Andre Iguodala

Jimmy Butler trade sets the stage for looming free agency

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(AP) — As draft night approached, some of the heavy hitters in the NBA – Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, Boston, the Clippers among them – were jockeying, making calls and looking for deals to try to position themselves to make a run at the Golden State juggernaut.

The Warriors’ greatness has forced the rest of the league to do deep self-examination and be aggressive in upgrading their rosters if they’re even going to have a chance to compete. The Celtics and Cavaliers were looking hard at Pacers star Paul George and Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, the Rockets and Spurs were looking at clearing cap space to make a run at some big-name free agents next week and the Knicks were, well, the Knicks.

Draft night always lays the groundwork for what will happen when the circus (officially known as free agency) begins on July 1. And with all of those contenders looking to make a splash, the biggest move was made by … the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wolves reunited Tom Thibodeau with Butler, giving up two promising young players in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick to land one of the best two-way players in the game. The move should jumpstart Minnesota’s pursuit of its first playoff spot since 2004 and, the Wolves hope, pave the way for success in free agency.

“I think it will (help) a lot,” Thibodeau said. “With players, they look around the league, they see the makeup of the team, they see how they play, play together. That’s the main thing. Both offensively and defensively.”

The Timberwolves have long had difficulty attracting free agents to a relatively small market that spends four months of the year covered in ice and snow. Landing a top-15 player like Butler to team with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins sends a sign of how aggressive the teams could be.

The Bulls plunged head-first into a rebuild with the decision, and now it’s up to the Pacers to decide if they want to do the same.

Much to the dismay of Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, George let it be known last week that he did not plan to re-sign in Indiana when he becomes a free agent next summer. Most of the league assumes that he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, who appear to be in a tug-of-war with the rival Celtics for George’s attention.

“I’m confident we’ll get something,” Pritchard told reporters in Indianapolis on Friday.

One of the big markets affected on Thursday night was at point guard, the deepest position in the league. Philadelphia, the Lakers, Sacramento, New York and Dallas all drafted point guards in the top 10, which could diminish the options for veterans like Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Jeff Teague and Patty Mills.

The elite point guards available – Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry – should have no trouble finding significant contracts. With Tony Parker suffering a serious injury in the playoffs, the Spurs were reportedly trying to clear space to make a run at Paul, who is widely considered the best point guard in the league. Paul has spent the last six seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, but has yet to advance to the Western Conference finals.

The Clippers are trying to make a decision about retooling around the core of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but really it’s a decision that depends largely on Paul’s thinking. He has long struggled to win big in the postseason, and heading to San Antonio to join with Kawhi Leonard or Houston to team up with James Harden could prove to be more attractive.

Lowry figures to remain in Toronto with a Raptors franchise that he has helped put back on the map, but after that there will be few teams in the market for a high-priced starting point guard. Denver, Utah, New York and Indiana could wade into those waters. But if they look at themselves as still being a couple of year away, they might be hesitant to spend big bucks on a veteran.

Other big names available include Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Andre Iguodala. And while some of the very biggest names like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry figure to stay put, it only ramps up the sense of urgency for teams that have big holes to fill.

The clock is ticking and Thursday night provided the first steps toward making big improvements to the roster.

The Timberwolves rocked the boat with Butler, but the waters were calm after that, which should only mean one thing: It’s about to get real choppy when the clock strikes midnight on July 1.

 

Report: Kevin Durant to sign 1+1 contract for less than max with Warriors

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Kevin Durant is reportedly willing to accept less than the max next season, allowing the Warriors to use Bird Rights to re-sign Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Durant will put that plan into motion by declining his $27,734,405 player option.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant will decline his player option for the 2017-18 season and technically become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he will re-sign with the team, league sources tell ESPN.

All signs, according to sources, point to Durant signing another one-plus-one pact, which carries a player-option at the end.

This sets up Durant to re-sign for the Non-Bird Exception, which would pay him $31,848,120 next season (120% of his salary this season). His projected max salary is more than $35 million, but Golden State would need cap space to offer it. This route allows the Warriors to stay over the cap and maintain Iguodala’s and Livingston’s Bird Rights.

The question was whether Durant would sign a 1+1 or long-term deal. Because annual raises are based on first-year salary, a long-term contract this summer would have locked him into a lower salary for years – but provided security. A 1+1 will allow Durant to opt out next summer and re-sign for his max, meaning only one year of taking a discount.

Now, the Warriors have to make good on Durant’s sacrifice by re-signing at least Iguodala.

(If I were Durant, I’d also demand the team re-sign Livingston and use the mid-level exception. If I’m taking a discount, I want the owners maximizing the roster around me. I’m not sure Durant is driving such a hard bargain.)

Warriors’ Steve Kerr to pursue more answers for health issues

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr will be given time throughout the summer to explore medical options that could alleviate the symptoms he still experiences nearly two years after a spinal fluid leak from back surgery.

General manager Bob Myers said Monday that Kerr would have time off as needed in the coming weeks to find more options to better his long-term health, and Kerr said he would be traveling to do so.

“I think at the point we’re at now, it’s what makes you 5-10-15 percent better? And that’s what he’s going to pursue and explore with our blessing,” Myers said. “The hope is he got back to the place he was prior to leaving in Portland, which is not where he wants to be but he can coach. There’s a little bit of a misconception that stepping away would help him heal. And I tried to dispel that and you should ask him, because I think even he gets a little offended at the notion of, `Just step away and go get better.’ I said this before, this is where he feels the best, which may be counterintuitive to what people think. It’s not that the job diminishes him in any way. Actually, the job, I would say, propels him.”

