HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – We knew this free agency period, coinciding with the start of training camps, was going to be crazy. And as we sit here on Tuesday morning with four days of camp are in the books and the preseason is just three days away, a few of the top free agents are still standing by the phone.
Now that Marc Gasol has agreed to terms with the Grizzlies (before the Rockets even signed him to an offer sheet), Houston will presumably knock on Nene’s door again. But the 29-year-old Brazilian reportedly has a tentative offer from the New Jersey Nets for $64 million over four years.
The Nets, of course, have Nene on hold while they try to convince Magic general manager Otis Smith that the best time to trade Dwight Howard is now, while they have the cap space to take Hedo Turkoglu‘s contract off Smith’s hands. (more…)
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – The three-team trade between the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets blew up late Saturday night. And now, Dell Demps and the Hornets must find a new deal for Chris Paul.
As we all woke up Sunday morning in the aftermath of another twist in the CP3 drama, we were one day closer to the start of the season. Preseason games begin Friday, and there’s still much that has to happen before rosters are settled.
With both the Paul and Dwight Howard situations in a state of flux, there are so many dominoes that must fall before we can really focus on the basketball on the court. Here’s a rundown of the teams and players who are waiting for all this to get resolved…
With the Lakers seemingly out of the Paul picture (and talking with the Magic about Howard), do the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors get back into talks with the Hornets? If they do, how are they affected by the $40 million offer sheet that that Clipper free agent DeAndre Jordan is signing with the Warriors? The Warriors are also involved in a three-way trade that would land Jamal Crawford in New York, according to the New York Post.
If the three-way deal went through, the Rockets would have cleared a bit of cap space, reportedly enough to offer free agent Nene a four-year deal worth $64 million. If the Rockets don’t have the space, does Nene return to the Denver Nuggets or focus on the New Jersey Nets?
Of course, the Nets are reportedly Howard’s preferred destination and obviously all-in for the three-time DPOY. Consider this: The Nets have two huge holes at the forward positions, $22 million in cap space (if they waive Travis Outlaw and renounce Kris Humphries), and a desperate need to keep Deron Williams happy … and they haven’t made a single roster move yet.
Until the Hornets find a trade for Paul, the Hornets probably can’t go through with a sign-and-trade deal that would land David West in Boston. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Indiana Pacers are ready to sign West if the Boston deal falls through. Meanwhile, maybe the Celtics get back in the Paul mix with an offer centered around Rajon Rondo.
That’s 11 teams and two of the summer’s top free agents (Nene and West) who are directly tied into the Paul and Howard situations. And that doesn’t include any three or four-team trade scenarios. There are a lot of dominoes still to fall.
Smith now faces the unenviable task of finding the best package he can for Howard, knowing that he’d lose him for nothing if a deal isn’t done by the trade deadline, and knowing that he’s really only got two teams to work with: the Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams would be wary of giving the Magic any strong assets, knowing that Howard’s heart is elsewhere and he can leave next summer.
Smith has tried his best to build a title contender around Howard, and the Magic did get to the Finals in 2009. They were even a very strong team last season. But the moves that Smith has made over the years have driven the Magic to a point where they have neither the financial flexibility nor the assets to bring in another star.
Now, $6.25 million a year isn’t that unreasonable for Richardson. It’s almost a 60 percent pay cut from what he made last season. And this is a guy who shot 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four years.
But Richardson is on the wrong side of 30, with his production bound to decline each year of that contract.
More important, if Smith is in the process of evaluating trades for his franchise player and possibly facing a rebuilding process in the wake of a deal, then why is he committing to a contract that won’t expire until Richardson is 34 years old and will be difficult to move in a trade for at least the next two seasons? Wouldn’t he want to remain relatively flexible instead of going deeper into luxury tax territory?
Smith has made a lot of curious transactions over the years. Add this one to the list.
Want to know how we got where we are with Dwight Howard and his future? Just turn the calendar back two days …
It all started with reports of a meeting between Howard, his associates and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy Kingin Miami on Thursday night. ESPN.com reported the meeting and if such a discussion did take place, it was a clear violation of NBA tampering rules.
By lunchtime on the East coast (and well before teams opened training camp doors), news had already come out (courtesy of our own tireless David Aldridge) that the Magic might file tampering charges against two unnamed teams for illegally talking with its star big man. By the end of the night on free-agency’s first full day, Howard’s status in Orlando (or elsewhere for that matter) remained squarely in the crosshairs.
ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that Howard would soon request a trade to New Jersey. Later that same day, Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, denied that his client had illegal contact with teams in an interview with ESPN The Magazine. Worth noting, too, is that Magic GM Otis Smith said he granted Fegan permission to speak to the Nets about a deal involving Howard. Fegan didn’t deny that he and Howard had spoken over the phone with the Nets, but did deny any face-to-face meetings. We’ll let Fegan speak for himself, as he did to The Magazine and other media outlets:
“I read reports today of a meeting between Dwight Howard, his representatives and the New Jersey Nets which claimed, according to the story’s anonymous sources, that such a meeting violated the NBA’s tampering policies. This story is clearly inaccurate with respect to tampering claims and other facts. Tampering doesn’t apply once a team grants permission for a player and/or his representatives to make contact with another team. The Magic have given us permission to have contact with several teams in order for Dwight to explore his options. I most definitely had contact with the teams I was granted permission to speak with. Since we had permission to have contact with several teams the report of possible tampering is undeniably false.
“In addition, the report that Dwight was supposed to be traded today is also inaccurate. In fact, so many of the facts reported in today’s story are inaccurate, it is difficult to separate the facts from fiction, so I’m not even going to bother to address the other inaccuracies.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – As the New Jersey Nets opened training camp on Friday, there was a sense of déjà vu in the air. For the second straight year, Avery Johnson was forced to run his first practice in the midst of trade rumors involving his team and an All-Star looking to be relocated.
Last year, rookie Derrick Favors and point guard Devin Harris were the focus of the speculation, with the Nets looking to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. This time, Brook Lopez is the guy in the headlines, thanks to an ESPN report that says Dwight Howard wants to be traded to the Nets.
But after practice on Friday evening, the Nets said all the right things regarding the situation.
Johnson: “We’re just focused on basketball. We’re focused on the things that we can control on the court. Hopefully, whatever is being talking about, it’ll get resolved at some point. But for me, as the coach, I’m just focusing on getting my guys ready to play for our first preseason game on the 17th.”
Lopez: “I just ignore it. I don’t read any of that stuff online or anything like that,” and “I’m here to play basketball for this team as long as I’m here. That’s my job. I’m focused on helping us improve here.”
Point guard Deron Williams: “I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. I don’t know nothing about all that. That’s rumors and sources. We can’t be worried about that. All we can do is focus on what’s going on in here on the court, and I think that’s what we’re going to do.”
Lastly, general manager Billy King issued this statement: “Contrary to published reports, the New Jersey Nets did not meet with Dwight Howard.”
Of course, it’s Williams’ relationship with Howard that gives the Nets an angle at acquiring the Orlando big man, and essentially has Lopez answering questions about rumors.
Williams said that he spoke with Lopez before practice and didn’t seem worried about Lopez being distracted.
“He doesn’t get phased too easily,” Williams said. “I talked to him and he didn’t seem like it’s a problem. He’s ready to work.”
Even if Magic general manager Otis Smith has no intention of sending Howard to New Jersey, the Nets will have new faces in the gym over the next few days. Multiple reports on Friday had them ready to offer a four-year contract to free agent big man Nene, who could team with Lopez to form a pretty strong frontline.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Thursday, Dec. 8 was one of the wildest days the NBA has seen in recent memory, as three teams pulled off a trade that would have altered the NBA landscape, only to have the deal squashed by commissioner David Stern. And now, we have to wonder what kind of precedent has been set, and what this means for the future of the players and teams involved.
