Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:29 pm
And it begins.
Get ready for a replay of the Carmelo Anthony saga, with Chris Paul playing the role of protagonist and the big, bad Knicks once again in the villain role.
Cue the small market-big market theme song.
Seen this movie before. It's called "Gone With the Wind."
With Yahoo Sports reporting Thursday that Paul's representatives have informed the Hornets that he will not sign an extension with the team and that he wants to be traded to the Knicks, and with the Hornets immediately shifting into damage-control mode, we're right back where we were with Melo and the Nuggets. There are several key differences, however, that should be noted.
First, as pointed out earlier this week, the new rules take some leverage away from Paul in his bid to get to New York. Oddly enough, the rules that emerged from a lockout that was supposed to be about keeping small-market stars from fleeing to big markets also has taken a measure of protection away from the home team.
But Paul has done something important here that Anthony and his camp -- the same folks from Creative Artists Agency who orchestrated the union of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami last July -- didn't do. Paul has gotten started with his exit strategy much earlier.
Actually, it was last July when Paul's reps first informed Hornets brass that he wasn't sticking around and wanted to be traded to the Knicks, Lakers or Magic. At the time, the world was focused on LeBron and then the Knicks turned their focus to Anthony, who waited until the free-agent dust settled before clamoring to be dealt to the Knicks to team up with Amar'e Stoudemire.
Anthony got his way -- got his cake and was able to eat it, too. He did this under the old rules, which allowed him to get the same max extension (three years, $65 million) that he could've signed had he stayed in Denver. That avenue is no longer available to Paul. An extend-and-trade deal would only get him one year added to the two years he has left, a non-starter for a superstar of his caliber.
An extension with New Orleans would only net Paul two more years for about $39.6 million. This is nothing compared to what Anthony got, and not even close to the extensions that James, Wade and Bosh turned down before joining forces with the Heat. They did so by getting max length and dollars via sign-and-trades, and that option isn't open to Paul, either -- at least not in the same lucrative way. If he opts out and exits New Orleans via a sign-and-trade, he'd only get a four-year, $74 million deal -- compared to the five-year, $100 million the Hornets could offer. Factor in the notion that the Knicks, as of now, don't have close to the assets necessary to pull off such a deal, and it becomes even less likely.
Which brings us back to the original point: Even though it's December, it's technically July on the NBA calendar. Paul's efforts to determine his own destiny are starting much earlier than Melo's did for a couple of key reasons: 1) With Nene and Tyson Chandler the only potential max free agents in this class, there's no one to steal the attention the way LeBron, Wade and Bosh did las July; and 2) the new rules dictate it.
The Hornets' best chance of not getting stuck losing Paul for nothing is to trade him by mid-January or so. This way, New Orleans gets prime assets from a team where Paul is assured of re-signing with, and Paul only has to wait until July to opt out and get his five-year, $100 million deal from his new team once a newly imposed six-month window expires for players to sign new deals after getting traded.
The clock is ticking on Paul's time in a Hornets uniform, and this will unfold much more quickly than the Melo saga did -- in part, because of the new rules supposedly designed to keep star players from changing teams. Go figure.
There's one key difference so far between Paul's approach and Anthony's. Paul and his representatives have yet to say the words that would turn this saga into the kind of circus that the Melo drama became -- the words that Anthony made abundantly clear last season. What are those words? "I will only sign with the Knicks."
If Paul says those words, the tables turn and the game changes. And the Hornets might be inclined to call Paul's bluff and see if playing in New York with Stoudemire and Anthony is worth about $45 million to him -- the difference between what the Hornets could offer him next July and what the Knicks could offer, given that they currently only have about $13.5 million in projected room as the starting point on a four-year deal.
One thing is clear: We've seen this soap opera before. Getchya popcorn.
With the National Basketball Players Association reformed as a union Thursday with more than 300 authorization votes from players, the union and league can now begin hammering out the fine print of the agreement and negotiate the so-called B-list issues -- such as drug testing, the age limit, etc. A ratification vote is expected by next week, allowing training camps and free agency to open as projected on Dec. 9.
But -- and you knew there would be a but -- there could be a problem for the dozens of players who signed overseas contracts during the lockout. FIBA rules do not allow the paperwork excusing such players from their obligations to be submitted until the CBA is ratified. Once that happens, teams and agents say they're concerned that there could be up to a 48-hour delay in getting the paperwork processed and freeing the players to return to the States.
