NEWS OF THE MORNING
Reports: James’ agent meets with other teams | Reports: Anthony promised max offers from Lakers, Knicks | Reports: Riley, Heat interested in Pau, others | Report: Bosh next on Rockets’ wish list | Report: Hawks make early pitch to Deng
No. 1: Report: Finalists could emerge to interview James; Aldridge: Multiple teams already met with LeBron’s reps — Two of the biggest fish left in the NBA free agency pond — LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony — are starting to get their moment in the sun. For James, it seems he and his agent are trying to turn the heat up on Miami boss Pat Riley. Our David Aldridge reports that James’ agent met with at least four teams last week not named the Miami Heat. That news was originally broken by ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski similarly reports that if Riley can’t bring a strong cast into Miami soon, there may be final interviews with potential non-Heat suitors for LeBron next week. Here’s more from Wojnarowski on that story:
After conducting meetings with three NBA teams interested in pursuing free-agent star LeBron James, his agent suggested to owners and executives present that a failure of Miami president Pat Riley to rapidly recruit a strong supporting cast could bring finalists back to meet with James himself next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Rich Paul, the agent for James, invited three teams – Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix – to the offices of his Klutch Sports headquarters to listen to pitches.
The meetings took place on Wednesday and Thursday, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Some executives believe there’s an opportunity because of a disconnect between James and his teammates, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Another executive attending the meeting flatly said, “I think it’s a smokescreen.”
James has maintained a desire to take a full max contract with a starting salary of $20.7 million, sources said. Wade and Bosh are still reluctant to take severe cuts in their contracts, sources told Yahoo Sports, creating a financial disconnect among the three.
“There’s clearly a breakdown in communication between LeBron and [Wade and Bosh],” one executive who participated in the meetings over the past two days told Yahoo Sports. “[James is] giving Riley time to go get players for them but if that doesn’t happen in the next few days … LeBron seems ready to explore the market.”
And here’s Aldridge on how the move by LeBron’s agent is affecting the other moves in free agency:
Where the information came from is not the issue. The message is. And it is clear to anyone who’s been paying attention: Riles, you’re really on the clock.
For weeks, the operating principle throughout the league was that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were acting in concert. Perhaps not literally, but certainly, each had an idea of what the other was planning to do. Why would Wade walk away from a guaranteed $41.5 million over the next couple of years if he didn’t know James was returning to Miami? Why would Bosh indicate a willingness to take a pay cut if he wasn’t certain he’d be playing with the other SuperFriends for the next few seasons?
Now, suddenly, we are told that Wade and Bosh have no idea what James is going to do, and that Paul is lining up alternatives for his client. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that three finalists could be brought back to Cleveland, where Paul met in person with the Cavs, Mavericks and Suns this week, early next week. Nowhere, now, is there reassuring talk that James will return to the Heat.
That will surely get Riles’ attention.
Miami’s hopes of adding a centerpiece “Big Fourth” free agent were always iffy, but as free agency has begun this week, the Heat have had to watch the likes of Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry go elsewhere, in part, because Miami just couldn’t commit enough money to guys looking for their big career payday.
With Miami locked in below $10 million in cap room, it couldn’t make a realistic pitch to Gortat, who took $12 million a year from Washington to stay with the Wizards, or to Lowry, who took the same $12 million a year to stay in Toronto with the Raptors. And with other free agents that could help like Trevor Ariza also looking for big raises, the Heat will continue to be strapped to find an accomplished veteran to take their offers, whatever they may be.
So Miami is concentrating on getting commitments from shooters like Anthony Morrow and Marvin Williams. But they’re not going to come cheap, either, no matter their desire to play for a contender (assuming the Big Three re-sign there). And Riles has to find players as he cocks an ear to the Midwest, and a city he thought his superstar player had left in mind and body, but which is still there, likely a stalking horse, to be sure, but one that must be taken seriously, its revenge/reunion fantasies still intact and getting oxygen as we speak. Or, write.
No. 2: Reports: ‘Melo promised max offer by Lakers, gets max offer from Knicks in L.A. — There’s so much going on with Carmelo Anthony right now, it’s hard to keep it all straight. First, Anthony met with the L.A. Lakers yesterday for roughly 2 1/2 to 3 hours (Kobe Bryant was supposed to be there, but he missed the meeting) and by the end of the get together had a promise from L.A. of a max contract if he picks them.