This was supposed to be the day that the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified. And it was. But that news was completely overshadowed by what happened shortly after the league’s press conference.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
After several days of talks with several teams, the New Orleans Hornets finally reached a deal to get back some assets for Chris Paul, who they clearly believed was going to leave via free agency next summer. They traded Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-way deal that netted them Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, Luis Scola and the Knicks’ 2012 first-round draft pick (via Houston).
Twitter blew up, the league was abuzz, and columns were being filed about the plusses and minuses of the deal. Many were already preparing for the Lakers’ next move. Since they were keeping Andrew Bynum, they were still able to dangle him in front of the Orlando Magic in an effort to team Dwight Howard with Paul and Kobe Bryant.
The first tweet of the deal, from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, came shortly before 6 p.m. ET. Less than three hours later, Wojnarowski reported that “NBA owners have pushed commissioner David Stern to kill the deal.”
Within minutes, other reporters confirmed that the deal was dead. Paul was still a member of the New Orleans Hornets and the Lakers’ dominant frontline remained intact. Training camps were set to open in less than 24 hours and we were all to pretend that nothing happened.
Later, NBA senior vice president of basketball communications Tim Frank issued this statement: “Not true that the owners killed the deal. It wasn’t even discussed at the board meeting. League office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.”
Either way, the situation only leads to more questions, especially since the Hornets were getting back a pretty good haul in the deal.
First, if the league didn’t want the Hornets to trade Paul, why did they allow general manager Dell Demps to waste so much of his time (and the time of other executives around the league) negotiating a deal?
Second, if Demps wasn’t allowed to make this deal, is there any deal (involving Paul) that he’s allowed to make? And if Demps can’t trade Paul, aren’t the Hornets just going to lose him for nothing next summer?
Third, is this just about keeping Paul to help the team get sold? And will it get sold in time for the Hornets to make a deal that will get them something in return for Paul?
In his recap of the night, Wojnarowski reported that Demps considered resigning. And obviously, we haven’t heard the last of this story. ESPN has reported that Paul won’t be showing up at Hornets training camp on Friday.
The craziness of the day wasn’t limited to the three-team trade. The first wild moment came when we learned that the New York Knicks had put themselves in the mix for Tyson Chandler, shortly after we heard that the Golden State Warriors had offered him $60 million over four years.
The Knicks, with their payroll right at the salary cap line, seemingly had no way to get Chandler. But then CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reported that they were “in the lead” for the center dropping this bombshell: “If the deal goes through, the Knicks use amnesty on Chauncey Billups and move Ronny Turiaf to make room for Chandler, sources say.”
Chandler will obviously help the Knicks defensively, but by waiving Billups, they’re left without a point guard. And by signing Chandler to a long-term deal, they’re seemingly out of the running to sign Paul next summer. They should, however, get plenty of interest from point guards willing to sign for the mid-level exception.
No deal can become official until Friday at 2 p.m., but according to multiple reports, Billups is “irate” about the news and has already gone home to Denver.
The developments of Thursday crept into early Friday morning when ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that Howard “is preparing to ask the Magic to trade him to the Nets.”
The Magic could get Brook Lopez, another player (possibly Jordan Farmar) and picks back from New Jersey. That may not seem like a lot, but the Nets, after waiving Travis Outlaw and renouncing their bird rights to Kris Humphries, would be able to absorb Hedo Turkoglu’s contract in the deal. And that would allow the Magic to wipe $21 million off the Orlando payroll. If they then waived Gilbert Arenas using the amnesty clause, they could start fresh.
Here’s what else went down on an eventful Thursday, according to reports…
Shane Battier decided to sign with the Miami Heat, who will also sign Eddy Curry to a deal.
Caron Butler reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers for $24 million over three years.
Tayshaun Prince and Jonas Jerebko each reached agreements to return to the Detroit Pistons on four-year deals.
Tracy McGrady and Jason Collins each reached agreements on one-year deals with the Atlanta Hawks.
Shannon Brown is leaving L.A. for Phoenix.
