And So It Begins: As expected, the free-agent flood gates came open at 12:01 a.m. ET, as NBA teams were free to make contact with free agents and try to lure in some meetings and ultimately some deals.
While it’s unlikely that anyone agrees to something in the first 24 hours of free agency, there are usually some early dominoes that fall. Here is what we know this morning.
Pau Gasol: It is not a big surprise that Pau Gasol is in demand, as free agency opened. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that Gasol received inquiries from the Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Warriors. The Knicks are also expected to get a meeting with Gasol, but with the teams at the table likely offering bigger deals than the Knicks can offer, the odds remain fairly small that Gasol ends up in New York.
The Lakers still hold Gasol’s Bird rights and can offer him the most money and years; however, it’s unclear what value the Lakers place on Gasol. One of the interesting side notes to Gasol and the Lakers is that they could complete a sign-and-trade deal for Gasol if he wanted to land with a team with limited cap space. Such a deal would return the Lakers a hefty Traded Player Exception, however there is a real sense that the Lakers want Gasol back and may pony up the cash to make that happen, even in the short-term.
Gasol is expected to take meetings later this week.
Carmelo Anthony: The first stop on Carmelo Anthony’s tour of free agent suitors is with the Chicago Bulls. As our own Alex Kennedy is reporting, Bulls big man Joakim Noah is planning to not only recruit Carmelo, but is expected to meet with him during the visit to Chicago. Despite saying he was not going to be involved in free agent recruiting, Noah is expected to bring Bulls star Derrick Rose along for the meeting with Carmelo.
The Bulls would have to pull off a series of cap moves to get the cap space necessary to sign him out right, and even then they may not be able to get to the expected $20 million price tag.
Carmelo is expected to meet with both the Rockets and the Mavericks on Wednesday in Dallas, and will wrap up his meetings with the Lakers likely on Thursday.
According to sources close to the Carmelo process, he is still weighing a return to the Knicks. However, this may be his last chance to survey the landscape through free agency. His view is he does not want to have any regrets that he did not look and listen to options before making a decision.
Kyle Lowry: As expected Kyle Lowry had no shortage of phone calls last night. The Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, L.A. Lakers and Toronto Raptors logged calls with Lowry’s representatives. He is expected to schedule meetings in Philadelphia later this week, possibly as early as tomorrow.
The Miami HEAT did log a call to Lowry, indicating that Pat Riley likely has an agreement in his pocket from his existing players that would get him a significant amount of cap room. Lowry is expected to command a salary in the $10 million per year range.
Lowry told Basketball Insiders last week that his first priority in free agency was being in a position to win a championship and given the suitors that have reached out, he seems to have plenty of options.
The Raptors are not at all out of the picture. ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that the Raptors are considering offering Lowry a fifth guaranteed year as inducement to re-sign after seeing how aggressively other teams are pursuing their star guard.
Paul Pierce: The L.A. Clippers were one of the first teams to contact Nets free agent Paul Pierce last night, with Clippers president Doc Rivers leading the charge. The Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are also reported to have logged interest.
There is a sense that Pierce may consider a return to Brooklyn, simply because they have his Bird rights and could offer the most money and out of some loyalty to Kevin Garnett.
There is also a belief that Pierce may look towards both the Lakers and the Clippers and return to L.A. for his final years in the NBA.
Pierce, who will turn 37 this summer, has played 16 seasons in the NBA and averaged a career-low 13.5 points per game last season.
Shaun Livingston: Nets free agent Shaun Livingston had no shortage of suitors last night after a tremendous campaign in Brooklyn last season. Livingston logged calls from the Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs.
The Nets have been holding out hope that they could re-sign Livingston; however, they are extremely limited on what they can offer him financially.
With teams like Orlando, Charlotte and San Antonio at the table, it seems likely that Brooklyn is going to get outbid by teams with far more cap flexibility.
Luol Deng: Word is that Deng is out of the country, so most of the contact with Deng was through his agent with meetings expected in the next couple of days. Deng had no shortage on interested parties including the HEAT, Clippers, Mavericks, Lakers and Hawks.
Sources close to the process peg Deng as Atlanta’s top free agent target, and given that they just completed a cap clearing move with Toronto, they may have as much as $20 million to shop with.
The HEAT’s pitch, according to sources, is to bring both Deng and Lowry to South Beach, although that seems a bit ambitious even for Pat Riley.
Chandler Parsons: Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is a restricted free agent so some of the interest he’s going to draw in the marketplace is a little misplaced, mainly because Houston is more than likely going to match anything Parsons is offered. That has not stopped teams from trying, especially with Houston sort of on the clock with other free agents.
The Rockets are in a somewhat unique situation in that they can clear cap space to sign a major free agent, and then use Parsons’ Bird rights to ink his new deal. The nature of his contract comes with a very low ($2.8 million) hold, meaning the Rockets can be players right up to the salary cap, and then exceed it to sign Parsons. However, if a team can persuade Parsons to sign an offer sheet early in the process, they could potentially steal him away or at least gum up Houston’s free agent plans by forcing them to match an offer before they completing their other moves.
That’s an unlikely scenario. What is more likely is Parsons gets a little more cash out of Houston for helping them along, but that hasn’t stopped teams like the Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Timberwolves from trying to schedule meetings.
For the very latest on the moves of NBA Free Agency, make sure to check out the 2014 NBA Free Agency Diary. It is updated throughout the day with the very latest news, notes and rumors on the deals that may get done.
Kyrie Is All In For Cleveland: The Cleveland Cavaliers have landed their big fish of the offseason, getting a verbal agreement from Kyrie Irving on a new five-year, $90 million contract extension.
The Cavs flew to New Jersey yesterday for a sit down with Irving and his representatives. Their pitch included both new head coach David Blatt and new associate head coach Ty Lue along with general manager David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert.
The group laid out their big-picture plans, and the role Irving would play in it. Their message was that the team would not only position themselves for postseason play but plan to be aggressive in adding another star level talent next to Irving with the goal of competing for a championship.
However farfetched that might sound on the surface, the pitch and the full max offer, which was always expected, was agreed to in principal and will be signed on July 11 when teams can ink new deals.
The biggest part of the meeting was the Cavs’ request of Irving. There has long been a belief that he was unhappy and wanted out of Cleveland and one of the things the Cavs wanted to hear from Irving was that he was wholeheartedly committed to what the Cavs are trying to do. They received that during their meeting.
With Irving locked in, the Cavs are expected to explore trade scenarios with fellow guard Dion Waiters and have already reached out to their own free agent Spencer Hawes as well as several others.
Irving’s contract extension will not kick in until 2015 leaving the Cavs with roughly $36 million in salary commitments and almost $27 million in possible cap space.
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