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2010 Free Agent Watch Archive


Posted Aug 3 2010 4:38PM

TNT analyst David Aldridge will be writing during the NBA's free agency period to offer up quick takes on the latest free agency news and breaking news updates as they happen. You can e-mail David here and follow him on twitter. For his complete story archive, click here. For more of NBA.com's Decision 2010 coverage, click here.

Shaq close to deal with Celtics
Wizards still in mix as Howard weighs options
Cavs trying to use Shaq to lure Williams
Ilgauskas to sign with Miami Heat
Jazz close to acquiring Al Jefferson from Wolves
Haslem Turns Down Larger Offers to Stick With Heat
Suns to Acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress
Tony Allen to sign with Grizzlies
Will Jazz match Blazers' offer sheet on Matthews?
Mavs continue pursuit of Wolves' Jefferson
Bobcats, Thomas agree on five-year deal
Knicks' Walsh refutes retirement report
David Lee heading to Golden State in sign-and-trade
Haywood, Mavs agree on $55 million deal
Celtics reach agreement on two-year deal with Ray Allen
Still no decision from 'Melo on extension
Hawks showing interest in bringing Shaq to Atlanta
Cavs confident about LeBron; Stoudemire, D'Antoni mend fences
Rasheed rethinking retirement? Dirk re-ups wth Dallas
Blake to accept four-year deal with Lakers
Wade taking second meeting with Bulls
Heat to meet with Brendan Haywood
Lakers deny talk of deal with guard Miller
Gay spurns others, re-signs with Griz for $82 million
Bucks close in on deal with sharpshooter Salmons
Hawks make their move on Johnson
Breaking down the money of the Miami Big 3

Shaq "close" to deal with Celtics

-Desperate for frontcourt depth and intrigued by what the self-described "Most Dominant Ever" big man has left in his 38-year-old tank, the Boston Celtics were "close" on Tuesday, according to a league source, to signing center Shaquille O'Neal for next season.

The Celtics, the source said, have told O'Neal that he has to come off the bench next season, and that O'Neal said he could accept a reserve role for the first time in his career. The three-time Finals MVP has not had many suitors this summer that had either the playing time or money to offer him, and O'Neal is running out of places that can give him a chance to compete for a championship as his career draws to a close.

Boston was leery of signing O'Neal because if he became unhappy with his role, that unhappiness could pervade the entire team, as the Celtics believe happened with O'Neal in some of his previous stops in recent seasons. O'Neal started in his one season last year with the Cavaliers, including after his return from a right thumb injury that kept him out of the final five weeks of the regular season.

Sources have indicated that Cleveland Coach Mike Brown's decision to play O'Neal ahead of forward J.J. Hickson and veteran big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas caused friction within the Cavaliers' locker room.

O'Neal averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Cavaliers, shooting a still-robust 56.6 percent from the floor, and seemed to mesh reasonably well with LeBron James. Brown, who was fired after Cleveland's second-round loss to Boston in the playoffs, mixed and matched lineups throughout the regular season, including playing O'Neal and Ilgauskas together at times. Until the loss to the Celtics, there wasn't much complaining about his use of O'Neal.

O'Neal has told associates for several weeks that he thought he could help the Celtics, who will be without starting center Kendrick Perkins for most of, if not all, of next season after tearing his MCL and PCL in Game 6 of the Finals last June against the Lakers. Perkins underwent surgery two weeks ago, and while he hopes to play next season, the Celtics aren't optimistic that he'll be able to contribute much. In the interim, veteran center Jermaine O'Neal--signed to a two-year deal earlier this summer--will start at center for Boston.

Boston is two big men down after Perkins's injury and the retirement of Rasheed Wallace, who has given the team no indication that he's re-considering his decision.

Both Boston and O'Neal are motivated to make this arrangement work. The Celtics still need big bodies to deal with the likes of Dwight Howard in the east, and the Lakers' Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum if they were to make the Finals again next year. Without Perkins on the floor, Boston was bludgeoned 53-40 on the glass, giving up 23 offensive rebounds, in the decisive Game 7 loss to Los Angeles. For his part, O'Neal still wants a chance at a fifth NBA championship, especially now that Kobe Bryant has five and is going for a Threepeat next season as the unquestioned leader of the Lakers.

Comcast SportsNet Boston first reported that the Celtics were near a deal with O'Neal.

-- posted 8/3/10, 4:38 p.m.

Wizards still in mix as Howard weighs options

- Free agent forward Josh Howard still is seriously considering re-signing with the Washington Wizards, despite the team having renounced its rights to him earlier this month, and despite Washington's being in rebuilding mode, according to a source with knowledge of Howard's thinking.

The 30-year-old is also considering the Celtics and Bulls, playoff teams that would seem to have distinct advantages over the rebuilding Wizards, and the Knicks are making their pitch today at the Vegas Summer League. But monetary and loyalty concerns have combined to keep Washington in the mix. Howard appeared in just four games for Washington after being acquired from Dallas as part of a seven-player trade for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson before suffering a torn ACL in a game in late February. Howard is not expected to be back for the start of next season but should be back on the court before the All-Star break.

The Wizards renounced their rights to him last week in order to facilitate the trade that brought guard Kirk Hinrich and the rights to first-round pick Kevin Seraphin from Chicago. That means Washington no longer has "Bird rights" for Howard. But the Wizards could re-sign Howard if he opted to come back. And Washington still has a need at small forward, with Al Thornton the current starter on the depth chart.

"Josh has an appreciation for them having gotten him from Dallas," the source said. "He feels a sense of loyalty and gratefulness to them."

But the reality is that the Wizards can make an offer to Howard that is competitive with what Chicago can give, and more than what the Celtics can currently give.

Washington has a little less than $9 million in available cap space with the salaries of Hinrich, forward Yi Jianlian, rookies John Wall and Seraphin and veteran center Hilton Armstrong on the roster, giving Washington 11 players, one short of the offseason minimum 12 required. The Wizards are not expected to use anything near all of it.

The Bulls have eight players under contract after signing free agents Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and center Omar Asik. That number does not included Orlando restricted free agent guard J.J. Redick, who got a three-year, $20 million offer sheet last week from Chicago. If Orlando matches the sheet, the Bulls would have about $14 million in cap space left to sign four players to reach the minimum, including Howard. If the Magic pass on the offer sheet, the Bulls would have about $7 million in remaining cap space.

After using its mid-level exception on free agent Jermaine O'Neal, and not being able to use its biannual exception after using it on Marquis Daniels last season, the Celtics would only be able to offer Howard the veteran's minimum of $1.146 million for next season.

Boston would like to use the contract of Rasheed Wallace, who has told the Celtics he will retire, to get a trade exception. If Boston sends Wallace's contract to another team -- which could remove the salary from its cap as long as Wallace stays retired -- for a draft pick, the Celtics could get a trade exception for as much as the $6.3 million Wallace was due to receive.

