Free Agency Rundown 7.1.12: The movers, they are a shaking

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Here’s what’s going on with free agency news and rumors as the moratorium period began Sunday night at 12:01 a.m..Do not, by any means, consider this comprehensive. There’s so much going on, we’re just trying to get you an overview. (HT: Hoopshype, IAmAGM.com)

Atlanta Hawks

Well, for starters, they’re exploring a deal for Joe Johnson to the Nets, per Yahoo. That’s a pretty strong indication of where they’re at. The Hawks are considered to be extremely active in the trade market, angling for a total overhaul of the team under new GM Danny Ferry. Nothing may come of it, but they’re on the phone, taking calls.

They’re also talking about, or to:

Ray Allen (link)

Rashard Lewis (link)

Brandon Bass (link)

Boston Celtics

They re-signed Kevin Garnett for a lot of money over three years and he’s old and is only going to oh, you know what? It’s Kevin freaking Garnett. You pay the man.

The Celtics want to get Ray Allen back in the fold and have reportedly offered him two years at $12 million. That’s a LOT for him, and a lot for him to turn down.

Everything else hinges on those two getting locked in first.

Bass reportedly wants to come back, Boston’s his preferred destination.

Brooklyn Nets

Oh, you know. The usual. Trying to trade for Joe Johnson, Dwight Howard, re-signing Gerald Wallace.

If they get Johnson, they don’t get Howard. They may not get Howard anyway. They definitely have Wallace. They’ll try and get O.J. Mayo if Johnson falls through. They have a lot of pans in the fire.

Charlotte Bobcats

Eric Gordon might take a meeting with them. There’s not much point.

Chicago Bulls

Omer Asik has agreed to sign a 3-year, $25.1 million offer with the Houston Rockets. The Bulls have until the 14th to match. The third year is structured to pay Asik $15 million, which may be a poison pill to the Bulls if they still want to dodge the luxury tax. It’s hard to see them matching.

They have interest in:

Kirk Hinrich (link)

Cleveland Cavaliers

They reportedly have interest in:

Nicolas Batum (link)

Ersan Ilyasoava (link)

Dallas Mavericks

They meet with Deron Williams on Monday, and meet with him first. But neither Mark Cuban nor Dirk Nowitzki will be in attendance, and you’d think that those two missing the meeting has some level of importance. But Rick Carlisle, Donnie Nelson, and Michael Finley isn’t a slouchfest by any means. Something interesting, though.

Steve Nash is going to hold off on making a decision until he’s met with the Mavericks. He has a three-year, $36 million offer from the Raptors on the table.

They have interest in:

Ray Allen (link)

Brandon Roy (link)

Denver Nuggets

Josh Howard (link)

Detroit Pistons

All’s quiet on the Pistons front.

Golden State Warriors

The Dubs are not going to work on an extension with Stephen Curry at this point. They don’t seem to have a very firm lock on who their “core” is.

Houston Rockets

Signed Asik to that three-year deal mentioned above. The Rockets have been looking for a franchise center forever. This does seem to indicate a step away from Dwight Howard, however, as they’re now tied up with a significant chunk of change towards a center. There will be talk about Asik being overpaid, but the third year of the contract, Asik will be a $15 million expiring. That’s a trade chip Morey can use.

The Rockets are expected to host Eric Gordon at some point.

Indiana Pacers

Roy Hibbert has agreed to terms with the Blazers on a max contract, four years, $58 million. Will the Pacers sign? That’s a huge question. They have long thought highly of Hibbert, but have never been in love with him, so to speak. They like to date him, they enjoy going steady with him, but they don’t consider him marriage material. They might let him go because they just don’t consider him worth it. But if they do, who plays center? Hibbert was a huge advantage in the playoffs for the Pacers, especially against the Heat. Do they really want to let that walk?

They have interest in:

Eric Gordon (link)

Nick Young (link)

Restricted free agent George Hill (link)

Jamal Crawford (link)

Los Angeles Clippers

They inked Griffin to an extension as expected, and Chris Paul turned them down for an extension out of a pretty basic understanding of the CBA, no reason to read into it.

The Clippers are going to take a shot at Ray Allen.

Jason Terry is on their radar. They clearly want a two-guard upgrade.

They’ve already gotten out in pursuit of getting Chauncey Billups back.

Los Angeles Lakers

Dwight Howard! Again!

Nick Young and Brandon Rush are on the Lakers’ targeted list. That’ a fairly big indication that they want a bench shooter to add behind Kobe Bryant. Interesting, considering how many minutes Bryant played last season,and how often Metta World Peace plays at that position.

They’re already reaching out to Ramon Sessions to get him back under contract.

