Free Agency 2012

Dirk Digs Dallas Developments

Fresh from the most successful season in franchise history, the best-case scenario for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011-12 would have been to repeat as NBA champions.

Plan B — breaking up that team for flexibility and salary-cap space, in what proved to be a futile attempt to lure Dwight Howard, Deron Williams or some other in-his-prime, flag-planting free agent — didn’t go so well. The Mavs went 36-30 in the post-lockout season, finishing 14 games back in the Southwest Division and, in the playoffs’ first round, got swept by new West finalists, Oklahoma City.

On to Plan C, the re-stocking of the roster with solid supporting players — center Chris Kaman, forward Elton Brand, guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo among them — who don’t qualify as franchise guys or even as that dream sidekick to All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. The idea again seems to be, do the best they can and add a big name in the summer of 2013.

But Nowitzki, in an email interview with Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, sounded more upbeat — and competitive — than that:

This year, the Mavericks again have maintained financial flexibility with a lot of short-term contracts. That doesn’t deter Nowitzki.

“I think we have a good team again,” Nowitzki said. “I like all the new additions. I think we got younger on the perimeter, more athletic and that was always our goal. … The month of October is important to get everyone adjusted, but I think we got a lot of potential.”


Magic Trick Surprised Kupchak

HANG TIME, Texas — When the deal finally went down and Superman tied on his cape to fly cross country and join the Lakers, a lot of folks just nodded their heads and figured that’s what was expected all along.

Mitch Kupchak wasn’t one of them. The Lakers general manager tells our man Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register that he had all but given up hope of dressing Dwight Howard up in the purple and gold:

“I just never felt that there was a deal that they thought that they would do,” Kupchak said. “Without going into great detail, I just felt the Magic were just canvassing the league, which is the job. … I didn’t think there would be a deal. It got really quiet a couple weeks ago. Before that, it was very crazy – and then it just died. So we had kind of moved on.

“We had signed Jordan Hill. We had signed Antawn Jamison. And we thought it was over.”


Sixers Raise Their Ceiling With Bynum

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Typically, a young team that’s coming off a deep run in the playoffs will mostly stand pat and continue to develop. But in the two and a half months since they pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Philadelphia 76ers have blown it up.

Elton Brand was amnestied. Lou Williams was shown the door. And now, All-Star Andre Iguodala is being sent to Denver as part of the four-team trade that sends Dwight Howard to the Lakers and brings Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. The Sixers are also sending second-year big man Nikola Vucevic, rookie wing Maurice Harkless, and a draft pick to Orlando, and getting veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Magic.

As much of a feel-good story as the Sixers were last season, they knew that they wouldn’t have defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round had Derrick Rose not blown out his knee. And they clearly believed that there was a ceiling with the group they ended the season with. They were honest with themselves and there was no standing pat.

Losing Brand and Iguodala, Philly has downgraded at both forward spots. And sacrificing Brand (who was on the last year of his lucrative contract) to sign Nick Young still doesn’t make any sense. But there’s plenty of sense in taking advantage of the Magic’s desire to become the Bobcats and acquiring a seven footer who will make an impact on both ends of the floor.

Bynum’s biggest impact typically comes on defense, but the Sixers were already a top-five defensive team, and they also just traded the best perimeter defender in the league. So they’re not going to improve much, if at all, on that end of the floor. Instead, Bynum’s presence will mean more offensively.

For the first time since Allen Iverson left in 2006, the Sixers have a guy who can draw double-teams, a requisite for a successful offense. And for the first time since Charles Barkley left in 1992, they have someone to give the ball to on the low block. (more…)

Magic Should’ve Done Better In Howard Blockbuster Deal

HANG TIME CHICAGO — The key to success in the NBA these days, we were reminded during The Finals, is to have a Big Three of stars who can shoulder the biggest load, no matter the supporting cast assembled around them. In that sense, the Orlando Magic should do just fine in 2012-13.

Night after night, possession after possession, the Magic will attack all comers by running a classic pick-and-roll with Salary-Cap Space as the primary ballhandler and Future Draft Picks coming out to set a high screen. Depending on how a defense reacts, Salary-Cap Space has the option to hand off, pull up to shoot or attack the rim, with a kickout release to the corner where Fancy New Building will be waiting to launch a 3-ball.

