Category Archives: Free Agency

Dirk Nowitzki remaining with Mavericks as expected

DirkDirk Nowitzki was never a free agent in the traditional sense. The Mavericks’ future Hall of Famer stated time and again that he had every intention of resigning with the only team he has played for. Now, it appears there is an agreement in place that will keep Nowitzki in Dallas.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reported on Thursday afternoon that the Mavericks and Nowitzki verbally came to terms on a three-year deal worth approximately $30 million. The third year of the deal is reported to be a player option meaning that Nowitzki could return to free agency in the summer of 2016. Dirk will also retain his no-trade clause.

It was reported that Nowitzki would hold off on inking any deal with Dallas until the team sat down with Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was in Dallas on Wednesday and met with representatives of the team at Mark Cuban’s house after dinner at Nick and Sam’s in Uptown.

With the meeting over, the Mavericks wrapped up negotiations with Nowitzki. As expected, he took a considerable discount so that the team would have financial flexibility to pursue other free agents this summer.

Anthony has been Dallas’ main free agent target since he opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks. The Mavericks are also rumored to be interested in Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Cleveland’s Luol Deng, and a bevy of other players. Dallas must also decide which of their own free agents to re-sign.

Even though he wasn’t going anywhere, Nowitzki was the most important player to sign this summer. His cap hold on the team hovered around $26 million. It had to come off the books to free up money to improve the roster.

With the rest of the summer shrouded in uncertainty, the Mavericks and their fans can continue to rely on Dirk. And why shouldn’t they? He has yet to disappoint.

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Nets in pursuit of Ersan Ilyasova and Steve Nash

Brooklyn bound?

We don’t often cover the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets here at the Beef, because, well, they are the Nets, but two interesting bits of news popped up this morning concerning them.

Brooklyn (I will have to get used to that) has been rumored to be in the market for just about every available free agent in the world. They have been linked to Dwight Howard (roll eyes here) and trying to retain Deron Williams especially. However, to land those two it would likely have to be a package deal. You can’t have one without the other.

Despite possibly being out of the race for the two big names, the Nets are not looking to stand pat. According to Gery Woelfel, Brooklyn is the front-runner to land standout power forward Ersan Ilyasova as he becomes a free agent this summer.

Ilyasova had a breakout season this year for the Milwaukee Bucks posting 17 points and 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. Those gaudy numbers landed him on many Most Improved Player lists when the awards were being handed out at season’s end.

Having made just $2.5 with the Bucks in his final year under contract, it is assumed that Ilyasova will command an annual salary in the ballpark of $8 million whenever he inks a new deal. That is a sizable chunk of change but Mikhail Prokhorov has shown a willingness to spend in order to return the Nets to relevance.

The acquisition of Ilyasova, who was scouted heavily this season by the Nets, would be big for Brooklyn as they also look to retain Gerald Wallace. Those two players, though dramatically different stylistically, would help to bolster the team’s frontcourt along with a healthy Brook Lopez.

It will be interesting to see how, if they do land him, Ilyasova and Avery Johnson mesh. Johnson has only really found success with one power forward in his career as a head coach and he was named Dirk Nowitzki. The Nets brought in Troy Murphy, who was riding a high with the Pacers, but Murphy quickly fell out of the graces of Johnson and was relegated to the bench, eventually lost in obscurity only to later find himself on the Celtics’ bench. I bring up Murphy because, at his peak, his game and that of Ilyasova are very similar. Yes, this is a different scenario with Ilyasova entering his fifth year in the NBA and Murphy was a veteran player but the similarities cannot be denied.

If Williams does choose to relocate this summer the Nets have a plan B. They have joined a long list of teams that will be suitors for Steve Nash. Nash will be an unrestricted free agent and has a bevy of teams clawing for his services. Where ever Nash decides to play, it will likely be the last contract, probably a three-year deal, he signs. Brooklyn will be hard pressed to get Nash though, as the Phoenix Suns will make a hard push to retain their star. Portland and Toronto will also be pushing to sign him with other teams such as Dallas, Miami, New York, and Chicago waiting in the wings.

