Tag:Grizzlies
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 11:45 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

NEW YORK -- NBA players sued the league alleging antitrust violations Tuesday, in part using commissioner David Stern's own words against him in making their case that the lockout is illegal.

With two antitrust actions -- one in California naming superstars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant among five plaintiffs, and another in Minnesota naming four plaintiffs -- the players are seeking summary judgment and treble damages totaling three times the players' lost wages due to what lead attorney David Boies referred to as an illegal group boycott.

"There's one reason and one reason only that the season is in jeopardy," Boies told reporters at the Harlem headquarters of the former players' union, which was dissolved Monday and reformed as a trade association to pave the way for the lawsuits. "And that is because the owners have locked out the players and have maintained that lockout for several months. ... The players are willing to start playing tomorrow if (the owners) end the boycott."

The California case, filed Tuesday night in the Northern District, named plaintiffs who represent a wide array of players: Anthony, Durant and Chauncey Billups (high-paid stars); Leon Powe (a mid-level veteran); and Kawhi Leonard (a rookie). The plaintiffs in a similar case filed in Minnesota are Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams.

Boies said there could be other lawsuits, and at some point, they could be combined.

It is possible, Boies said, that the players could get a summary judgment before the NBA cancels the entire season -- essentially a two-month timeframe. By that point, with the clock starting on potential damages Tuesday -- which was supposed to have been the first pay day of the season for the majority of players -- treble damages could amount to $2.4 billion.

"We would hope that it's not necessary to go to trial and get huge damages to bring them to a point where they are prepared to abide by the law," Boies said.

A statement released by the league office Tuesday night, spokesman Tim Frank said: "We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet, but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."

Earlier, Boies seemed to have anticipated this response, noting that the NBA's lawsuit in the Southern District of New York -- in which the league sought a declaratory judgment pre-emptively shooting down an eventual dissolution of the union -- came first.

"The litigation was started by the owners," Boies said. "... This case was started months ago when the NBA brought it there."

The crux of the players' argument is that, absent a union relationship to shield them from antitrust law, the 30 NBA owners are engaging in a group boycott that eliminates a market and competition for players' services and are in breach of contract and violation of antitrust law. The players are seeking to be compensated for three times their lost wages as permitted by law, plus legal fees and any other relieft the court deems necessary and appropriate.

One of the many issues to be resolved is where the lawsuits ultimately will be heard. The NBA almost certainly will file a motion seeking that the players' complaints be moved to the Southern District, which is in the more employer-friendly 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Northern District in California is in the more employee-friendly 9th Circuit, while the Minnesota case was filed in the district residing in the 8th Circuit, where the NFL players ultimately fell short in their quest for a permanent injunction lifting the lockout.

The NBA players are not seeking a permanent injunction; rather, Boies said they are pursuing the more expeditious and fact-based summary judgment, which could save months of legal wrangling.

UPDATE: Boies asserted that the plaintiffs have the right to choose which appropriate court has jurisdiction over their lawsuit, and that the NBA's lawsuit in New York was premature -- since the NBA players had never before in their history of union representation since the 1950s disclaimed interest or decertified until Monday. In contrast to the NBA's argument that dissolution of the union and an antitrust action were the players' goals all along, the lawsuit laid out that the players participated in bargaining with the league for more than four years after they were first allegedly threatened with massive rollbacks of salaries and competition for their services. Boies said the players had continued to bargain for months while locked out, offering a series of economic concessions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars until they finally reached the owners' desired 50-50 split in the final days of negotiations.

Unlike the NFL Players' Association's failed disclaimer of interest and antitrust action, in which the players' case was harmed by the lack of certainty over whether the collective bargaining process had ended, Boies said there was no disputing that bargaining talks had concluded in the NBA -- and that Stern himself had ended them by presenting a series of ultimatums and "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that the players could not accept.

"They had an opportunity to start playing with enormous concessions from the players," Boies said. "That wasn’t enough for them. If the fans want basketball, there’s only one group of people that they can get it from, OK? And that’s the owners, because the players are prepared to play right now."

The NBA undoubtedly will argue that it was the players who ended bargaining when their union disclaimed, and that the disclaimer is a sham, or a negotiating tactic as opposed to a legitimate dissolution.

