Winners, losers from first day of NBA free agency

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Life comes at you fast. NBA free agency comes at you faster.

Within minutes of free agency starting, teams were announcing deals (which in no way were worked out before the start of free agency through back channels, that would be tampering, and no team would ever do such a thing… cough). By the end of the first day of free agency Stephen Curry had the richest deal in NBA history, Blake Griffin had decided to remain a Clipper, and suddenly Philadelphia was looking real in the East (knocking on wood everyone stays healthy).

Here are our three biggest winners and losers from July 1, the first day of NBA free agency.

WINNERS

1) The Golden State Warriors. The NBA’s best team is keeping the band together — and they should. Signing Curry to a five-year, $201 million super max deal was easy, that’s the no-brainer. LeBron is right, Curry is underpaid (relative to what he generates for the franchise, not compared to reality outside of sports, but that’s another larger discussion). More importantly, the

More importantly, Joe Lacob and the rest of Warriors ownership stepped up and bit the bullet on a massive coming tax bill to keep the core of this team together. The Warriors re-signed Shaun Livingston, retained David West, then upped their offer last minute to keep Andre Iguodala — something Iguodala confirmed.

Now Kevin Durant will reach a deal with the Warriors, a 1+1 deal for a few million less than his maximum. Next year, Durant will opt out and get a max contract (likely starting at about $36 million), and the Warriors will be at least $15 million over the tax line and headed into paying the repeater tax in a few years. Keeping the Warriors together is going to eat into the profits of the Warriors, and credit ownership for being willing to pay that to keep the NBA’s best team together.

2) Jrue Holiday. He had the Pelicans up against it. With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on the team (the latter in a contract year), they need a quality point guard to run the show and get them the rock. Holiday certainly fits that bill, but he had multiple suitors. He was going to make at least $20 million next year. The problem for the Pelicans was if they let him walk they only had about $12 million to replace him, and that was going to mean a serious downgrade in talent they couldn’t afford. So the Pelicans came in big, five years and $126 million. Holiday took it, he wanted to stay in New Orleans, but he wasn’t taking a discount to do it. That’s a lot of money, credit to the man for getting paid.

Now, let’s see how this experiment works in the Big Easy.

3) J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers. We all talk about the great young core with all that potential in Philly: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and on down the line. Then you hear about GM Bryan Colangelo wanting to bring in veterans and think, “please, don’t screw up the process, it’s working.” He didn’t, and the Sixers still got their veterans.

They land J.J. Redick for one year at $23 million (that figure is why Redick is a winner). Is that overpaying? Sure. But it works. The Sixers have the cap space, Redick fits a position of need, and he’s one of the best shooters in the game, plus this is just a one-year deal. Next summer the Sixers have their cap space back. Redick will give the 76ers shooting that spacing the floor for Simmons’ and Fultz to do their thing, but he’s also a perfect mentor off the court — this guy was a huge college star who had to totally rework his body and game to fit in as an NBA role player, and he busted his butt to do it. This is the work ethic and mentality Philly wants to show those young players, show them what it takes. Same things apply to the signing of Amir Johnson — one year, $11 million, very professional and respected by everyone.

LOSERS

1) Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors keep the band together. Paul George goes to Oklahoma City in a trade, despite both the Cavs and Nuggets being down with a three-team trade that would have brought PG13 to Cleveland. The problem was the Pacers didn’t want that, they kept moving the goal posts, then sent him to the West (people around the Cavaliers are convinced Indy wanted George in the West, because why else would anyone want Victor Oladipo over Gary Harris?).

Maybe most concerning: LeBron James is sitting out the recruiting process this summer. Those concerns about him leaving in 2018 are legitimate.

2) Detroit Pistons. On the court, I like the signing of Langston Galloway on this team. He can play either guard spot, he can shoot the three, he’s a good defender, and while $7 million a year is mildly overpaying it’s not unreasonable. The problem is by using some of the mid-level exception to make this happen, the Pistons have hard-capped themselves at $125 million. If another team comes in with a max offer for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope the Pistons are going to have to shed $3.4 million to match it. And the hard cap will limit in-season moves. Stan Van Gundy has tied his own hands, and it’s going to be a problem down the line.

3) Los Angeles Clippers T-shirt. They got their man, but looks like the Clippers brought Donald Sterling back to design the T-shirt that staff wore at the end of their pitch to Blake Griffin.

