50 Observations about NBA Free Agency

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From time to time, I drop random observations because it’s too long for a tweet and too short for a full post. Also because it allows me to crack jokes, which is really the reason I’m here. That and the money. Mostly the money. Anyway, it’s been a crazy week of free agency. Here are 50 observations about what we’ve seen.

1. Despite all the hand wringing over the vast majority of these deals, there has been a significant level of restraint exhibited. Gone are the eight-figure averages that would so commonly permeate second and third option player extensions, replaced by reasonable three-year deals.

2. Nothing is more exemplary of this than Nick Young. In 2009? Nick Young would be showering the money oil off of him from sleeping in a gigantic bed of money with cash sheets. Joe Dumars alone would have offered him the gross national product of Botswana.

3. Instead, Young gets a one-year, $6 million contract. Lou Williams is still on the market. O.J. Mayo, Brandon Rush, Courtney Lee, shooting guards are actually not being snatched up like they’re gold mines. It’s incredible.

4. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t bad deals being tossed around.

5. In totally unrelated news, Jeff Green got four-years, $36 million.

6. I argued on Twitter that were the fourth year non-guaranteed, I wouldn’t have objected to a $10 million per-year average for the Celtics. They had positional need for Green, had already invested a lot in his future, and their inability to sign outside free agents created a boondoggle for them.

7. That said, it’s still an overpay and there isn’t a single metric or piece of hard evidence to suggest that Green is worthy of this deal. It’s either going to turn out as one of the best or worst contracts Danny Ainge gambled on. And this is a guy who brought in Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal.

8. On the other side of it, you have to love what the Hornets did with the sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson. Getting a versatile big who can spread the floor and actually rebounds, the Hornet managed to get more than what the Magic will likely get for Dwight Howard, in exchange for Gustavo Ayon. Not a bad day at the office.

9. I have concerns about Anthony Davis being forced into playing the 5, but with today’s NBA shifting smaller and smaller in terms of lineups, you have to think it’s at least worth a shot to pair Davis and Anderson without putting Anderson at the 3.

10. The Sixers managed to have a great and terrible week at the same time. Lavoy Allen, what a steal! Spencer Hawes, what were they thinking? Nick Young, great job! Considering entering the Kris Humphries sweepstakes, why? It’s an up and down week for Philadelphia, but that Allen contract really stands out as a steal.

11. Just to review this, the Rockets had Aaron Brooks and the Suns had Goran Dragic and then the Suns sent Brooks to Houston for Dragic and a pick, and now the Suns have signed Dragic and the Rockets are talking to Brooks and the Rockets got a pick back (in a trade of Kyle Lowry). They’re working backwards. I’m excited for the Suns to trade for Shawn Marion and Houston to introduce Yao Ming.

12. Dragic is going to have a lot on his shoulders assuming the Hornets match the offer for Eric Gordon. Marcin Gortat seems like a good idea, but when you’re actually there and he’s your second best player, that’s a problem.

13. Thank Goodness they have Michael Beasley to provide stability and common sense to the floor.

14. Everyone’s rooting for Bandon Roy, but when he steps on the floor, there will be gasps and a lot of nervous people. Hopefully he’ll accept a low-impact role where he can just shoot, and everything works out.

15. The Mavericks aren’t desperate, at least not as desperate as they seem. They still have Roddy Beaubois who showed a lot last season. They’ll likely have Ian Mahinmi, who really has shown some things. They’re in talks for Ramon Sessions. And, you know, Dirk Nowitzki. They are a well-placed trade from getting a core together. They’re out of title contention for the foreseeable future, but they likely will not be horrible.

16. Eric Gordon has done some pretty substantial damage to his image with all this nonsense. It’s one thing to want the money. It’s another to want the freedom. But Gordon wants the money, and the freedom, despite having elected not to sign the qualifying offer to make him a free agent.

17. On top of all that, he wants to use that freedom to join a team with Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat instead of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. OK.

18. Gerald Wallace at 4-years, $40 million looks great next to Jeff Green, 4-years, $36 million.

19. Gerald Wallace 4-years, $40 million looks horrible next to Ryan Anderson, 4-years, $36 million. Wallace’s best days are behind him. That contract is going to look massive in three years compared to production.

