Sacramento Kings starting point guard Isaiah Thomas has beaten the odds for his entire basketball career and now he’s set to get his first big payday.
The Kings recently extended a qualifying offer to Thomas making him a restricted free agent, and league sources tell PBT that as many as five teams have expressed interest in making an offer to steal away the point guard.
The Pistons, Heat, Lakers, Mavs and Suns have all expressed interest, with the Pistons showing the most interest to date and numbers starting in the three-year, $24 million range. Talks with teams in playoff contention have started in the $6-7 million per-year range.
Thomas averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game last season while hitting 45.3 percent of his shots. He ranked second for the Kings in win shares with 7.7, just behind DeMarcus Cousins at 7.9 and ahead of Rudy Gay at 4.5, with the rest of the team far behind the trio.
Last season, Thomas also became the 29th player in league history to have averaged 20 points and six assists in a year with a 20.0 Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The Kings were 3.9 points per possession better defensively with Thomas on the floor last season.
Outside of Kevin Durant, arguably the most intriguing free agent on the market is Heat center Hassan Whiteside. The Mavericks and Lakers are already known to have made him a priority in free agency, and he should have several other suitors willing to give him a max deal. Speaking at a 3-on-3 tournament in Miami on Sunday, Whiteside said he doesn’t want to drag out the process, and hopes to decide on a new team on July 1, the first day teams are allowed to talk to free agents.
Via the Associated Press:
The Miami Heat center says he wants to know who his next team is on Friday, the first day of this summer’s NBA free-agent period. Whiteside will have a series of meetings with teams that day, and the NBA’s blocked-shot leader last season wants to decide quickly.
Whiteside says the Heat are one of his options, but that loyalty to Miami won’t factor into his decision.
The fact that Whiteside wants to decide early would seem to make a return to Miami unlikely. The Heat are one of six teams that have reportedly been granted meetings with Durant, and it’s a good bet that he’s going to take several days to decide where he goes. The Heat don’t have full Bird rights on Whiteside, meaning they would have to dip into their cap space to re-sign him. They can’t both sign Durant and keep Whiteside at the kind of salary he’s going to command on the open market, and Durant is obviously the priority.
HAVANA (AP) NBA great Shaquille O’Neal has become the latest emissary for American outreach to the people of Cuba.
O’Neal is putting on a basketball clinic on public courts in Havana, part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored mission to foster people-to-people exchanges with Cuban citizens.
The four-time NBA champion led kids in layup drills and coached scrimmages on Sunday while onlookers cheered from the sidelines.
O’Neal said the mission aims to extend a “friendly hand” and smooth U.S.-Cuban relations, which were openly hostile for over five decades before diplomatic ties were restored last year under presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.
Cuban teen Juan Navarrete said it’s a thrill to see an NBA star up close and he aspires to maybe make the big leagues someday.
Lost in the blockbuster Derrick Rose trade that took place on Wednesday was the Knicks’ waiving of guard Tony Wroten, whom they signed to a multiyear deal during the 2015-16 season despite his being injured, with the intent of looking at him as a potential contributor next season. Wroten has ended up back with the team that drafted him in 2012, the Memphis Grizzlies, according to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley:
Wroten played eight games for the Sixers last season, and spent parts of the previous two seasons in Philadelphia as well. He’s never been able to establish himself as a consistent contributor, partially due to injuries. For the Grizzlies, he provides another body in the backcourt, someone they can take a look at in Summer League, and who could get some minutes this season if Mike Conley leaves and they decide to rebuild. It’s a solid, no-risk pickup.
With Luke Walton leaving to coach the Lakers, Steve Kerr has a vacancy on his Warriors staff. Veteran coaches Mike Brown and Tyrone Corbin were previously rumored to be the leading candidates for that job, and with Corbin joining Earl Watson’s staff in Phoenix, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Brown is still the leading candidate to join Kerr.
Brown has been around the block a few times as a head coach. He coached the Cavs before LeBron James left for Miami in 2010, and was rehired in Cleveland for the 2013-14 season before being let go again. In between, he coached the Lakers in 2011-12 and was fired five games into the disastrous Dwight Howard era in 2012-13. He’s probably finished as a head coach, given the way his last few stints have gone, but he’s a solid choice as an assistant, and it’s looking like he’ll end up in Golden State.