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


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.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.