The problem for Boston is that even if it could get that exception, the Wizards can't execute a trade involving Howard until December under collective bargaining rules.

New York has used its massive cap space to trade for Amar'e Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuilke, signed free agent guard Raymond Felton to a three-year, $22 million deal last weekend and signed Russian center Timofey Mozgov on Monday.

-- posted 7/13/10, 2:10 p.m.

Cavs trying to use Shaq to lure Williams

- The Cleveland Cavaliers' pursuit of Hawks swingman Marvin Williams centers at the moment on trying to convince the Hawks to do a sign-and-trade deal that would send Shaquille O'Neal to Atlanta, according to a league source.

The Hawks do have an interest in the 38-year-old O'Neal, who is not likely to return to Cleveland next season. But Atlanta has budget limitations after agreeing to give guard Joe Johnson a $124 million max contract, with ownership unlikely to approve a deal for O'Neal or any other backup center that goes much above the veteran minimum. The Hawks are also interested in free agent center Brad Miller and Bucks free agent center Kurt Thomas.

Cleveland got a $14.5 million trade exception by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal for LeBron James to Miami, in addition to two future draft picks from the Heat. The Cavs could use part of the exception to absorb Williams's $6.7 million salary for next season.

Atlanta also got a trade exception, worth about $2.9 million, when it agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that will send free agent forward Josh Childress to the Phoenix Suns for a future draft pick, and can use that exception to acquire a player making that much money. O'Neal made $20 million last year in the final year of his contract but knows he will have to take a major pay cut next season. He has expressed an interest in playing for the Spurs, though it is not known if San Antonio's interest, if any, is reciprocal.

The Cavaliers' interest in the 24-year-old Williams, first reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, would make sense. The Cavs' new general manager, Chris Grant, was working as the Hawks' assistant GM when Atlanta took Williams with the second pick overall in the 2005 Draft, opting to take him over point guards Deron Williams (who went third to Utah) and Chris Paul (fourth to New Orleans). Williams started 81 games for the Hawks last season, averaging 10 points per game.

It would also be in line with new coach Byron Scott's desire to have a more up-tempo attack next season with James departed to Miami. Scott has already indicated that J.J. Hickson will be the full-time starter at power forward next season, and said during Tuesday's NBA TV Las Vegas Summer League game between the Cavaliers and the D-League Select Team that he is contemplating bringing veteran forward Antawn Jamison off the bench.

"That's always been my M.O.," Scott said afterward. "I always want to go up and down the floor. For so many years, that's been such an effective way of playing basketball. But not forgetting that you still have to defend people and you've still got to rebound the ball if you want to be successful. That's been my goal from day one as a coach. And I had a lot of success in Jersey doing just that, and a lot of success in New Orleans doing that. So I figure if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it."

Cleveland's commitment to a faster squad was also clear in its four-year offer sheet late Tuesday night to Rockets' restricted free agent guard Kyle Lowry, who had next to no luck getting an offer from Houston during the first week of free agency. The Rockets have indicated that they'll match any offer for either Lowry or forward Luis Scola, also a restricted free agent. The Rockets lost out in their pursuit of Chris Bosh, who they wanted to pair next to Yao Ming next season. Yao is back on the practice court and is expected to be ready for training camp after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

-- posted 7/13/10, 10:36 a.m.

Ilgauskas to sign with Miami Heat

- Zydrunas Ilgauskas is following LeBron James to the Miami Heat.

The veteran center, who started playing for Cleveland in 1997 and has never suited up for another NBA team, expects to sign a two-year contract for $2.8 million with the Heat later this week, agent Herb Rudoy said Tuesday. The two-year deal would come with a player option for the second season, Rudoy said.

Ilgauskas is the Cavs' career leader in games played, blocked shots and rebounds. The 7-foot-3 Lithuanian was drafted by the club in 1996 and overcame serious foot injuries that nearly ended his career.

"I don't think if LeBron weren't there, this would be happening." Rudoy said. "His best chance to win a championship would be in Miami."

Ilgauskas told Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant the news on Tuesday. James played a role in luring Ilgauskas to Miami, and other teams were interested as well.

Jazz close to acquiring Al Jefferson from Wolves

- The Utah Jazz, needing to show both their fans and their remaining star Deron Williams that it can overcome the loss of both Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, was close Monday night to acquiring forward Al Jefferson from the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package that is believed to only include, at present, draft picks, according to several league sources. The Jazz would absorb Jefferson's $13 million salary for next season into the large trade exception they received last week by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal for Boozer, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Bulls.

Talks picked up between the teams on Monday, and while the deal was not officially done Monday night, discussions were "percolating," according to a league source. Jazz CEO Greg Miller Tweeted Monday night, "I just approved a Jazz roster move that I'm very excited about. Planning to share details tomorrow."

Jefferson's low-post skills would certainly replace Boozer's nicely, and allow Utah to continue using Paul Millsap as a key reserve off the bench instead of having to make him the full-time starter.

The 25-year-old Jefferson averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds last season in Minnesota, returning from a season-ending ACL tear in early 2009. But he struggled to find a comfort zone with fellow young forward Kevin Love, and the Wolves made no secret of the fact that they would likely have to move one or the other this offseason.

Dallas made a major push for Jefferson, but as was reported Saturday, the Wolves had no interest in taking on the contracts of guards DeShawn Stevenson and Matt Carroll, while Dallas was reluctant to use the non-guaranteed contract of center Erick Dampier as a chip to acquire Jefferson.

A league source said Saturday that the Jazz's ownership has okayed paying luxury tax for a second straight year as long as the expenses don't get out of hand. Utah was a tax payer last year when it matched the $34 million offer sheet for Millsap from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Utah is also in the midst of deciding whether to match another offer sheet from Portland, which gave guard Wes Matthews a five-year, $34 million contract over the weekend. The Jazz has until next Monday to decide whether to match on Matthews, who became Utah's starting shooting guard after the Jazz traded Ronnie Brewer to Memphis for a future draft pick.

That trade annoyed Williams, who indicated that his uncertainty about whether the Jazz could keep its team together was why he only signed a three-year contract extension.

Haslem Turns Down Larger Offers to Stick With Heat

-Miami Heat free agent forward/center Udonis Haslem has opted to remain with the Heat, according to a source, turning down bigger offers for the full mid-level exception from the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets. Immediate terms of Haslem's new deal with the Heat were not available.

The Heat viewed keeping Haslem as a must, even after signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh and re-signing Dwyane Wade last week. The 30-year-old's experience and toughness in the paint made him more necessary than ever next season, with Bosh not looking to play center on a regular basis and less able to guard physical post players than Haslem, who's spend all seven of his NBA seasons in Miami since signing as a free agent out of Florida in 2003.

Haslem averaged 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds last season for Miami.

In an e-mail to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Monday, Haslem said, "Turned down full mid level from Dallas and Denver. See u next season."