The lawsuits came one day after the players rejected the league's latest ultimatum to accept their bargaining proposal or be forced to negotiate from a far worse one. The National Basketball Players Association at that point disclaimed interest in representing the players any longer in collective bargaining with the league after failing to reach an agreement during the 4 1-2 month lockout that was imposed by owners July 1.

In the California case, Boies, his partner, Jonathan Schiller, and players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler laid out a meticulous case that the collective bargaining process had been ended by the owners and that the players had no choice but to dissolve the union and pursue their case via antitrust law. They laid out a series of concessions the players made in an effort to reach a deal, including a "massive reduction in compensation" and "severe system changes that would destroy competition for players."

The lawsuit quoted Stern's own demands when he issued two ultimatums to the union during the final week of talks, threatening the players both times to accept the offer (with a 50-50 revenue split and various restrictions on trades and player salaries) or be furnished a worse offer in which the players' salaries would have been derived from 47 percent of revenues in a system that included a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts -- all deal points the two sides had long since negotiated past and abandoned.

Asked if Stern made a mistake issuing the ultimatums that ended the talks, Boies said, "If you're in a poker game and you bluff, and the bluff works, you're a hero. Somebody calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand."

In the California lawsuit, the players' attorneys alleged that the owners' bargaining strategy was hatched during a meeting between league and union negotiators in June 2007. In that meeting, the lawsuit alleged, "Stern demanded that the players agree to a reduction in the players' BRI percentage from 57 percent to 50 percent," plus a more restrictive cap system. Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver told Hunter, according to the lawsuit, that if the players did not accept their terms, the NBA was "prepared to lock out the players for two years to get everything." Stern and Silver assured Hunter in the meeting that "the deal would get worse after the lockout," the lawsuit alleged.

The threats of getting a worse deal after the lockout if the players didn't accept the owners' terms were repeated in a letter to the union dated April 25, 2011, according to the lawsuit -- which then laid out the contentious, sometimes bizarre, and almost indisputably one-sided negotiation that transpired over the next few months.

"I will give the devil their due," Boies said. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession. Greed is not only a terrible thing, it's a dangerous thing. By overplaying their hand, by pushing the players beyond any line of reason, I think they caused this."

Boies said it was in neither side's best interests for the action to proceed to trial, which could take years and multiply the threat of damages against NBA owners. Even in their current capacity as members of a trade association, the players could have a settlement negotiated on their behalf among the attorneys for both sides. The settlement could then take the form of a collective bargaining agreement, but only after the majority of players agreed to reform the union and the owners agreed to recognize it.

Another option would be for a federal judge to require both sides to participate in mediation under the auspices of a federal magistrate; attendance would be required, though the results wouldn't be binding.

"There's lots of ways to get started, but it takes two to tango," said Boies, who once sued Microsoft in an antitrust case and represented Al Gore in his failed 2000 presidential bid based on a disputed vote count in Florida.

"If you've got somebody on the other side who is saying, 'It's my way or the highway, it's take it or leave it, this is our last and final offer and you will not see negotiation,' you can't resolve this," Boies said. "That, I will predict, that will stop, OK? There will come a time when the league faces the reality of the exposure that they face under the antitrust laws, the exposure that they face because of fan dissatisfaction with their unilateral lockout, the exposure they face by having other people in the business of professional basketball. And they will believe it is in their best interests to resolve this case.

"I can't tell you when that will happen," Boies said. "But I will tell you that it will happen, because those forces are too strong for anybody to resist indefinitely."





Posted on: June 22, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Draft Buzz: Monta, Odom, Rambis and more


The latest trade buzz surrounding Thursday night's NBA draft, from conversations with executives, agents and others in the know:

* The Warriors have fielded numerous calls about Monta Ellis, and seem to be cautiously open to discussing the star guard's desire for a change of scenery. Such efforts have become increasingly difficult since the hiring of Mark Jackson as coach. Jackson wants to coach Ellis, and has become well aware that he has emerged as owner Joe Lacob's favorite player on the team.

* A recent conversation between the Warriors and Lakers centered around Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown going to Golden State for Ellis, but those talks went nowhere, sources said. The Bulls would become involved if they were willing to part with Joakim Noah, and Chicago executives have consistently balked at including him in trade talks for the past year -- mostly due to the base-year compensation factor in the five-year, $60 million extension he signed last year.

* Executives also have heard Ellis mentioned in conversations with Memphis for Rudy Gay, but acquiring Gay would be extraordinarily problematic for any team given the uncertainty about what new economic and cap system the league and players eventually will adopt. With four years and $68 million left on his contract, Gay "isn't going anywhere," one executive said.

* One of the few trades that makes sense as teams weigh the effects of taking on money in a shrinking-cap world is a deal that has been dormant for weeks: Ellis to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala. Both players have three years left, and although Iguodala is owed $44 million compared to Ellis' $33 million, those are the only deals most teams will be willing to make between now and June 30 -- those in which they don't have to take on additional years of salary.

* The Timberwolves have peddled the No. 2 pick far and wide and have been unable to land an offer that tempts them. Discussions with the Lakers centered around Odom, but that wouldn't be good business to trade young, cheap labor for a 31-year-old making $8.9 million next season -- even though he has only $2.4 million guaranteed in 2012-13.

* Speaking of the Wolves, team officials continued to say Wednesday night that coach Kurt Rambis hasn't been fired yet, but the more things like that are stated, the more obvious it becomes that Rambis is gone. The search for a replacement will begin soon after the draft.

* Spurs officials continue to do what they're paid to do -- find out what their players are worth on the trade market. That's all the Tony Parker speculation is, several rival execs believe. "You know and I know they're not trading Tony Parker," one GM said. "You can't get anything close to equal value for him."

Posted on: December 17, 2010 2:13 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 9:28 pm
 

Post-Ups (UPDATE)

Houston and Portland, we have problems. 

Two teams that have been tantalizingly close to championship contention in recent years are suddenly in turmoil due to injuries -- franchise-shaping injuries to their franchise players. 

Portland had no sooner come to grips with the loss of Greg Oden -- again -- when the gathering storm of controversy between ailing star Brandon Roy and veteran point guard Andre Miller popped up. The Rockets, struggling without point guard Aaron Brooks, now may have to completely rethink their style of play and strategy for the future with word that center Yao Ming could be out for the year with a stress fracture in his ankle. 

“They built around Yao and they’re going to have to change who they are and become a more transition-oriented team,” a rival executive said. * No one ever thought the Rockets would commit to Yao beyond this season until they learned whether he’d be able to return to the court and be productive. With the answer to that question now being no, it’s time to scrap the notion that Houston can rely on Yao to ever be the centerpiece of a title-contending team. 

Changes are needed in the short run, too. Once Brooks returns -- and that will be soon -- the Rockets will need to forget about Yao and push the pace in a way that fits the talent they have. Kevin Martin is a transition player, and Brooks certainly is. So is recently acquired Terrence Williams, who could be a key part of this new strategy if the change of scenery also changes his attitude. 

As for the Blazers, it would appear that their incredible aptitude for overcoming serious and numerous injuries has come to an end. In the past, winning masked the uncomfortable co-existence of Roy and Miller. Now that Portland is struggling, there’s no way to hide the fact that Roy and Miller aren’t a good fit in the backcourt together. Sources already have told CBSSports.com that Blazers officials are considering going young and moving some of their older pieces -- such as Miller, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla. Miller, with a fully non-guaranteed $7.8 million in 2011-12, has off-the-charts trade value -- especially for a contender in need of a steadying force at point guard. 
UPDATE: A person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Friday that Roy's recent comments about the difficulty he's having playing with Miller were no accident. "He's an unhappy camper," the person said. "A very unhappy camper. For Brandon to talk like that, he's got to be at his breaking point."
Sources continue to tell me that Orlando, which is concerned about not measuring up to Boston and Miami in the East, would be the perfect fit for Miller. The Magic are not going to accept carrying a $94 million payroll into the playoffs, only to lose in the conference semifinals -- which seems to be their fate as currently constructed. Rashard Lewis’ impact continues to diminish, Vince Carter is little more than a jump-shooter, and Jameer Nelson is too inconsistent to rely on as the floor general of a championship-contending team. 

