Kurt Helin


Report: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker part of Spurs pitch to LaMarcus Aldridge (and they may be favorites)


Where is LaMarcus Aldridge leaning in free agency?

Depends on who you ask.

Around the Lakers, there is a sense of confidence they are the front runners. But that is not what you hear everywhere around the league — the Spurs are still right in the mix. Maybe they are even the front runners. And the Spurs are bringing out the big guns for their meeting with Aldridge, reports Marc Spears at Yahoo Sports.

Tim Duncan will join Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich as part of the San Antonio Spurs’ contingent when they meet with Portland Trail Blazers free agent LaMarcus Aldridge on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, a source told Yahoo Sports….

The Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns are among Aldridge’s suitors, but a source close to the situation said the Spurs are currently the frontrunner.

If you take one thing away from those paragraphs it should be this: Tim Duncan is coming back next season. Why else is he meeting with Aldridge?

We know the order of Aldridge’s meetings, thanks to David Aldridge of TNT and NBA.com.

As for who are the favorites? Only Aldridge knows.

If it is going to be San Antonio, you will see the Spurs making moves and doing an intricate financial dance to clear out cap space — specifically, expect to see either Boris Diaw or Tiago Splitter moved. If that happens, you can start to assume the Spurs are on to something.

Otherwise, maybe it is the Lakers. Or his hometown Mavericks. Or Portland. Or….

Aldridge is the best free agent on the market likely to be on the move. It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Report: Chicago Bulls give Jimmy Butler max qualifying offer

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls

Jimmy Butler said he wanted to stay with the Bulls. Multiple times. But then this summer came the reports that he wanted a shorter deal, not the five years the Bulls could offer. Then came the “he wants to go to the Lakers” talk. All of the stuff after the season sounded like an agent trying to gain leverage and get his star a shorter contract (so he could tap into the flood of television money about to hit the NBA sooner)

The Bulls on Monday did exactly what everyone expected them to do: Put huge wads of cash on the table. As in five years, $90 million. From Eric Pincus of BasketballInsiders.com.

A max qualifying offer is a rarely-used part of the NBA free agency machinery that essentially offers a maximum contract to a player. It is not binding, much like the regular qualifying offer. Butler doesn’t have to sign it, he can go solicit offers from other teams.

What it does mean is that no other team (say, the Lakers) can offer Butler less than three years. (Before they fewest they could offer was two years, the one year reports were erroneous).

Once free agency opens July 1, the Bulls will negotiate with Butler about a max contract, and if there would be any options in it (for example, allowing Butler to opt out in two or three years).

If the Lakers — or any other team — offers a three-year contract, the Bulls still have the right to match it, because Butler is a restricted free agent.

The fastest way for Butler to become a free agent is to just play for the basic qualifying offer of just more than $4 million — and leave $86 million in guaranteed cash on the table. That isn’t just life-changing money, that’s generational changing money for the Butler family. It’s too much just to walk away from.

Maybe the Bulls give him an opt out after three years.

The bottom line is this: Butler is going to be a Bull next season. And he’s going to get PAID.

Suns coach Hornacek tries to quell Bledsoe trade rumors

Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic

Generally in the NBA, where there is smoke there is fire — maybe not the raging, four-alarm blaze being sold through rumors and sources, but something is burning.

Starting with the NBA Draft and through today, there has been a lot of smoke rising out of the desert surrounding Phoenix in regards to an Eric Bledsoe trade. There were rumors the Knicks were interested on Draft night, now there are reports Sacramento may be interested. The Suns plan to be patient and let the market play out a little.

Suns’ coach Jeff Hornacek went on SiriusXM NBA Radio radio recently and tried to put out the Bledsoe rumor fire. He was asked if they are seriously entertaining moving Bledsoe.

“No. (laughs) No.  You know, it’s funny, trade deadline and around the draft I always tell our players, I say, ‘Look, if you hear your name out in the trade rumors a lot it’s probably there’s nothing going on.  If you’re going to get traded usually you don’t hear your name.’ I think there were some calls from the Knicks about Eric.  Of course they would want to have Eric on their team.  For us, we are taking some strides, we had a little step back last year due to some trades and some injuries late but Eric is a big part of our future and there was no entertainment of that.”

The first rule of trading a player is to not look like you want to trade that player, it’s bad for leverage. Read into Hornacek’s comments whatever you wish, I lean toward the cynical.

How serious are the Suns about keeping Bledsoe? You can likely tell by how much the Suns offer to re-sign Brandon Knight this summer — if they offer him five-years, $70 million as reported, Bledsoe will be on the move at some point. You’re not going to pay two point guards that much.

But if they offer Knight less, maybe kind of offer that goes to a backup point guard, then we’ll know Hornacek wasn’t just trying to put out the fire, there wasn’t much of a flame to begin with.

LaMarcus Aldridge to meet with Raptors? That’s the report.

Portland Trail Blazers v Miami Heat

LaMarcus Aldridge is done playing hoops in Portland. Well, except as a heartily-booed member of a road team next season, but he’s done as a Blazer.

He might land in San Antonio — that’s his preference, but it requires a delicate financial dance by the Spurs to make it happen (if you see Boris Diaw get traded, the Spurs are likely on to something). The Lakers are reportedly climbing his list, and they will get a meeting. So will the Dallas Mavericks — Aldridge grew up in Dallas, and some Cowboys players are going to help try to recruit him.

And don’t forget about Toronto… wait, the Raptors? Apparently they are in the mix as well.

There may be a little logic to this. Toronto does have the cap space to offer a max deal. They have some quality players on the roster: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and others. They are in the East, so it’s an easier path to the Finals (save for that LeBron James guy).

But Aldridge is going to not go to contend with the Spurs, not go home to Dallas, not become the face of the Lakers brand, and instead choose to go to Toronto? With all due respect to one of the NBA’s best (and certainly most underrated) fan bases, I just can’t see it. Not when he has better options.

Report: Dwyane Wade will not opt-in with Heat, to become free agent (as expected)

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat

There will be no Luol Deng last minute change of heart.

Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat have been at an impasse for a while now — reportedly as much as a $24 million impasse. So Wade is using the only leverage he has.

Wade will not opt-in to the next year of his contract with Miami, reports Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

This is the opposite of a surprise. From Wade’s perspective, he left money on the table both to bring the big three together, and then again the Heat to rebuild the roster after LeBron James went home. Now Wade wants to get paid, reportedly seeking in the $20 million a year range.

The Heat front office still wants that flexibility and sees a diminishing on the court role for Wade. They reportedly hoped he would take far less than $16 million a year after this season, maybe closer to $10 million.

When Wade can get on the court he still is an All-Star level player — he averaged 21.5 points a game last season, he can still get to the rim and he had a PER of 21.4 — he’s still fairly efficient. But he has chronic knee issues and only played in 62 games last season, after 54 the season before that. His minutes have to be kept in check at this point.

The real question for Wade and his effort to leverage the Heat: Who is going to give him more money than Miami? That list of teams may be very slim at this point in his career.

But it looks like we are going to find out.