The Mavericks and Nuggets both are seeking additional big men, though Denver's need is more immediate with Kenyon Martin out for several months, if not all of next season, after a knee injury, and Chris Andersen recovering from offseason surgery. The Heat had less than the mid-level to offer Haslem but did have some room after James, Wade and Bosh each took less than the max to sign in Miami. The Heat wants to use that room to sign both Haslem and free agent forward Mike Miller.

-- posted 7/11/10, 4:37 p.m.

Suns to Acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress

-The Phoenix Suns didn't want their summer to be defined by losing Amar'e Stoudemire to the New York Knicks, and they made sure of it Sunday night with two major deals, acquiring veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu from the Toronto Raptors for guard Leandro Barbosa and agreeing to a trade with the Atlanta Hawks that will bring restricted free agent Josh Childress, whose rights the Hawks still hold, to Phoenix in exchange for a second-round pick. Childress will receive a five-year, $34 million deal from Phoenix.

Turkoglu and Childress were both coveted by the Suns' former general manager, Steve Kerr, and even after his departure the club went ahead and got both players, who will bring much-needed depth to one of the league's older teams and provide help in several ways for Steve Nash and Grant Hill next season. The Arizona Republic first reported the Turkoglu acquisition and Yahoo! Sports first reported the Childress trade.

Because Phoenix received an eight-figure trade exception for agreeing to give Stoudemire an extra year on his $100 million contract, the Suns could bring in Turkoglu's $9.8 million salary for next season while only giving away Barbosa's $7.1 million contract, the final year of his deal.

A source said that Suns coach Alvin Gentry had also been "a big Childress guy" for many years and wanted to have more depth and flexibility on the roster next season. Phoenix played most of the postseason with just a 10-man rotation and felt it needed to get younger and deeper with the 36-year-old Nash and the 37-year-old Hill both expected to log big minutes again next year, and with starting two-guard Jason Richardson entering the last year of his contract. The 31-year-old Turkoglu and the 27-year-old Childress, who has played the last two seasons for Olympiacos in Greece, fit the bill, and also provide more pieces in case the Suns try to make another major acquisition down the road.

Phoenix had already signed free agent forward Hakim Warrick to a four-year, $18 million contract this summer, but ''we didn't want to fall off the earth with Amar'e leaving," a Suns source said.

Turkoglu will likely start at Stoudemire's power forward position next season and that will give the Suns a very different look at that spot and also give them more options. The 6-8 Turkoglu excelled as a playmaker for the Magic in the playoffs in 2009, running the pick-and-roll with All-Pro center Dwight Howard relentlessly in Orlando's Eastern Conference finals win over the Cavs. In Phoenix, he could have a similar role that would allow Nash to play more off the ball and not have as much pressure game in and out as the team's chief ballhandler.

Turkoglu signed a five-year, $53-million deal with the Raptors last summer, a seeming perfect match for the Turkish star, whose wife loved the cosmopolitan nature of Toronto. In doing so Turkoglu abruptly left the Portland Trail Blazers at the aisle, after the Blazers thought they had reached agreement on a free agent deal with him.

But Toronto turned out to be a nightmare for Turkoglu, who never meshed with Chris Bosh and who was caught in an incident where he had said he was too ill to play a game, but was seen later that evening at a local nightclub. Turkoglu initially said he wanted to be traded from the Raptors, then recanted and the team had indicated as recently as Saturday that it planned to bring Turkoglu back into the fold next season.

But the Suns' interest in him made a deal happen very quickly.

Childress had an NBA out in his contract with Olympiacos, but had to exercise it by Thursday or return to Olympiacos for a third and final season. He signed a three-year, $20 million deal with the Greek team in 2008.

Once the Hawks committed to re-signing Joe Johnson for a max-level, $124 million deal, Atlanta had no chance to re-sign Childress. Several teams inquired about Childress but were hoping to sign him for the $5.8 mid-level exception and thought he would likely command more money with so many teams having cleared significant salary cap room this summer.

Barbosa, 27, acquired in a Draft day deal from the Spurs in 2003, had moments of brilliance with the Suns, most notably in the 2005 playoffs, when he helped bring Phoenix back from a 3-1 deficit in the first round against the Lakers to win in seven games. His speed with the ball made him one of the league's most dangerous players in the open court. But injuries had slowed his effectiveness in recent seasons, and the emergence of Goran Dragic down the stretch and in the playoffs last year took away a lot of Barbosa's minutes.

Tony Allen to sign with Memphis


- The Boston Celtics had had a pretty solid summer retaining some of their key components from last season's Finals team, but they lost one of their top reserves Sunday when guard Tony Allen agreed to a three-year, $9.7 million offer from the Memphis Grizzlies, a league source confirmed.

Allen was key during Boston's run to the Finals, guarding the likes of LeBron James, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant with next to no help during several stretches of play, and providing unexpected offense on occasion for the Celtics. Allen and Glen Davis were instrumental in Boston's Game 4 win over the Lakers in the Finals that tied the series at two games apiece. He shot 51 percent from the floor for Boston, averaging 6.7 points per game, and had shown increased maturity and consistency this season.

The Celtics wanted to re-sign Allen, but were unwilling to give him a third guaranteed year. The most Boston offered was a two-year, $5.2 million offer, with a partial guaranteed third year. At that point the 28-year-old Allen decided to entertain the Memphis offer, which has no partial guarantees or team options. The Grizzlies like the toughness that Allen is expected to bring to Memphis as a reserve behind guard O.J. Mayo and small forward Rudy Gay, who agreed to an $82 million deal earlier this month.

Yahoo! Sports first reported Allen's deal with Memphis.

Will Jazz match Blazers' offer sheet on Matthews?

- The Utah Jazz will begin contemplating whether to match the five-year, $33 million offer sheet that the Portland Trail Blazers gave to restricted free agent guard Wesley Matthews on Monday, according to a league source. Utah had not yet officially received the sheet Saturday afternoon; teams have seven official days from the receipt of a sheet to decide whether or not to match it, meaning the Jazz's clock will probably start on Monday.

Utah expected someone to go after Matthews, but was stunned when Matthews, who averaged 9.4 points as a rookie last season, got such a rich offer.

The basic issue for Utah, which has already lost Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver in free agency, is if it wants to use its mid-level exception, in essence, on Matthews, who became one of Coach Jerry Sloan's favorites last season as a hardnosed defender. The undrafted guard took over as the starter at shooting guard after Utah traded Ronnie Brewer to Memphis last February, and the Jazz was hoping to re-sign him at a price well below the $5.8 million mid-level exception price.

But Portland, which seemingly has a logjam at the wing positions with Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless splitting minutes at the two and three, came after Matthews, just as the Blazers signed forward Paul Millsap to an offer sheet last July. Utah matched, knowing that it would be unlikely to keep Boozer past last season. Boozer signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Bulls last week.

