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NBA AM: Brooklyn Banking On Free Agency Boost

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Nets Have Deep Pockets

One team’s dilemma could ultimately become one team’s fortune. The Detroit Pistons had an opportunity to lock up shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a contract extension last fall, but the sides couldn’t agree to a deal. The inability to come to terms means that Caldwell-Pope is headed to restricted free agency this summer. Caldwell-Pope is reportedly seeking a deal in the $20 million per year range. The Vertical has previously reported that members of the Pistons’ front office have been hesitant to max the guard out.

Make no mistake, the Pistons are still in the driver’s seat when it comes to re-signing Caldwell-Pope. Detroit can match any offer the guard receives from opposing teams, but Caldwell-Pope’s position is also strengthened by the fact that the market will set his value. When the market sets your value, you only need one franchise willing to pay the premium for your services, and this is what could potentially put the squeeze on the Pistons.

According to The New York Post, the Brooklyn Nets are expected to be one of the suitors in the hunt for Caldwell-Pope. The Nets will enter the summer with just under $35 million in salary cap space and their front office proved last year that they’re willing to be aggressive in the market. If you recall, the Nets extended hefty deals to Miami HEAT guard Tyler Johnson and Portland Trail Blazers wingman Allen Crabbe last summer. Both players were restricted free agents, and Miami and Portland ultimately matched the deals to retain their young talent. But will the Pistons pony up the cash if put in a similar position?

Former teammate and current Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie believes Caldwell-Pope is a critical piece of Detroit’s program.

“You can make the argument that he’s their most important player now. So I think that just shows you the impact that he’s had. He’s gone from defender to arguably their MVP,” Dinwiddie said to The New York Post.

“Whenever you can make a leap like that, it shows — especially when you have an All-Star talent like [Andre] Drummond and Reggie [Jackson], who last year was putting up numbers that were just shy of being an All-Star.. … So when you have two talents like that, along with what Tobias [Harris] and Marcus [Morris] are able to do, and then you’re arguably the best player for your team, that speaks for itself.”

But if the playoffs started today, the Pistons would be on the outside looking in. The team currently sits one game behind the surging HEAT.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson also spoke highly of Caldwell-Pope’s game.

“I’m impressed,’’ Atkinson said. “I love how he competes, how he competes on the defensive end. That’s really the essence of what I see when I watch him play. He plays with force, he competes on the defensive end.

“On a given night he can get 35 on you easily. His speed off the ball, coming off those [dribble handoffs], flying off and somehow [you’re] going to have to find a way to stay attached, stay close to him.”

On the season, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 14.2 points. 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in 66 appearances. The fourth year guard is shooting a career-best 37 percent from three-point range, but 41 percent overall from the field.

To Rest or Not to Rest – That’s the question

One of the hottest topics in the league right now is the issue of whether teams should be resting players that are relatively healthy. Those against the new trend of resting guys, popularized by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, argue that it impacts fan experience and ultimately the image of the league. Those for resting players believe it helps prevents injuries during the grueling 82-game regular season. For championship teams, supporters argue that it keeps guys fresh for a Finals push.

The argument can be made that careers are being extended longer because teams are taking a more strategic approach to managing workloads, however, the NBA is in a much better spot financially than it was a decade ago. A lot of this is on the backs of a strong television deal, higher ratings and great attendance around the league. But if resting guys negatively impacts television ratings, then the money offered may also dwindle when it’s time to renegotiate the next deal. The trickle-down effect of this is that a future collective bargaining agreement could be tougher to reach between players and owners.

The Miami Herald recently asked a collection of Miami HEAT players and coaches about the issue of rest and there is a general understanding of both sides of the fence.

“I think it’s important we never forget the most important things of this game – and the players are the most important,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. “They’re the ones competing in the game. Without the players, there is no NBA.

“The second thing, and that’s the tough balancing act, is we can’t forget about our TV partners. They’re generating the majority of the revenue that we all benefit from. Ultimately it makes sense that our best product is being shown to the masses and if that’s not happening then we need to figure out how to find a solution to that because that ultimately will bite you in the ass.”

Veteran HEAT forward Udonis Haslem echoed the same sentiment of his coach.

“It’s a fine line,” Haslem said. “You want to be healthy going into the playoffs to make that final push. The league wants the best guys on the floor performing at a high level and giving the fans what the pay to see.”

Miami point guard Goran Dragic completed the trifecta, essentially agreeing with Spoelstra and Haslem.

“But then on the other hand I understand the fans,” Dragic said. “I understand it’s because of them you’re playing basketball. They’re buying tickets and they want to see all the players play, especially the All-Star level players.

“I look at it this way – you never know when it’s your last game. I want to enjoy every game and try and do my job as best as I can and I want to be there for my teammates. Of course, if it’s something you need to consider or if you don’t feel well or if you have an injury, fine. But if I’m healthy, no, I want to play.”

Whether it’s extending the length of the season, shortening the season or issuing a policy on resting guys expect it to continue to be a hot topic over the next few months.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons