cut ties with him and his hefty contract:
Officially, the Bulls still have several weeks to decide if they want to invoke the amnesty provision for Carlos Boozer.
But they don’t need it.
A source said Wednesday that Boozer’s departure is a “done deal,” adding that Boozer’s camp already has been informed.
There haven’t been any takers on a sign-and-trade for Boozer, and the Bulls also want the money to go in a different direction, whether Carmelo Anthony is in the mix or not.
Under the amnesty provision, Boozer still will be paid the $16.8 million he’s due next season, but it won’t count against the salary cap.
SOME RANDOM NEWS: It appears both Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors are both getting what they wanted in Lowry’s new, agreed-to deal … A harbinger of things to come in Minnesota? Kevin Love won’t be a part of the Minnesota Twins’ annual celebrity softball game … All that talk yesterday about Gordon Hayward getting a max offer sheet from the Cavs? It might not be true … The Nets and Cavs might be talking about a Marcus Thornton-for-Jarrett Jack swap … Kurt Rambis may end up being Derek Fisher‘s lead assistant coach in New York … Reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford wants a contract extension next summer … Former All-Star Josh Howard is among the names on the New Orleans Pelicans’ Summer League roster