Free Agency 2014

Wizards sign Pierce, think Durant in 2016?

VIDEO: Pierce leaves Brooklyn for DC

LAS VEGAS – They’re signing Paul Pierce but thinking Kevin Durant.

If the Washington Wizards’ decision to budgetarily hold the line on Trevor Ariza Saturday didn’t tip their hand on Durant ambitions in the summer of 2016, their move to land Pierce in free agency later in the day sure did.

Signing Pierce to a two-year, $10 million deal, a move reported by multiple outlets, looks like a potentially perfect maneuver to plug the hole in Washington’s starting lineup opened up by Ariza’s departure for the Houston Rockets. The longtime Celtics and one-year Nets star might not have a lot left in the tank – he averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 28 minutes for Brooklyn – but he might not be asked to do too much for the Wizards.

That club’s backcourt, John Wall and Bradley Beal, drive the offense and second-year forward Otto Porter already is being counted on to pick up much of Ariza’s slack. Pierce can ease Porter’s transition – the No. 3 pick in 2013, Porter played sparingly as a rookie – while providing leadership among the youngish team.

The Wizards want Porter to flourish, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep their options open should Durant decide to weigh his options beyond Oklahoma City in two years. Given LeBron James‘ decision announced Friday to return to Cleveland, fans in Washington and team management might try to pitch Durant – a DC native – on a similar homecoming. As laid out by CSNWashington.com:

But make no mistake, this isn’t conjecture anymore. It’s real. The hiring of David Adkins, who coached Durant in high school, from the University of Maryland’s women’s team as assistant coach to player development for the Wizards this past week isn’t a coincidence.

The building blocks are being put in place now. Ariza is off the books and Porter, who is playing on a rookie scale contract, is a much cheaper option. Nene, who will make $26 million for the next two seasons, will be off the books as well.

So what had been whispered or at least kept to a low roar evolved into some full-blown rumbling Saturday.

Bosh leaves Rockets on launch pad


VIDEO: Chris Bosh spurns Houston, agrees to re-sign with Miami

The word all along had been that when LeBron James made his decision, the rest of the dominoes would start to fall.

Seems the first one came crashing down on the best laid plans of the Rockets, who had made a four-year, $88-million offer to power forward Chris Bosh.

It was a neat little plan by Rockets general manager Tradin’ Daryl Morey, who had managed to come away with the plums of the past two off-seasons in Dwight Howard and James Harden.

Houston had gone as far trading away a piece of an already thin bench to make room for the All-Star Bosh under the salary by shipping guard Jeremy Lin and a pair of draft choices to the Lakers. What the Rockets took back in that trade was nothing and what they ended up with at the end of the day was just more of it.

Rather than form a new Big Three in Texas, Bosh surprised and spurned the Rockets by choosing to remain in Miami for a reported maximum contract of $118 million over five years.

For the 30-year-old Bosh, it makes all the financial sense in the world and it could be his time to shake off his third-wheel status with the Heatles and go back to the starring role of his Toronto days. He’s a tent-post that club president Pat Riley can build on in reconstructing the Heat again.

While it was well known and publicly stated the Bosh and his family enjoyed living in South Florida, one question is why he stretched out the affair and dragged the Rockets across the dance floor before jilting them. It is, by the way, the second time in four years that Bosh batted his eyes and flirted with Houston only to give the Rockets the kiss-off. Maybe they’ll learn next time not to pucker up.

If you’re keeping score in Houston, that’s no James, no Carmelo Anthony and no Bosh.

So the question becomes: What’s Plan D?

In addition, how do the Rockets respond to the offer sheet three-year, $46 million offer sheet the Mavs gave to forward Chandler Parsons?

When Bosh was in play, the Rockets plan had likely been to dig deep into their pockets to keep Parsons in order to form what, at least on paper, could have been the most solid starting five in the Western Conference — Howard, Harden, Bosh, Parsons and Patrick Beverley.

However, without Bosh to stretch the floor with his shooting and solidify the defense on the frontline, one of the biggest holes in the lineup remains. The Rockets were a 54-win team last season but still with holes and unable to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Therefore is it worth it to break the bank for Parsons to virtually keep the same together? Of course, the fact that they’re in this predicament is the Rockets’ own doing, since they never had to allow Parsons to become a restricted free agent in the first place. Too cute by half.

According to numerous reports, Morey has spent the past several days talking to the representatives of Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza and Paul Pierce. The other interesting name who might fit in neatly on the front line is Pau Gasol, but indications are that he has shown little interest in Houston.

Deng, Ariza or Pierce would all come far cheaper than Bosh — and even Parsons — but the question is whether a significant commitment to any of them truly moves the Rockets ahead in the rugged Western Conference pecking order.

Morey won’t stop trying to roll the dice and place another bet, because that’s what he does. But in a way, what happened to the Rockets is a variation of what happened to the Heat on Friday. When you play the free agent game, sometimes you get burned.

The difference, of course, is that Miami has two championships and four straight Finals appearances in its grasp and the Rockets just blistered fingers.

The new (LeBron) world order in the East


VIDEO: LeBron’s homecoming means a return to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference standings for the Cavs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Take the words of LeBron James as gospel on what will become of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the hometown hero back in the mix. As LeBron told SI.com, this is just the first step of the process:

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.

The Cavaliers’ metamorphosis from lottery outfit to true championship contender won’t happen overnight. While Las Vegas and everyone else seems to have forgotten about the San Antonio Spurs (the team that smashed the two-time defending champion Heat in The Finals last month), LeBron’s keen eye for history allows him to see that.

Even with LeBron, the Cavs might not be the best team in what could be a loaded Central Division next season.

Don’t forget, the Cavaliers couldn’t even make the playoffs in a watered down Eastern Conference last season. And the Atlanta Hawks made it to the playoffs last season with just 38 wins.

LeBron’s belief in the Cavaliers’ core group won’t necessarily be enough to push them past the Indiana Pacers, the team  that owned the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, or the potentially revamped Chicago Bulls, were they to secure the services of free-agent Carmelo Anthony and get a healthy season from one-time league MVP Derrick Rose.

No one should forget about the Toronto Raptors, winners of the Atlantic Division, or Washington Wizards, a surprise Eastern Conference semifinalist after knocking off the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams retained their marquee free agents — Kyle Lowry in Toronto and Marcin Gortat in Washington —  and will both be a year wiser and better.

Still, LeBron’s arrival changes the Eastern Conference landscape the same way it did four years ago when he showed up in Miami and (along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) turned a middle of the road Heat team into a contender.

Forget what that Cavaliers’ roster looks like today. Focus on what it could look like when the Cavs are done exploring their options. Swing a Kevin Love deal and add veterans and LeBron-friendlies like Mike Miller and Ray Allen, and perhaps that process LeBron mentioned can be accelerated.

The one thing that was true in 2010 about LeBron and his approach remains true this time around: He cannot do it alone. Wade and Bosh were crucial then and Irving and Wiggins will serve as his chief aides this time around. Love would certainly be the X-factor, but with or without Love, there is a new world order in the East.

Here’s an early look at the top eight in the Eastern Conference (as of this moment):

1) Indiana – Even with all of their dysfunction at the end of the season, the Pacers remain the most formidable roadblock for contenders in the Eastern Conference.

2) Cleveland – They get a big edge from the LeBron bump … YES, he means that much to whatever team he’s on. And that’s before we see what else the Cavs can come up with this summer.

3) Chicago – Carmelo pushes them up to a near tie for the No. 2 spot. Toss in Pau Gasol and we’re talking about a possible new No. 1. But there is much work to be done in the Windy City.

4) Toronto — Masai Ujiri is in the midst of changing the culture in Toronto, the most important step being his successful effort to keep Lowry in the fold.

5) Washington — Trevor Ariza remains an important piece for the Wizards, but he’s replaceable if a deal cannot be struck. The Wizards have as strong a young backcourt tandem in John Wall and Bradley Beal as there is in the East.

6) Charlotte – The addition of Gordon Hayward, if the Utah Jazz don’t match the $63 million offer sheet, does not vault the Hornets into the top half of the playoff chase.

7) Atlanta – The return of Al Horford from injury is more important than just about any free-agent signing the Hawks could execute this summer.

8) Miami – They lost out on LeBron but will keep Bosh and Wade as Pat Riley tries to repair the damage of the departure of the best player on the planet.

LeBron James is headed back home to Cleveland.

LeBron James is headed back home to Cleveland.

 

Five free agents that just can’t get away

Eric Bledsoe's potential departure from Phoenix would be a big blow to the franchise.

For the Suns to keep rising, they must re-sign the tough, spry Eric Bledsoe (left).

Most teams go into the free agency period saying they have every intention of hanging onto their players. They value them. They respect them. They’re ready to pony up and reward them. Truth is, in some cases, they can’t afford to let players that have become an integral part of the team and their identity walk out the door. It goes without saying that the Heat are all in to keep LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. So putting them aside, here’s the top handful of free agents that are just too valuable to let get away:

Carmelo Anthony, Forward, Knicks (unrestricted) — The new boss of Madison Square Garden Phil Jackson can keep trying to play hard ball and insist that Anthony accept less than a maximum level contract this season. But that truth is the Knicks need Anthony far more than he needs them. His options are many, from joining the Bulls or Rockets to try to lift them to the elite level, becoming another Hollywood star with the Lakers or even going to Miami to raise the temperature with the Heat. The Knicks’ options, if ‘Melo bolts, might include just leaving the ice down permanently at the Garden and letting the NHL Rangers play twice as many home games. Since LeBron has opted out this summer, the fantasy of chasing the game’s biggest name and best player will go back on hold in New York for another several years. The Knicks don’t have the assets to swing a deal for Kevin Love. They have a new coach in Derek Fisher. The declining Amar’e Stoudemire handcuffed the team further by deciding to opt in for $23.4 million. By keeping Anthony, the Knicks give fans a reason to show up or turn on the TV. Without him, they’re irrelevant.

Eric Bledsoe, Guard, Suns (restricted) — Never mind that they picked up rookie Tyler Ennis on draft night. When he was healthy for 43 games last season, Bledsoe was a difference-maker and likely could have lifted Phoenix into the playoffs if he’d been around for the full season. Though there might be a few who’d question his durability, Bledsoe is a 24-year-old sheer talent with a very high upside. He and backcourt partner Goran Dragic can both slide over to play shooting guard. But it’s running the show as a 1 where Bledsoe has the potential to carry the Suns into the future and could even crack the All-Star lineup in a very crowded Western Conference backcourt race. General manager Ryan McDonough has vowed to match any offer that comes his way. Bledsoe needs to be the foundation on what the Suns are building in the desert.

Boris Diaw, Forward/Center, Spurs (unrestricted) — You almost never want to tell the Spurs that one individual not named Tim Duncan means so much, especially after they’ve just picked up championship No. 5 by demonstrating that the team concept can outshine superstars by a wide margin in The Finals. But the point-guard-in-a-big-man’s-body Diaw was a very large part of that accomplishment, shifting the balance of power in the series against the Heat when he moved into the starting lineup. There was a great deal of talk on Draft night that the Spurs got the next Diaw-type player in forward Kyle Anderson. But this is a team where the clock is ticking loud and the championship contending days for this bunch will come to an end in another year or two at the most. Anderson will be fine for the next generation, but the Spurs need their crafty passer, good rebounder and underrated defender to stick around in order to have a shot at hanging up banner No. 6.

Marcin Gortat, Center, Wizards (unrestricted) — Yes, the Wizards will have to overpay, but that’s just a fact of life when you’re talking about a big man. Especially when it’s a big man coming off a season of averaging 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.5 blocks and anchoring the front court on a team that is built around guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. Gortat is simply solid at both ends of the ball, helping with the efficiency of the offense and stepping up to the play the role of large body stopper at the other end of the floor. In short, he just fits. Plus, the 30-year-old gives Washington a veteran’s sense of perspective. If it comes down to a choice between Gortat and fellow free agent Trevor Ariza, it’s really no choice at all. While Ariza’s defense on the perimeter and streaky offense are nice to have around, the big man keeps everyone grounded and gives the Wizards credibility in the East.

Lance Stephenson, Guard, Pacers (unrestricted) — Was it the moment that he blew in LeBron’s ear? Or when he gave the King that little chuck on the chin? At some point during the Eastern Conference finals virtually everybody leaned in a little closer to the HDTV screen and asked: “What in the world is Lance thinking?” Of course, the answer might have been nothing at all. Surely, the Pacers will have to think long and hard about how far they’re willing to open the wallet for a 23-year-old with a crazy streak. But that’s just it — Stephenson is just 23 and if club president Larry Bird can eventually get through to a player who has been a personal favorite, this team finally reaches its potential. If they let Stephenson get away, the Pacers are giving up part of their identity, their edge and simply take a step back into the soft middle of the standings. Yes, he’s a risk. Yes, he’s going to be infuriating. But yes, Indiana has to keep him.

What can the Heat offer free agents?


VIDEO: Wade opts out

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and now Chris Bosh have informed the Miami Heat that they will exercise the early termination options on their contracts, ending what were six-years deals after four seasons.

In addition, Udonis Haslem, has declined his $4.3 million player option.

Nine days ago, Pat Riley made it clear that he’d like his three All-Stars to take less money to help him retool the roster. On Tuesday, James put added pressure on Bosh and Wade by opting out of his deal. Now, it looks like things are falling into place and Riley will have the opportunity to upgrade the other two positions in his starting lineup.

Rumored targets for the Heat include point guard Kyle Lowry, forward Trevor Ariza and center Marcin Gortat. All have tools (ball-handling, defense, size) that would certainly help Miami. The idea of adding Carmelo Anthony seems far-fetched, but it all depends on how much money he’s willing to sacrifice, as well as how much Miami’s Big Three are willing to sacrifice.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that James is seeking a max contract, which would be a five-year deal worth about $120 million. So it would apparently be Bosh and Wade who would have to take pay cuts.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard tweeted that Bosh is seeking a new five-year deal worth $15-16 million per year. Those two reports (as well as the assumption that Wade isn’t going to take less than Bosh) gives us the framework of the Heat’s salary math, with an expected salary cap of $63.2 million …

Heat salary math

Player 2014-15 Notes
1 James, LeBron $20,020,875 Cap hold
2 Bosh, Chris $13,043,478 Reduced salary (5 yrs/$75M)
3 Wade, Dwyane $13,043,478 Reduced salary (5 yrs/$75M)
4 Cole, Norris $2,038,206 Under contract
5 Andersen, Chris $915,243 Cap hold
6 Napier, Shabazz $1,032,200 Cap hold
7-11 Cap hold x 5 $2,536,680 Cap hold
TOTAL $52,630,161
Salary cap $63,200,000
Left for free agent $10,569,839 4-year deal for $45.1 million

1. James’ max contract would start at about $20.8 million. Since his cap hold (1.05 x last year’s salary) is a little less than that, the Heat would use that number until the other pieces are signed. Then they can go over the salary cap to re-sign James.

2 and 3. If Bosh and Wade both accept five-year deals worth $75 million ($15 million per year), those contracts would have starting salaries of just over $13 million.

4. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the Heat are looking to unload Norris Cole. If they do that (and don’t get another player in return), his $2.0 million would be replaced by another rookie minimum cap hold (see 7-11) and they’d have an additional $1.5 million of cap space.

5. The Heat could renounce the rights to Chris Andersen, but he has just a vet’s minimum cap hold. Keeping that would allow them to sign him for much more after they’re back over the salary cap.

6. The Heat can pay Shabazz Napier 120 percent of the rookie scale for the No. 24 pick. As with James, better to keep the cap hold number until the other pieces are signed.

7-11. If you don’t have 12 guys on your roster, there is a rookie minimum cap hold ($507,336) for every slot that takes you up to 12. So, if we’re talking about James, Bosh, Wade, Cole, Andersen, Napier and one free agent, we need five minimum cap holds.

Additional note: In this scenario, the Heat have renounced their rights to Haslem, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Toney Douglas, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, and Greg Oden, and have also waived Justin Hamilton (who has a non-guaranteed deal). It’s assumed that Haslem will get rewarded for opting out (with a long-term deal that pays him more than the $4.3 million he could have earned next season), and Allen is a critical piece in the rotation, but their cap holds ($8.2 million and $4.2 million) are too big to keep on the books.

After the Heat have gone over the cap, they can use the room exception (starting at $2.7 million) to bring one or more of those guys back (or add other free agents). It can be split among multiple players. After that, they’d have only minimum deals to offer players.

If all the above holds, the Heat could offer one free agent $45.1 million over four years ($11.3 million per year). If they are able to trade Cole, that would turn into $51.7 million over four years ($12.9 million per year).

That’s still about half of what Anthony could earn elsewhere. If he were to re-sign with the Knicks for the max, he’d get $129.1 million over five years ($25.8 per year). If he were to sign with a new team for the max, he’d get $95.9 million over four years ($24.0 million per year).

So Lowry, Ariza and Gortat are obviously more realistic options. If the Heat were to split their cap space among two free agents (assuming they traded Cole), they could offer them a total of about $13.5 million per year. Ariza and Gortat each made $7.7 million for the Wizards this past season, while Lowry made $6.2 million for the Raptors.

Both Gortat and Lowry will likely be offered raises from their current teams, who are both looking to keep the momentum going after returning to the postseason after long layoffs. With Martell Webster and Otto Porter on the roster, the Wizards might not fight hard for Ariza, but he could still get more than mid-level money elsewhere, as one of the better three-and-D guys in the league and still just 29 years old.

So there’s no clear starting-lineup upgrade for the Heat. But if James accepts less than the max or if Bosh and/or Wade accept less than $15 million per year, there’s more money to spend. And since they’re also offering a chance to play with the best player in the world for a championship on Biscayne Bay, they may not have to spend as much as other teams.

2014 Draft day rumblings …


VIDEO: The top prospects in the NBA Draft talk about what going No. 1 would mean to them

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — 

Keeping you up to date with the latest …

This what they call “reinvention” in South Florida

DWade tipping his hand, and the hands of others?

Day 1 of the new challenge.. @kingjames @rayn34 @mistadubb Let's goo!!! #focused

A photo posted by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on

Kyle Anderson is Boris Diaw 3.0!

Forget about the early Boris years and focus on the now.

Work it out …

While the world stresses over his next move, LeBron and Moms are working out …

Gold digging

Late first gems are the key to success. Ask the Spurs.

Any takers?

Seems like K-Mart is always in the crosshairs on Draft night … at the trade deadline … when free agency begins, etc.

We won! I mean, we lost! Huh?

Go US-A!

POTUS biding his time until the Draft

Watching by land, by sea, by air and basically everywhere!

The NBA’s Group of Death?

The Southwest Division fits the bill for certain.

From one lottery pick to another …

He would know! #wherewereyouthistimelastyear?

Sometimes, the best players aren’t even drafted

In case you’re fretting about who your team might pick tonight, check out this video from Pistons.com on undrafted future Hall of Famer Ben Wallace

Exum the Hoosier?

Might have happened if the Aussie prospect had come overseas to play in the NCAA

Iggy wants the Splash Bros. in tact

If the Golden State Warriors want to somehow pick up Kevin Love this summer, Andre Iguodala knows who he doesn’t want traded to make that happen

Report: Sixers, Lakers, Celtics interested in Embiid

Guess that foot injury isn’t scaring away these three teams …

Raptors trying to work trade with Grizz?

The Toronto Raptors might be trying to use veteran John Salmons as bait to land Memphis’ No. 22 pick

Afflalo deal indication of ‘Melo move?

ICYMI, Arron Afflalo is headed back to Denver … does that mean another certain ex-Nugget (Carmelo Anthony) is on the move this summer?

Some Rondo trade rumors

It’s Draft time, which means Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is in the middle of chatter …

Reunion summer

I bet the Thunder would love to do that one over!

The trade circle of life

Funny how things come full circle sometimes.

Simmons Says?

LeBron ain’t going nowhere!

Meanwhile, on that No. 1 pick …

Still no deal for that No. 1 pick. Cavs might actually have to make another selection. The horror!

Afflalo on the move

Arron Afflalo back to the Nuggets.

Match made in hoops heaven

McGary would fit in beautifully with the way the Spurs play. #SpursWay

Draft mockery?

Uncle Sam is the only person that I remember nailing the No. 1 pick in last year’s mock Draft. #justsayin

https://twitter.com/chicagobulls/status/482172995348078592 (more…)

LeBron puts onus on Riley to ‘reinvent’ Heat roster around him


VIDEO: LeBron wouldn’t tip his hand about opting out during his exit interview

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — At least we were spared the made-for-TV announcement special this time.

LeBron James opting out of the final two years of the deal he signed in 2010 with the Miami Heat to explore his free agent options is the decision many of us expected. From all indications, it’s the only reasonable decision he could have made, given the circumstances.

Never mind the craziness his choice will usher in over the course of the next few weeks.

We’re still waiting on the decisions of the other two members of the Heat’s Big 3, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who are expected to follow the lead of James and opt out of their deals before the June 30 deadline and become free agents July 1.

That would place them in a superstar class that also includes Carmelo Anthony, who informed the New York Knicks that he was opting out of the final year of his deal Monday. The fun (and madness) begins with the speculation about what these guys will do in the next phase of their respective careers.

That Heat Big 4 that Pat Riley called a “pipe dream” last week suddenly looks like a possibility, a far-fetched one maybe but still a possibility. By opting out of their deals LeBron, ‘Melo, Wade and Bosh have created an opportunity for Riley to pull off the unthinkable for the second time since 2010, when the Big 3 was put together.

Of course, that’s just one scenario of many that could play out before free agents can sign deals July 10. (more…)

Report: Duncan exercises option, will return to Spurs for 2014-15 season


VIDEO: Tim Duncan’s standard of excellence stands the test of time

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Tim Duncan will be around to chase back-to-back titles and a sixth championship with the San Antonio Spurs next season.

Duncan exercised his $10.3 million option for the 2014-15 season Monday afternoon, per multiple reports, guaranteeing the Spurs’ core will come back together for at least one more ride. Yahoo! Sports was the first to report the news.

Duncan, 38, had until Monday to make up his mind. He gave no indication during the Spurs’ Finals run that he would do anything but return for another season. He joins Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the other two members of the Spurs’ superstar core, as all three will head into the final year of their current contracts.

As good as he was during the regular season (15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds in managed minutes), Duncan was just as good if not slightly better in 23 postseason games, when he averaged 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds.

 

Welcome to impossible, Carmelo Anthony


VIDEO: Relive Carmelo Anthony’s top 10 plays from 2013-14

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Any way you slice it, $23.3 million is a lot of money … even for a guy who has already made millions.

