Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors contributed to this post.
Sam Amico's latest notes column for FOX Sports Ohio is chock-full of interesting NBA tidbits, including one rumor suggesting that Michael Jordan is considering offering Phil Jackson a piece of the Bobcats and total control over the team's basketball operations. Amico pumps the brakes on the story a little, writing that a rival GM cautions it's merely a rumor being whispered around the league for now, rather than anything concrete. Still, it certainly makes for an interesting talking point. Here are a few more highlights from Amico's piece:
Marc Stein's final ESPN.com Weekend Dime of the season doubles as his awards ballot, and he has LeBron James winning MVP, of course. More intriguing are his selections in some of the tighter races: George Karl for Coach of the Year, Kevin Martin for Sixth Man of the Year, Tim Duncan for Defensive Player of the Year and Jrue Holiday for Most Improved Player. Stein also has plenty of news from around the league, as we round up:
As the end of the 2012/13 season draws near, Josh Smith could be in his last few weeks as a member of the Hawks. Of course, it seemed we were just seconds away from hearing he'd been traded on deadline day, when Smith remained in Atlanta. Hawks GM Danny Ferry spoke to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com about the circumstances leading up to the deadline.
"I think our situation was unique in terms of still being competitive but also having cap space and flexibility going forward," the GM said. "We looked at all of our options at the end of June up until the trade deadline. Josh and I have had a positive and honest relationship from Day 1. He's been professional this season despite a lot of change and obviously a lot of distractions. I've enjoyed working with him."
Smith also opened up to Shelburne, and said he's open to re-signing with the Hawks. Still, he's looking forward to exploring unrestricted free agency for the first time. We'll round up the highlights of Smith's conversation with Shelburne here:
"The question was asked to me, 'Do I feel like I'm a max player?' And I gave him an honest answer. I said, 'Yes I do.' And the reason why I say this, is because if you don't know your worth, who will? I can't set my standards low. If you set them low, that's how people are going to view you. Like when you sell a house, you don't sell the house for $2 million. You put the $5 million sticker on there … and then you work it out. You negotiate."
On what he's looking for in his next team:
"Winning. That's all I care about. I want to have an opportunity to have a legitimate shot at getting a ring. I've been successful in high school, AAU, I want to have a legitimate shot at winning a title."
On his experience in restricted free agency in 2008, when he signed an offer sheet with the Grizzlies that the Hawks matched:
"I went to Philadelphia and sat down with the Clippers for dinner because I was already out here in Los Angeles (where he now lives during the offseason) for an adidas photo shoot. So this is going to be exciting for me to travel to different cities, and sit down and talk to executives and GMs."
On friend and fellow free agent Dwight Howard:
"Is Dwight serious about (Atlanta)? That's the question. Everybody would probably want to have him on the team. But Dwight is global now. That's in his mindset. He's addicted to it now. He's addicted to being global and international. That was the whole reason he wanted to leave Orlando is he wanted to have that big market."
On whether Howard would sign with the Hawks, who may make a push for him:
"I'm not going to say it's farfetched, but it is going to be kind of difficult to be able to persuade him."
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times touches on several juicy topics from around the league in his latest piece. We'll hit the highlights here:
Among the items in Sam Amico's leaguewide roundup for Fox Sports Ohio today, he passes along that "word is" the Hawks will make re-signing Josh Smith and Kyle Korver their top priorities in the summer. If they prove to be out of Atlanta's price range, the team is likely to try to sign-and-trade one or both of those players.
Smith made headlines earlier this season when he said he felt he was deserving of a maximum-salary contract, but more recently clarified that his statements were in response to a question and not meant as a pronouncement ahead of this summer's negotiations. Nonetheless, it seems likely he'll go after a max deal, which would be worth nearly $100MM from the Hawks and a little more than $74MM if he signed with another team. Since Amico's report indicates there's a limit on how much they'll spend to retain Smith, it doesn't look like they're willing to give him the full max. They might be open to structing the deal so that Smith gets more than the $74MM he could get from another club, however, retaining their financial advantage over the rest of the league, but that's just my speculation.
