Winderman: After the big name free agents, what will be left for everyone else?

Leave a comment

Thumbnail image for GHill_dunk.jpgAmid Game 3 of the NBA Finals and Izzo-gate in Cleveland, two small but telling stories fell somewhat through the cracks Tuesday.

In Phoenix, amid Amare Stoudemire’s garish grab for a six-year, $134 million free-agent contract, Grant Hill exercised his $3.3 million option to return to the Suns next season.

And in Atlanta, Mo Evans exercised his $2.5 million option to stay with the Hawks.

Granted, loyalty certainly was a factor for Hill, who has enjoyed a rebirth during his time in Phoenix. And considering Evans was part of one of the most feeble benches of any playoff team, taking the money and running certainly was prudent.

But the moves also speak to a greater story of how this summer may play out.

LeBron, Wade, Stoudemire and Bosh certainly will get theirs, as will Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer and Rudy Gay.

But the flip side of the free-agent frenzy is that there might not be all that much left over for the other tiers in the process, especially with so many teams operating with cap space, and thereby forfeiting the use of their mid-level and lower-level exceptions for the NBA’s 2010-11 fiscal calendar.

And even the mid-level has become a much-debated approach, with a notably poor rate of return when extended for significant lengths.

It will, in fact, be interesting to see how others handle player options, as the June 30 deadline for those decisions draws closer.

Chris Wilcox has already said he’s in for the $3 million option he holds with the Pistons. Kris Humphries has hinted at similar plans for the $3.2 million he would be due from the Nets.

Similar decisions in what could prove to be a tight market after the early-July splashes also figure to have Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jared Jeffries, Darius Songaila, Willie Green and Jason Kapono opting in.

And considering how they surely will be overshadowed in the process, it is difficult to imagine Richardson Jefferson, Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Peja Stojakovic not cashing in on their player-option years on the types of mega contracts they never will see again.

There will, however, be a few with players with options who will face decisions.

Matt Barnes, after a stout defensive season with the Magic, has said he plans to opt out of the $1.6 million option he holds for next season. Shannon Brown has mentioned opting out of the $2.1 million he otherwise is due from the Lakers. And John Salmons, at least in terms of years, probably is wise to opt out of his $5.8 million next season from the Bucks.

But in many ways Tuesday might have only been the start of a withdrawal process.

With so much of the 2010 cap cash going to so few, the little guys already are ducking for cover.  

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

1 Comment

Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Leave a comment

Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
8 Comments

Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.