Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

Morning shootaround — July 5



VIDEO: GameTime reports on Carmelo Anthony’s visit with the Lakers

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bosh as Miami’s “go-to” free agent | Bulls closer to Mirotic arrival | Lakers face empty summer, long season | Blazers’ market woes show in Hawes signing

No. 1: Bosh as Miami’s “go-to” free agent — The pecking order to 2014 free agency seemed clear from the start: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and everybody else. Even James as the marketplace’s big kahuna deserved an asterisk, given the conventional wisdom that he simply was stepping back temporarily to a) allow Miami president Pat Riley some financial elbow room to maneuver for help, and b) hold the Heat’s feet to the fire a little in rounding up that help.
The thinking then, anyway, was that once Anthony made his decision – or gave an indication of his leanings, which in this case suggest the New York scoring star might stay with the Knicks for a five-year, $129 milllion maximum offer – other dominos would fall. Only now it’s looking as if Chris Bosh, Miami’s “third” among three Super Friends over the past four seasons, not only might be one of those tiles but that he might be leapfrogging James in his impact on this summer’s market.
There might be unexpected uncertainty around James – might he actually sign elsewhere? – but there’s no doubting the interest in Bosh, for the same sort of maximum money The King would get, from multiple teams. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com touched on that and the ways Bosh might wind up better off if the doesn’t re-sign with the Heat:

Perhaps the biggest sign pointing to Anthony re-signing with the Knicks is the growing interest from one of his suitors, the Rockets, in Heat free agent Chris Bosh. Bosh possibly going to the Rockets (or to the Lakers or Mavs) proves why the notion of Bosh taking a $10 million pay cut to stay in Miami was never realistic. With the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs, Lakers, Cavs, Suns and potentially others chasing James, Anthony or both, there are more teams than there are LeBrons and Melos (only one of each). Once James and Anthony have made a decision, the teams that lost out will be lining up to create a market for Bosh.
Thus, with James waiting for Heat president Pat Riley to revamp the roster and with Dwyane Wade leaving $42 million on the table at age 32, Bosh is the member of the Big Three most likely to break away. Multiple league sources say there will be a close-to-max market for Bosh if Anthony and James stay with their respective teams. One of those people, an executive with a rival team, said the growing belief around the league is that Bosh would prefer a four-year max deal with another team to a discounted longer deal with Miami.

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No. 2: Bulls closer to Mirotic arrival – Chicago ranks fifth among the five primary suitors for Anthony in terms of the money it can pay him. If the Bulls keep their core intact to stay attractive enough to Carmelo as a title contender, they’ll be limited in cap space and need him to leave more than $60 million on the table for what wouldn’t be a sure thing in the ring department. That reality was starting to sink in for the team’s fans as it learned more about Nikola Mirotic, the Euro-stashed “stretch four,” along with available Lakers forward Pau Gasol from Chicago Tribune beat writer K.C. Johnson:

Per league rules, the Bulls can contribute up to $600,000 of Mirotic’s buyout without that amount going on their books. Exceeding that would be considered a signing bonus and would take away valuable salary-cap space.
That’s space the Bulls most want to use to sign Anthony. But in the wake of reports that the Knicks and Lakers have offered the All-Star forward a maximum contract, the Bulls started their contingency plans by traveling to Los Angeles on Thursday to meet with Pau Gasol and other free agents.
The Bulls face strong competition for Gasol, who has drawn interest from the Knicks, Thunder, Spurs and Heat. The Lakers, who paid him $19.3 million last season, also want him back at a reduced salary.
The Bulls could outbid all of those suitors except perhaps the Lakers. They left their meeting with the impression Gasol’s decision wasn’t imminent.
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Mirotic, who reportedly had issues with his Real Madrid coach that could have hastened his decision to try the NBA, fits the Bulls’ desire to add shooting around Derrick Rose. That process began with the draft-day acquisition of Doug McDermott.

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No. 3: Lakers face empty summer, long season — It’s going to take some getting-used-to, this sense of the NBA getting bigger and better with two of its most storied franchises (ever notice how you only read “storied” in sportswriting?) stuck in extended pit stops. Boston’s basketball version of the Big Dig continues at about the same pace as the tedious highway project there, while the Los Angeles Lakers have almost swapped identities with the old L.A. Clippers in terms of any “wow!” factors. Longtime L.A.-based NBA scribe Mark Heisler, in a piece for Forbes’ Web site, held a magnifying glass up to the Lakers and their currently squished hopes in free agency. He drops a “storied” in there, too:

Just asking: If they wanted to pursue James and Anthony, why, oh, why did they give Kobe Bryant that $48.5 million extension, cluttering up next season’s salary cap with $23.5 million of it?
With Steve Nash waived and “stretched” so his cap charge goes down to $3.2 million, that would have left four more players under contract (Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson) with enough for a maximum offer ($22.4 million in first-year salary for Melo, $20 million for Bron) and $10-12 million to give six more players… after renouncing Pau Gasol.
Thus the Lakers were asking Anthony–and will ask James–to play with the 36-year-old Bryant; two rookies; one second-year second-round pick and eight guys off the waiver wire.
Hopefully, no one laughs in their face but for a storied franchise in what was once the NBA’s destination of choice, that’s not a serious offer.
In fact when the team gave Bryant that extension–at the prompting of Jeanie Buss, the popular member of the family, before Kobe returned from injury and lasted six games–the word around the organization was: We did this knowing that James and Anthony aren’t likely to be on the market and if they are, we’re not likely to have a shot at them.
It’s now clear that the Buss kids weren’t capable of thinking Bryant’s extension through. Many misadventures later, with Kobe as frantic as they are, they’re desperate for a big score, even with James and Anthony the only stars on the market and little chance that either of them would leave.

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No. 4: Blazers’ market woes show in Hawes signing — Maybe fans in downtrodden NBA markets such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Orlando can take a little solace in this: You don’t have to be frigid or years away from a .500 record to be considered “unglamorous” as a destination for NBA players. Portland – a terrific Northwest city that offers a swell blend of cosmopolitan and outdoorsy living – feels dissed too, and the Trail Blazers were a fun-to-watch playoff team two months ago.
Apparently, though, Spencer Hawes had a bigger stage in mind when he chose the Clippers over the Blazers for the same mid-level exception payout (which frankly would spend bigger in Oregon than in the L.A. market). That’s how Portland ended up instead with Chris Kaman rather than Hawes, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com tells it. And come to think of it, we don’t hear Portland as a destination for Kevin Love, despite the fact that the Timberwolves antsy-to-leave All-Star grew up in the area:

All Portland could offer Hawes was the midlevel exception, which is what he accepted from the Clippers. In fact, according to league sources, Portland offered Hawes the same exact contract — length and terms – that the Clippers will pay out.
At the end of the day, after stops in Sacramento, Philadelphia and Cleveland, the lure of playing in an area he knows all too well being a Seattle native wasn’t enough to prevent Hawes from seeking out a team on the upswing in a major market such as Los Angeles.
The Trail Blazers quickly executed Plan B to perfection, but what’s concerning is the stigma that seems to remain that big-time free agents won’t come to Portland. And no disrespect to Hawes, but he’s nowhere close to being a “big-time” free agent. The Trail Blazers met with Channing Frye this week in Portland, we’re told. He resides in the city during the offseason. One can conclude that he was out of their price range.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Assuming Melo can’t be got, Houston would love to lure Bosh. He’d fit, first of all, and he’d be the adult among their three stars. … Here are some fallback positions for the Mavericks and the Lakers, too, along with the Rockets and the Bulls. … Derrick Rose wouldn’t have pursued a career in sales. Can’t we just leave it at that? Some people’s work personalities are best suited to quiet cubicles. … Mike Budenholzer‘s cachet as coach and the presence of former teammates Kyle Korver and now Thabo Sefolosha might steer forward Luol Deng to Atlanta . … Remember Bobby Simmons, the NBA’s Most Improved Award winner in 2005? He was honored again in June.

Three reasons ‘Melo should pick …


VIDEO: Where will Carmelo end up? What factors will he weigh? GameTime has the lowdown …

NBA.com staff

Free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony embarked on a coast-to-coast ‘Melo Across America tour this week, stopping in four different cities to be courted by five different teams. Now, he’s expected to lay low for a day or so — maybe more — as he decides whether to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Knicks, his team for the past three and a half years, or take his talents … elsewhere.

We asked five NBA.com writers across the nation to boil it down for Carmelo. So here are three reasons that Anthony should pick …

CHICAGO

1. The Bulls offer the best fit for his game. He’d be the cymbalist to their John Phillip Sousa, the finisher their ball-sharing offense needs. Only Michael Jordan and Al Capone, in Chicago history, have had greener lights to shoot. And coach Tom Thibodeau‘s team concepts would put lipstick on his defense.

2. Ring, or at least reputation: If he truly wants a championship, Chicago’s supporting cast offers the best shot, with Derrick Rose as a dynamic sidekick, Joakim Noah‘s Defensive Player of the Year fire and Taj Gibson grinding. Just to be known for trying to win, rather than maxing out money … this is his move.

3. New York is full of celebrities. Chicago would be his. This city is aching for star power beyond linebackers and anchormen, and it doesn’t overdo off-court scrutiny or paparazzi. His wife La La Vasquez could be Queen of the Windy City now that Oprah‘s gone.
Steve Aschburner

HOUSTON

1. He would be sliding into a lineup that already includes an All-NBA first team guard in James Harden and All-NBA second team center in Dwight Howard.  Never mind quibbling over last shots.  There wouldn’t be a better collection of three young talents all in their prime.

2. No state income tax makes up for a large portion of that $34 million he’d be leaving on the table in New York. And money, like everything else, just spends bigger in Texas.