The Blazers frontloaded the contract as allowed under league rules, adding a $3.4 million signing bonus that has to be paid as well as the $5.8 million in salary, for a total hit of $9.2 million in the first year. It was not known if that amount had to be paid within a week of the Jazz matching the offer, a common practice that the signing team puts into a contract to make it difficult for the incumbent team to match.

A factor in Utah's favor is that by losing both Boozer and Korver, the Jazz should not be a luxury tax payer next season even if it matches the sheet on Matthews. The team's ownership, the family of the late Larry Miller, has okayed paying tax this coming season within reason just as it did last year.

But Utah had hoped to use the mid-level on a big man this summer, knowing that it would probably have to replace Boozer and with starting center Mehmet Okur unlikely to be ready for the start of next season following an achilles' injury. Matching the sheet on Matthews would remove that option.

Several outlets had reported that Portland was preparing an offer sheet for Matthews; Yahoo! Sports was first to provide details of the contract.

Mavs, Timberwolves still talking Jefferson deal

- The Dallas Mavericks are continuing their pursuit of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Al Jefferson, according to sources, but talks between the teams have stalled due to Dallas' insistence that the Wolves take on contracts other than that of center Erick Dampier.

Sources say the Mavericks want Minnesota to take on the contracts of guards DeShawn Stevenson (set to make $4.1 million next season) and Matt Carroll (who has three years and $11.7 million remaining on his deal), and are reluctant to send Dampier to Minnesota for Jefferson, whom the Wolves have been shopping for several weeks, and who has three years and $42 million left on his deal. But Minnesota has no interest in either player, with point guards Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions on the roster, having acquired shooting guard Martell Webster from Portland in a Draft day trade and taking swingman Wes Johnson fourth overall in the first round.

The Wolves also acquired second-year forward Michael Beasley from Miami Thursday night, making their already-crowded frontcourt even more stuffed. Minnesota has already given center Darko Milicic a new four-year, $20 million deal this summer, and plans to bring 6-11 center prospect Nikola Pekovic from overseas to the NBA for next season to try and get minutes on top of forward Kevin Love.

Dampier's contract is valuable because his $13 million salary is not guaranteed for next season; he had to play in at least 70 games or 2,100 minutes last season, and wound up playing only 54 games and 1,280 minutes. The Mavericks aren't completely averse to putting his contract in a deal for Jefferson but would prefer to hold onto to it to use in other potential deals.

The Mavericks have re-signed franchise player Dirk Nowitzki (four years, $80 million) and starting center Brendan Haywood (six years, $55 million) to long-term contracts this summer. If Dallas acquired Jefferson it would have one of the biggest and deepest frontcourts in the league, perhaps capable of matching up with the likes of the Lakers in the playoffs.

Bobcats, Thomas agree on five-year deal

-The Charlotte Bobcats beat out the New Jersey Nets for the services of their free agent forward Tyrus Thomas, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $40 million deal, according to league sources. The deal is fully guaranteed with no partial language or team options late in the deal.

The Nets were expected to drop an offer sheet on Thomas any day now, but the Bobcats short-circuited the process by aggressively courting Thomas, who was acquired from the Bulls at the trade deadline last February for Flip Murray, Acie Law and a future first-round pick.

The 24-year-old Thomas, the fourth pick overall in the 2006 draft, played off the bench and was a major energy provider down the stretch last season for Charlotte, which made the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

But Charlotte, obviously, expects Thomas to challenge starter Boris Diaw next season. Thomas averaged 10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in nearly 22 minutes a game for the Bobcats.

The news on free agent guard Raymond Felton may not be as good, however. Discussions between the team and Felton's agent have been stuck for more than a year, with Felton signing a one-year deal last season, and both sides appear destined for a divorce. Felton has already visited the Knicks and Heat, and New York certainly has extensive cap space after losing out on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, despite signing Amare Stoudemire to a five-year, $100 million deal.

Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has made it clear that he is not going to pay luxury tax next season, and Charlotte is getting closer and closer to the tax threshhold after agreeing to terms with Thomas.

Knicks' Walsh: 'I am not retiring'

- New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh denied a New York Post story Friday that he was planning to retire because of health reasons and because of the team's failure to land LeBron James in free agency. Walsh had neck surgery two weeks ago to remove bone spurs and had to use a wheelchair when he and the Knicks' party met James in Ohio last week to make New York's pitch. Walsh also has survived oral cancer, having had the front tip of his tongue removed in 2008.

"I am not retiring," Walsh said in a text to TNT's David Aldridge Friday morning. "I did have an operation on my neck which was successful, and I am continuing to work the offseason to improve our team."

The Knicks spent the last two seasons clearing enough cap room to make a run at James, the two-time MVP who announced Thursday night that he would be going to the Heat next season along with free agent forward Chris Bosh. New York hoped to land James and another max-level free agent, but were only able to get one, former Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, agreeing to a five-year, $100 million deal with him. On Thursday, the Knicks agreed to a sign and trade of their All-Star forward David Lee to Golden State for forwards Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf, and swingman Kelenna Azubuilke, along with a second-round pick. Lee will get a six-year, $80 million deal from the Warriors.

Walsh's plan since he arrived in New York in 2008 was to tear the team's roster down, and he accomplished that, along with hiring coach Mike D'Antoni. But he was not able to land James, and the Post claimed that he would leave because of that failure. Walsh said he wrote the author, longtime NBA reporter Peter Vescey, and told him his sources were wrong.

"I am not retiring," Walsh said in the e-mail. "There is no correlation with my neck and my tongue and I am working hard."

-- posted 7/9/10, 1:09 p.m.

Lee to Warriors now a go after LeBron spurns Knicks

-The agent for New York Knicks free agent forward David Lee insisted Thursday afternoon that there was no sign and trade deal in place that would send Lee to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for forwards Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuke, center Ronny Turiaf and a second-round Draft pick.

"There is nothing at all in place right now," Mark Bartlestein told TNT's David Aldridge via text.

Reports say that Lee would get a five- or six-year contact in the deal at the $13 million per season he's been seeking.

Phoenix and Minnesota, among many other teams, have been recruiting Lee, who made the All-Star team last season and finished second in the NBA in defensive rebounds.

The Knicks, though, have to wait until tonight, when LeBron James formally announces where he's playing next season, before they can execute a deal for Lee. If James goes to New York the Knicks can move forward, but if James goes to Miami or Cleveland the Knizks may try to re-sign Lee themselves.

UPDATE: With LeBron choosing the Miami Heat, the Knicks and Warriors will in fact consummate a trade that will send David Lee to Golden State in a sign-and-trade arrangement for Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf, and a second-round pick in 2011. Lee will receive a six-year, $80 million contract.

-- posted 7/8/10, 5:10 p.m.

Mavs, Haywood agree on six-year contract

- A league source tells TNT's David Aldridge that Mavericks free-agent center Brendan Haywood is returning to Dallas on a six-year, $55 million deal. The sixth season is not fully guaranteed, but the deal also includes more than $7 million in potential incentives for Haywood, one of the top centers available on the market.