Korver isn't nearly the player Smith is, but he leads the league with a 45.9% three-point percentage, and figures to have no shortage of suitors this summer. The Nuggets are already reportedly targeting Korver, who's expressed a willingness to consider a return to the Jazz and Bulls, two of his former teams. When Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors examined Korver's free agent stock earlier this month, he wrote that an offer somewhere in the neighborhood of the full mid-level exception, which includes a first-year salary of $5.15MM, might get a deal done.
The Hawks will have plenty of room under the cap to sign Smith, Korver and others this summer, when they'll have little more than $18.5MM in commitments. It appears GM Danny Ferry and company plan to be judicious with that room and aren't dead-set on re-signing any of their players if they're putting a limit on how high they'll go for the two men they count as their top priorities. That they would consider a sign-and-trade for both Smith and Korver could suggest that they don't want to rely completely on building next season's roster with free agents from other teams.
Hawks forward Josh Smith surprised many around basketball earlier this year when he said that he believes he should be in line for a max contract this summer. While the 27-year-old is undoubtedly in line for a lucrative deal, hoping for that amount of money seems overly optimistic. Our own Luke Adams recently crunched the numbers on max contract scenarios for this summer's top free agents and showed that a max deal from the Hawks could pay him $99.7MM over five years and a topped-out deal from another club could be worth $74MM over four years, depending on how much max salaries increase this summer. Smith is a welcome addition to any club, but will he get an annual average of about $20MM from the Hawks or $18.5MM from another team?
So far, the Hawks have maintained that they will not be giving the forward a max contract. Then again, the fact that they held on to Smith at the trade deadline means that there is at least a little room for a change of heart. The high-flying veteran has a better chance of getting a max deal elsewhere and while the chances of that may seem remote as well, there will be a number of teams with cap space to burn this summer. And with all due respect, more than a few of these clubs might be desperate to make waves. The Bucks, Pistons, Cavs, Bobcats, and Jazz are just some of the clubs that will have the breathing room necessary to make a major pickup. Will an advantageous market be enough to net Smith the max deal that he seeks?
Josh Smith was perhaps the most talked-about target prior to the trade deadline, and though he remained with the Hawks, speculation about his future won't end anytime soon, since he'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. If Dwight Howard and Chris Paul remain in Los Angeles, there could be no more sough-after commodity on the market than Atlanta's athletic power forward. He recently opened up about where he stands with his career seemingly in transition, and Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News shared some of his comments. We'll pass along the highlights here:
On his inclusion in trade rumors at the deadline:
"It was total chaos, for two or three weeks. It’s good just to concentrate, knowing where I’m at, at least until the end of the season, and now we can focus on what we can do to make a playoff push and jockeying for position, knowing that it’s a real tight race. It’s good to be able to focus on basketball."
On his worth as a player:
"I’m respected in the NBA as far as the players are concerned. I know I’m a highly attractive player and all I can do is keep playing confident, hold my head high, and not really worry about what the naysayers and haters say."
On his assertion that he deserves a max contract:
"I didn’t just come up and make the statement that I was (a maximum player) — it was a question that I was asked. I gave an honest answer. It’s not added pressure. I’m not going around just stating that. It was definitely a question."
On his impending free agency:
"I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to look ahead. I focus on the present. As long as we do special things during the season or during the postseason, I don’t look into the future. I’ll think about (free agency) when it gets here."
On playing in Atlanta, a city with laid-back fans:
"It is a little difficult. Last year like I was telling everybody, we were ranked No. 1 worst sports town in the United States. It was just the whole city, baseball, football – but football always has a crazy fanbase – it is a little bit difficult. But hopefully we can turn it around sooner than later."
Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld took to Twitter tonight to offer thoughts on various questions about the NBA. Here are some of the highlights:
With the trade deadline behind us, some teams are already looking toward this summer's free agent class. Here is a roundup of the latest buzz on that front: