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Gay could have become an unrestricted free agent this offseason if he declined his $19.3 million player option, but instead exercised it to stay in Sacramento for another season. Gay, who was acquired by the Kings early last season after a slow start with the Toronto Raptors, improved his play significantly after the change of scenery, and was encouraged enough by what he saw with the team to stay on for another season and see how they progress.
The Kings and Gay have until June 30 to negotiate a contract extension, but based on the structure of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, even the Kings’ best offer is unlikely to get Gay to put his name on the dotted line. By hitting free agency Gay becomes eligible for a five year extension from the Kings, whereas right now he could only sign on for three additional years.
Gay turned 28 in August and in the back of his mind knows that the free agent market will likely be a lot different when he’s 31 and closer to the end of his prime than it will be this summer as he’s still in the early/middle stages of it. That’s where signing an early extension doesn’t make any sense for him, even if he did become sold on Sacramento and wanted to make it his home long-term. The Kings are smart to build up good faith by offering him a contract now, though, as it should give them an early advantage in the likely scenario that he hits the open market this summer.
Because he is coming off of his rookie deal, Butler is in the opposite position that Gay is in. He is not limited to just having three years tacked on to his current deal. He’s eligible to receive up to a five year extension until October 41, and seeing as how important he’s become to the Bulls, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t want to lock him up early rather than letting him become a restricted free agent next summer.
With the recent moves that they have made, specifically the trading of Luol Deng, Butler has emerged as their top perimeter player. He’s really come into his own over the last two years while Derrick Rose has been ailing. He’s been an absolute work horse for coach Thibodeau, and is one of the better two-way swingmen in the league at just 25 years of age. Even though they have a lot of money tied up in the likes of Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, the Bulls know how big of a steal they have in Butler, and will likely reward him with an extension that he can comfortably commit to over the appeal of restricted free agency.
If Bryant indeed plays for the entire preseason, that alone would be more game action than he saw in all of the 2013-14 campaign. He practiced for two hours and 15 minutes on Tuesday, the first day of official practice for the Lakers, and by all accounts looked like his old self.
The Lakers are going to need a huge year from Bryant just to be in the mix to make the playoffs, so the fact that he’s going to be able to get a full preseason in after very little true 5-on-5 action over the last 17 months is a big step in the right direction. It should have him ready to play at a high level from opening night of the regular season on.
How high of a level can he get to? We’ll just have to wait and see. Bryant is coming off of the two most serious injuries of his career and is now 36 years old. There are a lot of people who understandably think his days of being an elite shooting guard are done, but he’s fueled by his doubters and out of L.A. all the talk is that he’s still at the top of his game. Until that’s displayed on live television on a consistent basis, though, it will be questioned. His play in the preseason could be as important as anybody’s to watch and monitor.
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