Richard Hamilton has been perfecting his sulking game in Detroit over the last year or so, and the Pistons are finally done with him. According to Perry Farrell of the Detroit Free Press, the Pistons have agreed to buy out Hamilton’s contract and make him an unrestricted free agent.
Farrell makes the important distinction that Hamilton is not being waived by way of the amnesty clause; this is a good old-fashioned buyout, though the terms of which have not yet been disclosed. Regardless, Hamilton’s full $12.5 million will stay on the Pistons’ books for cap purposes this season, along with whatever portion of his salary is guaranteed in 2012-2013. This also means that Hamilton will enter the free agent pool without incident, as opposed to amnestied players who would first enter into an auction system exclusively for teams under the salary cap. Hamilton may immediately sign with the team of his choosing, so long as they have cap room or salary cap exceptions to spare.
The Chicago Bulls — who have been linked to Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, and various other shooting guard candidates in recent weeks — immediately come to mind as a possible landing spot for Hamilton. Having both Crawford and Hamilton on the market could make both players a bit more affordable, and all things considered, Hamilton seems like a better fit. Hamilton is relentless in his pursuit of open spot-up jumpers, and his work without the ball in his hands would seem to complement Derrick Rose’s ball-dominant style rather splendidly. Chicago wants the ball in the hands of its best player, and Hamilton — who is also a pesky defender and a competent three-point threat — may be the best wing addition to keep control of the offense with Rose.
That said, if Chicago is looking for another ball handler to alleviate some of the pressure on Rose, Crawford may be their guy, making Hamilton available to what’s sure to be a long list of suitors. With the mess in Detroit behind him, there’s no reason Hamilton can’t be a very productive player for a team in need of backcourt scoring. The deconstructed Pistons just weren’t a good match for him anymore, as evidenced by the mutually beneficial decision to buy out his contract. Hamilton is by no means a player worth some huge salary commitment (he’s 33 years old, after all, and shares in Crawford’s inefficient reliance on mid-range jumpers), but a quality, two-way wing tumbling into the free agent bin could change a number of teams’ plans.
Although the Miami Heat’s failure to win the NBA title made them a frequent punchline, let’s not soon forget just how quickly the Heat were able to rise to the top of the league. Miami is an altogether incredible team, and though they squandered an opportunity in the NBA Finals, they likely need only to make minor tweaks here and there while building on last season’s excellence in order to return to that stage.
The Heat took a step in that direction on Friday, as Mario Chalmers, James Jones (according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com), and Juwan Howard (according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports) are set to return for another campaign in Miami. The status quo that earned Miami the Eastern Conference championship has been preserved, and the addition of Shane Battier (along with hopefully healthy seasons from Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem) will only push them forward.
Howard wasn’t terribly essential (or even all that useful, if we’re being blunt), but both Chalmers and Jones were important pieces for the Heat’s spacing and perimeter defense. Chalmers gets a lot of flak for his perceived failings as a point guard, but he harasses opposing ball handlers and brings a solid three-point stroke. Jones is even more accurate from the perimeter and just as stingy on defense, but has a tendency to be overlooked thanks to his shiny, superstar counterparts at both wing positions. He may not command much attention, but Jones is exactly what the Heat need him to be, and losing him in free agency would’ve been a hit to an already shallow roster.
The interesting thing with the Heat: with the exception of Jones, the length and cost of the rest of their off-season deals are not yet known. Miami is a player for veteran minimum signings regardless, but depending on how much is committed to Battier and Chalmers, the Heat could conceivably have room with their mid-level exception to sign another player. It’s unlikely considering that the amnesty clause has not been used on Mike Miller (which would make Battier’s deal a virtual shoe-in for the taxpayer mid-level exception), but at this point we can’t be absolutely sure without knowing what the precise parameters of these deals are.
The post-lockout free agency period has seen teams throw gobs of money at Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, and Nene, but out in Sactown they’re showing some impressive restraint. The Kings aren’t in any rush to substantial salary commitments to their books, but in their efforts to build up their roster and meet the league’s payroll floor, Sacramento has (according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports) signed Chuck Hayes to a smart, four-year deal worth just a shade over $21 million.
Hayes, who stands just 6-6, has spent the entirety of his career thus far playing center for the Houston Rockets. Don’t let the lack of size fool you, though; Hayes is an impressive, physical defender with great intuition. He rotates beautifully, he counters any unstoppable post force by being an immovable object, and he rebounds well on top of it all. Plus, over the last few seasons, Hayes has actually become a reasonably effective offensive player — or at least good enough to avoid being an on-court liability.
