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Tag:Joe Johnson
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:10 am
 

Magic want Melo-like haul for Howard

Magic executives have continued to tell teams this week they do not intend to trade Dwight Howard, but several teams came away from the conversations with a clear picture of what the club wants if it changes course: a replica of the deal Denver pulled off last February for Carmelo Anthony, multiple league sources told CBSSports.com Thursday.

If the Magic decide to trade Howard, they have “not closed any doors” on potential suitors, said a person familiar with the organization’s strategy. Teams that are on and off Howard’s list of preferred destinations – the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers – will be considered, and may the highest bidder win, sources said.

What Orlando is seeking if it makes a deal for the All-Star center is a package similar to what the Nuggets received for Anthony at the 2011 trade deadline: multiple good, young players and draft picks. Orlando executives view the Denver model as a middle ground between blowing up a contender and starting over with draft picks and reaching for veteran All-Stars whose contracts ultimately could hinder the recovery from a Howard trade.

Representatives of three teams in the mix for Howard – either on his list or among teams willing to gamble on trading for him in the hopes that he can be persuaded to stay beyond this season – told CBSSports.com Thursday that the Magic have not decided which path to pursue. Howard, 26, can opt out of his $19.5 million contract after the season and become an unrestricted free agent. His formal trade request through agent Dan Fegan of Lagadere Unlimited remains on the table and he has not given the Magic any commitment to opt in and/or re-sign after the season.

In a complicated, three-team trade for Anthony that was consummated after a five-month marathon over his desire to join the Knicks, the Nuggets came away with a treasure trove of young talent and draft picks: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and 7-footer Timofey Mozgov plus a future first-round pick and two future second-round picks. Felton has since been dealt to Portland for Andre Miller. The Nuggets recently signed Gallinari to a four-year, $42 million extension (about half what Anthony makes over the same period), and are hoping to get Chandler, a potential 20-point scorer, back after a stint in China before the season is over.

The Nuggets also received another 7-footer, Kosta Koufos, from Minnesota, which made the trade work under league cap rules by taking Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph from the Knicks along with a second-round pick from Denver.

For a variety of reasons, a similar haul isn’t realistic for Howard, despite the fact that he’s a far more valuable star than Anthony. The Knicks also got former All-Star Chauncey Billups in the deal, and the Nuggets were able to parlay interest from the Knicks, Nets and other teams Anthony had no intention of extending his contract with into a bidding war that drove the price for him through the roof.

If a player is heading out of Orlando with Howard, it is likely to be Hedo Turkoglu. Unlike Billups – a productive veteran leader with one year left on his contract – Turkuglo will be a liability in the deal due to his declining skills and the $23.4 million he is owed over the next two seasons.

Nonetheless, the revelation that Orlando wants similar assets as those Denver received for Anthony moved the needle on the Howard saga with only a week to go before the March 15 trade deadline. If the Magic decide not to trade Howard by next Thursday, they face the prospect of losing him as a free agent and receiving no assets in return.

The Mavericks and Lakers, teams loaded with high-priced veterans, do not have the kind of assets the Magic want for Howard. The Nets, with 24-year-old 7-footer Brook Lopez and promising rookie guard MarShon Brooks, come closer – though two people familiar with the Orlando strategy told CBSSports.com Thursday that none of the three teams has assets that would entice the Magic to part with Howard. Perhaps this is why Orlando officials have been more forthcoming in recent days about what they’d want in a package for Howard, and why at least one rival GM interpreted this shift in posture as an indication that Orlando understands it needs to create competition and prime the pump on the bidding war.

With the Magic determined to trade Howard to the team with the best offer if they decide to move him, a deal sending Howard to a so-called “rental” team (i.e., one he will refuse to give a long-term commitment to as part of the trade) could play right into the Nets’ hands. If, for example, Orlando traded Howard to Golden State and Howard opted out after the season, the Nets would be in a position to sign him as an unrestricted free agent without giving up any players or draft picks.