3. If prematurely giving him Jeremy Lin’s jersey — with Lin’s warm corpse still in it — wasn’t enough of a “we’ll-do-anything” mentality, Carmelo could probably just ask and the Rockets would chisel his name right over Hakeem Olajuwon’s on that statue in front of the Toyota Center.
Fran Blinebury

DALLAS

1. The Mavs won 49 games in a tough Western Conference with one of the most efficient offenses in the league. Add Melo to Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, plus newly reacquired Tyson Chandler to bolster the defense and Dallas could be cooking.

2. Coach Rick Carlisle continues to prove he is among the elite tacticians in the game. He’s made the most of nearly fully flipped rosters over the last few seasons. He could be scary good with additional star power and continuity.

3. As controversial as Mark Cuban‘s decision was not to bring back the 2011 title team and plot instead to create cap space under this CBA, Dallas is positioned to add another big-salary free agent in 2015.
Jeff Caplan

LAKERS

1. The Lakers have proven they can not only build a championship roster, but win a title and then rebuild. Anthony is 30. If he’s looking at a four- or five-year contract, depending where he signs and whether it is a sign-and-trade, he needs to know the organization will be able to get somewhere pretty fast. L.A. is farther down the standings than any of the other West options listed and in a better place today than only the Knicks, but the Lakers know how to get back, and fast.

2. “Who else would you like on the team? We’ll still have spending power in the future. A big free-agent hit this summer — you — plus a big free-agent hit next summer. Oh, and any thoughts on the coach?”

3. It’s L.A. If Melo is leaving New York, no other place gives him a better platform for marketing opportunities or entertainment connections for his wife. The butler won’t have to shovel snow in the winter, unless it’s at the weekend-getaway mountain retreat. And don’t worry about the traffic. Get a place near Kobe in Orange County and share the chopper ride to downtown.
Scott Howard-Cooper

NEW YORK

1. If we could have soundtracks for blog posts, you’d hear the bass line from the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” playing right now. The Knicks can give Melo more than $129 million over five years. The most any other team can give him is about $96 million over four. And since he’ll be 34 years old when that fifth year comes around, having $29 million more guaranteed would be a nice thing. Little Kiyan needs a new pair of shoes.

2. The 2014-15 season could be a little rough, but the Knicks can bring in another good player or two next summer, when both Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books. Of course, if they sign Melo for the max now, the Knicks might not have enough cap space to sign a Kevin Love or a LaMarcus Aldridge to their own max deal next year (with Anthony, Jose Calderon and J.R. Smith taking up about 60 percent of the cap). But hey, read No. 1 again.

3. A happy wife is a happy life. Also, New York has the best pizza, bagels and Chinese food. Also, see No. 1.
John Schuhmann

Morning Shootaround — July 4



VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Mavs yesterday

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Reports: James’ agent meets with other teams | Reports: Anthony promised max offers from Lakers, Knicks | Reports: Riley, Heat interested in Pau, others | Report: Bosh next on Rockets’ wish list | Report: Hawks make early pitch to Deng

No. 1: Report: Finalists could emerge to interview James; Aldridge: Multiple teams already met with LeBron’s reps – Two of the biggest fish left in the NBA free agency pond — LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony — are starting to get their moment in the sun. For James, it seems he and his agent are trying to turn the heat up on Miami boss Pat Riley. Our David Aldridge reports that James’ agent met with at least four teams last week not named the Miami Heat. That news was originally broken by ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski similarly reports that if Riley can’t bring a strong cast into Miami soon, there may be final interviews with potential non-Heat suitors for LeBron next week. Here’s more from Wojnarowski on that story:

After conducting meetings with three NBA teams interested in pursuing free-agent star LeBron James, his agent suggested to owners and executives present that a failure of Miami president Pat Riley to rapidly recruit a strong supporting cast could bring finalists back to meet with James himself next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Rich Paul, the agent for James, invited three teams – Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix – to the offices of his Klutch Sports headquarters to listen to pitches.

The meetings took place on Wednesday and Thursday, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Some executives believe there’s an opportunity because of a disconnect between James and his teammates, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Another executive attending the meeting flatly said, “I think it’s a smokescreen.”

James has maintained a desire to take a full max contract with a starting salary of $20.7 million, sources said. Wade and Bosh are still reluctant to take severe cuts in their contracts, sources told Yahoo Sports, creating a financial disconnect among the three.

“There’s clearly a breakdown in communication between LeBron and [Wade and Bosh],” one executive who participated in the meetings over the past two days told Yahoo Sports. “[James is] giving Riley time to go get players for them but if that doesn’t happen in the next few days … LeBron seems ready to explore the market.”

And here’s Aldridge on how the move by LeBron’s agent is affecting the other moves in free agency:

Where the information came from is not the issue. The message is. And it is clear to anyone who’s been paying attention: Riles, you’re really on the clock.

