HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If any player in free agency was going to break the news on his own, we figured it would social media maven Steve Nash.
With a handful of teams aggressively pursuing the two-time MVP, it wouldn’t have come as a shock if he’d already picked his next destination. So when we saw his Tweet this morning we started scrambling the breaking news unit here at the hideout to find out of it was going to be the Raptors, Suns, Knicks, Nets or Mavericks?
Turns out, he has his own “new” team:
Not everyone in this business takes kindly to the product endorsement prank, but with all of the craziness that free agency brings, we can appreciate Nash lightening the mood just a little bit, even if it is just for a moment.
(You can get back to your regularly scheduled craziness now!)
MIAMI – The words Knicks fans wanted to hear finally came flowing out of Steve Nash‘s mouth yesterday. The two-time MVP and soon-to-be free-agent point guard says the Knicks are on his list of teams that he’ll consider playing for this season.
“The Knicks are a great franchise and I live in New York City (each summer), so I’d definitely consider them if they were interested.”
The Knicks’ interest should be high, considering their muddled point guard situation. Jeremy Lin is also a free agent and there is no guarantee he signs with the Knicks this summer. And Baron Davis had knee surgery and it’s not clear exactly when he will return and what shape his game will be in when he does.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson knows his team needs solid point guard play from the start of this season and who better to orchestrate for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire (Nash’s former teammate in Phoenix) than the Nash?
There should be plenty of competition to sign Nash, 38, who has made it clear that he feels great and can see himself playing three more years:
“I want to wait and see what’s actually on the table,” he said. “I’m open and excited. I’m looking at every possibility right now. It sounds like there are a number of teams that are interested.”
Other than playing for the Heat or Magic (alongside Dwight Howard?), there isn’t a more intriguing destination for Nash than the Knicks. He has no plans to make a decision before free agency kicks off July 1.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We apologize in advance for the conflicting reports you’re going to hear in the days and weeks ahead about basically any and every NBA player, free agent or not, being pursued by this team or that team.
Hey, it’s that time of year, just a few months later than normal.
Of course, with a condensed free agency period/training camp all rolled into one, things are going to be a little wilder and crazier than usual. So again, be prepared to hear any and everything and just remember that until at least Dec. 9, it’s all talk …
PACERS CHASING RONDO?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: As Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge aggressively pursues possible deals for Rajon Rondo, the Indiana Pacers have emerged as an intriguing suitor for the point guard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. For the past few days, Pacers officials – and third-party surrogates – have been making calls and gathering information and insight into Rondo’s reputation as a teammate and leader, sources said. The Pacers and Celtics have discussed the preliminary framework of a deal, but two sources said Indiana would need a third team to provide Boston with the talent it wants to do a deal. The Celtics are likely trying to gather the necessary pieces to make a bid for Ainge’s ultimate target: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, sources said. It was unclear if the Pacers had begun to reach out to broaden discussions, but there was an expectation they would do so. The Celtics have been gauging Rondo’s trade value for more than a year, and have held discussions with teams about him across the past few trade deadlines and NBA drafts. There have long been divides within Boston’s front office, coaching staff and locker room about Rondo. He can be moody, difficult and stubborn, and several league sources were dubious if the Pacers’ young coach, Frank Vogel, would have the stature to deal with Rondo.
NETS READYING OFFER FOR DWIGHT HOWARD
Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com: The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation. Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. No trade deadline for the 2011-12 season has been set in stone yet by the league office, but many team executives believe it will fall in March. Once the league officially re-opens for business, Howard’s future in Orlando is sure to be one of the season’s dominant story lines, along with Chris Paul’s future in New Orleans and the Nets’ attempts to secure a long-term commitment from star guard Deron Williams. It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can speculate all we want about the Orlando Magic’s plans for keeping Dwight Howard in the fold and away from the free agent sharks in 2012.
But why speculate when Magic general manager Otis Smith is willing, at least somewhat, to talk about the Magic’s plans for Howard and his help:
Fine, Smith was less than forthcoming about his plans. But you had to know that the Magic’s gathering to introduce their newest rookies — Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins and this afternoon would turn into an inquisition about Howard.
So much has been written and said about the game’s best big man since the Magic’s season ended in that first round series against Atlanta, but so little of that has come from the mouth of the man charged with keeping it all together.
Howard, meanwhile, seems to be enjoying his summer. He and Gilbert Arenas are having quite the time these days “planking” all over Orlando.
The only thing better would be pictures of Smith and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy planking right along with them …
Jokes aside, Smith has to know that these questions about Howard and his future will persist until the day he announces his intentions or puts his signature on a new deal. And even then, if that new deal isn’t with the Magic, the questions will persist.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No offense to Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely or Bismack Biyombo, the biggest of the big men drafted in the top 10 of Thursday night’s Draft, but they are not the biggest name international post players that we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the coming weeks.
But there are two other NBA bigs that will have our undivided attention as we head into an uncertain July. Nuggets center Nene and Grizzlies center Marc Gasol are the headliners in a free agent class whose star power and depth pales in comparison to the flashy class of 2010 (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, etc.), a group still awaiting word on a new collective bargaining agreement before they can begin the process of deciding their futures.
As promising as that international crop of big men from the draft is supposed to be, and Valanciunas is considered by most the best long-term big man from the 2011 class, none of them will be as valuable as either Nene has been and could be to the Nuggets or Gasol has been and could be to the Grizzlies.
We are talking about two low-post anchors for Western Conference playoff teams, as opposed to long-range projects that no one is sure will be impact players in the league anytime soon.
Has the first LeBron-sized domino fallen for 2011? Sure has if Carmelo Anthony really is planning on leaving Denver.
Hello, Big Apple.
Melo is no doubt the headliner a year from now should he hit the open market. The All-Star forward owns an early termination option, which will be exercised if Anthony decides to bypass the three extra years — and $65 million — the Nuggets are hoping to tag onto his current contract.
Many league observers, especially around Denver, figured Melo signing the max-level extension would be a matter of when, not if. Well, he hasn’t signed, giving Nuggets fans the same sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach felt last month in Cleveland.
But both Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke and Anthony already are well aware that they don’t have a future together, sources say. That became clear to Kroenke at a reception after Anthony’s July 11 nuptials to La La Vasquez in Manhattan.
A series of toasts at the wedding reception, initiated by New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul, suggested Anthony leave Denver for the New York Knicks. Paul suggested it playfully, one source said, but subsequent guests — including Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire and Anthony’s brother, Robert — made the point more forcefully.
Then Kroenke stood up to give a toast and the room was filled with an awkward silence, one wedding guest said. Kroenke tried to make light of the situation by suggesting Paul could come to Denver but that elicited no response.
How about a Mile High panic? By not signing an extension, Melo could be taking a huge risk with a lockout possibly on the horizon after this season. The Nuggets, according to Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla, are already taking steps not to get “LeBron’d.”
The Nuggets are now considering a strategy to part ways with their 26-year-old star forward, according to a league source.
After quietly gauging trade interest in Anthony for weeks, the team’s consternation has only risen as he has made no move to accept a $65 million offer for a three-year contract extension that was formally presented more than a month ago.
The Nuggets don’t want to get LeBron’d.
LeBron James toyed with anxious minds in Cleveland before ripping out the hearts of Cavaliers fans by announcing a departure from his home state on live television. As was first reported by The Denver Post in June, the Nuggets are prepared to trade Anthony rather than watch him opt out of his contract next summer.
Melo would headline the free agency crop of 2011. At least he’ll give the Nuggets one more year than LeBron gave the Cavaliers.
(The Big Leprechaun thing is still tough to picture in our heads, but we’re working on that part.)
We will also figure out a way to get excited about yet another conglomeration of superstars (past and present) sharing the same locker room. We’ve been saying it for days, weeks even. Shaq can still be a factor on a nightly basis in the NBA.
The Celtics, wise and shrewd in so much of what they’ve done the past three years, are posed to reap the rewards of what O’Neal has left. Adding him to their already jumbo-sized mix in the frontcourt is a treat for Celtics fans and those of us that get to observe and report on this league for a living.
Having Doc Rivers to manage it all, egos and whatever else comes with this sort of star-studded group, is a treat for the franchise.
And you better believe the Eastern Conference arms race will take another twist if this deal is finalized.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Richard Jefferson is accepting apologies now.