The other team aggressively trying to maneuver for a shot at acquiring Howard and persuading him to sign this summer is the Rockets, who need a replacement for retired center Yao Ming and who are still recovering from the voided Chris Paul trade that would’ve landed Pau Gasol from the Lakers. But a more serious contender could emerge in the coming days: the Hawks, who are dealing with disgruntled should-be All-Star Josh Smith’s own reported trade request. Smith and Al Horford would represent a coup for the Magic considering the alternative of losing Howard for nothing, and Atlanta is Howard’s hometown, where he attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Even with the potential of getting – and keeping – a player of Howard’s popularity and impact, questions remain about whether the Atlanta ownership group would be able to afford two max players going forward. Joe Johnson is owed $90 million over the next four years.

If nothing else, Howard’s familiarity with Atlanta would diminish the biggest impediment for another potential rental team giving up major assets to get him: Aside from it being an untenable gamble in a normal season, it’s even more so in this one. If, for example, Howard were traded against his will to Golden State, he’d play only 26 games with his new team – and only 12 home games in his new surroundings.

“That’s not a lot of games to get attached to Golden State,” one rival executive said.

Could the Warriors possibly give up Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ekpe Udoh, etc., under those circumstances? The Magic hope so, which is why the Howard saga quietly escalated to the next phase Thursday: Orlando’s attempt to follow the Denver model by creating a bidding war and scoring a Melo-like haul of assets.

So from now until 3 p.m. on March 15, the Dwight Howard story is open for business, 24 hours a day.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:35 pm
 

Tellem's cousin recused from NLRB case

NEW YORK -- Elbert Tellem, the assistant director of the National Labor Relations Board's regional office that handled the players' union's charge against the NBA, has recused himself from the case because he is the cousin of powerful agent Arn Tellem.

Sports Business Journal first reported the news Monday, and a person familiar with the decision told CBSSports.com it happened several weeks ago.

The move by Tellem to remove himself from any decision-making role in the union's unfair labor practices charge likely will have no impact on the outcome. The case, which has been sent to the NLRB's general counsel in Washington, D.C., with a sealed recommendation from the regional office in New York, was handled by acting regional director Karen Fernbach.

The National Basketball Players Association, which continued bargaining talks with league negotiators Monday in a last-ditch effort to prevent the cancellation of regular season games, hopes to compel the NLRB to issue a complaint against the league for failing to bargain in good faith. If the union is successful, the end result could be an injunction by a federal judge lifting the lockout.

Neither side knows what the regional office recommended, and the general counsel could take days, weeks or months to review the case and either follow or reject the regional office's recommendation. A person familiar with the NLRB's procedures told CBSSports.com Monday it is the agency's hope that the two sides settle their labor dispute among themselves.

The conflict of interest for Elbert Tellem stemmed from his family relation to Arn Tellem, the powerful agent from Wasserman Media Group who represents such NBA stars as Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Tyreke Evans. Tellem has been among a handful of powerful agents who have consistently disagreed with the union's bargaining and legal strategies while pushing behind the scenes for the players to decertify union membership as a tactic to force the owners to bargain more seriously.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Efforts to save season reach 'key moment'

NEW YORK -- Calling it a "key moment" in efforts to reach a collective bargaining agreement, commissioner David Stern said Wednesday that the full negotiating committees from both sides will meet Friday and through the weekend as they try to save the 2011-12 season.

"There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend," Stern said after league negotiators and representatives for the National Basketball Players Association met for a second straight day at an Upper East Side hotel. "Either we’ll make very good progress, and we know what that would mean – we know how good that would be, without putting dates to it – or we won't make any progress. And then it won’t be a question of just starting the season on time. There will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress."

In addition to the players' executive committee and the owners' full labor relations board, union president Derek Fisher said several "key players" will be attending Friday's meeting. Among them are expected to be LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, sources said, with other stars like Amar'e Stoudemire and Kevin Durant possibly joining the negotiations.