S-CS to FDP to FNB. Your new Orlando Magic heroes.

The first thing to remember, as news of the four-team blockbuster Dwight Howard trade leaked and then gained legitimacy Thursday, was that the Orlando franchise had very little choice. Its centerpiece player wanted out in the worst way. And thanks to his constant diva antics from early in the 2011-12 season right into August, Howard seemed determined to go that route: the worst, as in awkward, unprofessional, even shameful.

Yet as the names began to swirl — a mix of All-Stars and starters and role players, from Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala to Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Nikola Vucevic — something else became clear: Orlando was screwed and, even given little choice, should have done better.

If anyone has learned anything from recent NBA free-agent history, it is this: Do not fall in love with someone who does not love you back. Rather, trade his ungrateful quitter’s butt ASAP, bite down hard, deal with the pain up front and move on. The Denver Nuggets should have done it with Carmelo Anthony, the Toronto Raptors should have done it with Chris Bosh and, in hindsight, one could argue that the Cleveland Cavaliers even should have done it with LeBron James. Most of all, though, the Magic should have done it with Howard.

Instead, as if to keep a happy veneer on the fleeting fun of All-Star Weekend 2012, Orlando management let things drag on far too long while getting used and misdirected by Howard and his handlers. It squandered the 2011-12 season, agonized through much of this offseason and now is poised to waste several more years, selling youth and development in an arena meant for superstars and banners.


Lack Of Trust In Bynum Led Lakers To Pull Trigger On Howard Deal

HANG TIME WEST COAST BUREAU — This much is clear Thursday night as the Dwight Howard saga heads toward an exhausting conclusion: The Lakers cannot trust Andrew Bynum.

Too many moments of professional and personal immaturity for someone seven seasons into an NBA career. Too many reasons to be worried about the thought of Bynum as The Face of the franchise in a few years as Kobe Bryant heads into retirement. One too many a squirrely 3-pointer in Oakland and shrugging off the suggestion he took a foolish shot. One too many playoff no-shows in Denver, when entire Lakers seasons are measured by the playoffs.

That has to be it. Howard is the best center in the league, which makes him an upgrade at the position for the Lakers, but Bynum is not that far behind and gaining all the time. Howard is the better defender, Bynum better on offense.

Howard is coming off back surgery, while Bynum, for his long history of medical issues, played 72 of a possible 78 games in the regular season and playoffs last season. Age isn’t an issue — Howard is 27 while Bynum turns 25 on Oct. 27, three days before the Lakers’ season opener. Both are in line for huge contracts, after waiting to become free agents next summer rather than sign extensions now for less money as non-free agents.

That’s not where the difference lies between the two players that makes the Lakers go back on what had been unbending support for Bynum — certainly not after he just put up 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and shot 55.8 percent from the field. They don’t make this deal at this time, with Howard yet to play a game after a delicate medical procedure, unless there is a lack of confidence in where Bynum is headed. (more…)

Report: Howard Goes to Lakers in Four-Team Blockbuster Trade

The Magic appeared on the verge – again – of trading Dwight Howard amid reports Thursday night that a four-team deal that would send Howard to the Lakers and generate a lot of heat for Orlando was set to be completed. reported that a trade call has been set for Friday morning to finalize the blockbuster that would feature Los Angeles getting the defensive superstar, Philadelphia getting Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic, Denver getting Andre Igoudala from the 76ers, and Orlando getting Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington from the Nuggets, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless from the 76ers.

TNT’s David Aldridge reports that the Magic will also receive a future first-round pick from the Sixers, a 2014 first-round pick from the Nuggets and a 2017 first-round pick from the Lakers. The pick from the Sixers will likely have some type of Lottery protection to it while the pick from the Nuggets is the lower of Denver’s two first-rounders that year. Denver also has New York’s first-round pick from the Carmelo Anthony trade.

If the particulars turn out to be accurate, if Bynum and Igoudala are involved in a deal but neither end up in Orlando, if the best current player the Magic get is Afflalo and the best prospect is the No. 15 pick this year, Harkless, Orlando may get buried in the court of public opinion.

