Kurt Helin

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Lakers, Knicks struggle on hectic first day of free agency

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There were clear winners on the first day of NBA free agency, where an estimated $1.3 billion in contracts were handed out. The Cleveland Cavaliers are getting the band back together, reaching deals with Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert. The Golden State Warriors kept Draymond Green in house. The Toronto Raptors impressed and signed DeMarre Carroll. The Pelicans re-signed Anthony Davis and Omer Asik. The Phoenix Suns landed Tyson Chandler and re-signed Brandon Knight, then impressed LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs also impressed LMA and they re-signed Danny Green at a great price. The Hawks retained Paul Millsap.

As Knicks rookie Jerian Grant said: “Is this free agency or Oprah? You get a max, you get a max, you get a max…”

Yet, the Lakers and Knicks were left standing there, empty handed.

Early in day two of free agency, the Knicks landed Arron Afflalo, a nice pickup but not the game changer their fans have been hoping to see.

These are two of the games biggest brands, in the nation’s two largest markets, both with plenty of cash to spend on free agents, yet both looked woefully behind the times and unable to adjust to the new realities of the NBA.

It is just one day and both will get chances at other big names — the Knicks have long been linked to Greg Monroe, and the Lakers had the opportunity to pitch him as well (update: Monroe chose the Milwaukee Bucks). DeAndre Jordan and others are still on the board.

But both franchises are learning hard lessons.

Free agents now want more than off-the-court opportunities, they want to see a path to winning. Fast. They can live and work out in Los Angeles in the summer if they want the perks of the city, they want to be shown the analytics of how this team can help them win on the court. Now. Social media has altered the world of off-the-court endorsements, being in a big market isn’t as big an advantage as it once was. Today’s free agents want to know how the team can help them grow their brand by landing them on the biggest NBA stages — the playoffs, The Finals, prime-time games on Christmas Day, All-Star Games.

And right now, the Lakers and Knicks are bad basketball teams.

David West was blunt about it talking about the Knicks.

Those struggles on the court permeate the teams’ big pitches to free agents.

The Lakers were one of the co-frontrunners to land LaMarcus Aldridge heading into free agency, and they got the first meeting with the All-Star forward. But their most dynamic speakers are the people on the business side of the equation, Aldridge was left wanting on the basketball side. From a source that spoke to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

Aldridge considered the Lakers to be part of a “two-horse race” with the San Antonio Spurs and “wanted to be wowed” but was actually turned off by the lack of analytics on the basketball side of their presentation, according to the person….

The Lakers also contended that their analytics outline would have been stronger if they had a better roster last season. The team privately expressed envy that Houston’s presentation could be boasted by stats and on-court analysis of a team with James Harden and, indeed, Dwight Howard.

The Rockets are also far more invested in those analytics. Meanwhile, the Lakers are trying social media campaigns that both seem dated and that the NBA made them take down anyway.

To a degree, this is the impact the other 28 NBA owners wanted with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — they wanted to take away as much of the inherent advantages of big, profitable franchises as they could. They made the price for continually exceeding the luxury tax so onerous — not just financially, but taking away sign-and-trades and limiting cap exceptions to big-spending teams — that everyone is far more on the same financial playing field.

The Lakers and Knicks have seemed slow to adapt to that new reality. Around the league, they are seen as two teams less willing to embrace the analytics that have driven teams like Golden State, San Antonio and Miami in recent seasons. Both Lakers coach Byron Scott and Knicks head honcho Phil Jackson have at points dismissed the value of the three-point shot. You can try to defend the context of those statements, but the impression was left of two dinosaurs trying to win their same old-school way.

The reality is that rebuilding can be slow and hard. The Lakers can point to an excellent young core of players — D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson — and try to paint a picture of how there is hope for the future of the franchise in their hands. It’s a good picture — but players like Aldridge, at age 30, are not going to wait around for that moment. They want to see good basketball teams now. The Lakers and Knicks are just not that.

Free agency is far from over; all is not lost with either of these franchises this summer. As noted before, Monroe is certainly in play, and with the cash to spend the Lakers and Knicks are going to get the attention of other quality players still on the market.

But day one was rough in Los Angeles and New York.

Who is left on the board after wild first day of NBA free agency?

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three
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That was insane.

NBA teams agreed to $1.3 billion in contract money in the first 24 hours of free agency, in what was as hectic a first day as anyone can recall. The CBA worked as the owners intended — small market teams did just as well (actually, much better) than the big markets and most free agents took the extra money and security their current teams could offer. Guys stayed home (19 out of 26 guys did not change teams of the early signings).

So who is left on the board as we head into Day 2? Here are the biggest names out there still.

LeBron James — Like he’s leaving Cleveland. He’s a free agent in name only.

Marc Gasol — He also is out there in name only, the Grizzlies will have a deal with him by the end of the day. It’s just that the deal is being worked out in Spain, in between tapas and siestas, so it’s moving at a different pace.

LaMarcus Aldridge — He has a couple more meetings on Thursday, including with the Knicks and Raptors, before sitting down and figuring out where he wants to play next. The Spurs remain the front-runners, they impressed him with their pitch, plus he gets to go home to Texas and step straight on to a contender. However, Portland, Phoenix and everyone but the Lakers are still holding out hope.

DeAndre Jordan — The athletic center has had a few meetings, and it is thought to be a 50/50 decision between the Mavericks and Clippers. In Dallas he gets to go home to Texas and be a bigger part of the offense; but the Clippers offer more money, he likes living in Los Angeles and playing for Doc Rivers, plus they are legit title contenders.