They’re also interested in:

Lou Amundson (link)

Kirk Hinrich (link)

Rashard Lewis (link)

Memphis Grizzlies

Targeting Ray Allen. They’ve reportedly offered the full mid-level exception.

Randy Foye, Kirk Hinrich, and Andre Miller are all also on the list.

Miami Heat

Ray Allen. So much Ray Allen. Targeting Ray Allen. Need the Ray Allen. Want the Ray Allen. May not have the money to get the Ray Allen. Boston’s offer throws a major wrench in their plans. Jason Terry will likely become option 2 if Allen goes back to Boston.

You can put them on the list if Jose Calderon is amnestied.

Milwaukee Bucks

Not sounding like Ersan Ilyasova will be back. With John Henson, Samuel Dalembert, Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, the Bucks have a lot of depth down low. But they don’t have a lot of skill offensively. Could get tough to get balanced scoring.

Minnesota Timberwolves

They’re reportedly hot to trot for Nicolas Batum. Can’t see a situation where Portland lets him get away. But the Hibbert deal could change all that.

Jamal Crawford is reportedly on their list.

New Orleans Hornets

Laughing as teams host Eric Gordon before they match any offer and continue their rebuilding plan, I’d imagine.

New York Knicks

Got Steve Nash in the building to try and stay in the conversation. The Raptors offer may have been a death knell.

Oklahoma City Thunder

YOU GOT THABEET (maybe).

Orlando Magic

Oh, you know. Dwight.

Philadelphia 76ers

Got Lavoy Allen back on a great, two-year, $6 million deal. Total steal.

Phoenix Suns

Looking at all options as it looks like Nash is gone. Going to take a whack at Eric Gordon.

Portland Trail Blazers

Offered Roy Hibbert a max contract. That impacts their ability to re-sign Nicolas Batum, but also gives them maybe the best guy to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge in the league. If they get him, they may be overpaying, but they’re also going to have a ridiculously tough frontcourt.

Sacramento Kings

All’s quiet on the Kings front, for now.

San Antonio Spurs

Looking at options, nothing heavily invested now.

Toronto Raptors

Offered Steve Nash a 3-year, $36 million contract to come back to the motherland. Raptors would then presumably amnesty Jose Calderon. Where Nash fits in with the Raptors’ defensive approach is still up in the air.

Utah Jazz

Josh Howard is visiting a number of teams, and it doesn’t look likely he’ll return.

Paul Millsap wants an extension for more than $10 million per year.

Washington Wizards

All’s quiet on the Wizards front, for the most part.

Bill Laimbeer on LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons: “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely”

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LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. He just passed Michael Jordan to take over the top spot on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Fourteen years into his NBA career, he has put together a resume that few in the game’s history can match — and he’s not done.

You don’t have to think that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, however, if you don’t think it’s a valid discussion, you’re blinded by bias.

Former NBA All-Star, champion, and WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer of the “bad boy” Detroit Pistons was asked about the LeBron/Jordan comparison on “The Rematch” podcast, and he said we’ve never seen anyone like LeBron (hat tip the USA Today).

“I’ll take Lebron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to host Etan Thomas… “He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything. Michael was a guard. Yeah, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.

It was Laimbeer and the Pistons who taught Jordan to win — they beat the Bulls year after year in the playoffs, until Jordan broadened his game (and got better teammates) and the Pistons started to fade. People point to MJ’s unblemished Finals record, but he was seen for years as a guy who couldn’t get a team to the Finals because of those Pistons (LeBron learned his lessons on a different stage, taking some early Cavs teams that had no business in the Finals to that stage anyway, only to get crushed).

LeBron has a more versatile game than Jordan, which better suits this era: When Jordan was a force in the ’80s and ’90s there was no zone defense, which led to a lot of clear-out sets where eight guys watched a one-on-one battle from the other side of the key, and if the double-team came it was obvious from where. Jordan’s skill as a guy who could get his shot, kill it from the midrange or get to the rim, his ability to physically play through contact, and the legendary killer instinct made him great. But he was aided by timing — the booming popularity of the sport in the 1990s, the rise of Nike as a marketing giant, and the fact he didn’t have a true rival, a Bird to his Magic, that could best him.

LeBron has reached the point in his career that the legacy talk and where he ranks all-time is the only real discussion left — and Jordan sits as the bar to clear. Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell, and a few others should be on that tier as well, part of the discussion, but the point is LeBron has moved on to that level of discussion. He’s earned it. The fact some people on Twitter/sports talk radio feel the need to rip him for everything doesn’t change that — if Jordan played the social media era he would have heard the same things from the same people.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.