20. But not as massive as Joe Johnson!

21. It should be noted, with or without Dwight Howard, the Nets will more than likely be paying each team under the cap enough to subsidize their own D-League teams for a year in 2015. Between the Nets and the Knicks, teams will be able to afford their own MLE’s for free.

22. The Grizzlies will have both Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur next year, which is going to be like having clones on the floor when they play together in a small-ball lineup. There aren’t enough elbow jumpers in the world. Good pickups for Memphis, though, and on a budget.

23. Ray Allen, in a world where the Magic are willing to deal with the Nets, the Suns are willing to trade Steve Nash to the Lakers, and Jason Kidd joins the Knicks, is the only one with a true sense of vindictiveness and you have to appreciate that, unexpected though it may be.

24. The Magic are clearly moving towards a rebuild, letting Ryan Anderson go. So we can expect them to be cautious and hesitant with move…. wait, what’s that? They re-signed Jameer Nelson on a long-term, medium-money deal? Oh, OK then.

25. The Knicks are in such a bind with Jeremy Lin. They can’t move him because he’s too valuable from a marketing standpoint, and yet matching is insane because they’re never going to give him the ball anyway. #ISOMELO

26. If Rashard Lewis signs in Miami, please consider how good the Heat’s garbage time lineup featuring Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, and Juwan Howard would be in 2003.

27. George Hill’s five-year, $40 million deal in Indiana isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t awful. You’d like to see him cement himself as the guaranteed starter there, though, for that money. The deal is going to be very movable in about two years, though, should the Pacers need to clear it.

28. Kevin Love desperately wants out of Minnesota. Nicolas Batum desperately wants in. Different strokes, I suppose.

29. The Clippers went with such a strange combination of players. Billups makes more sense with Mo Williams traded to Utah, but Jamal Crawford is going to be so boom or bust for them. They’re also going to be short a shooter with Nick Young gone. But stars like CP3 like veterans. And Crawford’s a vet.

30. Jerryd Bayless is likely going to be a pretty good value pickup for one of these teams. He can run point and score. He’s got limitations but as a bench contributor he can provide help.

31. Love the idea of Antawn Jamison in Charlotte. Gives them a professional to set the tone in the locker room, he spreads the floor enough and he comes at a discount price on a short-term contract. That’s just what the doctor ordered as the Bobcats try and move out of the primordial ooze.

32. You have to appreciate the fact that Brandon Bass almost certainly took less money to return to the Celtics. He’s a guy who really could have helped a lot of teams. Not sure how he’ll fit once the plodding Big-2-plus-Rondo era is over, but he’s going to help them win a lot of games over the next two years.

33. Elton Brand goes from horribly overpaid player to unbelievable bargain in a single transaction. Say hello to the amnesty clause.

34. Alonzo Gee isn’t on the radar much and the Cavs can match any offer but teams should definitely explore an offer sheet for him. He’s versatile, productive, and still has some upside. He was a hidden gem for Cleveland last year.

35. Kirk Hinrich returns for nearly a quarter of what he was making in his last year in Chicago. He’ll help, though. He can manage the offense, which is a big deal with how the Bulls’ offense is. The just need someone to set the table with Rose out.

36. There’s a certain level of ignorance being displayed in the Jason Terry evaluation. Ray Allen slipped last season, but so did Jason Terry. He had more trouble creating a shot, getting to the rim, staying in front of his man, hitting the big shots. He’ll still be a huge contributor for Boston, but losing Allen and gaining Terry is more about team need and fit than overall player talent upgrade.

37. Which guy is more surprising in terms of not having a deal agreed to yet, JaVale McGee or O.J. Mayo?

38. Mayo was coveted in Memphis and can’t seem to break out of the pack to draw an offer. This from a guy who showed the ability to drop 40 as a rookie. Lionel Hollins’ hiring may have been the worst thing for Mayo’s career, even if it was the best thing for Memphis.