Then, almost immediately after that, came a meeting with Anthony’s incumbent team — the New York Knicks. Team officials flew across the country to talk with their star and ended up offering him a max deal as well.
Some other points to throw in the mix? Hours before Carmelo met with the Knicks, he reached out to try to obtain Pau Gasol‘s number to see about the free-agent big man joining him in New York, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. When Anthony was meeting with the Lakers, the team trotted out a four-minute movie of his life produced by Joel Silver (he also produced “The Matrix”, “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard” movies) that was voiced over by Tobey Maguire (known for playing “Spider-Man” in the early 2000s movie franchise), writes Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
So, back to the facts with Anthony’s chats with the Lakers and Knicks. First up are Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who break down how Carmelo’s meeting with the Lakers’ brass went:
Free agent Carmelo Anthony met with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday and heard their pitch as to why he is the right man to become the next face of the franchise.The Lakers also made it clear to Anthony they’d offer him a maximum four-year, $95 million contract if he chose to sign with them, according to sources.
Anthony arrived at the team’s practice facility shortly after 3 p.m. ET, and departed just before 6 p.m.
A person who was in the Lakers’ pitch said they thought it went “really well” and added, “I don’t know how big of a shot we have, but I think we have a shot.”
Another Lakers source described Anthony as “extremely attentive” throughout the meeting.
Following the meeting, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was flying to Cleveland in order to meet Friday with LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, according to a source.
While Anthony was told that a max offer would be his for the taking if he wanted it, the Lakers also discussed scenarios in which he and James could both come to the Lakers and how much money each would earn in doing so, a league source said.
The Lakers’ presentation was led by team president Jeanie Buss, executive vice president of player personnel (and Jeanie’s brother) Jim Buss and Kupchak. It also included Lakers chief operating officer Tim Harris and executives from Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Lakers’ television network, and representatives from AEG.
As for Anthony’s meeting with the Knicks? We’ll let the New York Post‘s Marc Berman read the tea leaves on what the Knicks’ meeting in L.A. meant for Anthony’s future:
During their final meeting in Los Angeles, Knicks president Phil Jackson told Anthony he will give him the maximum contract of five years, $129 million, which would blow the competition out of the water. Anthony didn’t give Jackson a commitment, nor has he decided whether he will take the small paycut the Knicks would prefer.
A league source told The Post a decision should come over the weekend. Jackson has said giving out max contracts puts “limitations’’ on a club trying to build a title winner, but he showed he can’t afford to lose his cornerstone player for whom the Knicks traded the farm during the 2010-11 season.
Jackson flew into L.A. with coach Derek Fisher and president Steve Mills to meet with Anthony one last time following the Lakers’ 2 ½-hour presentation at their practice facility. Knicks owner James Dolan was not part of the Knicks meeting with Anthony.
That Anthony and the Knicks wanted yet another meeting seemed to underscore the team’s favorite status. Anthony did not have the Knicks brass fly to L.A. to tell them to work out a sign-and-trade with the salary-cap-hindered Bulls, who brought up a scenario in which the team could give him $16 million per for four years. The best offer the Bulls could make — and keep Taj Gibson — is four years, $72.6 million.
Anthony is trying to speak with free agent Pau Gasol about playing together in New York — not L.A. The Knicks have only their $3.3 million mini mid-level exception to offer Gasol, who made $19 million last season. But Gasol’s good friend/countryman Jose Calderon is now a Knick and it could set up the opportunity to play in New York with his brother, center Marc Gasol, a free agent in 2015.
Just as importantly, it shows Anthony still wants to make it work in New York despite their 37-45 season.
No. 3: Reports: Riley, Heat to chat with Gasol, others — ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Shelburne reported early this morning that the Miami Heat plan to chat with Gasol in Los Angeles to gauge his interest in moving to Florida. But as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel points out, Heat boss Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra are basically holing up out West for a while, where they’ll make pitches to several other free-agent targets. As our David Aldridge points out, the Oklahoma City Thunder remain very much in the mix for Gasol, too:
Western exposure has provided clarity for Miami Heat President Pat Riley when it has come to personnel moves. The hope within the organization is such will be the view again. Riley on Thursday headed to Los Angeles, where the Heat are expected to take a more aggressive approach to NBA free agency.