Yes, that is a shirt comparing Blake Griffin’s time with the Clippers to Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela. That is the very definition of tone deaf.

Rumor: Kevin Durant not happy with Warriors

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Kevin Durant‘s torn Achilles in the NBA Finals is the type of life-changing event that could significantly alter his thinking entering free agency.

But we don’t know how Durant was thinking before the injury. And we don’t know how he’s thinking now. He has yet to speak publicly.

That won’t stop rumors, though.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

the indication from several league sources is that Durant is not happy with the team, and the presumption is that it stems from whatever role Warriors officials played in his decision to suit up. Coach Steve Kerr says he was told Durant could not further injure himself by playing, which obviously proved not to be true. If Durant was told the same, it would give credence to the notion that, as one league executive claims, “He’s really pissed off at the Warriors.”

Jay Williams, who’s close with Durant, said the Warriors misdiagnosed Durant and mishandled public statements about him. Williams doesn’t necessarily speak for Durant, but that might be the best indicator so far of Durant’s mindset.

Do Bucher’s sources have other reason to believe Durant is upset with Golden State? Or are they just assuming Williams is representing Durant’s thoughts? The possibility of the former is what makes this intriguing. But I’m skeptical, especially of someone Bucher identifies as just “one league executive.” That’s light credentials for someone spewing rhetoric like “really pissed off.”

Still, Kendrick Perkins and Brian Windhorst reported on momentum building toward Durant to the Nets. There’s plenty of smoke behind the idea Durant will leave Golden State.

Re-signing with the Warriors might be the way for the injured 30-year-old to maximize his earnings, though. Their max offer projects to be worth $221 million over five years. Other teams’ max offers project to be worth about $164 million over four years. Durant could agree to a delayed sign-and-trade. Of course, he couldn’t actually guarantee Golden State would ever trade him.

So, if he’s that upset with the Warriors, he’ll just leave once free agency opens next week.

Adam Silver likes NBA teams moving away from term ‘owner,’ prefers ‘governor’

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Warriors star Draymond Green has objected to using the term “owner.” The 76ers use “managing partner,” not “owner,” as Josh Harris’ title.

Does NBA commissioner Adam Silver like teams moving away from the term owner?

Silver, via TMZ:

I do. I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I’ve said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word owner. But, we moved away from that term years ago in the league. We call our team owners governor of the team and alternate governors. So, I think it makes sense. As I’ve said, I don’t want to overreact, and you’ll find the word throughout memos over the past decade in the NBA. But I’m sensitive to it, and I think to the extent teams are moving away from the term, we’ll stick with using governor.

Players have gone both ways. I think a few players have actually spoken out and said the greatest thing that ever happened was when Michael Jordan was able to call himself an owner. But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term, and I completely respect that.

The elephant in the room: Slavery. The history of white people owning black people is the subtext to this entire discussion. Slavery looms over a league where most owners are white and most player are black.

However, the term “owner” here doesn’t refer to owning the players, but owning the team. “Ownership” has far wider historically usage than slavery. In most fields, “owning” companies – which NBA teams are – doesn’t generate backlash.

Are we too loose with the term “owner” in sports? Perhaps. It’s common to say something like, “Players should strongly consider their potential owners in free agency” rather than “players should strongly consider their potential team’s owners in free agency.”

But there are power differences between players and owners/managing partners/governors/whatever you want to call them. Unless addressing the actual underlying issues, changing terms will accomplish nothing.

Those power dynamics are why the Warriors referred to Mark Stevens as “Mr. Stevens” and Kyle Lowry as Kyle Lowry after Stevens pushed Lowry during the NBA Finals. Those power dynamics are why Donald Sterling took guests into the Clippers’ locker room to ogle players. Those power dynamics are why LeBron James is remembered as the bad guy from The Decision despite Dan Gilbert’s wild letter.

There will always be differences between players and owners. Owners have more money and staying power. But the NBA can create a better, fairer environment for its players.

It’ll just require deeper consideration than a simple word change.

Report: Knicks will roll over cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard

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The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.

But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.

This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.

He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?

New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.

But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.

And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.

Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.

The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.

Report: Kyrie Irving doesn’t like living in Boston

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Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.

It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.

Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.

Via ESPN:

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”

We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.

At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.