Of course, everything hinges on Williams and the likely out of reach Howard. From the looks of it though, when free agency begins in July, the Nets will be major players.

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Chris Paul situation highlights a still broken league

(Honestly, this could be the most stream of consciousness piece I have written but since the site has been dormant for a while it is posted as is.)

WoW

Since a tentative agreement was reached between the owners and the former players union, who have since voted to reform, the NBA has been nothing short of…well, let us say, interesting. Rumors and rumor mongering have swirled, dominating much of the headlines. This is nothing new to the NBA, of course. However, the speed at which they appeared to gobble up coverage was surprising. The two main targets of the rumors are the biggest names to be free agents at the end of the shortened season: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.

Marquee names appear in free agency regularly, though there are quite a few more players deserving of a mid level exception on that list each year. Yet this firestorm hit swiftly. Howard could go here, Paul there, perhaps both end up in New York or Los Angeles. The absurdity grew daily. There have yet to be actual games played, they begin on Christmas, but there is always something more than rumor. Something more than yellow journalism. It was and is ludicrous. Fans sat through the six-month period of speculation surrounding Carmelo Anthony last season and cringed each time a “trusted source with knowledge of the situation” merely speculated that Anthony would want to play for yet another big market team. He forced a move to the Knicks and used the media as puppets. New York obliged and gutted their roster.

Paul is at the forefront of establishing player power post lockout. Not Billy Hunter, not Derek Fisher. He wants to play in a bigger market. He will not stay in New Orleans when his contract expires and he will not sign an extension there. Dell Demps, the general manager of the league owned Hornets, knows this. Paul is forcing his hand.

A three team trade involving the Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Houston Rockets that would send Paul to Los Angeles was assembled as soon as teams could actively begin trade discussions. In return the Hornets, who did not want to lose their star player for nothing would receive Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, and Luis Scola in the deal. Pau Gasol would have wound up in Houston. On the surface the trade seemed reasonable. There was one catch, however. The league owns the Hornets.

Small market owners, namely Dan Gilbert, were enraged that once again a player was dictating where they wanted to play. How dare they have personal freedom! Nonetheless, competitive balance, as shortsighted as it may be, was one of the rhetorical talking points of the owners during the lockout. All star talent flocking to the major markets scares some owners. Gilbert went as far to say that 25 teams in the NBA should just be called the Washington Generals. He may not be right, but he certainly is not wrong. Perhaps, though, he should put the whole LeBron James ordeal behind him once and for all and focus on building a better team. (Oh, and dump the Comic Sans.)

Despite everything that the lockout served to accomplish for the owners, the real power remains with the players. Sure, they will not be making as much money in the long run but what is a few million dollars anyway? They still make more than the average American household will in its lifetime.

Luckily, David Stern stepped in, as the authoritarian he is, to uphold the values of the lockout. He nixed the trade of Paul for “basketball reasons.” The internet was livid, but when is it not, honestly? Stern stepped in and killed the trade as the owner of the Hornets. That is his prerogative. It may not be a healthy move for the league as a whole but it was his to make. He fought for the owners to retake their power during the lockout. With this move he acted on it. It was a maneuver for control.

Since the trade fell apart it was adjusted and resubmitted to the league for approval. (At the time of this posting no news was released about the possibility of its approval.) This time Demps and the Hornets have complete autonomy in the dealings of the Hornets and their ability to make trades.

There will be a power struggle throughout the season and likely for seasons to come. The lockout was only the beginning. Players, specifically the all-stars, know they have the ability to force trades and can readily make their opinions known to the media and fans via Twitter. They can whip up a story in 140 characters or less. Owners still have the final say but when they know a player will leave in free agency they must react so that they are not left empty-handed. In the present situation, Paul knows he is in control despite what the commissioner did and the media eats it up while spinning rumors of their own.

