The difference between unrestricted free agency and restricted free agency can be seen in the divergent plights of the Lakers and Timberwolves this summer. The purple and gold had no say-so when Dwight Howard jumped to the Rockets, while negotiations between the Wolves and Nikola Pekovic dragged on for months, with other suitors seemingly scared off by Minnesota's ability to match offers. Still, the Wolves and Lakers both figure to be among the teams fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, and they're among the teams we focus on in today's look at the West:
- Pekovic is unlikely to meet many of the $8MM worth of incentives in his deal with the Wolves, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). That means that starting next season, those incentives won't count against the cap. As Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune surmised earlier, games played is one of the incentives, and Wolfson says Pek will earn a bonus if he appears in at least 70 games a year.
- Pekovic isn't the only Wolves player with durability issues, and president of basketball ops Flip Saunders plans changes to the way the team handles the treatment and prevention of injuries, as Zach Harper of CBSSports.com examines.
- Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss said last week that Phil Jackson, her fiancee, still yearns to coach, but Jackson seemed to disagree Friday in comments he made to his hometown newspaper. "I have no intention of coaching," he told Mark Jones of the Williston Herald. "I am still recovering from multiple surgeries."
- Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside examines the Lakers' unusual promotion of Nick Mazzella from public relations coordinator to GM of the team's D-League affiliate.
- The strength of someone's relationships is key to doing business in the NBA, and Chris Hansen's funding of an anti-Kings-arena effort shows he doesn't understand not to burn his bridges, SB Nation's Tom Ziller writes.
- The Lakers got a D from HoopsWorld's Moke Hamilton, who graded each Western Conference team's offseason, while the Wolves and Kings both wound up with a B+.