You can sign your name or go the anonymous route. But make sure you give it up for the San Antonio Spurs’ small forward for gambling on free agency and winning.
Folks weighed in from around the globe a couple of weeks ago, wondering if he’d gone mad for opting out of the final year of his deal to test the free agent market that didn’t seem to value him as a marquee talent.
Jefferson confirmed our confidence in him with the new deal. We knew he wasn’t crazy. We knew he had a plan, no matter how long it took for the details to finally come out.
And we have to admit, the Spurs with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, newcomer Tiago Splitter, Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, George Hill and DeJuanBlair do resemble a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference this season.
The interesting mix of age and youth will no doubt be bolstered by the addition of Splitter, who has a couple of years to learn on the job before taking over bell cow duties from Duncan.
He’ll have some quality help for at least the next four years from a certain small forward that has rebounded fairly well from what appeared to many to be a disastrous move on the eve of free agency.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Scoff all you want at the notion of the South Beach version of the Big 3.
One thing you can’t deny, though, is their star power.
The Miami Heat’s super trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh has turned the basketball world upside down months before anyone hits the floor for training camp this season. But they are paying immediate dividends for the franchise that won the free agent sweepstakes.
They’ve also sparked a ticket craze in Miami. In fact, you can’t even get a season ticket down there anymore.
The sellout was the result of an intense two-day influx of interest that twice crashed the team’s website and jammed its phone lines.
Those trying to buy a season-ticket package through Heat.com Thursday afternoon were greeted with the message: “To purchase your HEAT Season Tickets, please call 786-777-HOOP (4667).”
But many who dialed the number were greeted with an automated response. Those fortunate to get someone on the line learned that just a handful of tickets still remained — at some $6,000 apiece. But as the day progressed, even those vanished.
While the season tickets are apparently gone, the entire season is not quite a sellout. The organization is holding back some single-game tickets for the public, but those will surely go just as fast — especially if James heads south.
The Heat declined to comment on the ticket situation Thursday.
The unprecedented crush began with Wednesday’s news that Wade and Bosh agreed to join forces in South Florida, and reached a fever pitch with speculation that James would complete the All-Star trio.
For anyone remotely familiar with the apathetic nature of the South Florida sports fan, this level of fervor is foreign, to say the least.
It’s been said more than once that Miami gets excited only for world-class events, and this has to qualify.
Last year, when the Heat went 47-35 and was quickly bounced by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, the franchise ranked 15th and 16th in average attendance (17,730) and capacity (90.5 percent), respectively.
By now, it’s obvious that any help won’t do. Wade doesn’t want Amar’e Stoudemire, whom the Heat nearly grabbed at the February trade deadline according to a source, or Carlos Boozer, who would love to play in Miami.
He doesn’t want Brendan Haywood or David Lee as primary help. He could have had any of those players lining up beside him by now. Dirk Nowitzki‘s size and game would be a perfect complement to Wade, except Nowitzki is 32 and seemingly married to Dallas.
Wade’s decision hinges on Chris Bosh or LeBron James coming to the Heat. At the very least, it hinges on them not lining up together in Cleveland or Chicago to form the kind of dynasty Riley talked about here. And Wade wants to join.
So the story isn’t Wade. It’s Riley, just as it always has been with the Heat. He’s 65. This is the final big play of his grand career. The Heat needs Ted Williams hitting a home run in his last at-bat right now, not Willie Mays stumbling at home plate with the Mets.
The tough question remains just what Riley can throw down on the recruiting table besides his seven championship rings. That says a lot. But listen to how the sales pitches must have gone from teams to Wade, James and Bosh.
From Chicago General Manager John Paxson: “If you come here, we have Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and our plan is to team you with either LeBron or Bosh. Maybe all of you, if you’re on board. That’s a championship team. And it’s in your hometown.”
From New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov: “We have point guard Devin Harris, 7-foot Brook Lopez, the No. 3 pick in the draft, 6-10 Derrick Favors. That’s a good point guard and two good big men. And we’ll get another great around. And I’ll make you an international name.”
From Riley: “Trust me.”
Time will tell if that’s enough for Wade.
But we’re guessing here at the hideout that he needs more assurance than that, even from a man of action like Riley.