Free Agency 2011

Agent: Celtics Top Pietrus’ Wish List

The agent for swingman Mickael Pietrus, placed on waivers by the Suns on Thursday, said four teams are most interested in picking him up once he clears waivers Saturday, with league sources strongly believing the 29-year-old will sign with the Celtics.

The Celtics are desperately hoping that Pietrus will clear waivers. Boston’s need for a defensive wing player is profound, and the Celtics know Pietrus well from his days with the Magic. Pietrus killed the Celtics off the bench in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal series, averaging 12 points in 25 minutes. He scored 17 points in three games of the series, including going six of seven from the floor, making all three of his 3-point attempts, in Orlando’s Game 7 win at Boston.

But agent Bill McCandless said Friday morning that he thought there was a “15 percent” chance that a team would claim Pietrus off of waivers before he clears. But that team would have to pay Pietrus the $4.2 million on his original contract (that is pro-rated for the 66-game regular season this year; Pietrus originally was to make $5.3 million this season). Pietrus and the Suns worked out a buyout that will pay him $3 million of the $4.2 million once he clears waivers; after that he’d be free to negotiate a new contract with the team that signs him.

Currently the most teams are offering Pietrus is the “mini” mid-level exception for teams that are more than $4 million above the luxury tax threshold of $70 million. The mini mid-level can run as many as three years and a little more than $9 million total. Pietrus, who was a key contributor during the Magic’s run to The Finals in 2009, wants to play for a contending team and is willing to take a little less than may be available to do so.

“In this case, cap space is a little less relevant,” McCandless said. “If you’re on a team that’s successful, then you’re successful.”

McCandless said that Pietrus got a clean bill of health from an independent medical examination on his right knee on Wednesday. The Suns had originally dealt Pietrus to Toronto earlier this month for a protected second-round pick, but the deal was voided when Pietrus’s knee swelled up after working out in Toronto. The Raptors then signed veteran Rasual Butler and got forward Gary Forbes from Denver via offer sheet. The independent physician “said he’s fine and ready to go,” McCandless said.

The Suns were still trying to work out a trade for Pietrus when they reached the buyout with him, and were not happy with his comportment while in Phoenix. Pietrus came there last season as part of the trade that sent center Marcin Gortat to Phoenix in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu going back to Orlando. Pietrus played in 38 games last season for Phoenix, averaging 7.4 points in a little more than 18 minutes a game, almost all of those as a reserve.

“You know the old saying, ‘all’s well that ends well?’,” Suns GM Lon Babby said. “In this case, it’s ‘all’s well that ends.’ “

Nets Eye Playoffs With Okur Deal

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – General manager Billy King and the New Jersey Nets didn’t take long to recover from the loss of Brook Lopez, acquiring Mehmet Okur from the Utah Jazz for a second round pick in 2015.

Okur is paid $10.9 million this season, a salary which the Nets are able to absorb with their remaining cap space. They still have their $2.5 million room exception, which they’ll use to sign DeShawn Stevenson on Friday.

Since Okur’s deal is expiring, the Nets retain all of their 2012 cap space reserved for Dwight Howard (and have a lot of expiring deals to include in a trade before the deadline). Further, since the Jazz were willing to let the center go for nothing but salary relief, King didn’t have to give up any of the first rounders he has earmarked for a potential Howard deal. (Reports had the Nets sending five first-round picks out in a deal that fell through last week.)

Okur played just 13 games last season because of a variety of injuries (mostly as he recovered from a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon he suffered in the 2010 playoffs), but played in the Turkish League during the lockout and was in shape when camp opened, playing a total of 30 minutes in Utah’s two preseason games.

So while the Nets still have their eyes on Howard, they clearly want to make the playoffs — whether or not they acquire that other center in March.

The Curious Case Of R.J. & The Spurs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Back on Dec. 7, a report hit the twitterverse that the Spurs had decided to use the amnesty clause to waive Richard Jefferson.

That was nine days ago. And with the deadline to use the amnesty clause (for this offseason) coming at midnight Friday, Jefferson is still a Spur.