For weeks, the operating principle throughout the league was that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were acting in concert. Perhaps not literally, but certainly, each had an idea of what the other was planning to do. Why would Wade walk away from a guaranteed $41.5 million over the next couple of years if he didn’t know James was returning to Miami? Why would Bosh indicate a willingness to take a pay cut if he wasn’t certain he’d be playing with the other SuperFriends for the next few seasons?

Now, suddenly, we are told that Wade and Bosh have no idea what James is going to do, and that Paul is lining up alternatives for his client. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that three finalists could be brought back to Cleveland, where Paul met in person with the Cavs, Mavericks and Suns this week, early next week. Nowhere, now, is there reassuring talk that James will return to the Heat.

That will surely get Riles’ attention.

Miami’s hopes of adding a centerpiece “Big Fourth” free agent were always iffy, but as free agency has begun this week, the Heat have had to watch the likes of Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry go elsewhere, in part, because Miami just couldn’t commit enough money to guys looking for their big career payday.

With Miami locked in below $10 million in cap room, it couldn’t make a realistic pitch to Gortat, who took $12 million a year from Washington to stay with the Wizards, or to Lowry, who took the same $12 million a year to stay in Toronto with the Raptors. And with other free agents that could help like Trevor Ariza also looking for big raises, the Heat will continue to be strapped to find an accomplished veteran to take their offers, whatever they may be.

So Miami is concentrating on getting commitments from shooters like Anthony Morrow and Marvin Williams. But they’re not going to come cheap, either, no matter their desire to play for a contender (assuming the Big Three re-sign there). And Riles has to find players as he cocks an ear to the Midwest, and a city he thought his superstar player had left in mind and body, but which is still there, likely a stalking horse, to be sure, but one that must be taken seriously, its revenge/reunion fantasies still intact and getting oxygen as we speak. Or, write.

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Aldridge: James’ agent turns up heat on Riley, Miami’s front office


VIDEO: LeBron James’ agent may soon be meeting with four teams not named the Miami Heat

Not so subtly all of a sudden, LeBron James is turning up the heat — no pun, not now — on Pat Riley to deliver.

James’ camp has maintained military-like silence on his intentions and plans for free agency for a year, with the three-time MVP deflecting questions all season and during the playoffs about how he’d decide what to do. And then, suddenly, there was a story on ESPN Thursday night that James’s agent, Rich Paul, had held meetings this week with teams that are not the Miami Heat — Cleveland, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix, a list confirmed by sources. (Those are in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference. You have to spell everything out these days, when NBA Nation is so on edge.)

Then, ESPN reported late Thursday that the Lakers would meet with Paul in Cleveland over the 4th of July Weekend.

Where the information came from is not the issue. The message is. And it is clear to anyone who’s been paying attention: Riles, you’re really on the clock.

For weeks, the operating principle throughout the league was that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were acting in concert. Perhaps not literally, but certainly, each had an idea of what the other was planning to do. Why would Wade walk away from a guaranteed $41.5 million over the next couple of years if he didn’t know James was returning to Miami? Why would Bosh indicate a willingness to take a pay cut if he wasn’t certain he’d be playing with the other SuperFriends for the next few seasons?

Now, suddenly, we are told that Wade and Bosh have no idea what James is going to do, and that Paul is lining up alternatives for his client. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that three finalists could be brought back to Cleveland, where Paul met in person with the Cavs, Mavericks and Suns this week, early next week. Nowhere, now, is there reassuring talk that James will return to the Heat.

That will surely get Riles’s attention.

Even as those teams aren’t at all sure James would actually walk from his team for a second time — “I don’t think we’re high on their list,” an official with knowledge of the discussions said Thursday — they, like everyone else in the league, has to at least entertain the possibility of the idea now. And that will further delay a league already in limbo waiting for Carmelo Anthony to make his own, individual decision.

Anthony finished his tour on Thursday in Los Angeles, meeting with the Lakers and Knicks, after starting the week in Chicago and then going to Texas for meetings with the Rockets and Mavericks. While Houston is still centered and all in on its pursuit of Anthony, Dallas indicated what it thought of its chances for ‘Melo by quickly wrapping up a deal with franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki for three years and $30 million. The Mavs are, if not officially, out of the ‘Melo Stakes in reality.

Indirectly, Anthony’s decision impacts another significant free agent — Pau Gasol, who was scheduled to meet with Riley in Los Angeles. The Lakers’ hopes of keeping Gasol are centered on first getting Anthony, who would then, hopefully, entice Gasol to stay in L.A. rather than follow Riley back to South Beach, or to San Antonio or Oklahoma City, both of which harbor strong and real hopes they can get Gasol to take a huge pay cut to play for a contender.

Oklahoma City, according to a source, hopes that a three-year deal with its mid-level exception can do the trick with Gasol, even as it understands his agent, Arn Tellem, will surely be able to shake out bigger offers elsewhere.

Miami’s hopes of adding a centerpiece “Big Fourth” free agent were always iffy, but as free agency has begun this week, the Heat have had to watch the likes of Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry go elsewhere, in part, because Miami just couldn’t commit enough money to guys looking for their big career payday.

With Miami locked in below $10 million in cap room, it couldn’t make a realistic pitch to Gortat, who took $12 million a year from Washington to stay with the Wizards, or to Lowry, who took the same $12 million a year to stay in Toronto with the Raptors. And with other free agents that could help like Trevor Ariza also looking for big raises, the Heat will continue to be strapped to find an accomplished veteran to take their offers, whatever they may be.

So Miami is concentrating on getting commitments from shooters like Anthony Morrow and Marvin Williams. But they’re not going to come cheap, either, no matter their desire to play for a contender (assuming the Big Three re-sign there). And Riles has to find players as he cocks an ear to the Midwest, and a city he thought his superstar player had left in mind and body, but which is still there, likely a stalking horse, to be sure, but one that must be taken seriously, its revenge/reunion fantasies still intact and getting oxygen as we speak. Or, write.

Morning Shootaround — July 3



VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses Kyle Lowry agreeing to a new deal with the Raptors

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Report: Heat’s Big Three not working in concert | Reports: Several suitors for Gasol | Report: Kobe returns to L.A. for ‘Melo meeting | Report: Clips, Nets talk deal for Pierce | Report: Bulls plan to amnesty Boozer

No. 1: Report: Heat’s Big Three might not all be working on deal together — Last week, the Heat’s superstar trio of free agents, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, held a meeting together over dinner in Miami. Although few details emerged from the meeting, the common notion being they talked about their future together in the city as a group. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reports, though, that Wade and Bosh are unsure of what James is planning next:

When the Miami Heat’s “Big 3″ went their separate ways after a lunch meeting last Wednesday, they went not knowing whether they had played their last game together, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

While Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were committed to returning to the Heat, LeBron James was unsure of what he would do, the sources said.

The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.

James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.

But sources who have spoken with two of the Big 3 said that was not the case. Bosh and Wade are intent on returning to Miami, but neither of them knows what James will do.

“It’s not a done deal,” said one source, when asked about James’ return to Miami. “That’s for sure.”

Bosh and Wade were so uncertain about James’s future after last week’s meeting that one of them spoke about what the Heat might look like without James, according to one source.

While both players expect to sign larger contracts overall, each is willing to take less money annually.

Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.

Those figures, combined with a max-level contract that would begin at $20.7 million for James, would not clear the cap room it would likely take to sign free-agent targets such as Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng and possibly Pau Gasol.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel gives Heat fans some hope, though, about LeBron returning … and it comes in the form of the Cavs having interest in Gordon Hayward:

With James yet to put himself in front of free-agent suitors, and with the Miami Heat more than at peace with the likelihood of James’ new contract starting at the 2014-15 NBA maximum of $20 million-plus, came word of the Cavs considering pouring their salary-cap space into an offer sheet for Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.

Such a gambit by Cleveland, which was reported by ESPN and other media outlets, would effectively tie up the Cavaliers’ cap space until at least July 13, with July 10 the first day free-agent contracts can be offered, and with teams receiving offer sheets having up to three days to match.

A source familiar with Cleveland’s offseason machinations, which have included an NBA-maximum contract extension to guard Kyrie Irving and the selection of Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft, Wednesday told the Sun Sentinel that it was his impression the Cavaliers have decided to move past a short-term reunion with James, who left Cleveland in July 2010 to sign with the Heat.

The same source, however, said it is possible that even if Cleveland obtains Hayward, it could eventually be through a sign-and-trade transaction that could have the Cavaliers’ cap space back in place.

The fact that Cleveland would be willing to consider tying up valuable cap space for an extended period is an indication of the league-wide sense that James is returning to the Heat, if even for a short-term contract that yet could have him back on the market next summer.


VIDEO: Are the Big Three working together on a new deal?

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Big year and a bigger decision for Lowry


VIDEO: Kyle Lowry is one of the more coveted free agent point guards on the market

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Kyle Lowry faces the decision of his career: Cash in with the Raptors and maybe one day walk away a Canadian folk hero (you saw those crazed playoff crowds, right?), have faith in the leaky, but legendary Lakers or settle for a mere pittance to play with the King.

But wait, there’s more …

To start free agency at the stroke of midnight Tuesday, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale were in Philadelphia seated in front of Lowry. The two men who shipped Lowry north of the border in the first place were now telling him how perfect he is for the team he actually aided in assembling.

Plotting a path to form a super team in Houston, Morey was hoarding drafts picks and the first-rounder he got from Toronto for Lowry two summers ago was supposed to be another carrot to finally lure Orlando into a deal for Dwight Howard. A month later Howard was traded to the Lakers, and the draft pick wound up in Oklahoma City as part of the package for James Harden. Howard, conveniently, followed as a free-agent acquisition last summer.

As Morey, McHale and Lowry dined, or whatever it is that goes on in these after-midnight meetings, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri was working his own plan (reportedly a contract starting around $12 million) to keep the spark plug point guard behind Toronto’s resurgence, a spark plug Ujiri was prepared to trade to New York at the deadline if not for the reluctance of the  Knicks’ former regime to throw in a future first-round draft pick.

Meanwhile, back in South Florida, Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley was maneuvering for his own meeting with free agency’s top point-guard target. The Riley pitch, if he gets to make it, will get straight to the point: Come to Sacrifice City and compete for these shiny rings with LeBron James.

Amazing what a career year will do for a guy’s fortunes. Lowry, not long ago down on his luck, last season averaged career highs in scoring (17.9 ppg), assists (7.4), minutes (36.2) and 3-point percentage (38.0), while tying his career-high in rebounds (4.7).

Many believed Lowry, 28, should have made his first All-Star team of his eight-year career. After the All-Star break he reinforced that notion by averaging 20.4 ppg, 7.1 apg and 5.1 rpg, while maintaining his bulldog approach to defense. The Raptors finished the season 20-10 and won a franchise-best 48 games, finishing above .500 for the first time since 2006-07.

So perhaps a contract starting at $12 million isn’t too high for this big-market franchise desperate to maintain its playmaker and elusive momentum.

Yet becoming just as desperate are the Miami Heat.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are free agents, too. They’re waiting to finalize new contracts while Riley works to re-tool the roster. Big men, wing depth and a point guard are needed. On Tuesday, Heat target Marcin Gortat reached an agreement to return to the Washington Wizards at a price (five years, $60 million) far too rich for the Heat. Another report stated small forward Luol Deng will not sacrifice pay to play for Miami. A later report had Washington nearing a deal to bring back yet another Heat target, small forward Trevor Ariza.

The aggressive, 6-foot Lowry fits the Heat needs to a T. Only they won’t be able to match the Raptors’ reported offer and fill other needs. Earlier Tuesday, Jodie Meeks agreed to a free-agent deal with the Detroit Pistons for three years and $19 million, a hefty pay raise for a middling player, and one that would make it seem highly unlikely that Lowry could feel good about taking a deal that wouldn’t pay him much more.

The wild card here, as it always is with the Heat, is a lower pay grade is the price to play with LeBron. We’ve seen it with players nearing the end of their careers, but not necessarily from one in his prime.

Lowry has seven postseason games to his name since 2009 back with Houston when he reached the second round. All seven came this past season with Toronto. The Raptors, boasting an emerging star in DeMar DeRozan and rising talents in Terrence RossJonas Valanciunas and restricted free agent Patrick Pattersonlost a heartbreaker to Brooklyn in the first round.

For a franchise that has experienced two winning seasons in the last dozen, and has had its troubles keeping and recruiting star-level players, Lowry would be welcomed back as hero.

But then there’s always LeBron … or the Rockets … or the Lakers …

The decision of Lowry’s career will be coming soon.

Morning Shootaround — July 2



VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses where Kyle Lowry and other top point guards may land

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Rockets, Mavs ready their pitches for Anthony | Report: Rose works out for Anthony | Plenty of big names linked to Heat | Livingston gets his payday | Report: Lakers, Gasol have long chat

No. 1: Rockets prep for their ‘Melo pitch, Mavs do too — Stop No. 2 (and 3) on the Carmelo Anthony Wooing Tour heads to Texas today as the Rockets and Mavericks will make their respective bids for the seven-time All-Star. Neither will be holding back anything, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, what with Dwight Howard and James Harden on hand to greet ‘Melo — plus some other bells and whistles, too — in Houston.

UPDATE, 2:22 p.m. ET: The Rockets have begun their wooing of ‘Melo …

As for the stop in Dallas, the Mavs have a five-pronged pitch for Anthony, writes Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com:

The Rockets did not wait to make their presentation to Knicks free agent forward Carmelo Anthony to get busy with players and their agents, starting with their late-night reunion with former Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry in Philadelphia.

The focus, however, entirely shifts to Anthony, scheduled to be at Toyota Center on Wednesday for the second stop of his tour of suitors.

Anthony spent his first day of free agency with the Bulls and will go from his session with the Rockets’ welcoming committee to a meeting Wednesday afternoon with the Mavericks in Dallas. He will also meet with the Lakers this week in Los Angeles and the Knicks can come in with an offer that no other team can approach.

The Rockets, however, have confidence in their message and presentation, combining the successful pitch to Dwight Howard last summer with the $7 million worth of new facilities stuffed assorted state-of-the-art bells and whistles that have been geared to put on a show.

The Rockets will have Howard and James Harden in on the presentation and will make Anthony the first free agent to tour the new basketball operation and training facilities, which were completed after free agency recruiting had ended last season.

When Anthony arrives in the lockerroom, in addition to the show on the video boards that circle the locker room, there will be a life-sized poster of Anthony in a Rockets’ uniform holding the championship trophy. The book the Rockets annually provide (and also have prepared for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, if need be) features Anthony on the cover, also with the trophy, and featured throughout along with information about living in Houston geared toward him.