Haywood had been courted by several teams, including Miami and Cleveland, who were interested in the 30-year-old center to provide low-post defense and shot blocking at the rim. The Heat visited Haywood last weekend in North Carolina, and the Cavaliers were hopeful that Haywood would replace Shaquille O'Neal. But Haywood enjoyed playing in Dallas last season after he, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson were acquired from Washington at in a trade-deadline deal that sent Josh Howard to the Wizards.

Haywood split time with Erick Dampier at center in Dallas last season, but will be the full-time starter next season. The Mavericks are expected to trade Dampier, whose contract is not guaranteed next season, in an effort to add perimeter shooting and scoring. They had hoped to get guard Joe Johnson, but he opted to remain in Atlanta after receiving a $119 million max offer.

-- posted 7/8/10, 2:00 p.m.

Celtics, Ray Allen agree on two-year deal

- A league source tells TNT's David Aldridge that the Boston Celtics finalized keeping most of their core group from the team that made the Finals by reaching agreement Wednesday with guard Ray Allen on a two-year, $20 million deal.

The deal has a player option for the second season, and will pay Allen $10 million each year.

Boston reached agreement last week with forward Paul Pierce on a four year deal worth $61 million. Earlier,

Coach Doc Rivers announced he would return next season for the final year of his contract.

-- posted 7/7/10, 9:30 p.m.

Still no decision from 'Melo on extension

- A source involved in the discussions between Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets on a contract extension said Tuesday afternoon there has been "no decision yet" by Anthony about whether to accept the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million offer.

The Denver Post reported Tuesday that Anthony was likely to take the Nuggets' offer, but wanted to see what Denver's front office did to improve the team before committing fully. Anthony is getting married to his longtime girlfriend LaLa Vasquez this weekend as well.

The Nuggets desperately need to improve their frontcourt depth going into next season. Starting forward Kenyon Martin is trying to recover from a patella tendon injury and will miss much, if not all, of next season, and reserve center Chris "Birdman" Anderson is recovering from offseason surgery. Normally a player like Martin, entering the final year of his contract, would be a valuable chip for a team to include in a trade, because even if he doesn't play next season, insurance normally covers 80 percent of the salary of a player who misses more than 41 consecutive games.

But it's uncertain whether a team could get insurance on Martin's knee now, given the extent of the injury.

Anthony said during the Finals that the Nuggets "have to do something" in the offseason, comparing Denver's relative inactivity to that of the Lakers (who signed Ron Artest last summer) and Celtics (Rasheed Wallace).

"They definitely made moves to better themselves," Anthony said, "to get them to the championship series. If that's what we want to do, and that's everybody's goal, that's what everybody says. But first you have to do something. We have pieces. If we get one or two more pieces in there, that'll work for our team and everything will be good. I wouldn't say blow it up."

-- posted 7/6/10, 7:10 p.m.

Hawks show interest in bringing Shaq to Atlanta

-An NBA source confirmed a FanHouse.com report Monday evening that the Atlanta Hawks have an interest in signing free agent center Shaquille O'Neal, and sources have told NBA.com's Sekou Smith that the team has discussed a two-year deal worth $11.7 million for O'Neal. However, the source cautioned that the Hawks' interest in the 38-year-old O'Neal is "preliminary" and that the team, no matter what big man it brings in, has no intention of moving All-Star center Al Horford to power forward in any scenario.

The source said the Hawks' interest in O'Neal is not significantly greater than the team's interest in other free agent centers like Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Brad Miller, and that the team has just begun examining whether it needs another big man to play with Horford and backup Zaza Pachulia, who Atlanta likes a great deal as a reserve. However, the possibility exists that Hawks ownership may view O'Neal as an attractive component next season and could be driving the team's pursuit of the 15-time All-Star and two-time Finals MVP.

And given that ownership just stepped up to the plate and okayed Joe Johnson's six-year, $119 million contract, it may have some additional leeway.

O'Neal indicated during the playoffs that he thought he could play one or two more seasons as a starter. His one-season stint with the Cavaliers had some solid moments, and O'Neal did not play badly in the playoffs, averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds for Cleveland on 66 percent shooting from the floor. But he could not stop the Cavs' collapse in the second round against the Celtics and whether he returns to Cleveland next season is a major question. Sources indicate the Cavaliers are very interested in Dallas free agent center Brendan Haywood. O'Neal could also have other options of his own as well.

The Hawks also do not want to mess too much with a team that won 53 games in the regular season, even though Atlanta was taken apart by Orlando in the second round. There have been murmurs that the Hawks are shopping forward Josh Smith, who had one of his best seasons last year. However, a source with knowledge of the Hawks' thinking said that the team would only contemplate moving Smith for a major, star player at power forward.

Now that Johnson is back in the fold, Atlanta's major change for next season will be getting more playing time for second-year point guard Jeff Teague, who will likely take up many of the minutes from veteran Mike Bibby.

-- posted 7/5/10, 9:55 p.m.

Cavs confident in LeBron; Amar'e, D'Antoni mend fences

- Uncertainty is the new normal in the NBA.

A week ago, everyone just knew that the Heat were going to not only keep Dwyane Wade, but Wade was bringing LeBron James and Chris Bosh with him. And everyone knew James was out of Cleveland. And everyone just knew that the Knicks were dead in the water and wouldn't be able to attract anyone of import, even with two max-level contracts to offer.

Just imagine what we'll know next week.

Never have so many guessed so incorrectly so often.

In comes the Independence Day weekend, and all of a sudden, the Cavaliers are not only privately, quietly confident that they've managed, somehow, to stem the tide, and have a good shot of keeping James, but have ideas of fixing the rest of their roster next season with the likes of Ray Allen and Brendan Haywood. The Knicks are on the verge of landing Amar'e Stoudemire, who's bragging that he can deliver Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker -- more on that below -- and still hold out hopes that they can somehow get James.

With James at his Nike Skills Academy camp for the next two days, and reportedly not ready to announce his decision before the end of the camp Wednesday, the big fish are in a holding pattern of sorts, still not able to form alliances until they know for sure where James is heading. But it's been a good week for the incumbent team.

Hiring Byron Scott as coach -- at best, the team's third choice -- might wind up being the coagulant that stopped the bleeding that began with the sudden loss in the Eastern semifinals to the Celtics, the firing of coach Mike Brown and the decision under duress by former GM Danny Ferry to leave. With stability at coach, the Cavs could finally show James an idea of where they're heading as a team.

And knowing his idiosyncrasies better than anyone, the Saturday meeting felt -- one person who was privy to details of the meeting said -- like talking to family.

The source said that while the Cavs cannot be overconfident, it cannot be forgotten that as other teams sell the hope of success, Cleveland has actual results to show James. The Cavaliers won 66 and 61 games the past two regular seasons and while James was the obvious catalyst, other players that will be present next season -- including Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson -- did play a role in the team's success.

