Teams going big with offers to Asik and Hibbert
With restricted free agent Omer Asik reportedly agreeing to a three-year offer sheet with the Houston Rockets, the Bulls have a decision to make.
Well, that was quite an opening free agent weekend. It’s getting tougher to make that case ownership was in big financial trouble.
Roy Hibbert, whose footwork resembles Herman Munster’s, a maximum deal worth close to $60 million? Roy Hibbert?
Omer Asik, often nicknamed “Hands of stone” but for different reasons than Roberto Duran, $25 million and a third season of more than $14 million? Heck, if Tom Thibodeau had played him more than about nine minutes per game he might have gotten $250 million.
What the heck is going on here?
If there is a pattern it must be fear of the Lakers and Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Of course, I still think the latter should be traded, which likely only makes Jim Buss more certain not to as no one tells him what to do! Houston going big, Portland going big, Nuggets going big presumably resigning JaVale McGee. Golden State going big with Andrew Bogut. Sacrameto with DeMarcus Cousins. Utah hanging onto Al Jefferson after getting Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Oklahoma City trying to add Hasheem Thabeet. Well, that’s tall if not big.
Hey! Anyone notice Miami won the championship with Chris Bosh at center and basically benching every guy over 6-9 on the roster and trying to add another shooter in free agency?
So what should the Pacers do? Cheer? I know Hibbert was an All-Star, though more on the two center rule or preference. I thought the Pacers were an overrated threat, that 2-1 lead on Miami more mirage. If they couldn’t batter the Heat with Hibbert and without Chris Bosh where were they going? I’d breathe a sigh of relief and call Chris Kaman, whom I think is better, anyway, if a little different, and should cost much less.
Could Portland still be so mad at new Pacers’ GM Kevin Pritchard to get his starting center? Which may be the joke on Portland, after all.
The Bulls? Actually, the way I understand it the league did exactly what it was not supposed to do regarding a free agent like Asik. Because of his status he falls under the so called “Arenas rule,” which has little to do with firearms or the NRA. It rectifies an old, unfair rule that kept the Warriors from retaining Arenas. So the most a restricted free agent like Asik could get his first two seasons is the mid level exception. Which also is why there aren’t sign and trade possibilities. Because then Asik would have to accept a full mid level. Instead starting in the third year a team could offer him all their cap room.
I thought there was little chance of this. And as anyone who reads me knows I’m a big believer and supporter of the guy. He’s a smart, tough defender. My thought was you are spending big money on a free agent if you are another team, then how do you tell your fan base he averaged about three points and makes Chris Dudley look effective at the free throw line.
But Houston throws about $14 million at him that third season. OK, the average is $8 million. Not ridiculous. And Houston can put the average on their books. But the Bulls would have to carry that full $14 million to $15 million that third season. And with luxury tax penalties doubling and tripling, that’s ridiculous for a guy who barely plays behind your starting center. The unfair part on the league’s behalf is the rules now encourage free agents to leave the way the Rockets could count the money compared with the Bulls. The league always said the rules would favor teams wanting to keep their free agents.
So what will the Bulls do? What should they do? They’ve said all along they’d match, so we have to assume for now they will. But with drastic needs at point guard with Derrick Rose out and shooting guard with Richard Hamilton injury prone, it makes it a tough choice. They’ll have a bit more than a week before Asik can sign anywhere and then three days to match.
I’m assuming in the interim Omer begins filming his part in Borat II. Is this a great country, or what?
Howard back in the news... again
-- The big news should have been where Dwight Howard is going. He was to be an unrestricted free agent a few months ago, but then apparently got drunk one night... No, I’m kidding. But looking back you figure it had to be something like that for Howard to all of a sudden after a season of basically undermining his team, teammates and organization to opt in for one more season. Now, Howard supposedly told new Magic management he didn’t mean it and really, really wants out. Well, too bad, or something like that, he was told. Of course, there’s no way Howard can return. Unless, of course, he does. And if he is traded it hardly has to be now.
Howard supposedly wants to go to Brooklyn, where the Nets are going and where I came from and couldn’t wait to leave. So now, what? They’ve got no parking and mad neighbors? Things don’t change that much.
