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2016 NBA Free Agency Notebook: Day 1

A look at what’s happened so far and what to keep an eye on during the free agency period.

Cody Taylor

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One of the most anticipated free-agent classes in recent memory kicked off last night and has already brought plenty of news. We’ve already seen a number of changes across the league in such a short period of time, with plenty more moves to come.

With the cap rising to a record $94 million next season, teams have a ton of money to spend. Let’s check in and recap how some of that money has been spent, and what could be coming up in the next few days:

Timofey Mozgov Agrees to Four-Year, $64 Million Deal with the Lakers

Instead of Kevin Durant stealing headlines once free agency kicked off at 12:01 a.m. EST, it was big man Timofey Mozgov who was one of the first free agents to agree to a new deal.

On the surface, this looks to be a questionable move for the Lakers to pay Mozgov an average annual salary of $16 million. After all, Mozgov played in less than 80 minutes in this year’s playoffs and wasn’t a big part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rotation.

However, the deal for the Lakers does make some sense, as our own Lang Greene outlined this morning. The Lakers pick up a proven veteran player that they can add next to their young core of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram.

Although Mozgov didn’t average huge numbers last season for the Cavaliers, he has put up solid numbers when given minutes. Mozgov averaged 10.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 25 minutes per game two seasons ago upon arriving in Cleveland. It was clear Mozgov was high on the Lakers’ wish list, and should be a nice piece as the Lakers continue to rebuild.

Hassan Whiteside Staying with Miami HEAT

After reportedly meeting with the Dallas Mavericks once free agency kicked off, Hassan Whiteside announced that he’ll be staying with the HEAT. He announced the decision on his SnapChat account and later on the Players’ Tribune website.

“I’ve played on eight teams since college — I am not ready for there to be a ninth,” Whiteside said.

Whiteside opting to re-sign with the HEAT figures to be a sigh of relief for the team. It seemed as though there was a real chance that Whiteside could have left for a bigger deal elsewhere. The agreement in place with Miami is reportedly a max-deal worth $98 million over four years.

Now, the HEAT will likely turn their attention to guard Dwyane Wade. It’s been said in recent days that Wade is open to the idea of leaving if he is unable to get a deal he is looking for with Miami.

Kent Bazemore Met with the Houston Rockets Last Night

Initial reports around Kent Bazemore had the small forward looking to wait until after the July 4 holiday to meet with potential teams. But it was reported last night that Bazemore met with the Houston Rockets once free agency began.

The Rockets pulled out all of the stops as it’s been reported that Bazemore met with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, president Thad Brown, head coach Mike D’Antoni, All-Star James Harden and Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

Bazemore has apparently already received multiple offers so far and is expected to reach a decision by next week. Teams like the Timberwolves, Nets, Magic and Pelicans are also said to be interested in Bazemore as well.

After earning just $2 million last season with the Hawks, Bazemore is in line for a significant pay raise. He’s established himself as an excellent perimeter defender and can do a number of different things on the floor. His averages of 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game last season were all career-highs.

Chandler Parsons Joins Memphis Grizzlies

After reports surfaced in recent days stating there was no chance that Chandler Parsons would return to the Dallas Mavericks, Parsons was busy meeting with various teams.

Parsons first met with the Portland Trail Blazers once free agency began, and then with the Memphis Grizzlies. Parsons decided to agree to terms with Memphis on a maximum contract.

Parsons is coming off of two consecutive season-ending knee surgeries, with the most recent injury said to be less significant than the first.

Once fully healthy last season, Parsons proved to be a great option at small forward for the Mavericks after averaging 18.8 points, five rebounds and 2.7 assists during the month of February.

Pacers, Al Jefferson Agree to Three-Year Pact

Unrestricted free agent Al Jefferson will reportedly move on from the Charlotte Hornets as it’s been reported that he’s agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.

Jefferson averaged 12 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 47 games last season for Hornets after battling various injuries. He turned in one of his most successful seasons during his first year in Charlotte, averaging 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game two seasons ago.

The Pacers have been busy reshaping their roster over the past week. In addition to Jefferson, they have also added Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young via trades. They appear to have added some legitimate scoring options behind Paul George.

Nets, Jeremy Lin Agree to Deal

After looking to secure a veteran point guard, the Brooklyn Nets have reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with Jeremy Lin that will be worth $36 million. Lin confirmed the agreement in a post on Twitter.

Lin’s deal carries a player option for the third year, a trade kicker and various bonuses. He became a valuable option for the Hornets last season off of the bench. He played a big role in the team’s playoff series against the Miami HEAT, averaging 12.4 points, 2.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game.

The Nets were also said to be interested in free agents Rajon Rondo and Brandon Jennings. It remains to be seen if the addition of Lin impacts the team going after Rondo or Jennings. The Nets will be looking at roughly $40 million in cap space left after the Lin addition.

They’re also said to be interested in free agents Kent Bazemore, Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley, Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson.

Durant to Meet Today with Warriors and Clippers

After a five-hour meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, unrestricted free agent Kevin Durant has met with the Golden State Warriors today and will meet with the Los Angeles Clippers later.

Durant is expected to meet with the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics on Saturday and the Miami HEAT on Sunday. The Warriors’ meeting was said to include Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, head coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers and owner Joe Lacob.

ESPN is reporting that Durant’s meeting with the Thunder went well and that he’s expected to return to the Thunder. A longtime friend of Durant’s said “his decision is 90 percent made.”

*****

Today will continue to be a very busy day in free agency as more players and teams reach deals. Once some of the bigger players like Durant, Howard, Parsons and Al Horford reach agreements, other players will begin to fall in line as well.

Be sure to check in with our Free Agency Diary for all of the latest news and rumors as they are reported.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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