Thus, there is concern that such players -- the biggest star being the Nets' Deron Williams -- won't make it back in time for the start of camp. League officials are looking into the matter, but here's one way to look at it: If this is the worst fallout from the five-month lockout as far as basketball operations go, so be it.
Sources say there's mutual interest between the Bulls and free-agent forward Caron Butler. But Chicago hasn't ruled out also making a push for restricted free agent Marco Belinelli, whose defensive liabilities wouldn't thrill coach Tom Thibodeau but whose shooting prowess could help open the floor for Derrick Rose. ... Sources confirmed this tidbit passed along by CBSSports.com's Ben Golliver: Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich had shoulder surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to be out until late December or early January.
Posted on: June 24, 2010 6:35 pm
NEW YORK -- The Bulls have been talking about trading Kirk Hinrich since the February trade deadline, for obvious reasons. Shedding his $9 million salary for next season would seriously enhance Chicago's already strong hand in the free-agent chase that begins July 1.
That plan came to fruition Thursday when Chicago agreed to send Hinrich and the 17th pick in the draft to the Wizards, which means they're now riding shotgun with the Knicks as the two teams with the most cap space for the Summer of LeBron.
By ridding the '10-'11 payroll of Hinrich's salary and the $1.3 million they would've had to pay the draft pick, the Bulls are now hovering around the $30 million mark in cap space -- second only to the Knicks' approximately $34 million. The Nets ($27 million) and Heat ($26 million) are in the back seat in terms of sheer cap room.
Those numbers could change between Thursday night and July 8, when teams can begin consummating trades and officially signing free agents. The Heat, for example, have been very active in recent days in their efforts to unload Michael Beasley in a cap-clearing move. But that scenario is complicated, one rival GM said, because of Beasley's status as a former No. 2 pick. They can't just send him to a team with cap space and take no players back, as the Bulls did with Hinrich. "They have to get something for him," the GM said.
The Nets, owners of the No. 3 pick (for now), also have been involved in various conversations about moving Devin Harris -- with the latest buzz centered around the Pacers in a swap of the third and 10th picks that would send Danny Granger to New Jersey. The Pacers have been actively discussing the 10th pick with numerous teams, but president Larry Bird and GM David Morway have long been opposed to dealing Granger. Asked if the Indiana-New Jersey scenario had legs, one person directly involved in the discussions said, "Nope."
Posted on: February 16, 2010 5:57 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2010 12:35 am
The Knicks' negotiations with the Rockets on a blockbuster deal that would send Tracy McGrady to New York continued to progress early Thursday as a key piece of Houston's leverage faded from the picture: the Chicago Bulls.
While New York and Houston continued negotiating the level of protection the Knicks would place on two first-round picks involved in the discussion, the Bulls were having trouble finding a third team -- preferably one with extra first-round picks to offer -- as a way to sweeten their proposal, sources said.
Though nothing was resolved over the draft pick issue, it appeared that the Rockets and Knicks were confident enough in the framework of their deal that the Bulls dropped out of the discussions, a high-level source involved in the process said. The situation was described Wednesday night as strictly between the Rockets and Knicks, with the key issue remaining how much protection the Knicks would require on two first-round picks involved in the trade.
In a sign of the Bulls' retreat, John Salmons did not play against the Knicks Wednesday night after management told him to stay at the team hotel in New York while they finalized a trade. Later, the Bulls engaged the Bucks in discussions that would send Salmons to Milwaukee for a package of expiring contracts -- perhaps Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson, sources said. That deal would pave the way for the Knicks and Bulls to finally orchestrate their long-discussed swap centered around Al Harrington and Tyrus Thomas.
"It's still in play," a person with knowledge of the talks said.
New York officials reported back to the Rockets earlier Wednesday with their protection parameters, and the Rockets were pushing hard for less protection, two people familiar with the talks said. Sources have indicated that once the Rockets received New York's final determination on pick protection, they would choose between offers from the Knicks and Bulls for McGrady, whose $23 million expiring contract is one of the most coveted assets before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline.
The Knicks, having been burned under previous regimes for giving away draft picks with little or no protection, were seeking to adequately protect a 2011 first-round pick that Houston would have the option of swapping with New York and a 2012 first-round pick that could go to the Rockets based on where it falls in the draft. Before word came Wednesday night of the Bulls' withdrawal from the talks, one person familiar with the negotiations said Houston was "asking for too much," while a second person with a stake in the deal continued to say the Knicks continued to have the leading proposal to extract McGrady.