The Jefferson story is a strange one. Last summer, he opted out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $15.2 million last season. But then the Spurs re-signed him to a new deal worth $39 million over four years. So the idea of them deciding a year later to pay him not to play for them was a little crazy.

When it was first reported that Jefferson would be amnestied, the Spurs were hot in pursuit of Caron Butler, who would have been Jefferson’s replacement. But Butler spurned the Spurs, signing with the L.A. Clippers for more money.

The Spurs were also reportedly interested in Grant Hill, Vince Carter and Josh Howard. But those three all chose to sign elsewhere as well. And now, the free agent options at the wing are slim pickings.

So it looks like Jefferson will remain in San Antonio, which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing for the Spurs. Their payroll will remain above the luxury tax line, but they’ll retain the guy who ranked fifth in 3-point percentage last season.

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The Best Of The Rest

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – The Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City a little over three years ago, so Jamal Crawford can’t play for his hometown team. But he can come close.

That’s what Crawford will do when he signs with the Portland Trail Blazers for $10 million over two years. Crawford reportedly chose Portland over Sacramento and New York, who could only offer him their $2.5 million exception.

Crawford replaces Brandon Roy, who is being waived via the amnesty clause. And he should give a boost to an offense that has regressed each of the last two years. The Blazers had the second-best offense in the league in 2008-09, but ranked seventh in ’09-10 and 11th last season.

Also today, Richard Hamilton signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bulls.

The free agency dominoes continue to fall, but there are still some guys available who can help a team. Here’s the best of the bunch…

Arron Afflalo (restricted): When the Nuggets agreed to terms with Nene on Tuesday night, GM Masai Ujiri told our David Aldridge that progress was being made on a deal with Afflalo. But all has been quiet on the Afflalo front since then.

Samuel Dalembert: There hasn’t been much chatter about Dalembert in the last few days. He reportedly had interest from Houston and Sacramento. Right now, the Rockets’ best center is Hasheem Thabeet.

Josh Howard: Howard met with the Jazz on Tuesday and has had several teams, including the Spurs, interested. He tore his ACL in February of 2010 and has played just 53 games over the last two seasons.

Kris Humphries: Humphries could be back in a Nets uniform on a one-year deal by the weekend. They need a power forward desperately, but because they’re looking to preserve their $22 million of cap space for next summer, they’re looking to hand out one-year deals.

Andrei Kirilenko: Reports have the Nets and Kings interested. Even with Humphries’ cap hold, New Jersey has over $12 million of cap space after waiving Travis Outlaw via the amnesty clause today. So they could give Kirilenko a pretty lucrative one-year deal.

Rodney Stuckey (restricted): ESPN reported Wednesday that Stuckey and the Pistons were at an impasse, and that he might just accept his $3.9 million qualifying offer. That would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Nick Young (restricted): Michael Lee of The Washington Post updates us on Young, whose best option may be to accept the qualifying offer from the Wizards.

Getting ready for the season was tough enough with just 17 days of training camp before games start on Christmas. But for these guys, it’s going to be even harder to get integrated on the fly with whatever teams they eventually sign with.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Blogtable Bonus: Chris Paul Trade

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below. This week’s blogtable was yesterday, but below is a special bonus Chris-Paul-just-got-traded-to-the-Clippers edition:

Now that CP3 is going to the Clippers, does that end justify David Stern’s means; nixing the deal to the Lakers last week? Did he do his job as caretaker of the Hornets, or did he stick his nose in where it didn’t belong?


Steve Aschburner: The league and commissioner David Stern “stuck their noses” where they didn’t belong the moment they bought back the Hornets from George Shinn. From that point, though, other than flipping the keys to Price Waterhouse to run in a blind trust, there was going to be meddling in the Hornets’ affairs — the same way owners meddle in GMs’ and coaches’ business all the time.