Now, with Washington Wizards swingman Trevor Ariza and Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, two of the more attractive free agents remaining on the market, taking meetings in South California, Riley has reached a critical state in his team’s makeover.
That had Riley working alongside coach Erik Spoelstra on Thursday seeking upgrades, amid multiple media reports of LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, having met this week with teams interested in adding James as a free agent.
Gasol has been courted by several contenders hoping to lure him below his maximum market value.
Working with smaller pieces appears to be a Heat consideration, having been in contact with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha before he signed Thursday with the Atlanta Hawks, and having expressed interest in New Orleans Pelicans shooting specialist Anthony Morrow, Utah Jazz forward Marvin Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Caron Butler and Dallas Mavericks guard Vince Carter.
A source close to the situation told the Sun Sentinel that the Heat never got to the point of making an offer to either Kyle Lowry or Marcin Gortat, another indication of the Heat’s preference for a depth of incoming talent to support James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
The Heat continue to operate under the belief that James, Bosh and Wade all will return, basing their salary-cap math in free agency on such an outcome.
No. 4: Report: Rockets may make push for Bosh — As you can read above, the Lakers and Knicks have made the intentions known to Anthony in terms of contract offers. The Houston Rockets are still in the mix, too, but they have a clear Plan B should Anthony spurn them for L.A., New York or even the Chicago Bulls. Marc Stein of ESPN.com has more on how Houston will make a push for native Texan Chris Bosh should ‘Melo move somewhere else:
The Houston Rockets, if they fail to land free agent Carmelo Anthony, plan to shift their attention to trying to swipe Chris Bosh from the Miami Heat, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday night that the Rockets — while still holding out hope that Anthony will choose them after hosting him Wednesday in Houston — have already let Bosh know how interested they are in bringing the Dallas native back to Texas.
But sources say the Rockets are determined to test Bosh’s resolve in the event Anthony elects to return to the New York Knicks or chooses one of his other three primary suitors this week: the Chicago Bulls, the Dallas Mavericks or the Los Angeles Lakers.
Houston needs a big forward with 3-point range such as Bosh in its search for the ideal frontcourt sidekick to All-Star center Dwight Howard. Sources say Bosh and Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki likely would have been at the top of the Rockets’ list of free-agent targets had Houston believed it had a shot at either player.
Nowitzki committed Thursday to staying with the only team he has ever known for three more seasons, rebuffing Houston’s attempts to recruit him, but the sudden uncertainty in Miami might give the Rockets an unexpected shot to try to tempt Bosh.
The Rockets have maintained for weeks that they could move the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to create enough salary-cap space to sign a high-priced free agent if they could get a commitment from one of the top names.
No. 5: Report: Hawks make pitch for Deng — While the NBA was abuzz yesterday over Anthony’s visit to Los Angeles, the Atlanta Hawks quietly picked up a solid player (Thabo Sefolosha) on a salary cap-friendly deal. They could be in the market for another such player, writes Sam Amick of USA Today, as they reportedly have interest in former Cavs standout Luol Deng:
While free agent small forward Luol Deng isn’t expected to visit with interested teams until next week, the Atlanta Hawks appear to be making an early pitch.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Deng was expected to speak with Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer about the possible partnership on Thursday night. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
The Hawks are slated to have about $11.5 million in salary cap room once the free agency moratorium lifts on July 10. Their recent agreement with former Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha on a four-year, $12 million deal appears to have helped their efforts to land Deng. The two players were together with the Chicago Bulls from 2006 to 2009 and had a very good relationship.
A sign-and-trade for Deng that would send him to the Los Angeles Clippers also has been discussed, although it appears the Clippers’ steep asking price on a possible return is likely too high. The Miami Heat also have serious interest, but if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ultimately re-sign, it remains to be seen if they will be willing to pay what it might take to add Deng. He could be a possibility if James signs elsewhere as well.
The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Bulls also have interest, though it appears the Bulls are the longshot candidate in the group.
SOME RANDOM NEWS: Free-agent forward Deng may be intrigued by a move to the Clippers … The Heat might make a serious push to pick up sharpshooter Anthony Morrow … Nuggets draft pick Jusuf Nurkic unlikely to sign with the team this season … The Raptors have had preliminary conversations with their own free-agent big man Patrick Patterson … The Blazers and Chris Kaman have agreed to a two-year deal.