39. Anyone else wonder if the Nuggets are going to sign McGee to a big long-term contract and then trade him like they did Nene?

40. If the Bulls match Asik, it’s a good move. If they let him walk for the money, it’s a good move. It’s kind of a can’t lose for Chicago, which is a rarity in these situations. Asik’s good enough to pay but also not good enough to suffer for walking away from.

41. Remember when Shannon Brown was a crucial piece on a championship team?

42. Kwame Brown could get massively overpaid as a competent center or underpaid as Kwame Brown. There’s very little in between.

43. If anyone can figure out what Daryl Morey is doing in Houston, could you draw the rest of us a diagram, with flankers?

44. Andre Miller didn’t take the money, the ring chase, or the starting gig. He just stayed home. Didn’t see that coming.

45. Marcus Camby’s transformation for how he’s considered defensively over the past five years is amazing, and Benjamin-Butto-like.

46. Weird that the Blazers are playing so cool with Nicolas Batum after making his trade value essentially worth a city of gold over the past three years.

47. I have come to the conclusion that Dan Fegan is Keyser Soze.

48. In this scenario, Billy King is Verbal Kint.

49. Pivotal trade piece and free agent: Kris Humphries. Who would have seen that coming two years ago?

50. Landry Fields…. why, Colangelo? Why?

 

NBA looking into Rockets’ owner interacting with referee during game

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Like every Rockets fan — and, let’s be honest, every fan of every team — Leslie Alexander is convinced the referees were screwing over his Rockets.

Except that Alexander is the owner of the Rockets.

And he approached a referee during game play.

The NBA is understandably investigating this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The NBA said an investigation “is underway” into Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander’s getting up from his courtside seat to have a few words with official Bill Kennedy in the first half.

Alexander appeared to say something to Kennedy during a Thunder possession before returning to his seat. Alexander declined to give any detail beyond he was “upset … really upset.” Rockets guard James Harden said he didn’t see his owner get up. “He did that?” a surprised Harden said after the game. “He’s the coolest guy. I would have helped him.”

The NBA doesn’t let players or coaches cross a line when talking to officials, but they are at least allowed to interact and discuss calls with a ref during a game. It’s something else entirely for an owner to get in the ear of an official during game play.

I’d expect Alexander will see a fine for this.

Whatever he thought of the officiating, the Rockets won to advance on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Steve Kerr to see Stanford specialists about back issues, is optimistic about return to bench

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If he were not coaching a perennial contender and a team where he genuinely has a deep bond with the players, the GM, and his fellow coaches, Steve Kerr might have walked away from basketball for a while. The pain from spinal fluid leakage from a couple of back surgeries he had two summers ago (the ones that led to Luke Walton coaching the first half of the season in Golden State) would have been too much.

But he tolerated and managed the pain as best he could, until a few days ago when it became too much. Kerr did not coach the final two games of the Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers and said he would not return to the bench until healthy enough to do so.

Kerr’s next step is to talk to specialists at Stanford University’s medical program, and Kerr is optimistic about the long-term prognosis, he told Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

He revealed to NBCSportsBayArea.com that in recent days he has spoken to several people who have experienced the debilitating effects of a cerebrospinal fluid leak and been able to overcome it. He says that because his symptoms have intensified over the past week, in an odd twist, that may make it easier for specialists to trace the precise source.

“That’s what the next few days are all about,” Kerr said, standing down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room. “They’re trying to find it. If they can find it, they can fix it.”

He’ll begin in the coming days by consulting with specialists at Stanford Medical Center, which has some of the more respected surgeons in the world.

Kerr said his spirits have been lifted by other people who went through this, people who told him doctors found the leak and it changed their lives, that they bounced back to 100 percent. He said that the first back surgeries did their job in relieving his lower back pain, but it has led to spinal fluid leakage that is worse than the symptoms the first surgery solved.

Whether a fix can happen to get him back on the bench these playoffs is immaterial, we all hope it happens just so Kerr the person can go back to enjoying his life without chronic pain. He’ll be around the team as much as he can through the playoffs, but there are far more important things going on with him than basketball right now.

 

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

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The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

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LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.