Day 3, And Mostly Quiet: The build up to NBA Free Agency is always followed by something of a letdown in the number of agreements that get reached early. This is not at all unusual. Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement kicked in in 2011, there is an ever increasing amount of money becoming available each summer due to much shorter contracts. As a result players are hitting free agency faster and teams are clearing space faster, creating an environment of lots of cash and lots of players.
The problem this year is that four teams are sitting on a mountain of cash or the potential for a mountain of cash and are waiting for free agents Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James to come off the board before locking into deals.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the lack of noise does not mean teams are not being active and aggressive in trying to get players in or get players committed.
Here are some of things we know today:
Lowry Gets His Deal: After meeting with a few teams, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry agreed to terms on a four-year, $48 million deal. The deal has an Early Termination Option after the third year, so Lowry will likely have a chance to cash in on one more major contract in his career.
This deal was not altogether unexpected. Toronto came hard and aggressive and did not hold back on the money they were offering. As much as Houston and the Lakers were of interested, neither were offering Lowry what he has in Toronto – a young team that he can run completely.
Lowry has said repeatedly that his primary goal is to win a championship, and it seems Raptors GM Masai Ujiri convinced him that the franchise will make the kind of moves necessary to get there.
Lowry told several media outlets last night that he felt Toronto was the right place for him. He will officially sign his new contract on July 11 when the July Moratorium on contract signings is lifted.
No Fire Sale in NOLA: Early on in the free agency process several league sources had pegged the New Orleans Pelicans as massive sellers in the trade market.
However, as that news reached the Pelicans, they were quick to deny it. Like most teams in the NBA, the Pelicans are actively engaged in talks with other teams and are looking to make some moves not only to shore up their roster, but to give them flexibility to improve.
There is a sense around the league that the Pelicans would be open to moving Eric Gordon and possibly Austin Rivers; however, deals involving Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans or Jrue Holiday are not of much interest to the Pelicans and without question former top pick Anthony Davis is off the board.
Two of New Orleans’ top free agents – Al-Farouq Aminu and Jason Smith – are drawing interest from other teams. Smith would love to be back in New Orleans and told Basketball Insiders in December that it wouldn’t take a crazy contract to keep him in the Big Easy.
As things stand now, the Pelicans have $54.08 million in hard salary commitments, giving them almost $9 million in space if they renounce the rights to their own free agents.
In order to keep all the parts they would like to keep the Pelicans may need a trade, hence the chatter that NOLA is in the market.
The Melo Dance Continues: After almost ten hours in Chicago, Carmelo Anthony spent the entire day yesterday in Texas with an easy day stop in Houston and then a mid-day stop in Dallas.
Much like Chicago, Houston pulled out all the stops adorning the Toyota Center with mock ups of Anthony in a Rockets jersey. They sold him the idea of competing for a championship next season and the chance to be part of the new core in Houston. Things were said to go extremely well, however the Houston side of things said they had no sense of what Carmelo was going to do after their meeting.
In Dallas, the Mavericks played their visit with Carmelo low-key. The meeting was held at Mavericks owner Mark Cuban house. Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki was said to be a part of the group that meet with Carmelo. Their pitch to him was the fact they have won a championship. They have a fairly fleshed out roster with guys Carmelo knows and they have the coach that can get him there and an owner that is committed to spending to return to the Finals.
After a full day in Texas, Anthony is scheduled to meet with the Lakers today. Laker star Kobe Bryant is expected to be part of the meeting. The Lakers pitch is said to be built around Bryant and Carmelo as a championship combo with a re-signed Pau Gasol in the mix. The Lakers drafted an impact player in Julius Randle who was completely cleared for basketball by one of the top foot specialists in Indiana. So they have a solid core in this plan.
After meeting with the Lakers today, Carmelo is expected to meet again with Phil Jackson and the Knicks for their final proposal, which could take place over the weekend.
Carmelo has told the teams he’s met with he hopes to make a quick decision so they can move forward.
The Chicago Bulls have started looking at Plan B options, which includes Gasol and others, but the primary focus is still Carmelo.
A couple of things did surface in both the Bulls and Rockets meetings and that is the fact that neither team can open up the full salary he can receive from Dallas, the Lakers or the Knicks.
The Bulls pitch to Carmelo included forward Taj Gibson remaining on the team, meaning to get to the full value possible for him, the Bulls would have to dump everything on the roster to get there, and that would be tough to do. The Bulls’ pitch was said to center around a $19-$20 million starting salary.
It’s being reported that the Chicago Bulls have notified Carlos Boozer that if the team cannot find a trade for his contract that they will use their one time amnesty roster cut on his final contract year worth $16.8 million, effectively removing him from the Bulls’ salary cap. Boozer will be paid all of the money owed to him.
Boozer’s deal alone clears a huge chunk from Chicago’s salary cap, but not enough to sign Anthony without other moves.
Houston’s cap position is not much better; they too can get to about $20 million if they dumped Jeremy Lin in trade, which is expected. Fortunately the Rockets can re-sign Chandler Parsons after signing a player like Carmelo and exceed the cap, but they would have to hang on to his $2.8 million cap hold to do it.
Both teams are more than willing to engaged the Knicks in a sign-and-trade, however the Knicks at least initially are saying they would have little interest in doing so; that may change when Carmelo makes his final decision.
Orlando Is Still Shopping: The Orlando Magic have been purging their roster for the last couple of days, releasing veteran guard Jameer Nelson, paying his $2 million guarantee to be rid of the remaining $6 million on his deal. The Magic also did not issue a qualifying offer to E’Twaun Moore, making him a free agent and yesterday they waived veteran guard Ronnie Price. Veteran forward Jason Maxiell is expected to be waived as well if the team cannot find a trade for him before July 10.
The Magic got its first free agent commitment yesterday, agreeing to a two year, $9 million deal with veteran guard Ben Gordon, which was something of a head scratcher. The second year of Gordon’s deal is a team option, so in essence this is a one year contract. Magic executives Matt Lloyd and Scott Perry are both very familiar with Gordon as they both had him on their previous teams, Lloyd in Chicago and Perry in Detroit.
There have been reports that the Magic had contacted the agents for restricted free agents Greg Monroe and Patrick Patterson. Both are more likely to be matched by their current teams in Detroit and Toronto respectively, although the Magic have the cap room to make things interesting if they wanted to.
Clippers In Sale Mode: The LA Clippers are not sitting out free agency either. The Clippers have been after Nets free agent Paul Pierce and are reported offering a sign-and-trade package said to include Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and last year’s first round pick Reggie Bullock. The Nets seem uninterested in such a package.
Pierce isn’t the only notable name the Clippers are dangling sign-and-trade deals for. They have reached out to Wizards free agent Trevor Ariza, Memphis free agent Mike Miller and Cavs free agents Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes.
The Clippers are also believed to have Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford on the trade market as they try and add another impact player, specifically at small forward, to the roster.
Crawford’s camp has made it clear that given the flurry of dollars being thrown around that any team acquiring him should be prepared to guarantee the final year of his contract. Crawford has the upcoming season and the following season left on his deal, with both years only being partially guaranteed.
The Clippers have also been in contact with free agent Darren Collison, who opted out of his deal, about a return to the Clippers. He is said to be weighing his options.
The Clippers have also reached out to unrestricted free agent Ed Davis and seem to be gaining traction on a possible deal, however Davis is said to have on-going conversations with several teams.
If you are looking for the very latest news, notes and deals surrounding 2014 NBA Free Agency – check out the Free Agency Diary – it is updated throughout the day with all the news in one easy to find place.