Hayes is more or less a complete product, but he’d be a great rotation big man for virtually any NBA team. Sacramento was able to secure his services, and Hayes will likely be paired with bigs like DeMarcus Cousins and J.J. Hickson in order to help mask their defensive deficiencies.
Kudos to the Kings for letting the core of their team — Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and the recently drafted Jimmer Fredette — develop at its own pace without being lured into substantial spending. That’s especially true for a team with so many versatile, interesting pieces; Sacramento is still in the process of figuring out how all of these young players fit together to form a coherent team, which makes roster flexibility absolutely essential. Build slowly. Evaluate and adjust. Assemble useful pieces. But above all, maintain financial freedom in anticipation of a key move to come, even as other teams indulge in huge free agent signings.
Over the last few years, Twitter has completely changed the NBA experience. It gives basketball fans a place to congregate online in order to discuss breaking news or thrilling games. It gives reporters a mechanism to get their scoops to readers as quickly as possible, without having to worry about wasting precious moments for the sake of processing and editing. And, most famously: it provides a means of direct communication between the previously distant athlete and the everyman — glimpses into the mind of a professional ballplayer 140 characters at a time.
During the lockout, the league saw what could happen when a few hundred frustrated players took to social media to air their grievances. It was uncoordinated, sometimes ill-informed, and other times embarrassing, but players nonetheless had a digital megaphone with which to broadcast their perspectives directly to the fans. Some NBAers were more successful in that regard than others, but the lack of censorship was refreshing.
Yet even with a new collective bargaining agreement in place — and the NBA back in business as a result — Danny Granger and Jason Richardson have continued tweeting with the same freedom. Both were clearly peeved by the NBA’s decision to nix a potential three-way deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers on Thursday, and rightfully so. But the manner in which both players lashed out at the league was a bit surprising, even when considering the animosity built up between the players and the NBA over the last few months.
Granger was up first, laying down some pretty heavy snark:
Due to the sabotaging of the LA/NO trade by david stern, and following in the footsteps of my athlete brethern Metta World Peace and Chad Ochocinco, I’m changing my last name to “Stern’s Bi#&h” #effectiveimmediately
Then, following the public release of an email (via Yahoo Sports) from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that supposedly set the stopping of the trade in action, Jason Richardson offered the following:
Once again Buck Nasty a.k.a Dan Gilbert is letting his wrath being felt by being the main voice in the CP trade block.
Both players disregarded the possibility of a league-issued fine in order to voice their opinions on an incredibly important event. Criticizing Stern, the league, and the owner of another team aren’t commonly considered to be acceptable NBA player behaviors, but the league has made this an extenuating circumstance by intervening in the basketball decisions of individual teams. Odds are that plenty of other players are similarly incensed by Thursday’s events, but it’ll be interesting to see what form that anger takes — in social media or otherwise.
In the blink of an eye, the entire landscape of the NBA has changed. As originally reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, and Houston Rockets have agreed on the framework of a deal that will bring Chris Paul to L.A. The long-standing rumors linking the league’s best point guard and premier glamour franchise have finally been actualized, giving the Lakers the kind of transcendent star to usher in the post-Kobe Bryant era.
The specifics of the deal are as follows:
Los Angeles receives:
In exchange for:
In Exchange for:
2012 first round draft pick (originally from New York)
New Orleans receives:
a 2012 first round draft pick (originally from New York, via Houston)
In exchange for:
*According to salary cap wizard Larry Coon of ESPN.com, the Lakers may also be acquiring two traded player exceptions (TPE) that they can in turn use to acquire other players. Kevin Pelton — of Basketball Prospectus and ESPN.com — wisely connected the dots between the Lakers’ TPE and New York’s Ronny Turiaf, whose contract currently stands in the way of the Knicks’ arrangement with free agent Tyson Chandler.
The Rockets have paid a steep price in order to acquire Pau Gasol, but Houston GM Daryl Morey finally has the star player he has so long coveted. Additionally, the Rockets will have enough room under the cap to continue chasing after unrestricted free agent big man Nene, who could provide the Rox with a dynamic 1-2 punch on their back line. That said, Gasol is likely not the franchise centerpiece that many Rockets fans envisioned after years of Morey collecting tradeable assets.
New Orleans gave up one of the league’s true superstars, but in return have acquired a number of quality assets. Odom, Scola, and Martin are all very good players that can make the Hornets competitive in the short term, but can also be flipped with relative ease if the right deal comes along. The Hornets are trying to move on at this point, but by acquiring several very good assets at the expense of Chris Paul’s ticking clock, they buy time to pursue fair trades and do their proper diligence.