NEWS OF THE MORNING
Report: Hornets, Stephenson reach deal | Reports: Wolves, Warriors renew Love trade talks | Parsons clarifies comments about Houston | ‘The Greek Freak’ at point guard? | Silver: Clips sale may not happen soon
No. 1: Report: Stephenson headed to Hornets — The Charlotte Hornets opened free agency by taking a big swing at landing restricted free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, but Utah matched the Hornets’ offer sheet last weekend. Swing No. 2 appears to be a success for the Hornets this time, though, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Indiana Pacers standout (and unrestricted free agent) Lance Stephenson, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. This marks a big loss for the Pacers — who had the best record in the East last season — but there had been talk that contract negotiations between Stephenson and Indiana had broken down of late. Bonnell has more on the move for Charlotte:
Following an all-night negotiating session, the Charlotte Hornets have come to an agreement to sign Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer has learned.
Under terms of the agreement, Stephenson will make $9 million in 2014-15 and $9 million in 2015-16. Stephenson will get a slight raise in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up the team option.
Stephenson fills an obvious need, as the Hornets were weak offensively at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.
However, he has a quirky personality that seems to have limited his market when he became an unrestricted free agent July 1.
The Pacers had offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons, and reportedly did not come off that number. Stephenson thought he was worth considerably more.
But the question becomes how Stephenson’s quirkiness might play out once he signs a lucrative contract extension. He famously blew in opponent LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs. He was fined for flopping this season and was charged with 14 technical fouls, fourth-most in the NBA.
It is not the Hornets’ habit to take frequent risks on high-maintenance players. Trading for Stephen Jackson worked out for two seasons before they traded him on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now they have drafted P.J. Hairston, a player who lost his NCAA eligibility over improper benefits and who recently was cited for punching a teenager during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA.
Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said one of his team’s greatest strengths last season was the character of the players on the roster. Did that embolden the front office to pursue Stepehenson? Is Stephenson now a threat to that chemistry?
Certainly the Hornets faced competitive pressure in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved dramatically with the addition of James, so that’s a non-playoff team in the East that now looks like a post-season lock. While the Heat lost James, they weakened the Hornets with the signing of Josh McRoberts.
It’s possible the Hornets would have struggled just to make the playoffs this season without upgrading the roster with a move like Stephenson.
No. 2: Reports: Wolves, Warriors re-open trade talks; Thompson likely out of any deal — The list of teams interested in trading for Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Kevin Love is believed to be small and short, with names such as the Celtics, Cavaliers and Warriors believed to be in the mix. As many front-office types are out in Las Vegas for Summer League, the trade talks surrounding Love and the Warriors have picked up steam as The Associated Press and ESPN.com’s Marc Stein report:
First, here’s the AP’s take on what’s happening with Love:
Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders was seen talking to Warriors general manager Bob Myers at the arena on Sunday as the teams look to bridge the gap that caused discussions to stall. The Warriors have been reluctant to include shooting guard Klay Thompson in any package, which has been considered a deal-breaker for the Timberwolves.
There were no signs that the Warriors were ready to change their position on Thompson. New Warriors coach Steve Kerr is keen on pairing Thompson with Steph Curry in the backcourt that has become known as the “Splash Brothers,” even as he acknowledged earlier in the summer that he would like to add a power forward with shooting range.
So far, the Wolves and Warriors have discussed swapping Love and veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin for David Lee, Harrison Barnes and a future draft pick. That hasn’t been enough for Saunders, who has been adamant that that 24-year-old Thompson be the main piece to come back.
The Wolves also have talked to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have LeBron James coming back home to play next season. A three-player core of James, Love and Kyrie Irving would immediately make the Cavaliers a favorite in the wide-open Eastern Conference, but Cavaliers GM David Griffin has refused to part with No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to land Love.
The Timberwolves have demanded Wiggins be a part of the deal, which has put those discussions at a standstill.
Saunders has said he’d have no issues keeping Love, making a couple of moves to improve a roster that finished 10th in the West last season and trying to make a playoff run to convince the face of the franchise he should stay in Minnesota.
And here’s Stein’s report, which says that Thompson absolutely will not be a part of any Warriors-land-Love swap:
The Timberwolves and Warriors have continued to discuss a Kevin Love trade, but the teams remain unable to agree on the framework of a deal, with Golden State still unwilling to include Klay Thompson, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Wolves owner Glen Taylor and Warriors counterpart Joe Lacob have maintained a level of dialogue on a potential trade of Love to Golden State, which sources insist would have been clinched by now had the Warriors — at the behest of new coach Steve Kerr — relented on their refusal to part with Thompson.
Golden State, however, knows it now has serious competition for Love, with the rejuvenated Cleveland Cavaliers known to be interested in trading for the All-Star power forward.
Minnesota could elect to wait to see if offers improve for Love as the pool of available free agents continues to dwindle, but an increasing number of rival executives expect the Timberwolves to trade him before next season starts, given how well known it is around the league that he intends to become a free agent in July 2015.
The Wolves risk losing Love without compensation if they don’t deal him before the league’s annual trade deadline in February.
No. 3: Parsons clarifies comments about Rockets — We reported in the Shootaround yesterday how new Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons felt “offended” by how the Houston Rockets — his former team — treated him in free agency. With his new deal with the Mavs freshly signed and locked in yesterday, though, Parsons sought to clear up how his words may have been taken during a conference call with reporters:
Chandler Parsons sought to clarify Tuesday his comments of a day earlier in which he said the Houston Rockets had offended him, stopping short of an apology while expressing gratitude toward the team that brought him to the NBA in the 2011 draft.
Parsons said the opportunity the Rockets gave him by making him a restricted free agent when they declined a $965,000 option for next season was “crazy when you look at it that way.”
“That’s why I’m so grateful for them,” Parsons told reporters on a conference call. “They really did me a solid by letting me out a year early, and I’m assuming that the plan was to do this and not let me hit the unrestricted market next year, so they could lock me in.”
Parsons said he was surprised when the Rockets then declined to match the Mavericks’ three-year, $46 million offer sheet but that he had “no hard feelings at all.”
“I thought that was the plan going forward but they were going to,” Parsons said. “(The structure of the contract) really put pressure on them and didn’t give them any flexibility for their future if they did match it. They decided what they felt was best for their future. They told me to go and get my best individual contract. And we both did what we felt was best for ourselves.”
“I didn’t mean to sound ungrateful or disrespectful in any way,” Parsons said of his comments to Yahoo! Sports. “I just simply meant that I was offended that they didn’t view me as a core piece of their team going forward and they didn’t view me as a third star that could win championships there. That was what I meant by offended.
“I hope I didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings and I hope there’s no hard feelings there, because I had a great time in Houston. I created a lot of memories there and have nothing but love and respect for the organization, the coaching staff and my teammates. But it’s just offensive when they’re publicly saying they don’t have a third star and they’re going after a third star when I was right there in front of them.”
No. 4: Kidd may let Antetokounmpo play some point guard next season — If you were to make a list of things to be excited about last season for the Milwaukee Bucks, you wouldn’t need a big sheet of paper to do so. But perhaps foremost on that list would be Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s development and the all-around skills he flashed in his rookie season. With new coach Jason Kidd at the helm this season, he might let Antetokounmpo take on some minutes at point guard in 2014-15, as he told our own Scott Howard-Cooper:
The Bucks and their new coach are not hiding it. They are not disguising the long look of Antetokounmpo initiating the offense as some test drive in the safety of summer league, not downplaying the Greek Freak with the ball in his hands, some in the first game and a lot in the second, Monday night in Thomas & Mack Center against the Jazz, as Kidd experimenting to learn more about his players.
Milwaukee is serious about this for the regular season, maybe even as the starter at the point. Antetokounmpo is serious about this.
At the very least, even if the idea goes bad in 2014-15 and the Bucks stick with Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters as conventional decisions, it just became a long-term subplot in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo, having measured at 6-9 and 190 pounds last September and 6-10 ½ and 217 pounds at the end of the season, growing into a starting point guard, possibly and maybe even likely 6-11 by then. That doesn’t even get into imagining the day of the 7-foot point guard.