So I wasn’t surprised — and certainly wasn’t outraged, like some overly emotional souls in the media — by what Stern did in blocking the Lakers-Rockets deal. I liked that outcome on the court better for all involved but taking back fat contracts and guys in their 30s is no way to spiff up a jalopy of a franchise for a potential buyer. The Clippers package is better for that, for selling now and winning later. (Of course, Dell Demps could have parlayed Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom into younger assets too. Just maybe not by the time New Orleans was brought to market.)

Chris Paul didn’t get harmed; he was working on an extension that ran through 2012-13 with an opt-out, so as long as he got paid, the Hornets were honoring the deal. Paul didn’t have a right to be traded to the Lakers or anywhere else. Laker fans are in a tizzy but that’s because they’re spoiled by so much going their way through the years. (They never properly thanked Minneapolis for the franchise in the first place, if you ask me.)

Stern did right by the Hornets. His move had the collateral benefit of pleasing many of the league’s owners and fans, who would have gagged on a “have” franchise adding the NBA’s best pure point guard within days of a costly labor dispute staged in part to avoid that very outcome. The Clippers don’t seem “big market” because of their history and their knack for screwing up even promising beginnings. The league got a little more interesting and, well, if Stern and the other 29 aren’t nervous about New Orleans’ long-term viability, I won’t lose sleep over it either.

Fran Blinebury: No.  It all started from the uncomfortable premise that the league has ownership of an individual franchise and could act as a forthright and honest broker. That led to G.M. Dell Demps being told that he had full authority to make deals, a message that clearly wasn’t true, but was disseminated throughout the league.  No one told the Lakers or the Rockets or any other club interested in trading for Chris Paul that the league office would have to sign off on the deal.  If Stern was going to intervene and run the show, it should have been before the N.O.-L.A.-Houston deal was agreed upon.  When Stern trampled in after the fact, it undermined the league’s credibility, gave rise to suspicion that he was reacting to anti-big-market, anti-Lakers outcry from some team owners and, most important, did real damage to the Lakers and Rockets teams.

Yes, Stern ultimately got the Hornets a much better deal from the Clippers, but after a long, ugly and silly lockout, at a cost of the league’s credibility.

Scott Howard-Cooper: He did his job as caretaker of the Hornets — but not at caretaker of the NBA. In the end, it became exactly the conflict of interest Stern should have been able to see long ago as a potential perception problem for the league. If he had stayed out of sight and the initial trade had gone through, the uproar would have been how the league-owned team delivered Chris Paul to the Lakers. It would have been a fair deal negotiated according to the rules by the personnel departments of three teams, and it still would be created problems. Putting the Veto stamp on Lakers-Hornets-Rockets created another set of problems. The image of the league should not have been at risk in the first place. New Orleans ended up with as good a return as could be expected under the circumstances, and the commissioner ended up looking bad to a lot of people.

Shaun Powell: In the end, the Hornets got a better deal than before. That’s all that counts. They didn’t get Lamar Odom, who would’ve pouted all year, or a one-dimensional Kevin Martin, or Luis Scola‘s big contract (which is a crippler to a small-market team that’s up for sale). While the basketball world knee-jerked and screamed and said the NBA blew it because the Hornets would never get anything better, New Orleans did just that. They got one of the best young guards in basketball in Eric Gordon, an up-and-comer in Al-Farouq Aminu, trade bait in Chris Kaman and Minny’s unprotected No. 1 which will be gold in next summer’s draft. All assets and all (relatively) cheap. Of course, the bigger issue is the NBA being in a caretaker role. That must change, pronto, because this is a terrible conflict of interest for the league.

The best the NBA can do for the Hornets, other than the just-completed trade, is to put the franchise incapable hands and wash its own hands of being an owner/general manager. Sell this club to anyone except the second coming of George Shinn, who is a bigger villain in this situation than David Stern could ever be.

John Schuhmann: I really don’t know. On one hand, the Hornets got a better “rebuilding” deal, (the three-way trade was a better “win now” deal), and that might help the team get sold. On the other hand, a situation where the NBA office is negotiating trades is a great opportunity for conspiracy theorists to speculate about what the commissioner’s motives are. It also seems like Dell Demps wasted a lot of time working on deals, only to find out that he doesn’t really have the authority to do so. I’m just glad it’s over.