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the two sides agreed to expand their presence because "whatever decisions we are now going to be making would be so monumental" as to require the presence of those who'd be signing off on them.

You didn't have to read to closely between the lines to catch the meaning from Stern and Silver, who sought to ratchet up the pressure on getting a deal or risk not simply an on-time start to the season, but indeed the whole thing. With training camps already postponed and a first batch of preseason games canceled, Stern said the two sides are "at a period of enormous opportunity and great risk."

"I can't say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there I think is there," Fisher said. "We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won't be any Magic that will happen this weekend to just make those things go away. But we have to put the time in. We have a responsibility to people to do so."

The incremental rise in doomsday talk from Stern signaled that the negotiations are entering a new phase, where the threat of a canceled season will become a leverage point for both sides. If no agreement is reached by the end of the weekend -- the four-week mark before the scheduled regular season opener -- it would be virtually impossible to get a subsequent deal written, hold abbreviated training camps and a preseason schedule, and pull off a shortened free-agent period.

And yet neither side evidently was prepared to move enough Wednesday to get within reach of a deal. That moment of truth, one way or another, should come in the next 96 hours.

Once the league agreed to replace its insistence on a hard cap with the more punitive luxury tax and other provisions -- a "breakthrough," as one person familar with the talks called it -- it sparked "the process of negotiation" that the two sides have arrived at now. 

"There could be some compromises reached," the person said.

According to multiple sources familiar with the talks, the owners did not enhance their economic offer Wednesday, instead focusing on using systemic changes to hit the number they are seeking to achieve -- still 46 percent for the players over the life of a new deal. The problem, sources say, is that the players are not willing to accept a deal at that percentage, and that some of the systemic adjustments the league has proposed as alternatives to a hard team cap will act like a hard cap -- such as a luxury-tax system that rises from dollar-for-dollar tax to $2 or more.

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter has called a hard team salary cap a "blood issue" for the union, and Fisher wrote in a letter to the union membership this week that he and Hunter will continue to oppose any deal that includes one "unless you, the group we represent, tell us otherwise."

In addition to what they presented as hard cap alternatives -- which also included a reduction in the Bird and mid-level exceptions -- league negotiators also have presented a concept that could drive a wedge in the players' association. In exchange for keeping certain spending exceptions in place -- albeit in a reduced form -- one idea floated by the owners was a gradual reduction in existing contracts -- the "R" word, as in rollbacks -- that would minimize the financial hit for players who will be signing deals under the new system.

Such a proposal would alleviate the problem of players such as James, Wade, Stoudemire, Anthony, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson having outsized contracts compared to stars who'd be faced with signing lesser deals under a new system. In essence, the players who already are under contract would take a percentage cut in the early years of a new CBA -- 5 percent the first year, 7.5 the second and 10 percent in the third year, sources said -- so that players like Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams wouldn't bear a disproportionate share of the burden when they sign their max deals under the reduced salary structure the owners are seeking.

The provisions are not geared strictly for the star class of players; in fact, the proposed rollbacks would be across the board, "for everyone," a person with knowledge of the idea said. And while this concept may alleviate the problem of having future stars bear more of a burden, it would create other problems -- not the least of which is the players' unwillingness to accept a percentage of BRI in the mid 40s that would make such rollbacks necessary.

It is for this, and other reasons -- such as restrictions the owners would want even in a soft-cap system -- that a person familiar with the owners' ideas told CBSSports.com Tuesday night that what they were proposing was deemed "alarming" by union officials.

And it is why Stern said Wednesday, "We are not near a deal."

"I'm focused on, let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season," Stern said. "And that’s what’s at risk this weekend."

But amid all the comments made throughout these negotiations, it was an ordinary fan who hit a home run Wednesday with the most sensible statement yet. As Hunter and other union officials spoke with reporters on the street outside the hotel hosting negotiations, a guy in a white luxury sedan stopped in the middle of the street and started pounding on his door panel.