Not for one second are all the people who cover the NBA to blame. No, that is far from the truth. In actuality only a few stir up the rumor mill for their personal gain. Most of those who cover the sport want to dissect games and plays, wins and losses. The situation before all of us is perplexing. The balance of power is being restructured in the NBA and in the way in which it is covered.  Paul and Howard have, not by their own doing, caused the storm of the shorted season. Combined they have trumped the madness that surrounded Anthony and training camps are only in their second day. One would think that this feat would be astounding but it is not. Not in the 24-hour sports news cycle. Not in a world were Twitter breaks every news story. This is how it is going to be from now on. It is not pretty but it must be accepted as a fact of life. Players dictate their fate and rumors will spew forth uncontrollably because of it.

Getting flustered will change nothing. Filtering out the garbage is the only thing a fan or writer can do. Sometimes it will be hard but there is no other choice. Soon games will be played and the rumors will ride shotgun instead of driving. At least we have basketball.

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Gambling in The Big Easy

The New Orleans Hornets have to gamble on winning a few more.

Season-ticket holders, that is.  The chairman for the league-owned Hornets, Jac Sperling, says that in order to be desirable for a local owner, they need to show signs of profitability.  While this will undoubtedly be addressed this summer during negotiations with the Player’s Association, Sperling feels that by having 10,000 season-ticket holders by the start of the season, the team can match the profitability of the 2008-09 season.

This marks the first opportunity the fans have had in the future of their team, and more importantly, Chris Paul.  Potential buyers have seen the devastation caused by the loss of a superstar to a franchise after The Decision and do not want to risk the uncertainty that rebuilding a franchise entails, especially if there isn’t a sustainable fanbase.

Paul, on the other hand, is watching these Finals games and seeing whether a move to a team with another (or two, in New York) superstar would give him a chance to win a championship.  He traditionally performs better in the playoffs (averaging 21.9 points, 11.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game), and if explosive scorer David West remains with the team, the Hornets look to capitalize in a

Monty's gracious embrace awaits. (via swarm and sting)

Monty's gracious embrace awaits. (via Swarm and Sting)

wide-open Western Conference next year, when the team is better acquainted with the system of head coach Monty Williams.

The Hornets only need 2,000 more tickets before they reach their mark, and if they gain those, it will show a developed fan base, a market that shows that they care about more than just the Saints.

But the fans need to let their wallets speak in order to keep their team, as well as their superstar.

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Nene will probably test free agency

Rocky Mountain highway out of town

The Denver Nuggets dealt away their biggest star and all-star point guard this season. Now it looks as though their remaining star might walk away from the team on his own.

It is looking as though Nene will likely opt out of the remaining year of his contract and become a free agent. He is slated to make $11.6 million next season but feels that he could get more elsewhere. However, with a collective bargaining agreement still not in place for next season, it is not known how much money he could be offered, nor how or when a free agency period will exist.

Nene has played for the Nuggets for nine seasons but no longer feels welcome on the team and that his accomplishments are going overlooked. His comments disclose his frustration with the Nuggets.

“If I play happy, if I enjoy the game, my game improves. I did my best for the team, for the city. I tried to do my best for the fans. But the (Nuggets) need to understand you need to see the return on the other side, or you need to look for it. You need to look for it sometimes.”

During the regular season Nene averaged 14.5 points on 61.5 percent shooting. He also averaged 7.6 rebounds and two assists. These numbers carried over, almost identically, in Denver’s five game series defeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

Whenever the CBA is sorted out, Nene will likely be the top free agent on the market. Every team will take a look at acquiring him whether they have a need for a center or not. What Denver must do, if they hope to retain him, is show him that the team and the fans value his contributions and that they will get the piece in place around him to make a deep playoff run. If they cannot do that and Nene leaves, Denver may find itself on the outside looking in when the playoffs come around next season.

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Mark Cuban blasts the league… ethics and cash come into question

Mark Cuban is the only owner with the balls and pocket book to constantly criticize the league.

The league has come under direct fire for the first time since taking over operations for the New Orleans Hornets by a voice David Stern and company should know all too well.