Hornets Agree To Trade Paul to Clips

For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

The Los Angeles Clippers, in a potentially franchise-changing trade, have finally reached a deal with the New Orleans Hornets to acquire four-time All-Star guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, sources tell TNT’s David Aldridge. The Clippers will send promising shooting guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, second-year forward Al-Faroqu Aminu and a 2012 first-round draft pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves that is currently unprotected to the Hornets.

A deal for Paul between the Hornets and the Clippers’ crosstown rival, the Lakers, was scotched last week by NBA Commissioner David Stern, acting on behalf of the league-owned Hornets.

The deal makes the Clippers a potential powerhouse in the Western Conference after almost three decades of being the NBA’s most laughably bad franchise, and shows the pull that third-year star forward Blake Griffin‘s presence has in luring marquee names to play there. With Griffin, Paul and newly signed small forward Caron Butler, the Clippers now have their own dynamic trio to compare with Miami’s “SuperFriends” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and New York’s new Big Three of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and center Tyson Chandler, acquired last Saturday from Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal.

In the end, the Clippers abandoned their position that they wouldn’t include both Gordon and the unprotected first-round pick in the deal. The Hornets wanted five assets from the Clippers; the only one Los Angeles retained was second-year guard Eric Bledsoe.

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Source: CP3-To-Clips Hung Up In Standoff

For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

The New Orleans Hornets continue to ask for guard Eric Gordon and the unprotected first-round Draft pick originally from the Timberwolves as the central assets in a potential deal with the Clippers for Chris Paul, a league source told TNT’s David Aldridge Wednesday morning. But the Clippers remain adamant that the Hornets cannot have both Gordon and the pick and must choose between the two.

The standoff is the major impediment in a possible trade between the two teams. While the Hornets are having discussions with other teams about their four-time All-Star guard, including the Lakers, the Clippers’ group of assets remains the most desirable and the one that New Orleans wants. The Clippers have committed to including center Chris Kaman and second-year forward Al-Farouq Aminu in the trade, and Monday’s claim of guard Chauncey Billups off waivers makes second-year guard Eric Bledsoe eminently tradeable. But the Gordon/pick problem remains.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are again trying to get involved for Paul, and are now using Pau Gasol as the primary piece of the deal to the Hornets. Last week’s aborted three-team deal between the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets had Gasol going to Houston, and Lamar Odom joining Rockets players Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic in New Orleans. But the league vetoed that deal at the last minute, with speculation rampant that the NBA — which owns the Hornets — bowed to pressure from owners of other teams who did not want the big-revenue Lakers again profiting by getting a star player from a small market.

NBA Commissioner David Stern cited “basketball reasons” for the league’s decision to turn the trade down. The league, through vice president Stu Jackson and president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin, is directly involved in trade discussions with other teams, along with Hornets’ management.

In the new scenario, Gasol would go to New Orleans — after which, according to the source, he would almost certainly be re-routed elsewhere for other assets, most notably more Draft picks for the Hornets. (One place that would not be is Boston; New Orleans does not have interest in a potential Celtics package involving guard Rajon Rondo, according to the source, who also dismissed reports on Tuesday that the Hornets would be interested in taking guard Mo Williams from the Clippers in exchange for forward Trevor Ariza.)

The Hornets are still exchanging ideas with other teams, including the Golden State Warriors, who are willing to make a deal for Paul even though he would not make a commitment to signing a contract extension with them. Paul has committed to playing out his option year with the Clippers, meaning he would be there through at least the 2012-13 season.

“Let’s be honest,” the source said. “There’s some owners who want to make a splash, and convince their fans that they want to be great. What better way to convince them than by getting Chris Paul?”

The league continues to insist that any trade for Paul puts the Hornets on a quick rebuilding path, with a combination of young players and Draft picks. That currently leaves out teams like the Rockets, who can offer good players but players who, like Scola ($39 million left on his contract) and Martin ($24 million), aren’t cheap. The league does not want to leave the post-Paul Hornets in the same relative position they are now — a team that could potentially make the playoffs, but not go very far.