"We want basketball!" the fan shouted. "Stop the playing and get it done!"

He then drove off, heading west, having made the most sense of anyone.

Posted on: December 14, 2010 2:35 pm
 

Dec. 15 trade-eligible shopping list

The next milestone in the NBA season hits Wednesday when dozens of players signed as free agents over the summer become trade-eligible. ‘Tis the season for re-gifting. 

Don’t like the aging veteran you overpaid in your giddiness as GM of an undefeated juggernaut shopping for free agents? Dump him on some unsuspecing colleague who may be able to to make better use of his meager talents. Having a reality check about how good your team was going to be? Shed the contract you thought you were wise to execute back in July and start getting ready for another draft lottery. 

Under the collective bargaining agreement, players who sign as free agents cannot be traded for three months or until Dec. 15, whichever is later. So theoretically, any free agent signed prior to Sept. 15 can be shipped to a new destination beginning Wednesday. 

It’s not useful to look at this year’s crop of trade-eligible free agents as a free-for-all, because there are plenty of names on the list who will be traded about as soon as pigs sprout wings. (Forget the LeBron-to-New York trade rumors. I think he’s staying put.) Similarly, the Lakers aren’t trading Derek Fisher, the Celtics aren’t trading Shaquille O’Neal, and the Knicks seem mildly happy with MVP candidate Amar’s Stoudemire so far. 

What the Dec. 15 milestone does is expand the pool of assets and contracts available to GMs to make trades work under league guidelines that require salaries to be no more than 125 percent plus $100,000 when over-the-cap teams make deals. Sometimes, one more asset or another $2 million in tradeable contracts makes all the difference in completing a larger deal. 

Something else to keep in mind: Unless it’s a key player who’d fill a crucial need for a contender, executives say teams will be much less likely to take on multi-year contracts this year due to the expected work stoppage. Buyer’s remorse for Brendan Haywood, for example, isn’t going to be easy to assuage because he’s due $45 million over the next five years – when nobody can accurately predict where such a contract will fit into the new salary structure. But players on shorter deals with less than full guarantees could be moved if it helps complete a bigger deal – such as a Carmelo Anthony trade. 

So with that in mind -- and with the assumption that the Heat aren’t’ trading LeBron, the Hawks aren’t trading Joe Johnson, and the Celtics aren’t trading Paul Pierce or Ray Allen -- here are a few of the more interesting names who become trade-eligible Wednesday, based on the likelihood that they could be involved in a trade sometime before the Feb. 24 deadline: 

* Luke Ridnour, Timberwolves: At $12 million over the next three years, Ridnour won’t break the bank and his play-making abilities could be appealing to a team looking for point-guard depth. The Knicks, underwhelmed by Toney Douglas as Raymond Felton’s backup, are interested. 

* Tony Allen, Grizzlies: Allen’s strengths off the bench are wasted on a team like Memphis, which has plenty of other tradeable assets. If the Grizzlies decide to part with O.J. Mayo, for instance, Allen’s contract could help facilitate the deal. 

* Quentin Richardson, Magic: Nobody gets traded as much as Q-Rich, so he has to be on this list. If Orlando decides to pull the trigger on a significant deal -- say, for Andre Miller or Gilbert Arenas -- Richardson could be a throw-in. Complicating matters is the fact that his contract contains a 15 percent trade kicker, but that’s manageble since he’s only due $8 million over the next three years. 

* Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams, Nuggets: Denver is virtually assured of making a big deal for You-Know-Who, in my opinion, and these could be throw-in pieces. I’d include Al Harrington, but A) they’ll need someone to shoot a lot after they trade Melo; and B) nobody will want Big Al for five years at the full mid-level when we’re entering what could be the no-mid-level world of a new CBA. (Even though the last two years are only half-guaranteed.) 

* Anthony Tolliver, Timberwolves: Minnesota already has been fielding a lot of calls because they have draft picks, cap space, and young assets. Though injured at the moment, Tolliver is big and cheap and could be part of a bigger deal. 

