Steal of a deal? Bazemore has a shot

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

bazemore

Kent Bazemore opened eyes by averaging 13.1 points over a 23-game span. (NBAE via Getty Images)

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – As the world waits for the big fish to name their teams already, a few eye-popping (-rolling?) contracts have been agreed upon, such as Orlando eager to prop up Ben Gordon for a couple more seasons at $9.5 million, Detroit promising Jodie Meeks $19 million and Portland giving Chris Kaman a raise!

All three players have logged enough NBA service time that we know more or less what each brings. Maybe Gordon will magically adjust his attitude along with his 3-ball, and maybe Kaman mixes in a pass, but all-in-all there’s not a lot of unknowns here.

So what of an actual surprise, a virtual unknown out there who could become the steal of free agency?

The versatile, 6-foot-5, 201-pound Kent Bazemore always thinks he’s capable of making believers. He always has.

He went undrafted after four years at Old Dominion, where he won NCAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. In 2012, after signing with Golden State, he was ranked No. 499 on ESPN.com’s list of the top 500 NBA players. So he had “499” stitched into his sneakers the ensuing July and turned in the best Las Vegas Summer League performance of anybody.

On Feb. 19, 2014, with the Warriors needing a veteran backup point guard and Bazemore in his second season riding the pine, Golden State traded him to the depleted Los Angeles Lakers for Steve Blake. Suddenly, the kid from rural North Carolina, and an admitted Kobe Bryant admirer growing up and who is equal parts fun-loving and hard-working, was granted real playing time.

Mike D’Antoni threw him into the starting lineup, played him at shooting guard, at small forward, at point guard. He gave the developing talent the green light to shoot the 3. Bazemore’s infectious, goofy smile and full-time hustle and work ethic became instant hits. And then as if catching the injury bug that decimated L.A. last season, his came to a screeching halt five games shy of completion when he tore a tendon in his right foot that required surgery.

But he had opened eyes around the league by averaging 13.1 points, 3.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and shot 37.1 percent from deep in 23 games, 15 of which he started.

At the time, Bazemore described the injury as stemming from “overuse,” which it might have been considering he more than doubled his total minutes played with the Lakers (643) in half the number of games he played in with the Warriors (268 minutes in 44 games) before the trade.

In that short span, Bazemore put up numbers similar to those of rejuvenated journeyman Gerald Green in his first season with Phoenix. Green finished fourth for Most Improved Player of the Year. Now Bazemore, who turned 25 on July 1, the first day of free agency wants to show he can do it over 82 games.

The Lakers could have retained him for a qualifying offer of $1.1 million, but they passed to ensure as much cap space as possible on the gamble that both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James would want to join Kobe. It allowed Bazemore to become an unrestricted free agent.

According a source, Bazemore is seeking a boost in salary, around $3 million per season, as well as a little stability in the form of a two- or three-year contract. Such a commitment would suggest any team that makes it will be willing to give the athletically gifted Bazemore what we really desires — consistent playing time.

Interest in the long-limbed and innately motivated swingman has been encouraging. The Lakers remain interested in bringing him back. Atlanta, Charlotte, Boston and Utah join L.A. in the top five in terms of teams that have shown consistent interest.

Dallas, Houston, Golden State, Phoenix and Philadelphia all had at least preliminary discussions with Bazemore’s camp.

Bazemore met with the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday. His representative has meetings scheduled this week with San Antonio, Boston and Charlotte, and Utah could be added.

Bazemore will be back in Las Vegas later this week to check out the start of Summer League. He won’t be playing this time around, but it is the perfect backdrop for the long shot to continue the pursuit of his next team, his next contract and a breakout season.

The steal of free agency? Bazemore has a chance to be just that.

19 Comments

  1. JG says:

    Baze had some solid games with the Lakers last year and the few games that I saw him play with the Warriors, he played excellent defense. Hopefully what ever team he lands with, he will get some minutes on the court.