This explains why New Orleans continues to ask for Gordon as well as the Minnesota pick. The Timberwolves could be bad as usual, but with a proven (945 career wins) coach in Rick Adelman, rookie forward Derrick Williams, guard Ricky Rubio and free agent J.J. Barea all arriving, the Wolves could also be much improved — maybe not a contender, but not a 20-win doormat whose pick could be counted on to be a top-five Draft selection.

“If you’re gonna be bad, you’ve got to be bad enough to get picks that will help, and not just bad enough that you’re a 10th seed (in the Western Conference).”

For their part, the Clippers are enjoying a rare moment when they have maximum leverage, and they’re not willing to relinquish it. They believe that with Billups they will be a playoff team this season and, in time, have the ability to go deep into the postseason. With Billups — who reportedly is scheduled to arrive at the team’s training camp Wednesday — the need to bring in Paul via trade is less pressing. Keeping Gordon is central to the team’s argument to its own budding superstar, Blake Griffin, that the Clippers will surround him with enough quality players to contend, and to make him comfortable enough to sign a long-term extension in the coming months.

Blogtable: Lakers And The West

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

If the Lakers go into the season with this roster, who’s better in the Western Conference?

Steve Aschburner: Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Memphis could put the Lakers on the road in the first round of the playoffs, in my opinion. Getting a year older is one issue. Adapting to a new head coach and a new offensive system are two more. The loss of Lamar Odom, and seeing him on the defending NBA champs, is a fourth. The uncertainty that might hang over this team until the trading deadline, if Chris Paul and Dwight Howard remain in play, would be one for the thumb. Not shaping up as the Lakers’ year.

Fran Blinebury: Dallas, OKC, San Antonio and maybe even Memphis.  Unless Mitch Kupchak can make the big move and somehow get Dwight Howard to L.A., the Lakers are older and significantly worse than when we last saw them.  And remember, that was on the wrong end of a 4-0 sweep by the Mavericks.  Lamar Odom was a difference-maker in those back-to-back championships and simply subtracting him from the lineup will ratchet up the pressure on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, which could be devastating.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Oklahoma City and maybe Dallas. Losing Tyson Chandler is a big hit for the Mavericks, but they still have a lot of depth and lineup options at the forwards and shooting guard.

Shaun Powell: Oklahoma City seems poised to break the small market stereotype. Of course, OKC wouldn’t be in such position if it wasn’t lucky enough to draft Kevin Durant (thanks, Blazers!) and then smart enough to grab Russell Westbrook, who’ll be playing for money this season. The Thunder will have a full season with Kendrick Perkins while James Harden could have a breakout year. The moons are aligning above this franchise.

John Schuhmann: A Lakers decline was coming even if they stood pat, but Lamar Odom was one of the biggest keys to them being a top-six defensive team each of the last four seasons. I think Oklahoma City and Dallas are definitely better than L.A., while Memphis and San Antonio are possibilities too. It’s going to be a season of serious transition in L.A., and the only thing that will keep them in the West’s top three is a trade for Dwight Howard. But that seems unlikely right now.

Blogtable: Dwight / CP3 Fallout

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

The Dwight / CP3 saga: Help or hurt the league, from an insider’s viewpoint and a fan’s?

Steve Aschburner: There are some NBA fans and media types who enjoyed the high of The Decision, its aftermath and the Great Free Agency Summer of 2010. But it was like a sugar rush, as I see it, and this Chris Paul-Dwight Howard stuff – on the heels of a serious business crisis that nearly torpedoed the 2011-12 season – is the same sort of cheap and ultimately hollow thrill. The lockout allegedly was meant to address the superstars-wanting-out malaise in the NBA. Yet it took the commissioner going to extraordinary and, frankly, embarrassing lengths just to keep a lid on things for the past two weeks. This isn’t tabloid TV or precinct politics, where any publicity is considered to be good publicity. I’ll say it again: The league should have pumped up the advantages for a player’s current team, with double the contract length (six years vs. three), double the raises (9 percent vs. 4.5) and Bird rights that don’t transfer in full to the new team if the player pushes for the trade.

Fran Blinebury: Dwight Howard’s situation appears ready to play out just like Carmelo Anthony last season and I don’t believe that inflicts any real damage.  However, the Chris Paul fiasco is a huge black eye for the league from both viewpoints.  For fans, it will just feed further into the conspiracy theories that say the commissioner’s office is pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes.  From the inside, it is unconscionable that the league didn’t: a) find a buyer for the Hornets before now to avoid the whole mess; b) declare in advance that the other 29 owners didn’t trust GM Dell Demps as a legitimate broker in all trades; and c) leave three franchises — Hornets, Lakers, Rockets — crippled by its heavy, ham-handed actions.

Scott Howard-Cooper:  Hurt. The wound would be deep enough under any circumstances. Coming immediately after a lockout that turned off a lot of people, players trying to move themselves and commissioners directly involved with trade negotiations are especially unwanted.

Shaun Powell: Well, there’s no debate: It has hurt the league from every angle. Fans were under the impression the labor agreement would’ve solved these issues and we see it has had little to no bearing at all. A-list players are still dictating where they want to go before they actually reach free agency and therefore holding their teams hostage. The NBA did itself no favors by either refusing or being unable to sell the Hornets last spring or this summer and then being put in a position of influencing the future of Chris Paul and a beleaguered franchise; it’s an unforgivable conflict of interest. Dwight Howard threatens to leave another small-market team wondering if it can recover quickly from his potential departure, either this season or next summer. Who’s happy with the state of the league right now? Nobody, really. Except maybe Kwame Brown.

John Schuhmann: I don’t think the messiness that comes with the league owning the Hornets is a good thing, but if twitter activity is any indication, the trade news has brought fan interest back quickly in the wake of the lockout. The drama surrounding the Heat was clearly a boon for the league last season. A Dwight-D-Will tandem and CP3 teaming with Kobe or Blake would certainly make for a more fascinating season than if those two guys stayed put.

Blogtable: Coach With Most Pressure?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Of the coaches starting the season with a new team, who has the hardest gig?

Steve Aschburner: Any coach new to his team this season has his hands full. Mike Brown, with the heat of the L.A. spotlight, the expectations, the egos and the end of the triangle offense will earn every penny. Others are near the end of their contracts. But Monty Williams won 46 games with New Orleans last season. If Chris Paul stays put with David West gone and limited help arriving, he and the Hornets will be hard-pressed to get 19 (half the pace of last season, based on 66 games).

Fran Blinebury: Mike Brown. He’s following perhaps the greatest coach in NBA history by taking over the helm of an aging ship that just had a gaping hole blown in its hull with the loss of Lamar Odom in a city where anything less than a championship is considered a failure.  Good luck with that.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Mike Brown. Rick Adelman will have to do a lot of heavy lifting in Minnesota and Kevin McHale steps into Houston at a particularly challenging time, but try being the guy who can get his team to a conference final and be part of a failed mission. That’s life as coach of the Lakers.

Shaun Powell: We don’t know the final makeup of the Lakers just yet, so we’ll put an asterisk next to Mike Brown‘s name. And assuming Paul Silas doesn’t count in this, his first full season with the talent-starved Bobcats (he took over for Larry Brown during last season), the guess would be Lawrence Frank in Detroit. Yes, he does have new ownership, which will refreshingly allow Joe Dumars to do what’s necessary. But the Pistons are coming off a poor season, attendance is lacking and there are odd-fitting pieces on the roster. Frank may need to take a few blows to the chin this season until the cap opens up and a lottery pick arrives next summer.

John Schuhmann: Dwane Casey, who’s taking over the team that has ranked last defensively for two straight seasons. The Raptors are young, but none of their young guys looks to be a franchise cornerstone, at least until they bring Jonas Valanciunas over next year. Casey’s patience will be tested and hopefully, the team’s new owners give him ample time (he only got a season and a half in Minnesota) to turn that team around.