The Knicks would get a package centered around McGrady in exchange for Jared Jeffries, Larry Hughes, Jordan Hill and the draft pick considerations. Shedding Jeffries, owed $6.9 million in 2010-11, comes at a high price -- one that Knicks president Donnie Walsh was having trouble getting comfortable accepting, sources said. The Rockets were asking for so much because they'd face little in the way of negative implications by keeping McGrady and simply letting his contract fall off the books.
Moving Jeffries is crucial to the Knicks' 2010 free agency plan because it would get New York within striking distance of its stated goal of clearing maximum cap space and flexibility heading into the crucial free-agent class that begins July 1. The Rockets, who are getting nothing from McGrady this season, would benefit from an approximately $7 million swing in luxury tax payments -- but that issue was described by one source as "not material" compared to the pick protection.
If the Knicks were successful in shedding Jeffries' $6.9 million contract for next season -- along with Hill, their No. 8 pick in 2009, and Hughes -- they'd be within about $2 million of their elusive goal of clearing space for two max free agents this summer. By completing the McGrady deal as currently constructed, New York would be able to get to the approximately $33 million needed for two straight-up max signings by buying out Eddy Curry's $11.3 million contract for next season. Curry's agent, Leon Rose, also represents the No. 1 potential catch in the 2010 sweepstakes, LeBron James.
Emboldened by the uncertainty surrounding the draft pick issue, the Bulls intensified their research on McGrady late Tuesday night and into Wednesday, a source said. The framework of the Bulls' offer was believed to have included Brad Miller, Thomas, and either Kirk Hinrich or Salmons. If Hinrich were involved, the deal likely would've had another player going to Chicago with McGrady; the Bulls are believed to have wanted either Luis Scola or Carl Landry. The Bulls' interest in one of those players -- combined with their desire to move either Hinrich or Salmons, both owed significant money next season -- appeared to have hurt Chicago's proposal. Hinrich has two years and $17 million remaining, and Salmons is owed $5.8 million next season.
The Knicks completed a minor deal Wednesday, sending Darko Milicic to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal in an exchange of expiring contracts that did not directly impact the McGrady discussions. Walsh told reporters at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night that the NBA had awarded the team cap relief on Cuttino Mobley's $9.5 million, insurance-protected contract -- another step in getting the team's books in order. Also on Wednesday, the Knicks became deeply involved in talks that would send Nate Robinson to Boston as part of a package that would yield 3-point specialist Eddie House.
Posted on: February 7, 2010 6:32 pm
Few grand conclusions can be drawn from February NBA games. But in this case, the Celtics' latest disappointing loss only underscored what has been a poorly kept secret among NBA executives for weeks: Ray Allen's time in Boston is likely coming to an end.
If the Celtics kept Allen and let his contract come off the books, they'd still be over the cap this summer with no avenues besides sign-and-trades to acquire a starting shooting guard. That's why Boston also has expressed interest in the Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, an excellent defender and ball-handler who would give the Celtics a starting two guard next season at $9 million and in 2011-12 at $8 million. The Bulls' motivation would be cap relief.
The Kings, who are not planning to be big free-agent shoppers this summer, aren't seeking to acquire cap space alone. They want assets -- and the Celtics don't have a young big man to offer. The Bulls, who almost certainly will move Tyrus Thomas, might need to be invited into that conversation to satisfy everyone's needs.
Whatever avenue they pursue, the Celtics don't want to go into this summer with no cap flexibility and no assets that could be used to keep them among the elite. Before Ainge struck the 2007 draft-related deal for Allen and then plucked Garnett from Minnesota with the help of former teammate Kevin McHale, the Celtics had just endured a 24-win season and hadn't been out of the first round since 2002-03. Ainge and Doc Rivers were on the brink of getting fired until the perfect remedy presented itself -- and the Celtics parlayed the Allen and Garnett deals into their 17th NBA title.
"Kevin McHale's out of the league," one rival executive said, only half-joking. "So they're not going to be able to recreate that deal again."
The period leading up to that was so grim that nobody in the organization wants to revisit it. The best way to avoid such a scenario would be to part ways with Allen. It wouldn't be starting over. Instead, it would be a bold attempt to have a chance against Cleveland, Orlando, and Atlanta in the playoffs and avoid going back to the depths of rebuilding.
Posted on: June 24, 2009 6:12 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2009 6:22 pm
Here’s your second cup of pre-draft trade buzz of the day. In case you missed it, the first cup is here. One more cup, and you will have consumed as many cups of trade buzz as I’ve consumed coffee today:
• The Trail Blazers, known to be seeking an upgrade at point guard, have expressed interest in the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich. But a possible Portland-Chicago trade involving Hinrich has yet to enter the realm of serious discussion, according to a person familiar with the situation. While there has been speculation for months that the Bulls would be open to moving Tyrus Thomas, who has been linked to Hinrich in a possible Portland trade, Thomas has been told there’s “nothing at all” on the table involving him at this point, the person said.
• The Suns are hoping to pry Oklahoma City’s 25th overall pick, using a 2010 unprotected first-rounder as bait.
• The Knicks, convinced they cannot land Davidson guard Stephen Curry with the eighth pick, continue to actively explore ways to move up. New York also has engaged in talks with Minnesota about acquiring the 28th pick and Memphis about No. 27.
• We’ve already told you about the Atlanta-Golden State trade that would send Jamal Crawford to Atlanta – a trade I don’t really understand. Crawford is owed more than $19 million over the next two seasons and isn’t a natural point guard (and thus can’t be viewed as a reasonable replacement for unrestricted free agent Mike Bibby). Do the Hawks hate the $7.4 million owed to Speedy Claxton and Acie Law so much that they’re willing to try to force-fit Crawford into an offense already dominated by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith? There must be something more to this.
• Loyal BergerSphere readers also are aware that the Blazers and Mavericks have swapped the 24th and 22nd picks, respectively, with Portland giving up one of its four second-round picks -- 56th overall -- for the right to move up two spots.
Back with more -- and back to the coffee pot -- as needed.
Posted on: May 1, 2009 6:29 pm
The NBA reviewed video Friday of the scuffle between the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and Bulls' Kirk Hinrich and took no further action, ensuring that the two guards will be available Saturday for Game 7 of their epic first-round series Saturday.
The flagrant foul called on Rondo for tossing Hinrich into the scorer's table and then throwing an elbow that didn't connect, and the technical foul assessed to Hinrich for rushing Rondo and shoving him, "stand as called," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
It's the right decision because nobody threw or connected with a punch, and neither player took any action to escalate the violence beyond the initial Heat-of-the-moment skirmish. Those are key criteria league officials use in deciding whether to upgrade flagrant one fouls to flagrant twos, and whether to issue suspensions.
Had crew chief Joey Crawford hit Rondo with a flagrant foul, penalty two, he would've been automatically ejected from Game 6, won by the Bulls 128-127 in triple overtime. The league office didn't single out this altercation for review. All flagrant fouls are reviewed to determine if the game officials made the right call.
Posted on: May 1, 2009 1:59 am
Edited on: May 1, 2009 3:18 am
CHICAGO -- It had all the potential to be the ugliest incident in this physical, tense series. The Celtics' Rajon Rondo, already at the center of a controversy stemming from his blow to Brad Miller's head at the end of Game 5, got tangled up with Kirk Hinrich while trying to rebound Stephon Marbury's errant 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in the first quarter Thursday night.
Rondo threw Hinrich into the scorer's table, one of those "wanton acts of violence" commissioner David Stern is always talking about. Hinrich, tough as nails, popped up and bolted toward Rondo. With his arms close to his chest, Hinrich shoved Rondo, who appeared to raise his right arm or elbow in an attempt to swing at Hinrich. He never connected, either because he thought better of it or because referee Ed Mallory had grabbed his arm. We won't know Rondo's take until Saturday; he was the last player out of the showers in the Celtics' locker room and did not speak with reporters.
"I was just boxing him out and he tried to throw me to the side," Hinrich said. "I pushed him, so I guess they looked at it and gave him a flagrant and gave me a technical. I just shoved him."
Crew chief Joe Crawford reviewed the replay and assessed a flagrant foul, penalty one to Rondo and a technical foul to Hinrich. A flagrant two would've resulted in an automatic ejection and a Celtics loss that wouldn't have taken three overtimes. Rondo had 19 assists and no turnovers in the Bulls' 128-127 victory, and he was pivotal in the Celtics' 23-3 run that began when he subbed back into the game with Ray Allen with 10:16 left in the fourth.
Hinrich said Rondo didn't punch him, but it will be another busy day at the league office sorting out this incident. No suspensions are expected, largely because both players stopped their aggression after the initial collision and took no escalating action.
"It’s playoff basketball and you're going to have run-ins like that and it happens," Hinrich said. "... I kind of shoved him and then I don’t know who stepped between us. I'd have to look at it. It kind of happened real fast. I don’t think he threw a punch at me. It’s one of those things where you get caught up in the moment and you try to catch yourself and bring yourself back down."