Five Things In Play?: Today’s NBA AM will be more notebook-like as we hit on the five topics making noise in the NBA.
Bledsoe And The Suns: Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe grabbed some headlines last week when he told a local TV station in Alabama that he felt like the Phoenix Suns were using restricted free agency against him.
While the tone and connotation of the comment seemed negative, it’s hard to say that getting a $12 million per year contract offer is somehow unfair when the rules don’t require it.
The truth of the matter is that while Bledsoe and his camp were seeking a maximum contract from the Suns, the Suns didn’t feel like he was going to command that on the open market and were right. Most teams in the NBA knew that had they tendered an offer in the $13 to $14 million range, the Suns would likely match it anyway, so Bledsoe did not get an offer sheet.
Sources close to the Suns have said privately they expected Bledsoe back either on a new deal or after he signs the qualifying offer they issued worth just over $3.7 million (the caphold is $6.56 million).
If Bledsoe passes on the Suns’ current offer said to be in the neighborhood of $48 million and signs the qualifying offer, he would become eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer in 2015; he would also gain the right to veto any trade.
Sources say there continues to be ongoing dialogue toward a deal and there is some sense that the Suns might increase their offer slightly; there has also been talk that Bledsoe’s camp might agree to a short-term deal that gets Bledsoe into free agency again inside the next three seasons.
A few teams have inquired about a sign-and-trade for Bledsoe, mostly at the urging of his camp. However, the Suns seemed less than interested, according to one team that inquired.
While Bledsoe is arguably one of the top free agents left on the board, it does not look like Philadelphia, who is sitting on $23 million in cap space, is going to set the price for Bledsoe, meaning the best offer on the table is from Phoenix.
There has been some talk that Milwaukee, who could get to roughly $13 million in possible space, has interest in Bledsoe, but sources say they are only interested if they can obtain him in a sign-and-trade and offload some unwanted salary in the deal.
Monroe And The Pistons: Much like Bledsoe, Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe finds himself without a market. Sources close to the process say there continues to be ongoing dialogue with the Pistons and that they do want to ink Monroe to a new deal.
The problem for the Pistons is that Monroe and his camp are not overly thrilled with the idea of signing a long-term deal at what they perceive to be less than market valuation.
Much like Bledsoe there is a sense that a deal is going to be reached eventually, the question becomes for how much and how long? The Pistons obviously want to lock Monroe in for as long as they can, especially if they can keep the number in the $10-$12 million per year range.
Monroe’s camp wants a short-term deal or a player option so he can hit the unrestricted market if he agrees to a lower dollar deal.
There is no urgency to get anything done on either Monroe or Bledsoe’s part, especially if it’s a “compromise” deal.
The Pistons have listened to sign-and-trade proposals, which have really gone nowhere, mainly because the Pistons do value Monroe immensely and would want a sizable return in exchange for a deal.
Also like Bledsoe, the Sixers do not seem willing to set a price for Monroe using their cap space, so the Pistons are clearly in the driver’s seat.
While having Monroe and Bledsoe sitting unsigned seems like a negative, both have offers they could accept at any time; however both gain nothing in agreeing to a deal now, except to close the door on their options.
There had been some reports that the PSuns had considered an offer sheet for Monroe, however what the Suns were said to be considering would have been a deal in the $11 million per year range, which would be matched by Detroit.
The only way for Phoenix to get substantially more space would be to rescind their qualifying offer to Bledsoe, which would make him an unrestricted free agent.
There are currently four teams with meaningful room under the salary cap – the 76ers ($23.076 million), the Suns ($11.49 million), the Orlando Magic ($7.45 million) and the Utah Jazz ($6.18 million).
Timberwolves and Love: If you are looking for closure on the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kevin Love you better pull up a chair, because it’s going to be awhile.
There is zero urgency on the part of the Minnesota Timberwolves to make a deal. That does not mean they won’t agree to something, but what’s coming out of the process is that while Wolves’ president Flip Saunders and company have their favorites in the various proposals being talked about, they are still playing the bidding game with prospective teams.
Sources close to Love have said they were urging people to dial back the “Cleveland or else” message and that while Love seems open to all three of the situations being seriously considered – Cleveland, Golden State and Chicago, he is not willing to commit long-term to any of them as a first action. The ideal action is to hit free agency in July and ink a new long-term deal. The team that trades for him can give him the biggest financial package since they will have his Bird rights.
The Wolves, for their part, are weighing two concepts: The future, which a Cleveland package that includes Andrew Wiggins would win that argument hands down and the present, which a Chicago or Golden State offer that includes Warriors guard Klay Thompson or Bulls forward Taj Gibson would likely win out.