Worth noting, of course, is that the specifics could be different when, and if, the deal is finalized. Also, trades have come close to happening before only to fall apart at the end. But never in the months of the Howard soap opera has a trade call been arranged, a signal that all sides had agreed in principle.

Report: Howard To Lakers In Mega-Deal?

A four-way mega-trade that, once and for all (well, for a while), ends our long, national Dwightmare? Or just more smoke and speculation?

It’s hard to tell but the four-team trade that has been discussed, according to Yahoo! Sports, to move Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers packs both intrigue and the prospect of all four participants – L.A., Denver, Philadelphia and Orlando – gaining something worthwhile. Or salvaging something, anyway.

Here are the broad strokes of a deal that “is not considered imminent, but the talks have grown serious over the course of this week,” wrote Adrian Wojnarowski, citing unnamed sources:

  • Howard and Denver forward Al Harrington would go to the Lakers.
  • Philadelphia guard Andre Iguodala would become a Nugget.
  • Lakers center Andrew Bynum would join the Sixers (who would try to entice him to stay beyond the final season on his contract).
  • Lakers forward Pau Gasol and Denver guard Arron Afflalo would head to Orlando. The Magic also would get draft picks in the package and salary-cap relief.


Slim Pickings Left In Free Agency

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Training camp is still about eight weeks away, but good luck trying to find any more free agents who can make a real impact on your team. A month after free agency opened, only slim pickings remain.

Want proof? The remaining free agent who played the most minutes last season is Alonzo Gee. Most rebounds? Shelden Williams. Yep, we’re down to the bottom of the barrel.

At this point, if teams are still looking to fill roster spots, they have certain needs. So we’ll list the best available guys by position. Here are three point guards, five wings, and three bigs who could be useful (or not) next season…

Point guards

1. Derek Fisher (OKC)
23.9 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 2.7 APG, 37.1% FG, 32.1% 3PT
The veteran will celebrate his 38th birthday next week, and it’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about a possible destination for next season. After a rough regular season, he shot a solid 38 percent (18-for-48) from 3-point range in the playoffs.

2. Jannero Pargo (ATL)
13.4 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 41.5% FG, 38.4% 3PT
Pargo provided an offensive lift for the Hawks in a handful of games last season. (more…)

Roy Never Closed Door On Comeback

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Brandon Roy is back.

Just over seven months ago, Roy walked away from the game, due to his degenerative knees. At the time, he was just 27 years old and had played just five seasons in the league. Six days after the news broke, the Blazers used the amnesty clause to waive Roy, who had three years and $49 million left on his contract.

But at some point this year, Roy decided to see if he could play again. In fact, he says he never really closed the door on a comeback.

“For me, it was never that I was retired,” Roy said at his introductory news conference in Minnesota on Tuesday. “My knees were a situation that I was going to have to think about if I wanted to continue playing. After a few months of sitting out, I decided, ‘Hey, I don’t want to stop playing basketball.’ It’s something I want to continue going forward with. It’s never a situation where I said, ‘I’m done forever.’ It was more of a pause.”

After two months of working out and undergoing the regenicin procedure that Kobe Bryant had last year, Roy felt good enough to get back in the league. And now, he joins a Timberwolves team that showed some promise last season and has also added Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved this summer. (more…)

Clipper Nation Grows With Turiaf

HANG TIME, TEXAS — Remember how things used to be with the Clippers? They were the NBA’s version of the groundhog, coming out on rare occasion only long enough to see their shadow and then going back into hibernation.

Not anymore, Punxsutawney Phil-breath.

After a thoroughly enjoyable 40-26 season that earned them the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and then a stirring seven-game first-round playoff series win over Memphis, the Clips have hardly spent the summer relaxing on the beach.

Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times says they have boosted their bench with another addition:

The Clippers and free-agent Ronny Turiaf have agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract worth $1.146 million, said NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Turiaf, a 6-10, 245-pounder, will be a backup power forward and center for the Clippers.

He becomes the fifth big man for the Clippers – behind starters DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and reserves Lamar Odom and Ryan Hollins – the 13th player on the roster.

Turiaf played his first three NBA seasons with the Lakers.

He played for the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat last season. (more…)