The Cavs "like the hand they're playing with" with James, the source said.

Meanwhile, the Knicks were hoping that a Monday meeting with Stoudemire would solidify their status as front-runners for the All-Star forward's services. The enmity that Stoudemire and coach Mike D'Antoni had for one another at the end of D'Antoni's stay in Phoenix has been rubbed smooth by both of their struggles the last two years. When D'Antoni left Phoenix, he "hadn't been part of selling his soul to (stink) for free agency," a longtime co-worker said over the weekend, "and gotten shut out (for premier players) then."

As for Stoudemire, "one-hundred million [dollars] makes it easy for Amar'e to go back to Mike," says another longtime witness to their relationship. "And I guess Mike figures Amar'e may help him recruit another big fish."

Indeed, Stoudemire, who met with D'Antoni for breakfast Sunday, according to multiple reports, says he has the inside skinny on how to land Anthony and Parker. This would be fine, except Anthony and Parker are both under contract for one more year. And the Spurs, I've gotten word, have zero interest in a sign-and-trade deal for free-agent forward David Lee in any kind of package for Parker.

The Knicks may well be going in another direction anyway, with murmurs around the league increasing about a potential deal with Golden State that would involve either guard Monta Ellis or center Andris Biedrins going to Gotham, with Lee going to the Warriors in a sign-and-trade.

A source cautioned that there was a lot of different scenarios for Lee, including signing straight into one or more team's existing cap space, and that Lee might have a decision to make in the next day or so as teams tire of waiting for the big fish to make up their minds.

"The temperature has definitely risen in the last day or so," the source said about the pursuit of Lee.

-- posted 7/5/10, 1:41 p.m.

Rasheed rethinking retirement? Dirk re-ups with Dallas

- With Doc Rivers deciding to return to the Celtics next season, and Boston close to re-signing Paul Pierce to a four-year deal, a source said Saturday night that there is a "possibility" that veteran forward Rasheed Wallace could re-think his decision last month to retire after 15 NBA seasons. The Celtics believed Wallace would retire after the team's seven-game Finals loss to the Lakers, and he appeared to make the decision final a week or so later.

Because Wallace had two years and $13 million (including $6.32 million next season) remaining on his deal when he retired, the Celtics have been looking into moving his contract to another team, which would then get the savings from Wallace's cap number, in exchange for assets. But obviously, if Wallace decides to play next season, that team wouldn't get the money off of its cap.

Rivers decided to return for the last year of his contract last week, after his family members encouraged him to come back and give it one more try with his veteran team next year. That was followed by Pierce quickly getting close to a four-year contract worth more than $60 million with Boston.

The potential development with Wallace came on a day that the Mavericks, in a hardly surprising result, reached terms with former MVP Dirk Nowitzki on a four-year deal worth $80 million. Like Pierce, Nowitzki opted out of the final year of his contract, leaving $21.5 million on the table, seemingly in order to get one last long-term deal before 2011, when the likelihood of a lockout by the owners is significant.

Negotiations between Nowitzki and the Mavericks took only one day, with his representatives and the Mavericks reaching agreement quickly. Nowitzki could have gotten a maximum of $96 million from Dallas, but left some money on the table in order to allow the team to have more room to sign other players, including free agent center Brendan Haywood. Haywood met Saturday with the Heat in North Carolina and has interest from a number of other teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.

ESPN.com first reported the agreement between the Mavericks and Nowitzki.

-- posted 7/3/10, 10:15 p.m.

Blake to accept four-year deal with Lakers

-The Los Angeles Lakers did not wait long to replace free agent guard Jordan Farmar, reaching into their fellow Staples Center occupants' locker room to poach veteran guard Steve Blake from the Clippers. The two sides have agreed on a four-year, $16 million deal, Blake's agent confirmed, which is fully guaranteed with no options for either side.

Blake will almost certainly take Farmar's place next season backing up Derek Fisher, who is also a free agent but is expected to re-sign with the two-time defending champions. The Lakers didn't place a qualifying offer on Farmar before the start of the free agent period, making him an unrestricted free agent. Blake also had interest from the Knicks and other teams but the opportunity to play for the Lakers was too enticing.

The 30-year-old Blake has played for five NBA teams since being drafted in the first round in 2003 by the Washington Wizards, with career averages of 7.5 points and 4.3 assists per game. He started last season in Portland, where he started for most of the first half of the season for the Trail Blazers, but the injury-riddled Blazers, desperate for a big man after season-ending injuries to Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla, dealt Blake at the trade deadline to the Clippers along with forward Travis Outlaw for center Marcus Camby.

Blake first disclosed the deal Friday afternoon during an interview on Portland radio station KXTG-FM.

-- posted 7/2/10, 6:40 p.m.

Wade taking second meeting with Bulls

-In a development Pat Riley no doubt does not want to hear, a source confirmed a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report that Heat free agent guard Dwyane Wade is meeting with the Bulls in Chicago for a second time in 24 hours tonight, along with his agent, Henry Thomas. Wade had met with the Bulls for two hours Thursday and visited the United Center and met team officials, but a second meeting so soon with his agent is an indication that the two sides are past the pleasantries stage and are ready to engage in more substantive discussions.

The Bulls have, of course, cleared out around $30 million in salary cap room (including mandatory cap holds) with a series of moves since the trade deadline in order to try and entice two max-level players to come to Chicago to join point guard Derrick Rose, center Joakim Noah and forward Luol Deng. They gave away swingman John Salmons to Milwaukee in February, and have agreed to a deal with Washington that won't be official until July 8 that will send guard Kirk Hinrich and first-round pick Kevin Seraphin to the Wizards in exchange for virtually nothing.

But if the reward for that is Wade, or Wade and Chris Bosh, who met with the Bulls on Thursday, or Wade and LeBron James--who will see Bulls officials in Cleveland on Saturday in the last of his six scheduled meetings with teams vying for his services--it all would have been worth the trouble. Heat officials met with James in Cleveland on Friday, led by Riley.

Most observers thought that Miami could safely count on Wade's return to the Heat next season; he's consistently maintained that his first desire was to go back there next season. He seemed to have signed off on the plan set forth by Riley and team owner Micky Arison to scotch the existing roster--Miami currently has two players under contract for next season--in order to try and convince two max-level players to come to Florida with him. But a second Wade visit with his hometown team can only send chills down Riles's spine.

-- posted 7/2/10, 5:45 p.m.

Heat to meet with Brendan Haywood

-The Miami Heat continue to move in several potential free agent directions at the same time. A source says that the Heat will meet with Dallas free agent center Brendan Haywood in North Carolina over the Fourth of July weekend. The 30-year-old Haywood is one of the top centers available in free agency, whose ability to defend the post without help makes him a valuable piece.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are among other teams also interested in Haywood, though discussions have not yet reached the offer stage with any team.

