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David Aldridge

The Dish

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Free agents Hedo Turkoglu (left) and Ben Gordon may have to wait a while before getting big paydays.
Elsa/NBAE via Getty Images

As free agency begins, fiscal patience the key

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jul 1 2009 6:38AM

With multiple players opting Monday and Tuesday not to test the NBA's free agent market by opting out of their existing contracts, there were fewer big names in the pool of potential impact players when the free agent signing period began early Wednesday morning. One of the bigger names remaining, Chicago Bulls free agent guard Ben Gordon, didn't get an offer in the early hours Wednesday, but will go to Detroit Wednesday morning to visit with the Pistons, who are expected to offer the fifth-year shooting guard a multi-year contract between $10 and $11 million annually.

The Pistons, who've cleared around $19 million in cap room, and the Trail Blazers, who have a little less than $9 million in room, were expected to be among the more aggressive teams in free agency this summer, with Portland expected to make a major push for Magic free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu, who opted out of the final year of his contract in Orlando. Portland could offer Turkoglu a five-year deal (which Turkoglu couldn't get from Orlando) worth a little more than $50 million.

Cleveland was looking to add a power forward with its mid-level exception (starting at approximately $5.6 million) in case the Cavs can't re-sign forward Anderson Varejao, who opted out of the final year of his contract and became an unrestricted free agent.

Meanwhile, according to sources, other prominent free agents, like Houston forward Ron Artest, Philadelphia guard Andre Miller and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace received some interest in the early morning hours Wednesday, but got no concrete proposals. Unlike previous years, when teams tried to get deals done quickly after the start of free agency, many teams appear this summer to be more patient, and less willing to throw big money around, especially if it gets them anywhere near the luxury tax threshhold.

Artest's situation is dicey for both the Rockets and the 29-year-old forward. Houston's world has been turned upside down in the past week after learning that star center Yao Ming's foot injury has not healed at all, has actually gotten worse and may now be career-threatening. The team is looking to find consensus on the next course of treatment for Yao, which will almost certainly involve surgery that will keep him out of action for at least the beginning of next season, if not longer.

In the meantime, Rockets GM Daryl Morey flew to Orlando Tuesday night in order to try and woo Magic free agent center Marcin Gortat. The Rockets went all out in their pursuit of Gortat, who played well for the Magic during the regular season and in the playoffs as Dwight Howard's backup center, asking fans to send Gortat a note at rocketsfanslovegortat@gmail.com expressing their interest in his coming to Houston, where he would likely replace Yao in the interim.

Gordon, the third pick overall in the 2004 draft, started his career coming off the bench. But he has become a starter for Chicago the past couple of seasons, including 76 starts this past season. He led the Bulls in scoring this season, averaging 20.7 points per game, and that average rose during Chicago's epic first-round series with Boston, when Gordon again led Chicago with a 24.3 point average.

But the Bulls and Gordon have differed for the past few seasons on what exactly Gordon's scoring is worth to the team.

Gordon and the Bulls could not reach agreement on a new contract in the summer of 2008, but the sides have offered different explanations as to why. The Bulls claimed they offered Gordon a six-year, $58 million deal; his agent has denied that Chicago came up with an offer even close to that amount. Then, Gordon's name came up in numerous trade rumors when there was speculation that the Bulls were trying to come up with a package to offer the Lakers for Kobe Bryant, who was, then, demanding a trade.

It didn't help matters that at the same time, Gordon's teammate, forward Luol Deng, was able to reach accord with the Bulls on a $71 million extension.

In the end, Gordon opted to play it out, signing a one-year, $6.4 million deal last fall that made him an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Pistons cleared $19 million in cap room under this year's $58.6 million cap (the 2009-10 cap, which should be finalized next week, is expected to fall, but only by around $1 million or so, according to a knowledgable source) when Allen Iverson's $20.8 million deal came off the team's books after midnight, and when it traded center Amir Johnson to Milwaukee as part of the three-team deal with San Antonio that sent forward Richard Jefferson to the Spurs.

Detroit got forward Fabricio Oberto back from the Bucks, but only $1.9 million of Oberto's $3.8 million salary for the upcoming season is guaranteed, and Oberto is likely to be waived. (Pistons forward/center Kwame Brown decided Monday not to opt out of the final year of his contract and will make $4 million in Detroit next season). The Pistons are also not expected to re-sign unrestricted free agent Wallace, who is mulling potential jobs with the Spurs, Magic and Celtics.

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