Miller could be the elixir for Orlando. All he does is find open shots for his teammates, and Dwight Howard would be thrilled with Miller’s elite talent as a lob-passer. Howard, who will be part of a blockbuster free-agent class in 2012, has quickly grown frustrated with the Magic’s obvious limitations. 

The piece that could get it done is Marcin Gortat, who’s a starting center on any team but one that has Howard. Though Gortat’s contract goes out three more years, it’s at a reasonable rate for a starting center -- topping out at $7.7 million in 2013-14, when Gortat has an early-termination option. 

Blazers GM Rich Cho has liked Gortat since his days working as Sam Presti’s right-hand man in Oklahoma City, so such a deal would seem to make sense from all angles. Gortat would give Portland a reasonable insurance policy in case Oden never becomes worthy of his No. 1 overall selection in 2007, and Roy would have the ball in his hands more -- which is something he can’t have when playing alongside Miller. Whether Roy’s knees will hold up under those demands is a valid question, but one Portland may very well need answered one way or another. 

UPDATE: According to one source, Roy’s contract is insured against injuries to either knee. There is an outside, secondary policy, the person with knowledge of the policy said, and it also covers one of his ankles. Another person familiar with the details pointed out there are restrictions tied to the length of disability and stipulations related to the timing of a particular injury. Either way, that’s an insurance policy the Blazers never want to have to dust off. Better to put the ball in their franchise player’s hands and see what happens. What have they got to lose? 

Nothing, which is the opposite of what we have in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups: 

* Executives working the phones during these early days of trade inquiry say the teams that appear most determined to make deals before the Feb. 24 deadline are Portland, Detroit, Minnesota, Memphis and Charlotte. But while execs have seen the usual volume of calls, the urgency to clear cap space and/or dump salary isn’t nearly as high as it was last summer. Leading up to the 2010 deadline, multiple teams were hellbent on clearing cap space for a robust free-agent class. Not only will this summer’s free-agent class pale in comparison, teams also are unsure of how and when free agency will take shape due to labor uncertainty. 

* Amid commissioner David Stern’s latest CBA rhetoric, sources say there won’t be any bargaining meetings the rest of the year due to scheduling conflicts and the holidays. As of now, the goal is to gather key participants for a smaller negotiating session in January leading up to an all-important full bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. Union officials will be most disturbed by Stern’s assertion during a trip to Memphis this week that the NBA needs to transition to a hard salary cap in order to restore competitive balance. The players view this as a smokescreen, believing that the league wants a hard cap simply as a mechanism to reduce salaries. Meanwhile, Stern dismissed aspects of the NBPA’s proposal that were geared toward improving competitive balance, saying those changes actually would cost owners more money than the current system. So that’s where we are: nowhere. 

* One aspect of the players’ proposal, complete details of which were reported for the first time last week, has gone largely overlooked. The NBPA proposed a broad outline for redistributing draft picks as a way to respond to the owners’ desire to enhance competitive balance. The precise method would be subject to negotiation, but the union envisioned taking draft picks away from the top-tier teams and giving extra picks to the bottom feeders. For example, the top three or top five teams in the draft order would see their first-round picks go to the bottom three or five. So using last year’s lottery order and redistributing the top five teams’ picks, the Wizards would’ve selected first and 26, the Sixers second and 27th, the Nets third and 28th, etc. Not a bad idea, although I wonder if some of those teams would simply be inclined to sell the second of their first-round picks. Either way, it would give struggling teams more assets in their quest to return to playoff contention. 

