Winderman: NBA’s post-lockout startup time can be quick

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Based on the slow-go turn in lockout negotiations, it is safe to say that we’re officially on the clock, a backwards timetable to the earliest-possible start to the NBA season.

Those involved in the process are virtually unanimous in a two-week timetable being necessary for agreement-into-final draft and then a union vote.

Conversations with others indicate that a one-week schedule for camp/exhibitions is feasible, if only because while rosters still have to be rounded out, there are a significant number of teams that not only have their starting lineups in place, but many of those lineups are the same that ended last season.

In some respects, the timing of this 2011 lockout could not have been better, with this having already set up as an offseason of continuity for many teams.

But what about free agency, a process that normally runs for three months, a typically measured, methodical approach by front offices?

Don’t overstate the process. A week sounds about right. And with most teams merely looking for complementary pieces, you conceivably could have a workable resumption even with teams fiddling with rosters through the opening days of the regular season.

Foremost, with a rookie wage scale already assured in a new agreement, draft picks could be signed immediately, as was the case even when the moratorium period was in place in previous agreements.

As for free agents, consider that in the last free-agent signing period, 15 players were signed on the opening day of free agency in 2010 and 44 in the first week of the process.

While an argument could be made that the seven-day signing moratorium positioned teams for such swift movement, an argument could be made that teams, in effect, this time already have had a three-month moratorium period to mull such considerations.

Further, while the previous agreement had the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception and all varieties of Bird Rights, the new agreement, one that at the least will have hard-cap characteristics, may have none of them.

In other words, agents won’t have as much ability or need to shop offers. There will be teams with cap space, teams with minimum-scale offers, and perhaps incumbent teams still with some sort of Bird Rights to retain their own free agents.

The reality is teams have had more than ample time for Plans A, B, C, all the way to the ones that forecast Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler to instead play in China.

Put it this way, one agent confided he already has a $4 million offer in place from a team for his middling swingman.

Which means either people already are talking, or plenty of advance work was set in motion before the July 1 onset of the lockout.

No, you’re not allowed to discuss such matters during a lockout. But you also were never allowed to discuss potential free-agency machinations prior to July 1 of any other year, and, well, we’ll leave that conspiracy conversation for those who want to revisit elements of LeBron, Wade, Bosh.

Basically, in the wake of slow-moving negotiations, there still can be a fast-moving free-agency process.

So while pondering those reverse calculations about how quickly meaningful games can be played upon an agreement, don’t overstate the personnel game.

Those plans are in much better shape than, apparently, any plan to actually end the lockout itself.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Report: Magic’s search firm inquiring about Larry Bird

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.

Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).

Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.

Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob HenniganDoc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.

It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.

Report: Clippers expect Chris Paul to re-sign

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Chris Paul reportedly verbally committed months ago to re-sign with the Clippers. There have been mixed signals about Blake Griffin‘s intention to re-sign.

But they can’t formalize the deals until July, and the Clippers are now one game from another demoralizing first-round exit.

Where do they stand now?

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Sources close to the Clippers say that they expect Paul to re-sign with the Clippers. He’ll be eligible for a five-year contract in excess of $200 million. Griffin’s return is less certain, sources say. This summer is his first foray into unrestricted free agency. Given his snakebitten tenure with the team and the possibility of another early exit, the prospect of exploring what’s out there will be alluring. One premise volunteered in good humor suggests that Paul is more likely to take a slew of meetings in a public process but ultimately re-sign with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to mull the decision privately under the guise of night, but announce he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2017-18.

Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers has made clear his desire to re-sign Paul and Griffin, and the playoffs won’t change that. This is the right call. It’s so difficult to assemble a team this good, the Clippers shouldn’t throw it away for the sake of change. Just because the Clippers haven’t gotten the breaks in previous seasons doesn’t mean they won’t get the breaks in future seasons.

But Paul and Griffin – and J.J. Redick, who’ll also be an unrestricted free agent – will determine the franchise’s fate. If they want to leave, they’ll leave.

Can the Clippers lure them back? They apparently think they’ll keep Paul, but there’s an uncertain dynamic in L.A. that Arnovitz explores in great depth. I highly recommend reading his full piece.

Nike, Adidas, Under Armour pass on potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball

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NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.

Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.

In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”

Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.

But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.

On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.