* Josh Howard, Wizards: On a one-year deal, Howard has the right to veto any trade. But if he gets back on the court and proves he’s healthy before the deadline, his expiring $3 million contract could be used to sweeten a potential Arenas deal. 

* Chris Duhon and Jason Williams, Magic: Stan Van Gundy can’t decide which one is his backup point guard, and you know what they say: When you have two backup point guards, what you really have is none. 

* Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow, Nets: New Jersey is highly likely to make multiple trades between now and the deadline, and team officials continue to believe one of them will be for Anthony. With efforts under way to acquire additional assets Denver has requested, dangling either one or both of these names could help accomplish that. Reluctantly, I’ll include Travis Outlaw here, as well. While his five-year, $35 million deal will scare some teams, his salary is flat throughout with no increases -- a friendly feature as we enter the great CBA unknown. 

* Tyrus Thomas and Kwame Brown, Bobcats: When Larry Brown says his team has begun tuning him out, it’s time to start the stopwatch on LB blowing up the roster with trades. When Brown goes into teardown mode, no one is safe -- not even Thomas, who just signed a five-year, $40 million contract. Good luck peddling that deal amid labor uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean Brown won’t try. 

* Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Rasual Butler and Craig Smith, Clippers: The Clips are ravaged by injuries, underperforming, and owner Donald Sterling is heckling his own players. Who knows what the Clips will do? I do know they have one of the most sought-after first-round picks in the league -- Minnesota’s 2011 pick, which is unprotected in ‘12 -- and will be getting a lot of calls. Butler and Smith can veto any trade since their both on one-year deals. But why would they? 

* Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye, Suns: If Phoenix rapidly falls out of contention, keep an eye on Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is pushing as hard as any owner for a lockout. Warrick’s deal actually is fairly reasonable, with $4.25 million due each of the next two seasons and a team option for the same amount after that. Frye, however, is owed a poisonous $24.8 million over the next for years.
Posted on: August 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Stars come out for NBA labor talks (UPDATE)

NEW YORK – NBA owners and players met for 3 1-2 hours Thursday in a bargaining session that didn’t result in any progress toward a deal but did help change the tenor of the debate: The star players did show up, and they’re engaged.

In a surprise development, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Johnson and Chauncey Billups joined the players’ executive committee in the bargaining session – a reprisal of their appearance at the most recent meeting at All-Star weekend in Dallas.

“I think it’s important for all of us, as the faces of the NBA, to be involved in the negotiations and what’s going on,” Anthony said as he exited the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel on 52nd Street, to waves and cheers from passersby. “Our future’s in jeopardy if we can’t come to a mutual agreement.”

According to sources familiar with the players’ strategy, the stars decided to take a break from their appearance schedule associated with the World Basketball Festival, a four-day event in conjunction with Team USA training camp, to avoid the perception that they aren’t going to be involved in the bargaining process for the long haul. Some observers believed that the players’ appearance at the All-Star bargaining table in February would be a one-time deal, something that the stars of the league wanted to dispel, sources said. Wade and Billups were the first to commit, followed by James, Anthony and Johnson.

“It’s important to have representation of all the guys in the NBA and not just ourselves,” said Hawks guard Mo Evans, a member of the executive committee. “It was great to have those guys interested in what’s going on in the league. We’re all involved. We’re going to leave this game to someone else – whether it’s two years from now, five years from now, or 10 years from now. We want to leave this game in a better place than when we got it.”

According to people in the bargaining session, there was far less rancor and rhetoric than in the session at All-Star weekend, when the players rejected the owners’ initial proposal. The word “lockout” was thrown around less frequently, too.

UPDATE: But both sides acknowledge that there's much ground to be covered. According to one person present, commissioner David Stern proclaimed at one point during the meeting, “There’s a gulf, not a gap.”