Greg Monroe — Maybe the most open name on the board. The young center played for relative peanuts last season to get this moment, and the Knicks and Lakers are both very interested. However, both Portland and Milwaukee have made strong impressions and are in the mix. He’s going to get a max, he just has to decide where he wants to play.

Dwyane Wade — He and the Miami Heat need each other, and they are reportedly closing in on a deal. There isn’t much of a market outside Miami for his skills, unless he wants to take less money than he felt insulted by when the Heat offered it.

Robin Lopez — He has had interest from a number of teams, but for the Knicks and Bucks the veteran big man is kind of Plan B after Monroe. Lopez is going to get paid then bring solid defense and a hatred of mascots to wherever he chooses.

Wesley Matthews — He tore his Achilles last season and, while reportedly ahead of schedule on rehab, teams can’t expect him to be right for at least half if not all of this next season. That said, he has shown zero interest in taking a discount — he wants $15 million per year or more. Dallas is considered the front-runner for maybe the best “3 and D” guy in the league (because he can do more than just that), but other teams such as the Kings are interested.

Tobias Harris — With Orlando striking out on Paul Millsap (who stayed in Atlanta) it may take a max offer to get the Magic not to match (Harris is a restricted free agent). The Pistons, Lakers, Knicks and others have reportedly been interested, but will any of them put that much money on the table for the young forward?

Monta Ellis — The Pacers meet with Ellis on Thursday, and that may be a match. The Pacers need shot creation and playmaking, plus they have the money to pay. The Kings also are said to be interested, and more may come calling.

Other names on the board: Lou Williams, Rodney Stuckey, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos and Patrick Beverley (he’s restricted, the Rockets can match any offer).

Report: Knicks reach two-year, $16 million deal with Arron Afflalo

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers
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He may not be the rockstar name some Knicks fans (and for that matter, Phil Jackson) had hoped to sign early in free agency, but the Knicks just picked up a rock solid NBA veteran.

The Knicks have come to terms on a two-and-one deal with swingman Arron Afflalo, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Afflalo, and eight-year NBA veteran, had shown a lot more offensive game for a rebuilding Orlando team, where he averaged 18 points a game in 2014. His defense is solid, although maybe not as good as his reputation. Last season he started the season in Denver then was traded to Portland in what seemed a smart mid-season acquisition — Afflalo was to backup Wesley Matthews and provide depth on a team that needed it. Then Matthews tore his Achilles and Afflalo was forced to start, where he never found a real comfort level but did shoot 40 percent from three.

This is a good deal for both sides. The Knicks get a guy who can play, someone who can step in now and be a talent upgrade on the roster. Afflalo will get his chance to show what he can do — then he can opt out if he wants and tap into that television money pool.

Report: Warriors, Draymond Green agree to five-year, $85 million deal

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game One
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We tried to tell you when talks “broke down” between the Warriors and Draymond Green on a new contract that this was just a matter of the two sides finding a number. The Warriors couldn’t let Green go, he is too central to what they do defensively, he was second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and his ability to switch picks and guard multiple positions is key for Golden State’s top-ranked defense. Plus he can knock down threes, is the emotional center for the team, and Green averaged 11.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game last season.

The two sides have figured it out.

From Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports and Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Along with the extension given Klay Thompson a year ago and the 2017 max deal, the Warriors will give Stephen Curry, keeps the core of this team together for years. They are going to be contenders for a while. (And the West is loading up to challenge them.)

There will be costs to the Warriors down the line, it may be difficult to pay players such as Harrison Barnes or Andrew Bogut the market rate. GM Bob Myers will have some future challenges.

But for now, the Warriors are keeping the band together — and they will be at the top of the West for a while.

Reports: Paul Pierce agrees to three-year, $10 million contract with Los Angeles Clippers

Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce and head coach Doc Rivers react during a break in fourth quarter action against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series in Miami
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Would Paul Pierce agree to this if DeAndre Jordan were leaving town? Maybe, but it seems far less likely.

Paul Pierce has decided to leave the red, white, and blue of our nation’s capital for the red, white, and blue of a team on the other coast — the one in his hometown of Los Angeles.

He is going to reunite with his old coach Doc Rivers and try to lead the Los Angeles Clippers over the hump, something first reported by Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

That works out to basically $10 million over the three years, and the third year is a team option. A couple days ago it seemed Pierce — the 10-time All-Star and NBA champion in Boston — did not want to give the Clippers a discount, that he was leaning toward staying a Wizard. However, the pull of his home town proved too much.

The Clippers have been looking to upgrade at the three this off-season. They shipped out Matt Barnes but brought in Lance Stephenson, but Rivers said he hoped to bring Stephenson off the bench. This signing allows them to do that, although Stephenson may play more minutes than Pierce.

Pierce turns 38 next season but his crafty, veteran game that ages well. He averaged 11.9 points a game and shot 38.9 percent from three last season. The challenge is that he had more success playing at the four, while the Clippers have Blake Griffin at the four and would use Pierce more at the three. That spot has been a challenge to him in recent seasons, particularly defensively.

Still, the Clippers think they got a guy who can knock down big shots in big moments — “I called game.” The Clippers have that in Chris Paul but wanted more veteran presence.

But if Jordan bolts, this move could be moot. Which is why it seems Pierce might know something.