* As the Nuggets continue to weigh their options with Carmelo Anthony, rival GMs and high-profile agents are divided on whether Anthony would even be a good fit for the Knicks if New Jersey wasn’t able to get him to agree to an extension. There’s no doubting the star power Anthony would bring to New York. Would he make the Knicks better? Clearly, he’d give them the closing perimeter scorer they lack, and in that way he’d be a perfect complement to Amar’e Stoudemire. But would Anthony make the Knicks that much better than a defensive- and transition-oriented wing, such as Gerald Wallace or Andre Iguodala? “I don’t think the Knicks win any more or less games if it’s Gerald Wallace vs. Carmelo,” a rival GM said. “They’re already scoring 120 points a game. I think they have enough offense.” Others point out that Anthony is a low-efficiency shooter and a ball-stopper; coach Mike D’Antoni could live with the former but detests the latter. But my point is, if the ball stops with Anthony and its next stop is in the basket, so be it. In some ways, the inside-outside combination of Stoudemire and Anthony -- with a capable point guard, Raymond Felton, divvying up the shots -- would be more dangerous than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But here’s what the Melo-doesn’t-fit crowd will tell you, and I concede this point: The Knicks controlled the pace of Wednesday night’s game against Boston for 47-plus minutes. At the end, when they needed someone to stop Paul Pierce, they had nowhere to turn. Anthony is capable of playing better defense than he’s been asked to in Denver; he showed it in Beijing with Team USA. But it’s worth wondering if a player like Wallace or Iguodala would get you just as much scoring in transition and as the second option on Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-rolls and be capable of defending the other team’s closer on the last possession. Other than the fact that Donnie Walsh never panics, this line of thinking could have a lot to do with why he isn’t crushed by the Nets’ all-out pursuit of Melo. “The Knicks are in a pretty good position to sit back and see where the cap falls,” another executive said. “I don’t think Knicks will give up much to get [Anthony], and I don’t think they have much to give up to begin with.”
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: July 16, 2010 3:02 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2010 3:03 pm
 

Ronnie Brewer to the Bulls


LAS VEGAS -- The Bulls missed out on their top free-agent targets, but have quietly put together an impressive offseason. That offseason became more impressive Friday when they agreed to terms with free-agent guard Ronnie Brewer, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Brewer agreed to a three-year, $12.5 million deal with the final year non-guaranteed, the person familiar with the agreement said. As Royce Young points out , Brewer joins Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver among Bulls GM Gar Forman's summer acquisitions. It isn't exactly a Big Three on the order of Miami's Dwyane Wade-LeBron James-Chris Bosh trio, but the Bulls have surrounded Derrick Rose with a quality supporting cast that should put them among the favorites in the East.

With the addition of Boozer, Korver and now Brewer, the Bulls have now poached three members of the 2009-10 Jazz -- although Brewer was traded to Memphis last season. Brewer averaged 8.8 points in 58 games with the Jazz and Grizzlies and is expected to be the Bulls' starting shooting guard.

The Bulls will have something else in common with the Jazz next season: They'll have a 7-foot center from Turkey. To less fanfare than the other signings, the Bulls also brought Omer Asik to the states with a three-year, approximately $4 million deal. Bulls officials are high on Asik's potential and spent the past few weeks touting his arrival to free agents they were recruiting. The Bulls even signed Scottie Pippen, for crying out loud -- not to play, but to serve as the team's ambassador.

Posted on: July 1, 2010 3:16 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 1:25 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)


After meeting for more than two hours with LeBron James in Cleveland Thursday, with a van-full of presentation gear to show for it, the Knicks' contingent headed to Chicago for meetings with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But not before trying to make a last-minute pitch to keep Joe Johnson from signing with the Hawks, a person familiar with the strategy said.

At the precise moment when coach Mike D'Antoni, president Donnie Walsh, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan and others emerged from a Cleveland office tower Thursday, Johnson was hunkered down in a meeting with his agent, Arn Tellem, and Hawks officials in Los Angeles. It was the second sit-down for Johnson and the team he's played with for five seasons, and it wasn't clear what more needed to be discussed regarding Atlanta's six-year, $120 million offer -- which neither the Knicks nor any other suitor can match under NBA salary rules.

But the Knicks, trying to use Johnson as an enticement to lure James to New York, jumped back into the fray with a call to Tellem after meeting with LeBron. The Knicks are "swinging away," the source said, and "need some luck."

While it seems unlikely that Johnson would turn down the Hawks' offer, Johnson was still in play as of late Thursday afternoon, when Tellem told CBSSports.com there was not yet an agreement with Atlanta. A person familiar with the discussions said there would be "no decision" Thursday from Johnson on the Hawks' offer, which is 100 percent guaranteed, according to a source.

The Knicks will meet in Chicago Friday with the other two top free agents, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

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Another Tellem client in demand is small forward Mike Miller, a 10-year veteran who shot 50 percent from the field for Washington last season. The Knicks met with him in Los Angeles Wednesday night along with Johnson, and the Lakers opened discussions with him Thursday. Discussions with the Lakers did not advance to the offer stage.

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Discussions between the Suns and Amar'e Stoudemire remain unresolved, with the issue being Suns chairman Robert Sarver's unwillingness to increase his offer from four years to five years. Stoudemire doesn't yet have an offer from the Knicks, but plans to meet with New York officials Saturday or Monday. Meanwhile, Channing Frye will be staying in Phoenix, where he intended to stay all along. The unrestricted free agent agreed to a five-year, $30 million deal, according to Yahoo! Sports.
 
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With the signing of 2008 second-round pick Nikola Pekovic to a four-year, $13 million deal and Darko Milicic to a four-year, $20 million deal, the Timberwolves are proceeding under the assumption that Al Jefferson will be traded, a person with knowledge of the team's strategy said. But with no takers yet, it is possible that the situation could drag into August, when better offers for the injury-prone power forward might be extracted.

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Anticipating the loss of Chris Bosh in free agency, the Raptors agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent Amir Johnson on a five-year, $34 million deal, a person familiar with the situation said. Johnson, a 6-9 forward who was the 56th pick by the Pistons in the 2005 draft, averaged 12.7 points and 9.8 rebounds coming off the bench last season for Toronto.

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Rudy Gay has agreed to a five-year, $82 million deal with Memphis, a move that takes the restricted free agent off the market, a person with knowledge of the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Gay had been contacted by Minnesota and was receiving significant interest from the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat and Clippers -- teams flush with cap space who viewed Gay as a consolation prize if they missed out on LeBron James. Those teams could have forced Memphis' hand with a front-loaded offer sheet the Grizzlies would've had trouble matching due to luxury-tax implications. But there's no need for that after Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace's pre-emptive strike to keep him.

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Point guard Raymond Felton has been contacted by seven teams, including the three with the most cap money who also happen to be the three he's interested in: the Knicks, Heat and Nets, CBSSports.com has learned.

Felton expects to have a decision in 2-3 days, with the understanding that the teams pursuing him have to first resolve their pursuit of top-tier free agents like James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Felton, who averaged 12.1 points and 5.6 assists for the Bobcats last season, probably won't return to Charlotte because re-signing him would push the Bobcats over the luxury tax.

The Knicks' pursuit of Felton is a strong indication of a backup plan the team is ready to carry out if it doesn't land James. Sources say team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni would then try to get a quick commitment from Felton and use a legit point guard as an enticement to one of the other free agents -- Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire. Then, the Knicks could try to add one more piece -- such as small forward Mike Miller -- before going over the cap to retain Lee, assuming they didn't have to renounce his rights to do it. If they did, the Knicks would probably have to forego one of the signings in order to fit Lee into their $34.1 million of salary-cap space.

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Minnesota's surprising four-year, $20 million commitment to Darko Milicic took them out of the Gay sweepstakes, but that didn't matter after the Grizzlies retained him with a five-year, $82 million deal Thursday. The signing of Milicic also likely removed the T-Wolves from the running for Lee, who had scheduled a visit with the Timberwolves over the weekend.

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The Magic are quietly exploring sign-and-trade scenarios that would rid the team of Vince Carter and his $17.3 million contract for next season, sources say. Short of that, team officials have indicated that they're willing to further explore more playing time for power forward Brandon Bass, who languished on the bench much of last season. The move would involve moving Rashard Lewis back to his natural small-forward. In addition to elite point guard Chris Paul, who tops his offseason wish list, Dwight Howard has told management he wants the team to pursue a post-up scorer at the power forward position. If GM Otis Smith is unable to acquire Howard's choice for that role, Carlos Boozer, the Magic could counter by utilizing Bass more than they did last season.