The problem for Howard is the Magic don’t seem all that excited about a package of Gerald Wilkins and Brook Lopez to be the latest heir to the Shaq legacy of being swept in the Finals. At least Howard got a few games. So the Nets supposedly are moving on, likely to sign Deron Williams, who is meeting with the Mavericks Monday. Williams is from Dallas, but you hardly build with Dirk Nowitzki.
So the Nets supposedly are talking about trading for Joe Johnson for an all All-Star backcourt.
The larger point is Howard likely will be traded somewhere. Houston is said still interested. Then he becomes a free agent after next season. But the Nets, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers won’t have cap room. Neither will the Heat or Thunder. The Spurs might. But Tim Duncan likely returns.
Boston likely won’t as they’re resigning Kevin Garnett and the talk is a big return offer to Ray Allen, who supposedly is being recruited hard by Miami. Breaking up is hard to do. Danny Ainge said he was there when Boston wouldn’t move Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and sunk into two decades of oblivion. Ainge said not on his watch. So the Celtics beat a 76ers team that lucked into the second round when everyone but the Bulls P.R. staff was hurt, and then pushed Miami to seven games with Bosh out. And they think bringing back those guys and they’re back with Avery Bradley and maybe Jeff Green? Anyway, no cap room.
So suddenly Howard really has nowhere to go. Return to Orlando?
And there’s Derrick Rose returning to what the doctors say will be full health. Maybe Chicago doesn’t look so bad then to Dwight. After all, where else can he go for a maximum deal and to play with an MVP point guard?
The sticky issue is it takes the Bulls blowing up their team now. Would you do it and take on all Howard’s moods and dramas? I’m not sure I would. My guess is there’s no way Howard signs anything after the fiasco of opting in.
So you give up, say, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and a future pick or two. The downside is Howard leaves and all you have is Rose. But you also have $35 million in cap room to rebuild around Rose. But what if Howard does stay given you can pay him the most as a full Bird free agent and there is no other major market or close to that to go to? Then you’ve got Rose and Howard and can fill in a few pieces the way Miami did.
It’s a heck of a risk. And given I didn’t think the Bulls were far behind Miami at all with Rose and that Dwyane Wade is declining is Miami so unbeatable? You come back with Rose and the rest of the core with Noah, Deng and Gibson maybe you are better. Yes, amazing as it is we’re back to this Howard trade stuff. No, it’s never going away.
Gordon likely to stay in New Orleans; Nash could head to Toronto
-- I’ve read Eric Gordon keeps going for interviews. What’s he thinking? Oh, right: I love being told I’m the greatest. The Hornets have so few players on their roster if they don’t match any offer they’ll be penalized for being too far below the salary cap and have to pay the union a fine ... It sounds like Steve Nash is headed to Toronto. I’m not sure why he continues to interview with the Knicks, who also are retaining Jeremy Lin. The Suns aren’t doing any sign and trade to take a truck load of Knicks extras while the Raptors are offering more than $10 million per year for three years. With Nash, the Raptors obviously have no need for Jose Calderon, so you could see a sign and trade with the Suns. But what seems to make the most sense is the Raptors calling the Lakers and offering Calderon and Andrea Bargnani for Pau Gasol. How could the Lakers not do that? And the Raptors could be a playoff team. After all, even Canadians have to run out of patience sometime.
-- Nicholas Batum for $50 million? What, Travis Outlaw wasn’t available? ... I’ve read that this situation with Asik would push the Bulls to offer amnesty to Carlos Boozer. I’m not sure why they would. It seems it would cost them more to amnesty Boozer and pay him $47 million than it would for them to be in the luxury tax. What exactly would be the point of that? ... I don’t know if it’s the only evidence, but what does it say about O.J. Mayo the Grizzlies wouldn’t even pick up his option while supposedly offering aging Ray Allen a full midlevel exception for two years ... The Raptors may have to use amnesty on Calderon to sign Nash. If Calderon were to pass through the NBA’s new waiver process, he’d be a heck of a reasonable cost point guard pickup ... Not much talk about a quiet draft with all the free agency frenzy (over Omer Asik and Roy Hibbert?), but the Bucks did well with getting Sam Dalembert and moving back just a few spots and still getting John Henson. It’s somewhat premature to grade the draft now (but whoever said journalism wasn’t?), but I like Charlotte’s picks (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor for defense with an aggressive coach), Washington came out well with Bradley Beal, the Hornets, of course, with No. 1 and Austin Rivers, the Bulls with a smart point guard, the Hawks with a shooter and perhaps then able to get out from under Joe Johnson’s deal and Boston with Jared Sullinger as they made it work with similar guys like Leon Powe and Glen Davis. Though, I’m still not sure why Houston used all three picks. Not that they were bad, but why not push one over to next season in a deal? ... As bigs remain in demand, Pat Riley told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: “Small ball is becoming a big thing in the league, and I think it's going to become even bigger in how you can find space for your great players. There's no four anymore, there really isn't. Offenses have evolved in a way that conventional center/power forwards that we had for years, and the offenses that were run to be able to deal with these lineups --'small forward,' 'off guard,' 'point guard'-- it's no longer that way."
Wade and Bosh to miss Olympics; Noah as well?
-- Both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh dropped off the USA Basketball Olympic team. Yes, Wade is having surgery and Bosh was injured, but it’s becoming more clear players aren’t as enthused about this anymore and teams generally hate this. It seems only a matter of time now before some major changes are coming in the makeup of USA Basketball teams. Luol Deng is playing for Great Britain, but international sources say Joakim Noah isn’t going to play for France. Noah has tried to rehabilitate his ankle, but reportedly has told French officials he cannot get it right enough at this point and will not be able to play. It also seems unlikely Tony Parker will play after being injured as a bystander in a New York night club incident ... New York media keep coming up with reports Chris Paul can’t wait to go there. But with the Clippers picking up Lamar Odom who seems stable only in L.A., looking like they’ll retain Chauncey Billups and resigning Blake Griffin, why exactly would you go to New York to play with a badly declining Amar’s Stoudemire and one and done Carmelo?
Working their way to the top
-- So where do you find the future executives and coaches of the NBA? The film room at minimum wage, it seems. One of the least known positions in the NBA these days is for the kids who come in and work overnight watching just about every game film of the previous night and charting all the plays for the team and coaches the next morning. Or in Tom Thibodeau’s case as soon as they are done. They are the ultimate grunts of the NBA, but if you are looking for motivated, knowledgeable basketball lifers they may be your best bet to build with. And many teams are doing so. The latest is the Bulls' Matt Lloyd, who started some 18 years ago watching those game films, went into team P.R. and then collegiate scouting director. His scouting was one of the prime reasons for some of the Bulls top picks in recent years, and he left last week to become Orlando’s assistant GM. And how about some of his other colleagues who came up this hardest of ways: Lakers coach Mike Brown, Portland coach Kaleb Canales, Miami coach Eric Spoelstra, Boston assistant GM Ryan McDonough, Hornets assistant GM Tim Connelly, Pacers coach Frank Vogel and Cavs assistant GM David Griffin among others. It long had been said you needed to have played the game to be in these jobs. And that’s something. But these guys are the ones who really know the game and have studied the game and planned and perhaps best suited to the positions so many now occupy.
Vecsey calls it quits
-- I close with a tribute to a friend and legendary basketball media figure, Peter Vecsey. Pete wrote his final column for the New York Post Sunday, another victim of the demise of the newspaper business. I can’t say I don’t understand as the business model for newspapers ceased and all of this probably was inevitable. But as I remain among the few who actually still read newspapers, it’s a shame to lose one of the few you still looked to read. This isn’t one of those “better the way it used to be” things. Change remains the only constant. But I couldn’t wait for years to read Pete’s regular NBA overviews and when I began regularly in the NBA in the early 1980’s it was Pete and Boston’s Bob Ryan who were models with their NBA Sunday notes columns. They are mostly extinct with the downsizing of newspapers and the veterans and the death spiral to more and more and more local and the heck with the rest of the world. Hey, if it’s what keeps you in business, I understand. But I miss what you were. Pete probably broke more stories in his time than everyone else combined. He could stretch a point sometimes, but he also understood his role was to inform and entertain. That has always been something of a model for me. His contacts in basketball were remarkable and everyone read Pete. He was Mike Wallace in his day. You hated when he came to your door. But you always watched. Pete’s on Twitter these days, and I know I need more than 140 characters. A classic character, yes, he is that.