After indulging in his love of soccer to make a cross-sport comparison of LeBron James and Lionel Messi, Marc Stein of ESPN.com delivers his usual assortment of juicy NBA rumors from around the league as part of his Weekend Dime. Here are the highlights:
- One NBA GM believes Serge Ibaka would have been worth a maximum-salary contract had he not signed a $49.4MM extension with the Thunder this past offseason. I took an early look this evening at some of this summer's rookie-scale extension candidates.
- The Mavs recently tried to free former NBA point guard Bobby Brown from his deal with Italian club Montepaschi Siena, but the potential buyout would have been too costly. Several teams have interest in Brown, 28, who's expected to return to the NBA next season. He's averaging 17.7 points and 4.4 assists this season in Italy.
- Raja Bell confirms, as we've heard, that he would have taken a buyout from the Jazz before the March 1st playoff eligibility deadline if he had an offer from another team already lined up, and that the Lakers' concerns about the luxury tax have precluded L.A. from signing him. He also said he's open to joining a team this season even though he wouldn't be eligible for the playoffs.
- Had the Nets held on to their first-round draft pick last year instead of trading it away in the Gerald Wallace deal, they likely would have passed on presumptive Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard in favor of Tyler Zeller, since they figured incumbent point guard Deron Williams would re-sign.
- Stein takes the Bulls to task for not making it clear that they're OK with Derrick Rose if he doesn't come back this season. Rose is angry that the perception that he's the only one holding up his return has been allowed to build. A source tells Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com that "a lot of people have to sign off" before he could come back.
It's already been a busy day of basketball news and rumors overseas, so let's check in on some of today's international stories relating to former or future NBA players....
- Jon Pastuszek of NiuBBall.com writes that former Cav and Laker Christian Eyenga has been formally announced as the newest addition for China's Shanxi Brave Dragons. Eyenga was bought out of his D-League contract to clear a path to China last week.
- Within the same piece, Pastuszek provides a couple more CBA updates, noting that Rashad McCants may be released soon by the Foshan Dralions and that Blake Ahearn is off to a good start with the DongGuan Leopards.
- Back in December, we heard that ex-Knick Renaldo Balkman was likely on his way to the Philippines. Now, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando confirms (via Twitter) that Balkman has officially joined Philippines' Petron Blaze Boosters.
- Following up on a tweet by Djordje Matic, Sportando reports that Australian big man Aron Baynes is close to signing a multiyear deal with the Spurs. However, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld tweets that it may happen next year instead. I'd be a little surprised if the Spurs used their final roster spot on Baynes now rather than maintaining some flexibility, but we did hear a month ago that a pair of Western Conference clubs were keeping tabs on the Euroleague standout -- it appears one of those teams was the Spurs.
- Despite recent rumors that he could be on his way to the NBA this season, Bobby Brown tells La Gazzetta Dello Sport (English link via Sportando) that he's committed to remaining with Siena.
- Solomon Jones, who was cut in October by the Suns, is drawing interest from a Chinese team, according to a Hupu.com report (passed along by HoopsWorld).
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that Montepaschi Siena point guard Bobby Brown, who is currently the Euroleague's leading scorer and is in strong contention for Most Valuable Player, could become a free agent and will be available to join an NBA team this season. Although going undrafted after entering the 2007 NBA Draft, Brown found his way into opportunities with the Timberwolves, Kings, Hornets, and Clippers, playing a combined 113 games and averaging 5.1 PPG and 1.8 APG in 12.8 MPG for his career.
In Italy, Brown currently boasts averages of 21 PPG, 5.9 APG, while shooting 46.4% from two-point range, 40.2% from long-distance, and 89.3% from the charity stripe. Despite Brown's success, Siena may not have the financial ability to retain the 28-year-old former standout from Cal State Fullerton for the long-term. Wojnarowski also mentions that several NBA teams have already inquired about bringing in the 6'2 Brown as a back up point guard.
Another name that Wojnarowski says to keep in mind is 6'8 forward D.J. White, who is currently playing for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association and will be eligible to sign with an NBA team after the conclusion of the CBA's season in February. The five-year veteran has been averaging 22.6 PPG and 10.6 PPG for Shanghai and holds NBA career averages of 6.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 50.7% shooting from the field in 16.3 MPG. He last played for the Bobcats during the 2011-12 season.
Three teams are within two games of the lead in the Central Division, and it's liable to tighten up even more as the first-place Bulls host a Clippers team on a six-game winning streak tonight. The other Central Division team in action this evening is also welcoming an L.A. team into town, as the Cavs take on the Lakers. For all the rumors swirling around their opponents tonight, there's plenty of speculation concerning what Cleveland will do with Anderson Varejao. We have more on that tonight, along with other news from the Central.
- Multiple league sources tell HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy that they believe the Cavs will trade Varejao before this season's trade deadline, and one source indicates the team is looking for another young player to add to its youthful core. Kennedy also hears that Varejao would be open to a trade that would send him to a winning team.
- While Kennedy says the "general consensus" around the league is that it would make sense for the Cavs to swap Varejao for assets who can help the team in the long run, USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt argues that the Cavs should feel no urgency to trade him since they already possess a wealth of young talent and draft picks. Earlier this month, more than two-thirds of Hoops Rumors readers said they think Cleveland would be better off dealing Varejao away.
- While it's unclear if Indiana has any serious interest, Sportando contributor David Pick notes Pacers director of scouting Ryan Carr was recently in Italy watching Bobby Brown, a two-year NBA veteran, play for Montepaschi Siena (Twitter link). Brown, a 6'2" guard, averaged 5.1 points and 1.8 assists in 113 career games for four NBA teams, having last played in the Association with the Clippers in 2009/10.