But for Carmelo Anthony, the decision to forgo that money he would have earned by opting-in for the final year of his deal with the New York Knicks, no giant sum of cash can replace the uninhibited freedom he will experience this summer as an unrestricted free agent for the first and only time in the prime of his career.

Anthony had to make the best decision for his future. And any future that doesn’t include the all-out pursuit of a championship situation would have been the wrong choice.

By courting free agency, though, a player of his stature also courts some inevitable backlash, too.

So welcome to impossible, ‘Melo. You lose no matter what you do.

Opt-in with the Knicks for one more season of who-knows-what-will-happen-hoops at the Garden, you get knocked for not chasing titles in what is clearly the physical prime of your career.

If you opt-out and test free agency without re-signing with the Knicks, you get blasted for leaving the Phil Jackson-and Derek Fisher-led lab-test team and chasing titles elsewhere.

Melo’s bottom line is simple. He can sign a contract worth $130 million over five years with the Knicks and only the Knicks, a fortune no one knows for sure the Knicks are offering. He can sign a maximum deal with another suitor for $96 million over four years.

Chatter of him possibly taking less than a max deal to help whichever team he signs with bring in additional free agent help sounds great, but that’s nothing more than chatter at this point.

This is the world your good friend LeBron James has lived in the past four years. The moment he turned his back on Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach a huge segment of the basketball public made up their minds about him. No amount of winning would change those opinions. LeBron’s gamble turned out to be a 50-50 championship proposition, with losses in the Heat Big 3’s first and last seasons together sandwiching back-to-back title seasons.

Win in New York and your star would never fade.

Bolt New York for Chicago or Houston or Los Angeles or Miami and ‘Melo takes James’ title as “the easiest target in sports” — at least temporarily. There’s also no guarantee Anthony will win it all in his new city. None!

Anthony knows this all too well, as he detailed in a recent interview with Vice.com (see below) that was released today:

“I came from a smaller market in Denver. Not so much scrutiny, but media its everywhere … but not like the level it’s here in New York. Playing in a small market, you can only go so high — as far as individual players goes,” Anthony said in the interview with ViceSports.com. “There’s only so much you can do and at a point in your life you got to look for something else … a bigger stand, a bigger stage, a bigger market.

“When you go to a place like New York … you feel the excitement, you feel the difference. The energy is different, the fans are different, the game is different.”

Anthony also opened up a little bit on what might influence his decision to come, be it say on the roster to the life he leads away from the court.

“As far as player personnel goes, I would love to be involved in that. At the end of the day, you’re creating a family. You can’t create a bond with somebody that’s not going to fit in with you, or someboday that’s not going to be there when you need them the most and don’t understand the game and how to win and situations in the game and things like that.

“As much as it has to do with having the top guys on the team — superstars per se — you need the rest of your soldiers.

“The average person just sees opportunity to say that ‘oh ‘Melo should go here, ‘Melo should go there, I think he should do this, I think he should do that’. But they don’t take into consideration the family aspect of it, your livelihood, where you’re going to be living at. Do you want your kids to grow up in that place? Do  I want to spend the rest of my career in that situation? In that city? All that stuff comes into play.

“The average person is looking at it as next year. ‘Next year he’d win a championship if we go here.’ We’re looking at the big picture here, now. You’re looking at the next six to eight years of your career – the end of your career at that. Do you want to spend that much time in that place?” (more…)

Warriors, Bogut Begin Negotiations

Andrew Bogut is ready to get down to business with the Warriors once he returns to the States.

Andrew Bogut is ready to get down to business with the Warriors once he returns to the States.

SHANGHAI, China – The Warriors and Andrew Bogut have opened negotiations on a contract extension designed to keep him off the free-agent market in July, he told NBA.com, with Bogut willing to make major concessions to stay but also looking for payback from management for pursuing Dwight Howard last offseason.

Bogut said team officials started conversations with agent David Bauman last week, before the Warriors left Oakland for exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai against the Lakers. Bogut expects talks to heat up once Golden State returns to the United States following the Friday night contest (7:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV). The issue will come to some resolution by early in the regular season: either he will have a new deal soon or he will become a free agent because neither side wants the discussions dragging long into 2013-14.

Bogut said the initial numbers from the Warriors, “weren’t insulting. But they weren’t what I’m looking for. Nothing concrete has been actually formally written up. We’ve just been going back and forth, but nothing too crazy.”

Not insulting is encouraging — the sides are starting in the same vicinity.

Additionally, in a move that creates more common ground on what could have been a contentious point, Bogut is willing to accept a deal with incentive clauses based on games played, a nod to his battle with injuries. Management would obviously like the idea of protecting itself, a give-back it didn’t get a year ago in negotiations with Stephen Curry, who had his own health issues but got his extension fully guaranteed.

“Just based on the fact that my last two injuries I can’t control,” Bogut said. “If these were chronic injuries from lack of conditioning or not working out in the summer or being a fat slob, I can understand the caution. But would I do things to the extent that Andrew Bynum’s done with his contract? Hell no. The clauses that he has, there’s no chance I would sign a contract. But basically having game incentives — whatever the number is, 60, 70, whatever it is — I have no problem. I think that’s only fair.”

The compromise from the Warriors in what would likely be a three-year extension, tacked on to the end of 2013-14 as the final season of the current deal on the books for $14.2 million, will be the larger payments if Bogut reaches the incentives.

And there is the Howard factor. The Warriors were one of the final five contenders as the Dwightmare played out in free agency, which would have meant trading Bogut, though how close they came to pulling off the Andre Igoudala-Howard double or committing to Howard rather than Igoudala has never been clear. General manager Bob Myers said in the summer Howard’s camp was upfront with the Warriors being longshots, but owner Joe Lacob told Sean Deveney of Sporting News in October that “We were a lot closer than people realize to that actually happening.”

Bogut watched and agreed with the pursuit of Howard. But he also remembered. He plans to remember all the way to the negotiating table.

“Oh, of course,” he told NBA.com “A hundred percent. Yeah. It’s nothing personal between business. I definitely remember that. That’s just a part of the NBA and a part of business. You want to get as much as you can for your worth and they want to get as much as they can out of you and they want to get as much as they can from anyone.

“I definitely don’t believe that there was nothing there. I believe there was something there. And if I was sitting in the GM’s position with the Golden State Warriors, I’d make that deal. It’s a future Hall of Fame center for a guy that was banged up and struggled through a season. I can’t take personally. It’s a business. They’re trying to get better. Obviously it does play on your mind a little bit in the offseason, but that’s part of business. At the same time, if I do become a free agent, I’m going do what I can to do what’s best for myself.”

Asked if he has started to look at other teams and consider how he would fit, Bogut said: “Not any thought. Not any thought at all, to be honest. And I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t like to and I wouldn’t want to during the season. I’m committed to the Golden State Warriors right now, to be here. But my agent has told me there’s been some teams that have been calling. My agent’s told me there are some teams that are very interested and are prepared to sign me. We’ll see what’s that worth and go from there.”

But does he know the teams?

“Yeah. I’m not going to let that out yet. A couple of teams in the West.”

Intriguing teams?

“I mean, somewhat, yeah,” Bogut responded. “Like I said, California state tax plays a big part in things. But first and foremost, I want to be here. I do want to be here. But under the right circumstances obviously.”

The tampering claims will almost certainly never come to light. But Bogut either feels very secure about his options in July if he doesn’t reach a deal now with the Warriors or is doing a good selling job. It’s playing the negotiating game. It may also become payback for last summer.

Bogut is also choosing between an extension now at a maximum of three years or waiting to become a free agent and being able to get a lot more money with a four-year deal. He said, though, he will sign now and give up the additional season if the money is right.