However, in an encouraging sign, the league and union issued a joint statement after the bargaining session, as opposed to individual missives: "The NBA and NBPA held a four-hour bargaining meeting today that included constructive dialogue and a productive exchange of information. While we still have much work to do, it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together. We all agreed to meet again before training camp.”

Still, while the tenor of the dialogue improved, there was virtually no progress on the issues that keep both sides far apart on a new deal to replace the current CBA, which expires on June 30, 2011. The owners and players continue to disagree on the extent of the NBA’s stated losses – the latest figure the league used Thursday, according to a source, was $380 million during the 2009-10 season – and how the pie should be divided. Under the current agreement, players get 57 percent of overall revenues, known as basketball-related income (BRI).

It was the first bargaining session since All-Star weekend, and the first time owners and players discussed face-to-face the players’ proposal that was submitted to the owners last month. There was little concrete discussion of specific issues, such as the owners’ desire to institute a hard salary cap with shorter contracts and less guaranteed money. Both sides agreed to meet again before the start of training camp, and then break into smaller groups to tackle specific bargaining issues.

“They generally objected to the entire proposal,” Hunter said. “They said they didn’t agree with it. We kind of anticipated that. But at the same time, it lends itself to more discussion so they all felt as though we did make progress in terms of our willingness to talk to one another as opposed to at one another. And so to that extent, things felt a lot better in the room – the atmosphere, the environment, the nature of the discussions – more so than in February. Things have thawed a lot.”

In addition to the stars, the players were represented by the members of their executive committee: president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Adonal Foyle, Keyon Dooling, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Chris Paul and Evans. The owners were represented by Peter Holt (Spurs), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), James Dolan (Knicks), George Shinn (Hornets), Stan Kroenke (Nuggets) and Larry Miller (Trail Blazers). Suns owner Robert Sarver, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide canceled at the last minute to address personal business.

“It was great conversation, great dialogue going back and forth, great communication,” Anthony said. “So hopefully we can come to an agreement soon.”







Posted on: July 12, 2010 10:36 am
Edited on: July 13, 2010 12:13 pm
 

Turkoglu, Childress to Suns (UPDATE)

A cautionary tale for teams doling out millions to free agents in 2010: In some cases, it's only a matter of time before those same free agents are dumped overboard at a discount.

Case in point: Hedo Turkoglu, the most sought-after free agent of 2009. After leading the Magic to the NBA Finals, Turkoglu flirted with the Trail Blazers before landing in Toronto for five years and $53 million. Twelve months later, the Raptors unloaded the disgruntled forward in a three-team trade with Phoenix and Charlotte.

So much for Turkoglu leading the Raptors anywhere but rebuilding.

The trade expanded into a three-team arrangement Monday, with the Raptors getting Leandro Barbosa from Phoenix and Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw from Charlotte while sending Jose Calderon to the Bobcats, a person with knowledge of the deal told CBSSports.com. The framework is pending a trade call with the NBA office later Monday, the source said.

UPDATED 12:20 a.m. ET: But Yahoo! Sports reported early Tuesday that Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was having "second thoughts" about participating in the deal. Jordan's reluctance came after players in the deal had been informed they'd been traded, and it imperiled all but the initial Turkoglu-for-Barbosa portion of the trade.

UPDATED 12:13 p.m. ET: The Toronto Star reported Tuesday afternoon that the Bobcats portion of the deal is dead , nixed by Jordan's concerns.

In the make-believe world of NBA trades, this one actually makes sense. The Raptors get rid of Turkoglu, who was never happy with his role in Toronto, and get a playmaker in Barbosa with only a one-year commitment. They use a portion of the $14.5 million trade exception received in the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade to make the deal pass muster under the 125 percent rule required to validate trades between teams that are over the salary cap. Turkoglu is on the books for $9.8 millon next season.

The Suns, trying to move on after losing Amar'e Stoudemire to the Knicks, made another solid move in acquiring restricted free agent Josh Childress from Atlanta for a second-round pick. By doing so, Phoenix bypasses the offer sheet and seven-day matching procedure for restricted free agents, which eliminates what would've been merely a formality since the Hawks were not going to match an offer sheet for Childress after signing Joe Johnson to a max deal. With Turkoglu's play-making ability and Childress' athleticism, it's hard not to like the Suns' post-Amar'e look. Childress, who gets a five-year, $34 million deal, will give coach Alvin Gentry more flexibility in his rotations. Turkoglu will take some of the pressure off an aging Steve Nash to be the playmaker and ballhandler on every possession.







Posted on: July 4, 2010 1:55 am
Edited on: July 4, 2010 4:11 pm
 

Johnson, Hawks reach six year, $120 million deal

Update: In his blog on Huffington Post, agent Arm Tellem confirms that Joe Johnson has agreed to six-year, $120 million deal to remain with the Atlanta Hawks.

CBSSports.com reported earlier that Johnson and Atlanta were "close" to finalizing their agreement.

The Hawks came right out of the gates at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and lavished Johnson, the cornerstone of their revival, with the maximum offer they could extend him under the current collective bargaining agreement. Johnson, 28, was determined to explore the options free agency afforded him, and met within an hour with Knicks officials in Los Angeles. The meeting was attended by Johnson's L.A.-based agent, Arn Tellem, and another one of his clients, Mike Miller.

One day passed. Then two. Then three. Hawks officials were not so much growing nervous as flummoxed that Johnson was taking so long to say yes to a contract the likes of which no player of his caliber will see again anytime soon in the NBA. The league's salary structure is one year away from changing dramatically -- and in favor of the owners -- in a new collective bargaining agreement.

On Friday, a person with close ties to Johnson told CBSSports.com that the four-time All-Star was "intrigued" by the opportunity to play in New York or Chicago. In both places, he'd have to be intrigued enough to accept about $25 million less than the Hawks were offering. In both places, he'd either be a complementary piece to one of the top-tier free agents or a substitute -- similar to the situation the Suns' Amar'e Stoudemire was in, except the Suns never offered Stoudemire the max for six years.

As of Saturday afternoon, Johnson was still on the fence as the Knicks, in particular, continued to apply pressure in an all-out effort to persuade Johnson to validate their painful, two-year effort to clear enough salary-cap space to attract marquee free agents. But by later in the evening, word came from Johnson's camp that minor contractual details were on the verge of being resolved in order to keep Johnson with the Hawks -- who would've likely waited until after the new CBA was in place to replace him with a comparable talent. Johnson has averaged at least 17 points per game in all five seasons with the Hawks while playing at least 76 games in four of those seasons.

If Johnson's flirtation with the free-agent recruiting process mirrors that of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his spasm of wanderlust getting trumped by the far more favorable deal his own team could offer him may be a harbinger of decisions to come. Barring sign-and-trades, by which free agents can change teams and still get max money, the Big Three are in the same boat. Being wanted is great, but money ... everybody likes money.

Speaking of which, Johnson will turn 34 entering the sixth year of this contract, when he'll be making approximately $24 million in his 16th NBA season. But the Hawks felt the potential payoff in the first three years of the deal -- and the risk of losing Johnson without being able to find a comparable replacement -- made the commitment worthwhile. Also, the Hawks are banking on the fact that there will always be a high-revenue team willing to take on a big contract, either as the final piece to a championship-ready team or in the form of an expiring asset.

Posted on: July 4, 2010 12:26 am
 

LeBron, Wade, Bosh not ready for decision

For those who want a quick resolution after the 72-hour whirlwind recruiting of the Big Three free agents, you'll be disappointed. Evidently exhausted from being courted non-stop since midnight Thursday, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ... well, on the fourth day, they rested.

Henry Thomas, who represents Wade and Bosh, said Saturday night his clients weren't ready to make a decision and were "processing all of the information they've received over the last two days. They're taking a step back and evaluating it. That's it."