Miami, led by team president Pat Riley, is meeting with LeBron James in Cleveland today, and has already met with Raptors free agent forward Chris Bosh. Riley is trying to get two "max-level" free agents to team with Dwyane Wade next season, but would need all of them to leave millions on the table in order to fit all of them under the salary cap.

Haywood is seeking a multi-year deal that would pay him somewhere in the $10 million range annually. He had turned down a four-year extension worth $32 million from the Washington Wizards early last season, gambling that he would have a big season in his walk year, and he was right: Haywood averaged 9.1 points (on a career-best 56.2 percent shooting from the floor), a career-best 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots per game.

The Wizards sent him, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas last February for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quintin Ross and James Singleton, and Haywood started most of the Mavericks' games down the stretch instead of Erick Dampier. The Mavericks have reportedly promised Haywood that he would be the full-time starter next season if he returns to Dallas.

-- posted 7/2/10, 1:01 p.m.

Lakers deny talk of deal with Miller

- The Lakers are shooting down reports that they offered Wizards free agent swingman Mike Miller a five-year, $30 million offer, telling at least one prominent agent that they have not given Miller an offer or a deadline to accept it. Los Angeles is looking for bench depth after guard Jordan Farmar opted out of his contract, and the 30-year-old Miller is one of the premier shooters available in free agency.

Reports Thursday said that the Lakers had told Miller he had until midnight Thursday evening to accept the offer, which would be slightly less than the expected mid-level exception for next season.

-- posted 7/2/10, 10:49 a.m.

Gay spurns others, re-signs with Griz for $82M

-Two sources have told me that the Memphis Grizzlies are going to make the first major move in the Summer of 2010 free-agent bonanza by taking their emerging star small forward and restricted free agent Rudy Gay off the market, agreeing to terms with Gay on a five-year deal that could be worth about $82 million.

The surprise decision came as Gay was prepared to start visiting teams Thursday. Gay had scheduled a visit Thursday afternoon in Minnesota with the Timberwolves, who had make no secret of their interest in the 23-year-old. But the Grizzlies contacted Gay's agents Thursday morning and said they now would be willing to match any offer sheet another team gave him. Gay then cancelled his trip to Minnesota.

The Grizzlies' decision came after owner Michael Heisley consulted with general manager Chris Wallace and other team officials. Memphis decided it made more sense to just pay Gay rather than wait for another team to come forth with an offer sheet that would have almost certainly included a front-loaded salary structure and signing bonus designed to make it harder for Memphis to match. Such front-loaded deals usually have language that forces the team looking to retain its player to write a huge up-front check for most of the player's first-year salary in the new deal.

Once Memphis made its offer, there was no incentive for him to look elsewhere, as the most any other team could offer him would be a five-year deal for around $78 million.

"I think Rudy likes Memphis a lot," a team source said Thursday, "and I think we were in a position to make the best offer to him. All of that helped us a lot ... if Rudy puts his mind to it he can be a real franchise player--if he puts his mind to it and brings that focus that people like LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) have every night."

Gay averaged 19.6 points per game last season for Memphis, shooting a career-best 46.6 percent from the floor, helping keep the Grizzlies in the playoff chase until the final weeks of the regular season. He became Memphis' team leader and the club thought it was important to keep its core group of Gay, guard O.J. Mayo and center Marc Gasol together as long as possible.

The move is a major blow to teams that had cleared out maximum cap space in order to sign free agents. While Gay was not on the same tier as James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he was a fall-back in case teams strike out with the top group of free agents, with several teams prepared to make offers. Gay's departure from the board means one less quality player will be available, especially one as young and with as much still-untapped potential as he has.

-- posted 7/1/10, 2:49 p.m.

Bucks close in on deal with sharpshooter Salmons

- The Milwaukee Bucks have had one of the best offseasons of any team in the league, and they are close to pulling off another surprising move. The Bucks are on the verge of re-signing guard John Salmons, one of the top shooting guards available in free agency -- and thought to be on the move after opting out of his deal last month -- to a five-year, $39 million contract. The deal also includes $5 million in potential bonuses, according to a source, and two league sources say the Bucks have a buyout option for the fifth season.

The deal with Salmons is "real close," a league source said Thursday, but not completely finished.

Earlier in the day, Milwaukee agreed to terms with veteran power forward Drew Gooden on a five-year, $32 million deal, continuing an active offseason that saw the Bucks acquire veteran forward Corey Maggette from Golden State last month for center Dan Gadzuric and guard Charlie Bell. The Bucks know that the 28-year-old Gooden has bounced around from team to team throughout his career, but feel he can settle in at power forward next to center Andrew Bogut instead of having to play in the middle as he did in Dallas and in other stops in his career.

Salmons had been a godsend for the Bucks after he was acquired from Chicago in a deal at the trade deadline last February. The Bulls moved Salmons in order to clear as much cap room as possible in pursuit of free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In 30 games with the Bucks Salmons averaged 19.9 points on 47 percent shooting and became the team's go-to player after Bogut was lost for the season with a dislocated elbow.

Milwaukee is hoping to have a team that can contend in the East for the next couple of seasons while not breaking the bank financially. The Bucks will have a larger-than-desired payroll this coming season, but with guard Michael Redd likely to come off the team's books next season -- Redd is coming off another knee injury and is not in the team's future plans -- Milwaukee's payroll will come down next year and stabilize in the next three to four seasons.

In the meantime, the Bucks would have a starting five of Brandon Jennings, Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Gooden and Bogut, with Maggette, defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute, underrated rebounder Ersan Ilyasova and first-round draft pick Larry Sanders coming off the bench.

If the Bucks and Salmons do agree to terms Milwaukee would not be able to re-sign point guard Luke Ridnour, the veteran who started with Jennings to great effect at times last season, and who is in demand from several teams.

-- posted 7/1/10, 1:26 p.m.

Hawks make their move on Johnson

- The Atlanta Hawks awoke Thursday morning cautiously optimistic that their six-year max offer to free agent Joe Johnson would be accepted, even though Johnson met with the Knicks and Heat early Thursday morning and, a source says, will probably meet with the Mavericks later today.

Atlanta made its $124 million offer at 12:01 a.m. to Johnson's agent, surprising many around the league who thought the Hawks would surely get outbid by someone needing a significant upgrade at shooting guard like the (relatively) low-maintenance Johnson, who turned 29 on Tuesday. Of all the top-shelf free agents, Johnson is viewed as the most compatible with the most teams; he could play with Derrick Rose in Chicago, play off of LeBron James anywhere and be the perfect up-tempo wing for the Knicks. (Mike D'Antoni has always lamented Johnson's departure from Phoenix in 2005.)

Atlanta tried to sell Johnson on a simple premise besides the money: no matter where he went if he went elsewhere, he wouldn't be playing with two top-10 talents at their positions as he has in Atlanta with Josh Smith and All-Star Al Horford.

