Report: Pistons increase offer to restricted free agent Greg Monroe

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Just two high-quality free agents remain – Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe – and they’re still on the market due only to their restricted status.

In Phoenix, things between the Suns and Bledsoe are getting testy. (Don’t worry, the Suns are getting their point of view out, too.)

The Pistons’ negotiations with Monroe haven’t devolved to that level of public disagreement.

But that doesn’t mean they’re any closer than Bledsoe and the Suns to a deal.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons have moved from the initial five-year, $60-million offer and an offer that’s slightly better than the four-year, $54-million deal that Josh Smith signed last summer is on the table.

But the offer to make him the highest paid player on the roster hasn’t brokered an agreement. And negotiations aren’t ongoing.

Unlike Phoenix, which seems steadfast on its our-year, $48 million offer for Bledsoe, the Pistons’ willingness to negotiate stands out.

It’s unclear whether Monroe or Detroit is pushing toward a shorter deal with a higher annual salary. Are the Pistons willing to pay Monroe more per year as long as their total investment isn’t too burdensome? Or does Monroe want a shorter contract and the ability to become an unrestricted free agent sooner?

I’m sure Monroe fancies himself a max-contract player, and there is a case to be made in a vacuum. But unless he draws a max offer sheet at this late stage, there’s practically no incentive for the Pistons to pay him that much.

And it doesn’t seem Monroe will get a max offer sheet. The 76ers are the only team with enough cap room, and though a sign-and-trade is possible, it would require another team offering Detroit satisfactory compensation.

At this point, it’s possible Monroe is trying to set himself up for his third NBA contract. Perhaps, playing with Josh Smith isn’t in Monroe’s best interest. No question, the two and Andre Drummond functioned poorly together last season, and Monroe took a brunt of the hit.

But new Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy has made Monroe his top offseason priority and called Monroe and Drummond an “ideal pairing.” Drummond, not Smith is Detroit’s franchise player. So, that should signal to Monroe he’s in good hands, right?

Monroe needn’t be certain of that, but if he’s leaning toward that being the case, he shouldn’t pass up more than $54 million over four years (or maybe $60 million over five) for a $5,479,934 qualifying offer.

There’s still plenty of time to reach a deal, and this process is naturally slow. The Pistons’ willingness to increase their offer shows progress, but considering negotiations aren’t ongoing, the finish line probably remains far.

Eventually, Monroe will either bring Detroit a qualifying offer or get serious about discussing the structure of his next contract. In the meantime, both sides wait – and for now at least, avoid the Bledsoe-Suns-style public bickering.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.