PBT's Free Agent Roundup, Day 1: When average players get wildly overpaid

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Recession? What recession?

After pleading poverty for a year — remember David Stern said the teams would lose $400 million this season — teams went on a spending spree like Paris Hilton with a black American Express card. It was obscene. This will come back to haunt the owners during the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

It was a day of average players getting oversized contracts. Let’s wrap up the entire day of news:

* Rudy Gay — a good small forward with unlimited potential and very limited focus and drive — was given a near max deal, five years and $82 million. Gay is a good player, scoring almost 20 points a game but not all that efficiently (he had a slightly above average PER of 16 last season). But the Grizzlies were afraid of losing him as Minnesota was interested — and they’ve been passing out stupid big contracts for years. New Jersey had him pegged as Plan B. So the Grizzlies bid against themselves and gave him the max deal. He took it. Obviously. We’ll see how this motivates him next season.

* Darko Milicic agreed to a four-year, $20 million deal with Minnesota. Yes, that Darko Milicic. He had three nice months at the end of the season for the T-wolves; he’s the kind of big that is a solid fit in the triangle offense. But that in no way negates the last few years or warrants a $20 million deal. Amazingly, this wasn’t even the strangest big man contract of the day …

* Amir Johnson was given a five-year, $34 million deal by the Toronto Raptors. The fact you just asked yourself “Who is Amir Johnson?” says all you need to know about the contracts given out today. He’s a solid backup big who just got a $34 million deal.

* Just to round out this theme, backup center Channing Frye was given a five-year, $30 million deal by Phoenix, which he accepted. The guy can hit 3-pointers and is a nice fit in the Suns system, but does that mean he worthy of a $30 million deal? Well, yes, today it does.

* LeBron James listened to pitches from the Nets and Knicks. Both teams had fancy power-point presentations. Jay-Z was there. So were a bank of cameras, complete with live remotes from ESPN — of the outside of a building where the meetings were being held. Friday will be more of the same with the Clippers and Heat visiting. But the process is not out of control. No sir. (Will the Clippers even have a power point, or is it a legal pad and a Sharpie?)

* Dwyane Wade had meetings with the Nets and Bulls, but we all know he’s going to stay in Miami and is still trying to recruit help there.

* Chris Bosh sat down with Miami’s Pat Riley, as well as representatives from the Nets. More meetings including Chicago are to come. But the dark horse in all of this is Houston — Bosh met with Daryl Morey, who gave him a personal iPad that had video testimonials from Yao Ming and others. If Bosh is serious about winning, Houston has to be considered (and they have plenty to offer in a sign and trade, maybe the best of Toronto’s options).

* Amare Stoudemire met with Pat Riley and the Heat for a couple hours and now has meetings scheduled with the Knicks, Bulls and Raptors.

* Joe Johnson reportedly has agreed to a max-deal offer of six years, $119 million from the Hawks. Another guy getting overpaid — a good player getting superstar money, and they will regret the last few years of that deal.

LaVar Ball calls out John Wall, Wizards; Marcin Gortat doesn’t think that was smart

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“I told him after the game, due to all the riffraff his dad brings he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. He’s got to be ready for that, and I let him know after the game… (I had to) welcome his little young a** to the NBA.”

That was the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley after he tormented Lonzo Ball on opening night, and he speaks for a number of other players I have heard from who said father LaVar wrote checks that Lonzo is going to have to cash, and guys were going to go at him. Not every night, but enough.

Since that rough opener the rookie has had a decent couple of games — averaging 18.5 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds a night, not efficient but playing better — going against Eric Bledsoe (a capable defender who had checked out mentally in Phoenix) and Jrue Holiday and the Pelicans. Wednesday night John Wall and the Wizards come to town, and that’s another level of competition.

My least favorite thing about this Lakers season is the way the L.A. media sticks a microphone in front of LaVar Ball after every game. I don’t care about LaVar, in the same way I don’t care about the Kardashians.

But what he said has become a thing. After the Lakers loss to the Pelicans LaVar said, “[The Wizards] better beware cause Lonzo ain’t losing again. Not in the same week!”

Wizards’ center Marcin Gortat thought that was funny.

First off, Lonzo is going to lose twice in a week a lot this season — the Lakers are not a good team.

Second, Wall is a top-five NBA point guard by any standard, an All-NBA player who is far more than just quick (although he is that, too). He can shoot, he’s an aggressive defender, and he knows how to set up teammates. He’s going to be more than a handful for Ball. To put it kindly.

Whatever happens Wednesday night (most likely Wall smokes Lonzo) we know one thing for sure: LaVar will say something outlandish. And it will become a thing. The game is secondary for that marketing effort.

Lakers to break out powder blue Minneapolis throwback uniforms this season

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The Lakers have gone a few different directions with alternate uniforms in recent years, such as the black version, but when you have a classic brand you shouldn’t mess with it. Same with the Celtics, Bulls, Sixers, and other classic uniforms — if you’re going to go alternate then go older.

The Lakers are doing just that — going back to Minneapolis.

They are breaking out the George Mikan era jerseys, starting on Wednesday vs. Wizards and in four other games later in the season.

I like it.

Now if the Lakers could get George Mikan in the paint it would help.

PBT Podcast: All things Sixers with Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia

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The Sixers have started the season 0-3, Joel Embiid is frustrated about his lack of post touches, and Markelle Fultz‘s shot has gone funky…

Relax. The Sixers are going to be fine, and they still very well could be a playoff team in the East this season. It’s just three games (against teams expected to finish above the Sixers in the standings anyway).

Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia joins Kurt Helin on the Podcast today to talk all things Sixers. They discuss the things that have gone wrong, but also the culture Brett Brown has built, why the Sixers still have to be thought of as a playoff team, and why the future is bright. Also, there is a little discussion of the mess with the Phoenix Suns, their lack of a process, and how Eric Bledsoe could tilt things in the East.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Stephen Curry fined $50,000 for throwing mouthpiece

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Stephen Curry knew a fine was coming, the only question was how much? The NBA had established this precedent before: When Curry (or any player) threw his mouthpiece he got fined. That he’s done it before and threw it in the direction of an official this time meant the price could go up.

It did — Curry was slapped with a $50,000 fine for throwing his mouthpiece during the ejection from Saturday night’s Warriors loss to the Grizzlies. Curry felt he was fouled on a drive and didn’t get the call, and he lost his cool.

Andre Iguodala was also fined $15,000 for “verbally abusing a game official” during the same incident.

Some fans wanted a suspension for Curry, mostly because it’s trendy to hate on Curry and the Warriors in some circles. Reality is there is a precedent here, and the league office stuck with that. Now, if the mouthpiece had struck the official, Curry would have gotten a suspension. If you want to argue the intent was the same, call up the league. They make the distinction.