It has been ten seasons since the Wolves made the postseason and there is a real desire on the part of ownership and management to compete for a playoff berth this year, hence why a deal with Cleveland hasn’t been consummated.
The question for the Wolves is would they genuinely be a postseason contender adding players like Gibson and Doug McDermott or David Lee and Thompson to the roster, and the answer is maybe.
However, if the Wolves bet on the future potential of Wiggins, they would surely be stepping backwards and conceding a rebuild, that is the crux of the debate for the Wolves.
The Bulls are reported to have put a deadline on their offer, as they do not want this discussions dragging into training camp, so at least on one front there is a sense of urgency. However, until all the teams involved put the Wolves on the clock, there doesn’t seem to be closure coming, at least not in the immediate future.
Expanding All-Star Weekend: Last week the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman reported that the NBA was looking into the feasibility of a weeklong All-Star break.
Before we get crazy on this topic keep in mind the current All-Star break begins on Friday with players reporting back on Monday, so in essence four days, so what’s being considered is adding three days to that.
To achieve this, the NBA is looking at giving each team an additional back-to-back game to create the space in the schedule to accommodate the extra three days.
In 2011, the NBA scrambled to create a 66 game season that rolled substantially further into June than ever before, as a result the NBA discovered there was a lot more flexibility in their existing arena arrangements than expected and this has brought to the table all kinds of new discussion points, expanding the All-Star break being just one of them.
The NBA is said to be weighing proposals that would move the NBA Draft from the end of June into the first week of July, and move the start of free agency back potentially a full week. This would also move Summer Leagues back and have the NBA potentially having events or activity into August.
The current NBA schedule has a ton of marquee events jammed together from the NBA Draft Combine, to the NBA Finals, to the NBA Draft then to free agency – all happening right after each other.
The belief is the NBA wants to add some time between events to maximize them, and to create a yearlong calendar. The more the NBA is front and center, the better it is for business on every front, including ticket sales.
The expanded All-Star weekend schedule is not locked in yet, however it does appear the NBA is trying to see if it’s feasible for the upcoming season.
The other changes mentioned are still very much in the discussion phase, but clearly on the radar.
The New TV Deal: Much has been made about the possibilities of massive economic expansion in the NBA tied to on-going TV rights negotiations. While all parties involved are keeping these talks close to the vest there are a few things that have come out as these discussions have taken place.
It seems ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports will renew with the NBA, although there are some things that look like they may change.
There is a sense that the NBA Finals will be split up among ESPN/ABC and Turner, giving Turner potential the mid-week games, while ESPN/ABC gets the weekend games.
The current rights package pays the NBA some $940 million per year, with Turner paying some $445 million per year with ESPN/ABC paying and estimated $485 million. Those figures are expected to almost double in a new deal with some estimates pegging the new deals to be worth $1.2 to $1.4 billion annually.
The wrinkle that may really drive the value up is a third partner. There has been considerable talk that Fox Sports 1 may be closing in on securing a rights deal for what insiders are calling NBA Saturday, which is a package of Saturday night games, which could add an additional $250 to $300 million to the total.
There has also been some talk that a new rights package may also include domestic expansion options, should the NBA decide to make that move.
It’s important to take all expansion talk with a grain of salt, but J Bruce Miller a Louisville attorney, who is leading the charge to land a NBA team in Louisville wrote a substantial post for a Facebook campaign geared around bringing the NBA to Louisville. In the letter, Miller immediately denounces the idea of expansion in the immediate future, citing the ongoing mess with the Clippers, however implies that after the Donlad Sterling mess is resolved, potential expansion into new markets could add new value to the TV deal and that Seattle and Louisville are on the radar.
Again, take all expansion talk with a grain of salt.
NBA sources have warned that expansion domestically is something of a pipe dream, mainly because what gets put in terms of an expansion fee is usually never greater than what a new member team takes out of the pie, and that given how long it takes a team to ramp up sales and revenue generation, expansion simply puts one more mouth at the table that usually does not carry its own weight.
Given what a new share of the TV deal could be worth, the existing 30 owners may not be willing to share the wealth to the expand the league, but it does seem like there could be some language in the new TV deal to allow for it and that’s a huge first step.
Up Close With Darington Hobson: The Milwaukee Bucks selected Darington Hobson with the 37th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, while his NBA career never got going due to a nasty hip injury, Hobson is back on the NBA radar having just finished summer league with the Toronto Raptors and is hoping to find his way to a NBA training camp in September.
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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.
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.
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.
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.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN