Yes, there have been back-channel communications. Yes, there are indications and sources and talks. But free agency hasn’t officially begun and won’t until Monday. But Monday, according to an ESPN report, that’s when free agents can begin being wooed by teams and executives. Cue the Brazilian steakhouse jokes!
NBA team executives and coaches will be allowed to start talking to players around the league Monday at 10 a.m. ET, according to league sources.
Teams were notified Saturday that contact with players and free agents will be allowed Monday in advance of the scheduled opening of training camps Dec. 9.
via NBA free agency courting can start Monday, sources say – ESPN.
Stein notes that oral and written deals cannot be agreed to until camp starts on Dec. 9, which is ridiculous. “You can pick her up and take her out and show her a good time and go back to her place, but you can’t date her.” Come on, now. So in short, expect Nene to rack up a ton of frequent flyer miles, and for deals to start leaking out as early as Wednesday.
It’s going to be a frantic free agency period despite the lack of talent in this group. Which once again makes you wonder what the lockout was for exactly. Nevermind, don’t ask questions. It might come back.
ESPN.com reports that there’s a high amount of skepticism around the league regarding Marc Gasol’s availability in restricted free agency outside of Memphis. In short, the Grizzlies have every intention of matching any offer for the young stud center.
Gasol is not the biggest name on the Grizzlies, with Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and even Tony Allen, even, but he’s the core of their success. It’s his defense, passing out of the pinch post, and rebounding that provides the backbone of what the Grizzlies do. Behind Nene and Tyson Chandler, he’s the third best center in the market, and given his age and upside, might be the best overall value. There have been questions about if Michael Heisley would really come through on his word to pay for a contender if the Grizzlies made the playoffs last year. During their spectacular run, he granted Zach Randolph a long extension, after having given Gay and Conley similar deals in the past six months.
But it would all be for naught if he doesn’t do the same with Gasol. Locking in Gasol means the Grizzlies have their core for the next three years at least, assuming that ideas surrounding how Rudy Gay fits with the club are insane. On December 9th, Gasol is rumored to be hearing max offers from multiple teams, but the Grizzlies will likely match. Unlike with Mike Conley, who they gave an early extension to before he could hit the market and wound up getting a quality deal on him, Gasol was not eligible for an extension until after the season. As a result, the Grizzlies will let him take his offers from other teams, match within the new three-day waiting period, Gasol returns to Memphis, which he enjoys living in (more so than brother Pau did), and the Grizzlies will make another run.
Maybe last year was smoke and mirrors, but you have to say this. All signs point to Michael Heisley putting his money where his mouth is.
From ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
It’s been a familiar refrain from a handful of front-office types during the first few days of the NBA’s gradual return to offseason normalcy: Denver’s Arron Afflalo is a popular choice when you ask execs to pinpoint the most attractive free agent outside of the big men…
…Sources told ESPN.com that the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, despite possessing no cap space to bid for the 26-year-old swingman, will continue to press the Nuggets to see if they’re amenable to sign-and-trade discussions. Sources say New Jersey and Minnesota, meanwhile, are among the teams with salary-cap space weighing whether to extend an offer sheet after free agency officially starts Dec. 9 that the Nuggets will have three days to match to keep Afflalo.
Afflalo, who excels at perimeter defense and knocking down open shots, is the type of solid role player that teams love to have — players with the athleticism to play good defense, the ability to make three-point shots, and the maturity to not use their shooting range and athleticism to force tough shots are not easy to come by. Afflalo would be a natural upgrade over Keith Bogans in Chicago, and would be a younger, cheaper, and overall better version of Metta World Peace in Los Angeles. (New Jersey and Minnesota, meanwhile, apparently can’t even look at a free-agent swingman without putting an offer sheet on the table.)
Of course, as Stein notes in his article, it will likely take a huge offer sheet to pry Afflalo away from the Nuggets, as they can match any offer sheet he receives and Denver has already lost both Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith to China in free agency. Plenty of contenders would love to have Afflalo on their wings, but it’s hard to imagine him wearing anything but a Nuggets jersey at the beginning of next season.
From Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld:
On Wednesday, NBA teams were allowed to contact agents for the first time since June 30, the day before the lockout commenced. Executives were given the opportunity to work the phones and express interest in upcoming free agents ten days before those players can start signing with teams.
One player that came up often in conversations was Jamal Crawford. He’s arguably the best shooting guard in this year’s free agent class and one of the best pure scorers available. After averaging 14.2 points off of the Atlanta Hawks’ bench last season, Crawford is receiving plenty of interest around the league.
A number of teams made calls to Crawford’s camp on Wednesday including the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, according to sources close to the situation.
It makes sense that so many contenders are interested in Crawford, who LeBron James attempted to recruit via Twitter a few years back. Crawford excels at drilling long jumpers, either off the dribble or spotting up, and can provide instant offense and floor-spacing to any team. He doesn’t need plays called for him or an offense built around him to be effective — he can come off the bench, fire in some long jumpers, and then go right back to the bench and wait for his number to be called again. Also, he may have the coolest signature move in the NBA, and everyone loves signature moves.
Due to Crawford’s middling scoring efficiency, poor defense, and iffy passing skills, he’s not a player that any team can build around, but he’s a luxury that almost any contending team would like to have. However, with so many teams bidding for Crawford, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll end up being overpaid, so don’t be surprised if the team that wins the “Crawford sweepstakes” ends up feeling like they got a booby prize after a season or two has gone by.
While the return of the NBA has meant the return of fantasy trade scenarios, the Warriors are one team that appears locked in on free agency — at least for now.
The Warriors are looking to sign a big man during the abbreviated free agency period, sources tell Warriors Insider Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com. The names floated out there by Steinmetz are big ones, at least in the grand scheme of the 2011 free agency class: Nene, Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and Marc Gasol.
The Warriors’ payroll currently sits at approximately $51 million, about $7 million under the $58 million salary cap. If the team uses its amnesty provision on Charlie Bell, who makes $4.1 million in 2011-12, then the Warriors could be looking at roughly $11 million in cap room.
Question is — is that enough to lure Nene or Chandler? Answer: It might be close.
There are a lot of other questions, including whether the Warriors could really afford Nene or Chandler, whether Nene would be a good fit alongside similiarly skilled David Lee, and whether the Grizzlies would match any offer for Gasol, a restricted free agent (they would).
The most realistic option, Steinmetz notes, might be Jordan. The 23-year-old averaged 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds as a third-year player for the Clippers last season. Jordan, like Gasol, is a restricted free agent. He would almost certainly be a cheaper option than Nene, Chandler and Gasol, though he is also the least proven of the four. The Clippers want to keep him, but how much are they really willing to spend? This is Donald Sterling’s team, after all. Jordan would also give the Warriors a mini-monopoly on left-handed big men with Lee and Andris Biedrins.