Similarly, two team executives involved in the recruiting of LeBron were under the same impression -- with one saying the King's decision could come "early next week," while another was under the impression there was "no timeline." Two more executives had not been given a timetable by any of the Big Three, nor had they heard back on the possibility of a follow-up meeting to close the deal.

Welcome to the Summer of 2010, where hurry up and wait is the motto.

Wade and Bosh finished their pitch sessions Friday night, when both met with the Bulls. Saturday was the main event, with the Bulls and hometown Cavs having an audience with LeBron amid a surreal scene in downtown Cleveland. One of the executives involved in the recruiting process over the past few days described it this way: Now is when the emotion of the process and the glitz of the presentations fade and reality sets in. Reality, and the known vs. the unknown. And the executive came away with the distinct impression that Wade is staying in Miami, LeBron is staying in Cleveland, and Bosh -- left out to dry in such a scenario -- would then be far more interested in the extra $25-$30 million the Raptors can offer him than he's been for the past 72 hours.

"All these guys know where they're going to go," a person with close ties to one of the players involved in the process said. "This whole thing has just been a spectacle."

Nonetheless, the process marches on. All five teams regarded as having realistic shots at landing/keeping at least one of the top free agents when the negotiating period began -- the Cavs, Bulls, Heat, Knicks and Nets -- continue to put on the full-court press in trying to secure commitments from complementary players. The Bulls and Heat have talked with Carlos Boozer and David Lee, among others; the Knicks have reached a "broad agreement" with Amar'e Stoudemire on either complementing or replacing one of the top-tier free agents and continue to pursue Joe Johnson and Mike Miller; the Nets continue to tell people they have a real shot at landing one of their top targets. The Cavs are pursuing Bulls free-agent center Brad Miller as an added inducement for LeBron.

And on we go. With so many moving parts, one executive involved in the process was dubious that the July 4 holiday Sunday would bring any more clarity.

What the beginning of the holiday weekend did bring, however, was closure to the over-the-top pitch process. According to details of the six presentations LeBron witnessed in Cleveland from Thursday to Saturday, each team had its moments. How much of it resonates with James as he huddles with his advisers over the next couple of days remains to be seen.

The Cavs, who know James better than any of the teams courting him, floored him Saturday with an emotional highlight video starting with his state championship days at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School, progressing through his selection by the Cavs as the No. 1 pick in the draft, and sprinkled with interviews with fans begging him to stay. Several images of James' mother, Gloria, were strategically  included, as the Cavs know James would be hard-pressed to leave his mother behind in Ohio as a consequence of signing with another team.

But the important moments in James' sitdown with the team he's played with for seven seasons came when new coach Byron Scott had the floor, explaining to James his defensive-minded style, desire to push the tempo offensively, and emphasis on tireless work and practice time. In fact, people familiar with James' priorities believe the one-on-one time he spent with coaches over the past few days -- Mike D'Antoni of the Knicks, Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls, Avery Johnson of the Nets, Erik Spoelstra (and by extension, Pat Riley) of the Heat, and Scott -- will resonate with him as much as any other basketball factor. The Clippers, who haven't hired a coach yet, were the only team to court James without one.

The Knicks, still viewed by some insiders as having a puncher's chance if James is able to come to grips with leaving his hometown, included a flashy video, too. And they did their homework, producing a film playing off James' adoration of The Sopranos, as detailed by columnist Ian O'Connor of ESPN-New York. But as with the Cavs' presentation, a person familiar with the Knicks' approach said the most important segment came when Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, GM Donnie Walsh and other executives left the room and turned the floor over to D'Antoni. It was only James and D'Antoni in the room as the Knicks' coach passionately detailed how effective James would be in his up-tempo, pick-and-roll system as a Magic Johnson-like floor leader whose breadth of talents would be emphasized with the Knicks more than with any other team courting him.

How much will it all matter? Which way is LeBron really leaning? The next 72 hours will be far more important than the past 72 when it comes to answer those questions.





 






 
 
 
 
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