The 51-year-old Kerr returned from a six-week absence for Game 2 of the NBA Finals and coached the rest of the way as Golden State won its second championship in three seasons. He stepped away after Game 2 against Portland in the first round of the playoffs.

After last Thursday’s victory parade, Kerr headed to San Diego on Friday, hit the beach and swam in the ocean.

“My initial thought was to get some salt water and some sand. It felt pretty good. Salt-water therapy,” he said. “I’ve got a few things going that I’m pursuing right now. I’m going to be traveling some. I’m not going to go into detail. There’s a lot of different thoughts and ways I can see some improvement, seeing various people and trying to really get some traction early in the summer.

“The good news is I did feel a lot better from where I was six weeks ago. I feel like I’m making some strides. I definitely want to gain some momentum here early in the summer and really kind of build on that momentum and be feeling a lot better hopefully soon.”

Kerr and Myers have a lot to do as the start of free agency begins July 1.

Finals MVP Kevin Durant can opt out of the second year in his contract June 29 in order to restructure his deal to make it more team-friendly so Golden State has the means to try to re-sign other free agents such as Andre Iguodala or Shaun Livingston – two key members of the two title teams.

Durant said publicly last week he is willing to be flexible, and even told Myers and Kerr as much during their exit interview. They just can’t begin any formal talks until July 1.

“You just say, `Let’s talk about that in July,”‘ Myers said. “It’s a positive thing, right? It’s positive. Free agency’s so fast and it’s so fluid, you really just hope you’ve created a place where there can be honest dialogue back and forth.”

Stephen Curry also has said that while he looks forward to a hefty raise, he would be willing to discuss a new deal – he could command more than $200 million – that allows the Warriors to put another championship-caliber team on the floor.

After a couple of days with his wife and two daughters, Myers has been number-crunching and preparing a long to-do list to build another winner. The time crunch comes with hoisting the trophy at season’s end.

“I’d rather be just having a glass of wine,” he said. “Maybe in August.”

NOTES: Myers expects the coaching staff to remain intact. … The Warriors don’t have a draft pick Thursday but could buy one if the situation is right. … Player development coach Chris DeMarco will coach the Warriors’ summer league team, with Patrick McCaw planning to play at least some of the games in Las Vegas. Willie Green and Nick U’Ren will be assistants. … With Hall of Famer Jerry West having left his position as executive board member, Myers said he will still keep in touch and figures West might still offer some counsel.

 

Report: Andre Iguodala to ‘seriously consider’ leaving Warriors in free agency

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Has Andre Iguodala already agreed on a salary to re-sign with the Warriors?

This sure doesn’t sound like it.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Iguodala plans to seriously consider other teams in July, league sources told The Vertical. Prospective teams would need to show in meetings a vision to move toward contention to pry Iguodala from Golden State, league sources said.

Many teams are expected to pursue discussions with Iguodala, including the Warriors, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks, league sources said. Among teams around the league, there’s a belief that the value this summer for a two-way wing such as Iguodala could reach $20 million annually.

When mapping out how high the Warriors’ payroll could get next season, I budgeted Iguodala at $18 million – taking a small discount to stay in Golden State.

Other teams know how happy he is there. To lure him away, it’ll take a monster offer. If it also takes a roadmap to contention in a league that still includes the Kevin DurantStephen CurryDraymond GreenKlay Thompson Warriors, it might be an insurmountable challenge.

But Iguodala can still use the threat to get more from the Warriors.

He already holds immense leverage.

Durant is reportedly willing to accept less than his max, which would allow the Warriors to maintain Iguodala’s Bird Rights. They could pay Iguodala any amount up to the max – and have no mechanism to adequately replace if he leaves. If they somehow lost him, Durant would probably want his max, creating additional complications.

Iguodala is a key cog on a team with a team with its championship window wide open. He unlocks the death lineup, entering for a traditional big as Green slides to center. That’d be a major weapon to lose, even if Golden State would still have an overwhelming talent advantage at the top.

One other possibility with this report: It could be a smokescreen to avoid scrutiny into the Warriors breaking league rules by agreeing to a contract with Iguodala before free agency. Especially with that previous report out there, this could be designed to cast doubt on the inevitability of Iguodala re-signing – accurate or not.

Steve Kerr forgot to mention Stephen Curry during parade speech, felt “embarrassed”

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With the microphone in his hand, on the end-of-parade championship stage, in front of thousands and thousands of Warriors fans, with a national audience watching on NBA TV, coach Steve Kerr lavished praise on his players and coaches. He talked about what role players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston brought to the table, he talked about Klay Thompson‘s shooting, and he could not say enough things about what Kevin Durant meant to the team.

He forgot to mention Stephen Curry. At all.

“Oh my God. I’m such an idiot,” Kerr said he told himself in an interview with Marcus Thompson of The Mercury News. “I blew it. I completely spaced.” Here’s more from CSNBayArea.com.

Kerr immediately went over to Curry and apologized, who brushed it off.

“Steph, I’m so embarrassed. I forgot to talk about you. You’re not that important to the team anyway,” Kerr joked with his star point guard….

 

“What I should’ve done is gone back up there and grabbed the mic. What I would’ve said, what I should’ve said, is he makes this whole thing work. Everything revolves around him. The whole culture revolves not only his talent, his unselfishness, but his joy.”

With the team partying all weekend in Las Vegas, I’m sure Kerr is going to have to buy Curry a few rounds — and he’s not drinking PBR, it’s going to be expensive.

Then they’ll get over it and get back to dominating the league again next year.