NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: KG still ‘excited’ to play for Nets — Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett will be entering his 20th NBA season if he chooses to play in 2014-15. The likelihood of him playing next season was always up in the air … but is it even more so now? Garnett’s longtime teammate, Paul Pierce, agreed to a deal with the Washington Wizards over the weekend and led some to think perhaps KG will hang it up for sure this summer. ESPN.com’s Mike Mazzeo writes that Garnett may still be back in Brooklyn next season anyway:
Despite the loss of Paul Pierce via free agency, Kevin Garnett likes the direction of the Brooklyn Nets and is “excited” about joining them for the upcoming season, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard.
Garnett, who turned 38 in May, is due $12 million in 2014-15, which would be his 20th NBA season.
He has yet to publicly announce that he’s playing this season, but all indications continue to point that way. On Saturday, a league source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Nets still expect Garnett to return.
Pierce elected to sign a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards for $11 million with a second-year player option, sources told ESPN.com.
Pierce and Garnett had been teammates since 2007-08. They won a championship together with the Boston Celtics.
No. 2: Report: Spurs, Bonner agree to 1-year deal — San Antonio Spurs fans can rest easy. The “Red Mamba” will be back in town for at least one more season. Fan favorite (and 3-point shooting specialist) Matt Bonner has agreed to a veteran’s-minimum deal as the Spurs try to repeat as champions and Bonner looks to collect his third championship as an NBA player — all of which have been earned with San Antonio. Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News has more:
Bonner’s new deal is for one season at the 10-year veteran minimum of $1,448,490.
Bonner is the third of the team’s unrestricted free agents to agree to return. Only restricted free-agent big man Aron Baynes remains unsigned, though the Spurs tendered a qualifying offer to him that allows them to match any offer sheet he gets from another team.
“This is another step towards keeping together a group that performed well this past season,” general manager R.C. Buford said.
A 6-foot-10 center-forward, Bonner appeared in 61 regular-season games and 22 of the 23 playoff games that produced the Spurs’ fifth NBA championship. He started Games 5 and 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I’ve been hoping to get the call that I’d be coming back the whole time since free agency started,” he said. “I was just waiting for the Spurs to do their due diligence on the free-agent market. I’m super thrilled it worked out and excited to come back to the Spurs’ organization and the city of San Antonio and try to win another championship.”
Bonner called the 2013-14 season the most enjoyable of his career.
“It’s such a great group of guys, and last year was so enjoyable, on and off the court, with everybody on the team,” he said. “Having the same group back again is going to be a lot of fun.”
No. 3: Report: Bulls add Mirotic, re-sign Hinrich — In free agency, the Chicago Bulls netted one player (Pau Gasol) who was a top-flight international prospect back in his younger days. Now, it seems, the Bulls are about to replicate the feat. Chicago and its pick from 2011 Draft, Nikola Mirotic, have agreed to a three-year deal, writes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, and that’s not the only move for the Bulls. Reserve point guard Kirk Hinrich is also headed back to the team, too:
The 2014-15 Bulls are taking shape. They’re just not making it official yet.League sources said Kirk Hinrich will follow Pau Gasol and officially sign in the coming days. Nikola Mirotic tweeted that he will “fulfill a dream” and leave Real Madrid for the Bulls.
But as backup center Greg Smith’s imminent trade to the Mavericks indicates, the Bulls’ financial picture is fluid. The deadline to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer is Wednesday. The Bulls also could move other contracts, like Anthony Randolph’s expiring $1.825 million deal, and perhaps swing a trade to upgrade the perimeter.
Sources said Gasol’s three-year deal won’t be for less than $6 million annually. Hinrich signed a two-year deal worth $5.6 million, with NBA.com reporting the second year as a player option.
The Bulls are able to contribute $600,000 of Mirotic’s roughly $3.2 million buyout without it counting against their cap. A league source confirmed he will sign a three-year, $17 million deal.
The Bulls may wait until Wednesday’s deadline for the Boozer amnesty to continue shopping him. But given that Gasol turned down midlevel exception offers from other contending teams and the Bulls would remain a capped team and thus be able to offer Gasol only that same exception if they traded Boozer, that’s unlikely. Hinrich getting signed to the “room exception” is another indication that Boozer’s amnesty is imminent.
The return of Hinrich, who has spent nine of his 11 seasons with the Bulls, will add backcourt depth and closed the door on D.J. Augustin, who agreed to join the Pistons on Sunday night. A favorite of management and coach Tom Thibodeau, Hinrich averaged 9.1 points and 3.9 assists in 73 games last season.
The Bulls view him as an ideal complement for Derrick Rose because he can take defensive and ball-handling responsibilities off Rose’s plate. Hinrich, 33, drew more lucrative interest from elsewhere.
As of now, the Bulls have a starting five of Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Gasol and Noah. The bench consists of Hinrich, Mirotic, Tony Snell, Randolph, Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow.
No. 4: Ariza-to-Houston deal grows — As we reported in this space last night, the Houston Rockets are bringing back small forward Trevor Ariza on a free-agent contract. But as our David Aldridge noted, there are more components to Ariza’s return than just him signing a contract …
And as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein provides some detail as to why the Rockets, Wizards and Pelicans all had to be involved in this transaction:
The Houston Rockets’ long anticipated trade of Omer Asik to New Orleans has expanded to become a three-team trade involving Washington and Trevor Ariza, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Rockets and Pelicans have agreed to turn their previously agreed deal headlined by Asik into a three-team swap that folds in the agreement Houston struck Saturday to sign Ariza, thus creating a valuable trade exception for Washington.
The trade, sources say, calls for the Pelicans to receive Asik, Rockets swingman Omri Casspi and $1.5 million in cash from Houston.
Sources say the Rockets, meanwhile, will get Ariza and his new four-year, $32 million deal, Pelicans guards Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson (and their unguaranteed contracts) as well as New Orleans’ protected first-round pick in 2015. Washington, in this scenario, is only required to take back the unguaranteed contract of Melvin Ely from New Orleans while creating an $8.5 million trade exception through Ariza’s exit that will expire one year from the date that this complicated transaction is made official.
Without the late-season signing of Ely to his unguaranteed deal, New Orleans would have lacked the extra contract piece needed to make this deal happen. The Pelicans had to make the unpopular decision to waive center Greg Stiemsma to create a late-season roster spot for Ely, but that move was always done with the intent to plug Ely’s contract into a significant trade to acquire a player of Asik’s caliber.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Wizards and Mavericks are both targeting big man DeJuan Blair … The Mavs inked veteran forward Richard Jefferson to a one-year deal … Raptors rookie Bruno Caboclo isn’t lacking any confidence during the Las Vegas Summer League … After Dallas’ handful of moves, how good will the Mavs actually be next season? … Former Jazz forward Brandon Rush will work out for interested teams next week … The Bulls’ signing of Pau Gasol might end up being just the move they needed … If you missed it over the weekend, Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons chimes in on LeBron James‘ move back to Cleveland
ICYMI of The Night: If you missed the final sequence of the Hawks vs. NBA D-League Select game last night, it got a little wild …