The Milwaukee Bucks reached an agreement with Mike Dunleavy on a two-year deal worth $7.5 million.
The Boston Celtics will acquire Keyon Dooling from the Bucks for a second-round pick.
Jeff Pendergraph reached a deal with the Indiana Pacers.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Before free agency starts, before camps even open, name a team that could go either way this season – could be bad, could be pretty good.
Steve Aschburner: One obvious answer is Orlando. If the Magic not only hang onto Howard but acquire someone who might convince their MVP candidate to stick around long-term, they continue as an East contender. If not, they’ll be counting the days till they get lottery lucky again. But a dark horse here could be Boston, which went 11-11 after March 4 last season, has an aging core of stars, a disjointed roster and probably a crankier-than-ever Rajon Rondo. If, early in the schedule, a title chase seems beyond their grasp, things could unravel.
Fran Blinebury: The most obvious candidate here is New Orleans. If they find a way to re-sign David West and go into the season with Paul on the roster, the Hornets can be playoff contenders. But if West leaves or Paul becomes distracted/disenchanted, there is the potential to plummet right to the basement.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Indy. I like the George Hill acquisition on Draft night a lot. I like that the Pacers are in the East, a conference soft enough to always allow for big jumps. I like that they’re pretty good defensively. They could add an important free agent. But there is so much to prove coming off a 37-win season. Indiana won’t be bad. It could miss the playoffs, though, and that would be bad enough. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Armen Gilliam, the No. 2 pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 1987 NBA Draft, died Tuesday night after collapsing during a pickup game at a Pittsburgh-area health club, a story first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gilliam was 47.
After starring at UNLV, where his No. 35 jersey was retired in 2007, Gilliam played 13 NBA seasons with six different teams. The 6-foot-9 power forward, nicknamed the “Hammer,” played for the Suns, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.
If you were to name a playoffs MVP at this point, you would have to choose between Chris Paul, LeBron James and Kevin Durant … and maybe Derrick Rose. But beyond the stars with the big individual numbers, there are players who have made a big difference on the scoreboard without actually scoring points.
If Shane Battier could be heralded as a no-stats All-Star in The New York Times back in 2009, then Joel Anthony and Jason Collins, two guys that would have trouble scoring in an empty gym, deserve to be called no-stats playoff MVP candidates here on the Hang-Time Blog.
The Miami Heat‘s starting lineup has been outscored 131-102 in their series with the Philadelphia 76ers (and 97-60 when they’re on the floor with the Sixers’ starters). But they’re up 3-1 in large part because Anthony has helped shut down Philly’s offense once he’s entered the game.
According to NBA.com StatsCube, the Sixers have scored 117.1 points per 100 possessions in 76 minutes with Anthony on the bench, but just 82.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. Say what you want about his offensive game, but Anthony is a defensive force.
Collins has had a similar effect on the Orlando Magic‘s offense. They’ve scored just 76.6 points per 100 possessions in 72 minutes with him on the floor vs. 108.8 in 120 minutes with him on the bench, as the Atlanta Hawks have taken a 3-1 lead in the East’s 4-5 series.
The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.
Stan Van Gundy is right. Derrick Rose is going to win the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player presented by Kia Motors. In addition, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has a great shot to win the Coach of the Year award. At worst, he’ll finish second.
When anybody mentions the Bulls’ Big 3, they usually mean Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. But without the consistency of Deng the Bulls would find themselves fighting for playoff position in the East with the Hawks and Magic in the middle rather than leading the Celtics at the top.
After the Bulls added seven new players last offseason, most notably Boozer, perception grew that Deng would take on a lesser role. The reality is that the less the Bulls have needed to depend on Deng, the more indispensable he became holding things together on both ends of the floor.
“There’s no way we would be in this position if not for the year he’s having and all the things he does for our team,” Thibodeau said.
There’s no way the Bulls will get to the conference finals they need to reach to meet rising expectations without Deng continuing to play at the elite level that has become the norm this season.