“We’ve seen it in practice, and so when you see a player’s comfort level with the ball no matter what size, we want to see it in game action and we slowly have started letting him have the ball and running the offense,” said Kidd, bound for the Hall of Fame as a point guard.
“With the group we have right now, with B-Knight and Giannis, we have additional playmakers and when we have that on the floor, it makes the game easy. We’ll see how the roster shakes out, but we’re not afraid to play him at the point, as you see.”
Antetokounmpo at point guard and Knight at shooting guard would be a strain because neither have great range, but would work because Knight could defend the point guards and Antetokounmpo the bigger opponent in the backcourt. Then it could be Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders in the front court.
“Whatever coach wants me to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “If he tells me to do that, I’m going to do that. If he tells me to be on the wing and to be aggressive on the wing, I’ll be aggressive there.”
No. 5: Silver opens up on Sterling, replay options, possible midseason tournament — Earlier last month, word came out that the Clippers had been sold to businessman and billionaire Steve Ballmer, thus taking control of the team out of hands of Donald Sterling and his family. But since then, court dates and legal proceedings have slowed up any sale of the team. As our Steve Aschburner reports from yesterday’s NBA Board of Governors meeting, the sale of the team might not happen before 2014-15 tips off — at least that’s the word from NBA commissioner Adam Silver:
It’s possible Donald Sterling still will own the Los Angeles Clippers next month. It’s even possible, NBA commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged after the league’s Board of Governors meeting here Tuesday, that the publicly disgraced Sterling and his estranged wife Shelly still might own the team when the league opens training camps in October for the 2014-15 season.As troubling as that might be in terms of public perception, given Sterling’s racially bigoted comments back in April, and as incendiary as that could become as an issue with the NBA’s players, Silver said the methodical pace of the probate trial in Los Angeles between the Sterlings could further delay the Clippers sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
“No, I cannot say it with certainty, and I cannot say it with certainty because it’s in the hands of the probate court,” Silver said.
“I can say with certainty, we are doing everything in our power to move Donald out as an owner in the NBA. If the probate ruling doesn’t go in our favor, we’ll recommence our procedures under termination.”
And based on Sterling’s broken relationship with the league and his plan to sue the NBA for $1 billion, another courtroom decision could thwart or delay any forced transfer beyond the tentative Sept. 15 deadline.
“It’s possible that some court would step in and stop us,” Silver said during the news conference. “I think it’s highly, highly unlikely because we are absolutely acting within our rights. And I think what’s transpired in probate court so far has made it even clearer that we’re acting not only within our rights but doing what is right and appropriate in this situation.”
Silver touched on a variety of topics that flowed from Tuesday’s four-hour meetings and other league sessions going on in Las Vegas this week:
- The competition committee met for 10 hours Sunday and Monday, discussing the draft lottery, the playoff system, conference and division structure and details of the centralized replay system to be used starting in 2014-15. Silver said a trial run would start in September using WNBA games.
- The popularity of the summer league in Las Vegas – with attendance up 25 percent, Silver said – has the league open to ideas for a greater role in the nation’s gambling capital. One possibility, mentioned without details as a brainstorm from the competition committee: A midseason tournament of some sort.
- Negotiations of the NBA’s national TV contracts continue, with Silver expessing confidence that relationships with the current partners would be maintained, perhaps with some additions.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After Carlos Boozer was waived via the amnesty provision yesterday, there are only seven amnesty-eligible players in the NBA now … Journeyman forward Anthony Tolliver has reached a deal with the Phoenix Suns … The Wizards added to their frontcourt after reportedly agreeing to a three-year deal with Kris Humphries … Speaking of the Wizards, veteran forward Al Harrington intends to play next season … Ex-Thunder forward Ryan Gomes held a workout for NBA and European teams in Las Vegas … Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes had his contract guaranteed, ensuring his Memphis return next season … Mavs forward (and free agent) Shawn Marion isn’t sweating where he’ll sign next … Caron Butler signed with the Pistons because of the ‘challenge’ it presents … Portland’s youngsters have looked mighty impressive at the Las Vegas Summer League
ICYMI of The Night: Here’s a lesson, kids … don’t stop to tie your shoe when the ball is about to be inbounded. Or else, you might see someone do to you what Will Barton did to the Hawks yesterday …