  2. Unkaned says:

    Chris Bosh wants to be a power forward — and as a stretch forward, who can play some at center, would be the best. He cannot be that in Miami because instead of paying Pau Gasol $6M, they gave $6M to more athletic but less-basketball-skilled Josh McRoberts– a power forward. THIS WAS THE KEY DOMINO. Wanting to play power forward, Bosh will sign with Rockets, Rockets will then retain Parsons with his Bird rights, and not go over the cap. LeBron will no longer have a team in Miami, so will play with Cleveland. Melo will remain in NYC because of stupid Lakers overpaying Kobe. Wade will also vanish. And Miami and Lakers will become .300 teams. This is how it will go down in the next few days, and I’m glad I was the first to say it. Game is more interesting this way, but not as much integrity, and we’ll soon have a revolving top six or 8 teams that play in the final 8 every year — just like before the latest CBO — which did nothing but make the owners more money, and somewhat equalize their revenue. But it did little to equalize their teams.

    If no one can trade enough to Kevin Love, he’ll be a Laker next year, and Jordan Farmar, his UCLA play-maker and friend, who shoots 445 from the three-point line, will opt out from the Clippers as his contract allows him to, and become a Laker once more. A year Later, with most of Kobe’s salary gone, but some half-decent Kobe still playing, Lakers will have the money to get another top free agent — PLUS a draft pick. So they’ll stink this year, be a .500 team in 2015, and return to prominence in 2016. Not bad in the schedule of things. But just two ugly years for the fans, and now, they won’t even get Pau back (who I’m betting with play for the Thunder if they can manage to find the cap space.

  3. Brenda Spruill says:

    I’ve seen him play from high school up to now and Kent have the right stuff to play with any team. I want to see him play with the Heat now that’s where he should go

  4. KingJ says:

    Bulls should sign him. (1) Energy off the bench. (2) Extra Guard or SF to play some quality minutes. (3) Can play defense.

  5. Grouch says:

    Seems Lakers are not interested. They will end up with another so so roster if they don’t get Melo. They just don’t have that magnet anymore to convince good players. That’s Jim Buss.

  6. Grapefruit juice says:

    People seriously this dude is overrated. Not that he’s a top pick who didn’t meet the expectations, because we all know what the story behind him is. All the fuss started when he jumped off he bench and celebrated Harisson Barnes’ dunk with some impressive high kick and apparently some considered this to be a sign of basketball skills. I don’t want to sound like a hater, but every single time he appeared on the court for Golden State (which wasn’t often as he played with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack etc) he either turned the ball over or missed the shot. He may have potential and obviously he has to have the set of skills that allowed him to enter the league, but I have never seen him playing good beyond the Summer League.

  7. lakerslakerslakers says:

    he’s not going to get big minutes without dantoni. that is dantoni’s thing, discovering talent….after overusing his starters,,,,,

  8. Wayne Turner says:

    Warriors should get him back – Sign him.He can then start at Guard along side Curry.

    Then the Warriors can trade: Klay Thompson,Harris Barnes & David Lee to Minnesota for Kevin Love.

  9. That Carmelo Deal Though says:

    Xavier-Henry, Nick Young & Kendall Marshall mainly these guys in that order everyone else is iffy.

  10. underdog says:

    Why doesn’t these ‘proffesional’ writers stop picking on Gordon’s contract? I don’t know the exact figures but his 1st year is not fully guaranteed and the 2nd year is a team option. That was a smart signing since the magic still waaay below the cap minimum and their highest contracts are from Frye (8M per yr) and Oladipo (5M per yr). If a trade comes their way.. they need to have a trade chip and Gordon’s contract is veeeery tradeable he is an expiring contract after all if his 2nd yr is declined. If no one wants him and he doesn’t work out how the Magic wants him to be they will just decline his 2nd yr team option. If he works out, it’s a steal for the Magic!. Basically in any scenario Magic wins in the Gordon signing.

  11. Sam Reyes says:

    mehh he’s cheap, i belive Dallas can increase their bench with him, giving some more deep.
    san antonio its too deep already.

  12. harrythehawk says:

    I remember reading his background story, this guy has come a long way and is quite amazing. I would love to see him come down to Atlanta and play for the Hawks.

  13. aka earl says:

    do your thing lil bro keep grinding let god be your driver and he will direct everything,,ya homay earl

  14. earontel says:

    or charlotte should sign him as well he is a north carolina native shout out to my lil homay bazemore,,odu to nsu earl,,im holding the court downs out in afghanistan

  15. JM says:

    Good fit for the Mavs or even the SPurs….

  16. isan says:

    lakers should sign him

  17. Laker24 says:

    He’s decent player ..wish laker bring him bck for another year