Kurt Helin

Portland Trail Blazers

Report: Miami Heat’s Pat Riley will get dinner to try and woo LaMarcus Aldridge

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UPDATE: Pat Riley and the Miami Heat got their foot in the door — Riley will have a dinner meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge Thursday to try and convince him to come to Miami, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is still a crazy longshot — they already have an arguably better version of Aldridge in Bosh — but the Heat are at least going to get to take their swings.

••••••

The Spurs are still the team to beat. The Lakers are getting a second chance to make a first impression. The Suns knocked it out of the park in their meeting and moved into contention. The Knicks never even got up to the plate.

And now the Miami Heat want to take a swing.

The Heat are trying to get a meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, according to Adriam Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

It seems a real longshot for a couple of reasons. First off, in Chris Bosh the Miami Heat already have a player with a similar skill set and style of play to Aldridge (and Bosh is the better defender).

Second, the Heat do not have nor can they easily create cap space. The only way to make this work is a sign-and-trade. They could sign-and-trade Bosh for Aldridge, but that is basically and even swap. In theory they could sign-and-trade Wade but they would never do that (and Portland doesn’t want him). Or, they could sign-and-trade for Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and other players. Not sure Portland does that either.

But the Heat at least want to get up to the plate. That would put them ahead of the Knicks.

PBT Podcast: Talking best signings of free agency so far

New Orleans Pelicans v Denver Nuggets
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The first day of free agency was a whirlwind — $1.3 billion in contracts handed out in one of the wildest, free spending sessions the NBA has ever seen. (Keep that in mind during the 2017 lockout when some owners cry poverty.)

There were great signings that were obvious, like a max deal from New Orleans to keep Anthony Davis. There were less high profile ones that were smart — Alex Ajinca for five-years, $20 million — and some others we’re not so sure about.

In this podcast PBT’s Kurt Helin andNBCSports’ Dominic Ridgard breaking down many of the signings from the first day plus of free agency, including the Monta Ellis and Arron Afflalo signings. By the way, we think the Suns overpaid for Brandon Knight.

Listen to the podcast below or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.

Kings set sights on at least one of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Wes Matthews

Rajon Rondo
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The Sacramento Kings made their trade to clear out cap space.

Now the Kings want to put that money to use — they want Monta Ellis. Or Rajon Rondo. Or Wesley Matthews.

The Kings, for all their dysfunction of late, are trying to be players in free agency, according to multiple reports, including Marc Stein at ESPN.

While Sacramento probably doesn’t have enough cap space to sign two of them, it is getting closer after striking a deal with Philadelphia…

The trade should allow the Kings to outbid Indiana for Ellis if they can convince the Dallas Mavericks’ leading scorer from last season to stay in the Western Conference.

The Kings are not the kind of franchise free agents are necessarily drawn to right now, not with DeMarcus Cousins calling coach George Karl a “snake in the grass” on Twitter (using emojis). If the Kings are going to land any of these guys they likely have to overpay, the extra tax of getting them to Sacramento.

The Pacers have emerged as the front-runners to land Ellis, but the Kings are looking for playmakers and Ellis showed in Dallas he was more adept than previously thought at that skill. Ellis worked well in Dallas with shooters around him on the court, the Kings don’t have the same kind of floor spacers, but if they can offer more cash than Indiana they will get Ellis’ attention.

Matthews can space the floor as a shooter, and he has told teams he is not taking a discount coming off Achilles surgery — the price to land him likely starts at $15 million a year. Dallas is considered the front-runner to land Matthews.

Rondo is the oddest case of all — does pairing Cousins, Karl and Rondo seem wise? On the court, Rondo doesn’t have the kind of jump shot that strike fear in the heart of opposing defenders, which can mess with floor spacing. Of late, Rondo’s opponents go under picks and wait for the mistakes. His defense isn’t as good as its reputation. There are not a bunch of teams bidding on Rondo after his disastrous half season in Dallas, the Kings can add him at a fair price. He reportedly still wants $10 million a season, there is no reason to pay that much.

The Kings want to be players, we’ll see if they can land he guys they want.

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).