As with last season’s pitch to Howard, the bulk of the presentation will focus on the Rockets contention that with Anthony, they would be ready to contend.

The Rockets began free agency recruiting with general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale catching up with their former point guard in Philadelphia as soon as free agency began early Tuesday.

McHale called former Rockets forward/center Jordan Hill shortly after midnight and Morey followed up with his agent Tuesday afternoon. Discussions were considered preliminary, but the Rockets indicating strong interest in bringing Hill back with an offer expected shortly after the Rockets meeting with Anthony.

And here’s McMahon on the Mavs’ approach to recruiting Anthony today:

There will surely be some bells and whistles during Carmelo Anthony’s visit with the Dallas Mavericks, such as entertainment elements and marketing plans.

You can count on money coming up in the conversation, too, with that discussion centering on just how close Mark Cuban can come to a max-contract offer.

1. Play for an elite coach: Carlisle joins Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra and Doc Rivers as the only active NBA championship coaches, and he has outwitted two of those men in recent playoff series.

2. Play with a selfless star: Nowitzki is not only willing to hand the keys to the franchise over to a capable superstar, he’s taking a massive pay cut in an effort to help make it happen. He might even accept a lower salary than anticipated if that’s what it takes to make Melo a Mav.

3. A quality supporting cast: The Mavs believe the trade for defensive anchor Tyson Chandler gave them a legitimate chance of landing Anthony. They can now make the case that adding Anthony would give Dallas the league’s best frontcourt.

4. A proven front office and culture of winning: When it comes to stability and sustained success among front offices in today’s NBA, only the Spurs trump the Mavs.

5. A plan for the future: Would Anthony be left as Dallas’ lone star when Nowitzki stops shooting one-legged fadeaways and starts spending days in a rocking chair? Not if the front office executes its plan.


VIDEO: What will Houston bring to the table when Carmelo Anthony visits?

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Morning Shootaround — July 1



VIDEO: Ex-NBA GMs Isiah Thomas and Bryan Colangelo explain how front offices woo free agents

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Lakers have busy opening night of free agency | KD opens up on MVP season | Lillard reveals free-agency wish list | Bradley wants to stick with Celts

No. 1: Lakers busy as free agency begins – If you missed it yesterday, go give David Aldridge‘s Morning Tip a read when you have time. In it, he expertly spells out 11 deals that should happen in free agency, including several for the cap room-boasting Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. didn’t waste any time once free agency opened at midnight Tuesday, talking with their own free agent (Pau Gas0l) as well making plans to chat with several other heavy hitters (hello, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony), too. Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com have more here:

The Los Angeles Lakers will meet with free agent forward Carmelo Anthony Thursday in Los Angeles, sources told ESPN.

Anthony and his representatives were one of the Lakers’ first calls Monday night as free agency officially opened at 9:01 p.m. local time. They also placed a call to the agent for Miami forward LeBron James and their own free agent center Pau Gasol within the first hour of the negotiating period.

The Lakers’ top priority is trying to convince both James and Anthony to leave their respective teams and join together in L.A.

Unlike last summer when the Lakers kicked off free agency with GM Mitch Kupchak greeting Dwight Howard at a Beverly Hills hotel, Gasol did not have a face-to-face meeting with the team he spent the last 7 ½ seasons with, nor with representatives for any other suitors. Gasol simply took calls from interested teams Monday night from an office in Los Angeles.

ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported the Lakers’ interest in Chris Bosh, but it is believed that the Lakers’ ties to Bosh, much like their designs on winning over James, will have to lay dormant until Miami’s Big Three – along with Dwyane Wade - mutually decide what their fate will be with the Heat.

Kupchak also contacted free agent forwards Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza and point guard Kyle Lowry on Monday night, according to sources.

Sources indicated that the Lakers also contacted representatives for Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas – all of whom are restricted free agents.

And as for that long list of players who suffered through the Lakers’ 27-55 season as players on the team last year and are now hitting the free agency marketplace, the Lakers reached out to about half of them on Monday, including representatives for Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and Kent Bazemore.


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses where Carmelo Anthony may end up this summer

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James’ opt-out is first step in getting him some more help


VIDEO: LeBron James dominates Game 2 of The Finals — the Heat’s lone win in the series

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – LeBron James will be a free agent on July 1. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Tuesday morning that James’ agent, Rich Paul, has informed the Miami Heat that James will exercise his early termination option, releasing him from the final two years of the contract he signed in 2010.

This doesn’t mean that James is leaving Miami. It just means that he’ll be signing a new contract this summer.

Can Riley re-tool?

Maybe this is good (and mostly expected) news for the Heat. If they ultimately convince James to stay, they’ll have him on board longer than the year or two they would have had him if he didn’t exercise his option. (The six-year, sign-and-trade deal he signed in 2010 had an early termination option in 2014 and a player option in 2015.) If he re-signs, they have him for the remainder of his prime.