There are "no legs" to reports that Bass could be sent to Utah in a sign-and-trade for Boozer, a person with knowledge of Orlando's strategy said. But given Howard's preference for Boozer, it's too early to completely dismiss the scenario.

 








Posted on: February 25, 2010 5:22 pm
 

Thabeet to D-League

The Grizzlies are sending No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet to the D-League, a move that proves A) Memphis made a mistake in picking him that high; and B) The organization, to its credit, has the courage to admit that mistake.

That doesn't mean we write off Thabeet's career just because he's off to a slow start. But it was curious from the start why the Grizzlies, desperate for a spark in a struggling market, passed on hometown hero Tyreke Evans and selected Thabeet second overall in the 2009 draft. Memphis, instead, turned to Allen Iverson for that spark, and instead got a three-alarm fire that resulted in his quick dismissal from the team.

It was obvious that Thabeet, a 7-3 center from Tanzania, would be a project. But his difficult adjustment to the NBA game has redefined what a project is. In limited minutes, Thabeet has managed only two field goals in the month of February and only 15 in the calendar year -- a third of which came in the first game of 2010 on Jan. 2.

Thabeet becomes the highest draft pick ever assigned to the D-League. His assignment to the Dakota Wizards was reported first by the website RidiculousUpside.com.
Posted on: November 16, 2009 7:48 pm
 

Iverson: What's next?

Now that Allen Iverson's career with the Memphis Grizzlies has come to its predictable end, the question is: What about the rest of his career?

Is there any career left?

Crickets were all I heard in my admittedly unscientific polling of NBA front office executives Monday night as to where Iverson might go next. Nowhere for a while, seems to be the consensus. But at some point, something will happen -- an injury, for example -- and A.I. will be back in play.

"Down the road, I think so," one front-office executive said. "I say someone will take the plunge."

But who? Depends on the circumstances. And if we've learned anything from Iverson's two most recent basketball experiences, any team picking up the phone had better be doing it for the right reasons. Iverson has made it quite clear he does not view himself as a bench player, even though I believe that's a role he could've thrived in with a contending team. But if there was ever an NBA player who was built to play one way, and one way only, it was Iverson. He's not changing.

Neither I nor the basketball minds I consulted can see any viable fit for Iverson at the moment. But things change. People get hurt. Championship contenders get anxious, and teams on the cusp of making the playoffs get dazzled by the potential revenue from a few home playoff dates. As I said, though: Proceed with extreme caution.

While still with the Pistons, Iverson said last season that he'd retire before ever coming off the bench for another team. He has remained true to the spirit of that threat. And indeed, retirement may turn out to be his only option. Does anyone see Iverson as the mercenary type who'd go get lost in the oblivion of some European league just to continue playing basketball? Not me. He loves basketball, but he loves being the center of attention. Starting and scoring and trying to do the things he's done for 13 years is what drives him, not merely lacing up his sneakers just for the sake of it.

I leave you with a scenario that is purely speculation, but it's speculation offered by an Eastern Conference front office source, so it has merit from that standpoint. It's also a scenario that I'd pay to see happen, as someone who has followed Iverson from his very first significant moment on an NBA court -- the rookie game at the '97 All-Star weekend in Cleveland.

What if the Lakers at some point in the next few months become afraid of the fact that Derek Fisher isn't getting any younger? What if they come to realize that Jordan Farmar is never going to be a big-minute option at point guard on a championship contending team? What if the stars aligned for Iverson and Kobe Bryant, who came into the league together and dueled famously in that All-Star rookie game, to go out together, too?

I'm not saying it's likely, or any more likely than another scenario that might present itself. But Iverson playing with Kobe and Ron Artest? Iverson being coached by Phil Jackson? Who among us wouldn't want to see that happen? Count me in. And in the meantime, don't hold your breath waiting for another team to make the same mistake Memphis made. 

Maybe I'm a hopeless holdover from the NBA that Iverson helped create after the 76ers made him the No. 1 overall pick way back in 1996. Maybe I'm not ready to see his career come to this kind of unceremonious end. But I'm not ready to say we've seen the last of the little fella with the cornrows. Retirement doesn't suit him any more than Memphis did. 

Somebody will take the plunge. They always do.
 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com