Last night, before the Mavericks took on the Jazz in Dallas, Mavs owner Mark Cuban voiced his utter disgust with the situation in New Orleans and their trade with Sacramento.

Essentially, the Hornets traded Marcus Thornton who is earning $762,195 for Carl Landry who is earning $3 million.  The difference in salaries is $2.24 million, which New Orleans will be responsible for covering for the remainder of the season.  The Hornets, who are over the salary cap, acquired Landry due to a trade exception.

This wouldn’t be shady at all if we didn’t consider the situation that New Orleans is facing.

The NBA, Cuban and 28 other owners, took over the Hornets from former owner George Shinn on December 6.  The league funds the organization and set an operating budget.  Cuban is questioning why the team is taking on such a huge salary when they are already in such a cash bind.

“If New Orleans is taking back $2 million and the team is losing money and I own 1/29th of it, I’m going to go against the grain and say that’s just wrong,” Cuban said. “There’s no way, with their payroll, having to dump salary before they were sold to us [NBA owners]; now they can take on more salary while they’re losing money. That’s just wrong every which way.”

Cuban’s remarks are the first public remarks that have directly criticized the NBA and its dealings in New Orleans.  Earlier in the season, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson questioned the ethics of the situation but didn’t blast the league as Cuban did yesterday.

A lot of teams in the league were interested in Landry but not a lot were willing to take on that contract.  With a possible lockout looming in the NBA, this season’s trades have been fairly even.  As far as money, this has been one of the most lopsided.  The Hornets made the sweetest deal for Landry to a Sacramento team in need of another point guard with an injured Tyreke Evans.  Thornton made a name for himself last season when he filled in for an injured Chris Paul.

The league has yet to hand down a fine for Cuban’s comments but trust the Beef, there will be a fine.

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Zach Randolph wants the money now and it makes perfect sense

Memphis, show Z Bo the money

Coming off arguably his best season ever, Zach Randolph expects to see the money.  Memphis is expecting something else.

The upcoming labor negotiations are looming ahead with uncertainty for many teams and many players looking to re-sign.  As of now, it is projected that annual NBA player contracts will be cut by one third.  Makes owners happy but for players like Randolph, cashing in could be harder than they originally expected.

Last season, Randolph averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.  Memphis finished the season just under .500 with a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs.  However, we began to see the emergence of Rudy Gay and Randolph was named an All Star for the first time in his career.  He had cleaned up and shaped up but that doesn’t mean the money is coming.

Memphis just agreed to a five-year, $45 million extension with Mike Conley despite his inconsistency.  In July, Gay signed an $80 million with the Griz.  Randolph is coming off of back-to-back seasons of averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds a game while pushing for his fifth consecutive season of averaging at least a double-double, trailing only Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard.  However, Memphis wont even discuss an extension with Randolph who is in the last season of his contract with the Griz for $17.3 million.

This season, he is their second leading scorer and rebounder and Memphis could be making a mistake.  Randolph has the intangibles of leadership and hustle. His past mistakes in Portland are gone and he has matured.  The Griz are definitely looking at the possibility of letting go of Hasheem Thabeet this summer and that would free up some money to hold onto “Z Bo” and move forward from the past with some actual depth.

The players want the money right now to avoid the cut in salary that will soon be enforced (in theory).  The teams are waiting on the opposite.  In this case, Memphis is biding its time before the negotiations in order to get Randolph at a very low price.

He isn’t the only one that seems to be stuck in contract limbo due to these upcoming changes.  Only five 2007 first-round picks have signed contract extensions with their teams by the November 1 deadline, a record low.

However, we have already seen that projected cuts by analysts and David Stern does not always draft over to actually occurring.  For instance, we thought that the salary cap would cut by millions last summer and it went up instead.  Both parties are deeply interested in maintaining or acquiring what they want from these talks and it wont be easy for just one to win.

Players and owners are mixed up in a waiting game right now with a lot of money at stake and we all know that money is what makes this NBA league go round.

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