We haven’t heard word about Dwyane Wade‘s or Chris Bosh‘s intentions, but they have the same contract options as James. And if all three opt out, the Heat could have some flexibility.

But in order for team president Pat Riley to truly upgrade the big three’s supporting cast, at least one of them would have to take a pay cut. Even though all would be free agents, their max-salary cap holds would still put the Heat over the salary cap. Once you replace one or two cap holds with lesser salaries, there’s space to sign other free agents.

And if the Heat are looking to upgrade around the big three, there are plenty of free agents to choose from. Point guards Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe and Patty Mills could be at the top of their list. If Wade continues to take on a lesser role and Bosh continues to play on the perimeter, they need help on the wings and inside as well.

The door is open

But if Wade or Bosh don’t want to take pay cuts, if Riley can’t get more help, and if James doesn’t see a bright future with the Heat, this opens the door for other teams to convince him that he has a better opportunity to win championships elsewhere. The Heat have been to The Finals each of the four seasons that James has been in Miami, but Wade obviously isn’t the same player he was in 2010, and Miami got absolutely crushed by the San Antonio Spurs in The Finals earlier this month.

If James is looking for younger stars to complement him, he should talk to the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah) and Houston Rockets (James Harden, Dwight Howard). But both teams would need to clear some salaries off their books in order to have the necessary cap space to sign the four-time MVP to a maximum, four-year contract.

Other teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets, have the space, but not the co-stars. Kobe Bryant‘s $23.5 million salary alone (forgetting the additional $9.7 million the Lakers owe Steve Nash,) would prevent L.A. from signing both James and Carmelo Anthony to maximum deals.

Cleveland? It’s always a possibility, but that organization is not exactly organized at this point.

The leverage play

Ultimately, this move gives James the most leverage. It pushes Riley to go out and improve his roster. It pushes Bosh and Wade to accept pay cuts or lose their golden ticket to The Finals. And it pushes other teams to show their cards. If James sees the right pieces around him (in Miami or elsewhere), he could be willing to take less-than-max money as well.

James is the best player in the world. He knows it, but also knows that, in order to win more championships and be considered among the best players who ever lived, he needs more help than he had this season. And opting out of his contract was the first step in getting it.

Morning Shootaround — June 24


VIDEO: The DraftHQ crew discuss Joel Embiid’s pro prospects

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Plenty of suitors for Anthony | Report: Scott favorite to land Lakers’ gig | Thomas opens up about free agency | Parker’s dad denies talk of Jabari tanking workouts

No. 1: Report: Field of Anthony suitors gets deep — New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony officially opted out of his contract yesterday, making him the No. 1 unrestricted free-agent target this summer. As such, he’ll get plenty of calls from the teams many expect to pursue him … and a lot more that might surprise you to be among the fray, too. According to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, no less than seven teams are expected to chase Anthony, although who will talk to him first and when remains unknown:

Carmelo Anthony has yet to publicly reveal the process by which he plans to entertain other teams in free agency now that he has opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks, but the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams that expect to have the opportunity to make their pitch to him starting July 1, according to sources close to the situation.

Teams can’t formally contact free agents until 12:01 a.m. ET July 1, but sources told ESPN.com that the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat are two more teams that could join the race for Anthony, depending on how things play out before, during and after Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Bulls are widely regarded as the early favorite to steal Anthony from the Knicks, with sources saying Monday that Chicago has been quietly planning for this free-agent pursuit for months, going back to the January trade of Luol Deng to Cleveland. Sources say every move Chicago made during the season’s second half — including the seemingly minor signings of veterans Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amundson and Mike James to very tradeable contracts — was made with the hope they might be helpful in a potential sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony.

Sources say the Rockets, meanwhile, have begun working on trade exits for center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin to clear enough space under the salary cap to make a representative offer to Anthony.

The Lakers are in the advantageous position of having enough room under the salary cap to make a maximum offer to Anthony without having to clear any salary, but it is believed Anthony would want them to strengthen their roster before he would seriously consider a move to L.A. Sources say the Lakers, to that end, have been exploring their options with the No. 7 pick in Thursday’s draft and have told teams they are prepared to package the pick with the expiring contract of Steve Nash (owed $9.7 million next season) for the right offer.

ESPNDallas.com reported Sunday that the Mavericks, armed with plenty of cap space themselves, likewise expect to be granted a face-to-face sit-down with Anthony.

Earlier this month, ESPN.com reported the Heat had begun internal discussions about pursuing the former scoring champion to try to grow their Big Three into a Big Four, but the Heat could pursue Anthony only if LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade opt out of their current deals later this week and are willing to take less money to re-sign and play alongside Anthony.

The Hawks would have to clear approximately $10 million to $12 million in salary-cap space to pursue Anthony, but sources indicate that is one of the many options Atlanta is considering, making it a sleeper team to watch.

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