"We met with the Hawks and Knicks last night and have heard a number of other teams with significant interest in Joe," said Arn Tellem, Johnson's agent.

"At this point, Joe has many great options to choose from. We plan to meet with the Hawks again today to discuss the details of their offer and we hope to make a decision in the near future."

The Hawks' basketball people had to do as good a sales job on the team's ownership group as they did with Johnson just to get a commitment to offer Johnson the max. It's hardly a secret that the team is for sale, or that new coach Larry Drew's affordability was a key component in his hiring, as important as his long-recognized ability.

The rationale offered was thus: Johnson is an elite-level player, better than anyone the team could get back in any sign-and-trade scenario -- including, for example, Caron Butler, a player the Mavericks would almost certainly put in a sign-and-trade package for Johnson.

It's not that the Hawks would fall apart with Butler or anyone else in the backcourt next season; far from it. With Smith and Horford around, Atlanta would surely make the playoffs again. But the Hawks wouldn't be a contender.

And if the Hawks don't break through in the East in the next couple of seasons, Johnson will only be 31 in the summer of 2012, and still have a lot of teams interested in his services. You can always trade him, the argument went; someone will rise up in the next few years into contender status, and teams on the rise tend to be more willing to go all-in for a year or two and make a trade for a high-priced player.

(It no doubt also came up that it's highly unlikely that the current Atlanta Spirit ownership group will still be in charge of the Hawks in six years. Johnson's due bill will be someone else's problem by then.)

-- posted 7/1/10 10:50 p.m.

Breaking down the money of the Miami Big 3

- Even if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh met in Miami over the weekend -- and there is now significant doubt that that meeting took place -- for the three of them to form a Super Friends colossus for the Heat next season would require at least one of them to make a significant financial sacrifice.

But first, the story.

The agent for Wade and Bosh, Henry Thomas, insisted in a telephone interview Tuesday that no such summit meeting took place in Miami, saying Wade spent the entire weekend in Chicago.

Top Five Cap-Space Teams (including cap holds)
Rank Team Cap Space
1. Knicks $34,528,223
2. Bulls $29,933,796
3. Nets $28,634,603
4. Heat $27,365,632
5. Clippers $16,155,311

"He was in the office Saturday," Thomas said, "and then Sunday he took his boys to the White Sox game. There was a little blurb about it in the paper. He was there. Ron Howard threw out the first pitch. Scottie Pippen was there. Steve Nash was there. [Wade] wanted to get box seats and I was able to get him seats at the last minute."

Thomas said Wade and Bosh were both finalizing plans for how they would receive offers starting Thursday. Various reports have said that Wade will visit the Knicks and Nets early in the negotiating period. Thomas would not comment, but did say he did not anticipate Bosh and Wade hearing pitches from teams at the same time.

"I want to treat their situations separately," Thomas said. "I wanted the teams that they're going to consider, and them, to hear things with regard to them individually. I don't anticipate it will be a pitch to them together."

As to the likelihood of all three winding up in Miami, it is possible. But it would require at least one of the three players to give up a lot of money. The Heat have not cleared enough salary cap room to be able to sign two "max-level" free agents and to re-sign Wade, though it is getting closer.

Currently, Miami only has three players under contract -- forward Michael Beasley, guard Mario Chalmers and swingman James Jones. Beasley is scheduled to make $4.962 million next season and Miami picked up Chalmers's option for next season earlier this month at $854,300. Jones is set to make $4.64 million next season, but only $1.86 million of that is guaranteed if Miami waives him by Wednesday. The two sides are working out some kind of arrangement, whether a straight buyout or something else involving deferred money, that would result in the Heat only being charged the $1.86 million figure on its cap for next season.

If Miami reaches an agreement with Jones, the total amount of committed money for next season for the Heat would be $7.6725 million. At first glance, that would leave Miami -- if the league's projection of a $56.1 million cap for next season remains accurate -- with $48.4275 million in room, which would be enough to sign three players to near-max deals.

But that's not how the cap works.

Grab some coffee. A lot of numbers are coming:

Teams that have fewer than 12 players on their cap when free agency begins are given "cap charges" for every free roster spot up to 12. The amount is what a minimum-salaried rookie would receive next season. That number is $473,600. So Miami would have to assign that amount per slot for at least nine players, because after waiving/buying out Jones the Heat would only have two players, Beasley and Chalmers, under contract. (The 10th player is Wade, who has his own cap hold. More on him below.) Multiply $473,600 by nine and you get an additional $4,262,400 that the Heat have to carry on their books until they start signing players. Added to the $7.6725 million Miami is already carrying forward and you get approximately $11.9349 million in salaries and charges Miami has to have on its books, leaving the Heat with about $44.1 million in room.

Then there's Wade. Miami has to hold onto his rights even after he officially opts out, so that he can re-sign with the Heat under the "Larry Bird" provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. A Bird free agent that has gone through at least a second contract can maintain his rights with his team as long as it keeps a cap hold on him July 1. In Wade's case, given that he made more than the league average salary last season and because he's a "Larry Bird" free agent ending a contract after his rookie deal, he's subject to a different level of cap hold. For Wade, that would be 105 percent of his previous contract, which was $15.779 million last season. That means his cap hold on Miami's books is $16.568 million, until the Heat re-sign him. Then, the new figure would replace the $16.568 milliion. But until that happens, that $16.568 million is added to the $11.9349 million.

But the whole notion of this Trio of Terror rests on Miami's re-signing Wade. Let's say Wade re-signs for the maximum he could get under the CBA, which would be 105 percent of his previous salary, or $16.568 million. That figure would replace the $23.66 million on Miami's cap. Added to the $11.9349 million, Miami would then have $28,502,900 in committed salaries for next season, and $27.5971 million in room to be split between James and Bosh.

But James and Bosh are also on line for $16.568 million maximum salaries in the first year of their new deals. Wade would wind up with more money over the life of the contracts, however, because he would get bigger raises for re-signing with his own team (10.5 percent of the first-year total each season) than James or Bosh would get for signing with a new team (8 percent of the first-year total). If James or Bosh got the maximum he could, or $16.568 million of Miami's remaining room, that would leave only about $11 milllion for the other. Over the course of a five-year deal, the player taking the max in year one would wind up with about $96.1 milliion, while the player taking $11 million in year one would get about $63.8 million.

For the sake of argument, let's say instead that James and Bosh agree to split the $27.5971 million right down the middle, leaving each with about $13.79 million in first-year salary. Over five years that would give each an approximately $80 million deal -- an incredible windfall, to be sure, but still $16 million less than each would get if he got his maximum salary over a five-year deal. (A sixth season would increase the deficit even more.)

Of course, all three players could take less and split the available room, roughly, three ways, which would give each around $15 million to start next season.

Thomas would not say whether Bosh or Wade would take less money in order to play with each other, or with James, next season.

"They have to decide what's most important to them," he said. "It's my job to present to them all of the available options."

-- posted 6/29/10 2:50 p.m.

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