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NBA AM: Free Agents Waiting On Dominoes To Fall

The phone calls continue but agreements will be slow until top tier guys make their free agency decisions and free up the market.

Lang Greene

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And so it continues: While there continues to be a flurry of ongoing activity among league executives to start free agency, the number of players coming off the board has paled in comparison. This is because there are still elite guys at the top of the board who are taking their time with the process.

A few second or third tier guys have been able to come to terms on their next deals but for the most part you won’t see much movement until the franchise-changing talents ultimately decide what to do.

Here’s where we stand this morning:

Carmelo Anthony: Outside of four-time MVP LeBron James, Anthony is arguably the top free agent in this year’s batch. Anthony met with the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday and the franchise pulled out all of the stops in their recruitment of the All-Star forward.

According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, former MVP Derrick Rose went through a private workout to show Anthony he’s healthy and ready to perform at a high level next season. All-Star center Joakim Noah played a key role in the recruitment process and the club took Anthony to a dinner after the afternoon meetings at the United Center. The dinner, held at the Peninsula Hotel in downtown Chicago, reportedly included Anthony, Noah, Taj Gibson,  Tom Thibodeau, Jerry Reinsdorf, Gar Forman and Scottie Pippen.

If Chicago could secure Anthony’s autograph on a new deal there’s little doubt the team would enter the season as one of the favorites to emerge out of the Eastern Conference.

But there are barriers to making a potential union work here. According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the New York Knicks have no plans to help the Bulls secure Anthony by taking back declining forward Carlos Boozer in a sign-and-trade agreement.

If the Bulls amnesty Boozer and deal emerging forward Jimmy Butler they’d be able to offer Anthony a deal starting at around $17 million next season. However, the Knicks can offer the forward over $22 million in year one.

Anthony is scheduled to meet with the Houston Rockets on Wednesday morning and then meet officials from the Dallas Mavericks in the afternoon. Anthony will reportedly meet with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

MUST READ: Basketball Insiders’ 2014 Free Agency Diary, with every rumor on every team.

Pau Gasol: The veteran big man is in high demand. The Los Angeles Lakers own his Bird rights and can offer him the most lucrative package, but the team has also kept his name in trade rumors the past two years, which could play into the process.

According to an ESPN Los Angeles report, Gasol met with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak for a few hours on Tuesday. The Lakers will be meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Thursday as the franchise continues to retool.

Miami team president Pat Riley reportedly reached out to Gasol on Tuesday to express some exploratory interest, however, the HEAT’s salary cap situation won’t be fully known until Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James ultimately make their free agency decisions.

According to Yahoo! Sports, Gasol is seeking an eight figure salary per year in the $10 to $12 million range. The report also mentions the San Antonio Spurs as reaching out to Gasol’s agent Arn Tellem to express some exploratory interest.

Stan Van Gundy hits ground running in Detroit: Newly crowned president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy has been extremely active to start his first offseason running the show in Detroit.

The Pistons entered the summer with around $14 million in cap space and quickly came to terms with Los Angeles Lakers guard Jodie Meeks and Atlanta Hawks forward Cartier Martin.

Meeks’ deal is reportedly worth $19 million over three seasons and doesn’t include any player or team options. On the other end, Martin’s deal is reportedly for one-year with a player option for season two.

The Pistons wanted outside shooting to free up space for their talented group of big men and got it with Martin and Meeks who were among the better shooters this year’s free agent crop.

Detroit is also reportedly hot on the trail of dynamic point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Shaun Livingston: The redemption story of Livingston continues to be a positive one after a horrific knee injury almost ended his career a few years back. Livingston put together a solid campaign with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014 averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 76 contests.

On Tuesday, Livingston reportedly agreed to terms with the Golden State Warriors on a three-year deal worth $16 million. The third year of the deal is reportedly not fully guaranteed.

The Warriors entered the summer looking for a reserve point guard behind All-Star Stephen Curry in the rotation.

CHECKOUT: All 30 teams salary cap projections. Find out how much your team has to spend!

Luol Deng: The former All-Star is reportedly out of the country at the moment, but the Houston Rockets have reached out to his agent according to the Houston Chronicle.

Deng is also reportedly being pursued by Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles [Clippers] and Miami this summer.

The word is Deng isn’t interested in taking less than his market value so a cash strapped team like Miami would have to pursue other options to lock him up.

Chandler Parsons: As Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler pointed out in this space yesterday, the Houston Rockets are likely to match any offer received for Parsons in free agency. The Rockets are in a strong position here because Parsons’ cap hold of $2.8 million still puts the franchise in a strong position to work right up to their cap in  free agency. Then the team can exceed the cap to sign Parsons to a lucrative deal.

Although the restricted label may scare away some teams from putting an offer in, Parsons has received interest from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles [Clippers] and Minnesota to start free agency.

Josh McRoberts: Another name to keep an eye on is McRoberts who started 78 games for the emerging Charlotte Bobcats last season. McRoberts averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in 2014, but also connected on 36 percent of his shots from three-point range.

McRoberts is reportedly drawing interest from Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles [Clippers & Lakers], Miami, New York, Portland, Phoenix and San Antonio.

Kings planning to deal Jason Thompson?

The Sacramento Kings have been ambitious in their desire to reshape their roster as of late. With that comes tough decisions. During the draft last week a rumor surfaced regarding potentially acquiring talented forward Josh Smith from Detroit in exchange for Jason Thompson who is currently the longest tenured Kings player.

Thompson, for his part, is taking the trade buzz in stride

“Trade talk happens before the draft,” Thompson said according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “But I’m a man, I’m true to my word and regardless of what happens I still want to keep it out here. I still have a lot of support.”

Thompson is owed more than $19 million over the next three seasons and the Kings have been sending out feelers in the market for the forward long before the current front office took shape.

But for now Thompson is preparing for the upcoming season as if he’ll still be Sacramento.

“I’m eager to see what’s going to happen in the upcoming season with the team,” Thompson said. “And I’ve said over the years and I’m sure so have other players, you can control what you can control. I think only a select few – I wouldn’t say the word safe – but you never know what’s going to happen with the team and who’s going to be wearing what jersey.”

Thompson appeared in all 82 games last season for the Kings, registering 61 starts. He averaged 7.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest on 51 percent shooting.

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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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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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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

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