It’s not easy to build a six-and-a-half game lead in less than a month, but that’s what the Pacers have done in the Central Division, where they’re the only team above .500. The Bulls are in second place, and the hole they’re in would have been somewhat of a challenge to overcome even if Derrick Rose were coming back this season. It’s probably impossible now that he’s done for the year, though Chicago at least has a strong chance of making the playoffs in the watered-down Eastern Conference. Here’s more on Indiana and the Central Division also-rans:
- Anderson Varejao would welcome former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James if the four-time MVP decides to re-sign with Cleveland this summer, a prospect Varejao believes could become reality, as Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio observes. The Brazilian big man thinks James will likely return to the Cavs at some point, even if it’s not for next season.
- Other reports suggest Luol Deng isn’t going anywhere soon, but executives from around the league who spoke to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune expect trade talks involving the Bulls small forward to pick up.
- Johnson also notes in his piece that the Bulls chose to sign Mike Dunleavy over Marco Belinelli because they believed Dunleavy was a better fit with Rose. That points to the challenge the team faces opposed to last year, when they went into the season knowing Rose would be out. Despite his latest injury, Bulls GM Gar Forman says he’d be OK with Rose playing in the basketball World Cup this coming summer, according to Johnson.
- Pacers coach Frank Vogel is impressed with offseason acquisition Luis Scola, and didn’t expect the 33-year-old would defend as well as he has so far, writes Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star.
- The Bucks had the most turnover of any NBA team this summer, but they didn’t expect to have the worst record in the Eastern Conference a month into the season, as Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel examines.
The Southwest Division could be the NBA’s toughest this year, with five teams that have legitimate playoff hopes. The two Southwest clubs that played for the conference title last year, the Spurs and Grizzlies, meet for a rematch on Wednesday in the first of a season of key clashes. Here’s more from the Southwest:
- B.J. Young drew interest from the Sixers and Lakers before deciding to join the Rockets for camp, according to Shams Charania of RealGM.com. He was the first player the Rockets cut from their training camp roster, hitting waivers nearly a month ago, but he’ll sign a deal with Houston’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Charania adds. Since he’s apparently signing directly with the Vipers instead of entering the D-League draft, that means the Rockets made him one of the three camp cuts whose D-League rights they can protect.
- Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are the major new arrivals for the Pelicans this year, and both shared insight on how the team’s new-look backcourt is coming together. Evans also spoke to HoopsWorld’s Alex Kennedy about his experience as a free agent, comparing it to college recruiting, while Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune points out that Holiday is the fourth starting point guard for the team in as many years.
- Ken Rodriguez of Spurs.com examines the connection between a pair of San Antonio’s offseason signees. Marco Belinelli refers to Manu Ginobili as his “idol,” and it’s worth noting that Belinelli agreed to join the Spurs this summer shortly after the team reached a new deal with Ginobili.
Richard Hamilton was one name linked to the Timberwolves as they consider adding a wing, but he’s far from the team’s only potential target. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets that Evan Turner has fans among the Wolves front office, and that the 76ers would be open to moving him. In a piece for the Star Tribune, Jerry Zgoda also mentions Turner and identifies a few other possible options.
With that aside, let’s take a look at what else is going on around the Western Conference:
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports takes a look at the Nuggets’ offseason, starting with Josh Kroenke’s agonizing decision to fire Coach of the Year George Karl.
- ESPN’s David Thorpe examines Omer Asik‘s trade value and explores a few potential trades involving the Rockets’ center (Insiders only).
- Earlier this week, we noted that there has been mutual interest between the Jazz and free agent guard Jamaal Tinsley, although nothing appeared to be imminent. Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune was able to relay some of head coach Tyrone Corbin‘s comments today regarding the 35-year-old point guard: “He’s a guy that’s on the list…We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. He’s a guy we’re comfortable with. I really respect what he brings to the team. We’ll look and see if it’s the right fit going forward.”
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter) doesn’t expect the Spurs to make any roster cuts until after the team’s road trip ends in Miami on Saturday. McDonald also points out that although San Antonio only has to make one more roster cut, they could possibly opt for two.
- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich drew a parallel between Manu Ginobili and new addition Marco Belinelli: “I consider him to have the same mindset as Manu, which means I’m going to have to be patient as I’ve learned with Manu. Manu taught me to shut up and just watch him play a little more, which is a good thing. And Marco is going to be the same way. They both have the same passion for the game. They have no fear, which most of the time is good, but sometimes it can bite you. But I would rather have that than somebody who is timid” (NBA.com via the Associated Press).
Luke Adams contributed to this post.
Without a doubt, Chandler Parsons proved to be one of the most intriguing young talents in the NBA last season, averaging 15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.5 APG while shooting .486/.385/.729 across the board. Not to mention that the 6'9 forward is set to earn around $925K this year and is entering the third season of a four-year contract in Houston. Any team with hopes of landing the precocious neophyte via free agency may not have that chance, as Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was clear about his long-term commitment to Parsons:
"He'll be here. We'll sign Chandler. We always do. Nobody's ever left. He's an integral part of the team. We don't want to let a terrific player go" (Mark Berman of FOX 26)
Here's more news and notes to pass along out of the Lone Star State tonight, including more from Berman:
- The Rockets' interest in keeping Parsons around for a long time is clearly mutual, based on Parsons' reaction to Alexander's comments: "I know at the end of the day it's a business, but when you have someone's word like that and you're happy here and you got a good thing going, I don't see this changing. I want to be here. So it's a good match."
- With a history that includes bringing in Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Tracy McGrady to Houston, Alexander says that Dwight Howard has been "most important acquisition."
- Tim Cowlishaw of SportsDayDFW thinks it'll be a miracle if the Mavericks approach 50 wins this season, instead offering 44-45 wins as a more realistic number.
- Though the Mavs have 15 players signed to guaranteed contracts, head coach Rick Carlisle took notice of training camp invitee Renaldo Balkman: "He avoids the catastrophic mistakes some younger guys tend to struggle with" (Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram via Twitter).
- In this video from Spurs.com, Manu Ginobili speaks to the media about holding training camp at the Air Force Academy, which just so happens to be head coach Gregg Popovich's alma mater.
- In another clip from the Spurs' team website, Marco Belinelli briefly comments about camp and says that his experiences with coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago has helped him adapt to coach Popovich's expectations thus far.
JULY 11TH: The Spurs have officially signed Belinelli, the team announced today in a press release.
JULY 4TH: The Spurs have reached an agreement on a two-year deal with Marco Belinelli, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (via Twitter). Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported that the two sides were engaged in serious discussions.
Belinelli, an Excel Sports client, is coming off a one-year deal with the Bulls, having averaged 9.6 PPG while shooting 35.7% on three-pointers in 2012/13. The 27-year-old signed for the bi-annual exception last summer, and will receive a slight raise this year. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the two-year deal will pay Belinelli about $6MM.
Having reached agreements to bring back Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs almost certainly won't have any cap space available during the offseason, though the club should have the full $5.15MM mid-level exception at its disposal. Presumably, part of that MLE will be allocated to Belinelli, but there still should be $2MM+ left to use another player. Alternately, Belinelli could be signed using cap room if the club decides to amnesty Matt Bonner and let Gary Neal walk, but I think that scenario is probably less likely.
Still, it's unclear where the agreement with Belinelli will leave Neal. The Spurs hold the free agent guard's Bird rights, so they have the flexibility to bring him back if they so choose, but Belinelli may be in line to receive many of the minutes that otherwise would have gone to Neal.
The Cavaliers made a couple of moves this week, agreeing to terms with Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack, as our Free Agent Tracker Shows. They still figure to have close to $15MM in cap space remaining, so they're not done yet. Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer, amid his look across the spectrum of Cleveland sports, passes along news on the Cavs' summer so far and what might be next, as we detail here:
- Pluto has the value of Clark's deal at $8.5MM, slightly smaller than the $9MM total that Sean Deveney of The Sporting News originally reported.
- The Cavs are in the hunt for a swingman who can shoot and a true center, according to Pluto. They were considering Kyle Korver before he agreed to re-sign with the Hawks, Pluto adds.
- Pluto also confirms Marc Stein's ESPN report that Marco Belinelli passed up more money from the Cavs to go to the Spurs, and says that Mike Dunleavy did the same when he agreed to head to the Bulls.
- Fellow Plain Dealer scribe Mary Schmitt Boyer answers reader questions in her mailbag column, and she touches on the notion of LeBron James returning to the Cavs.
In between arguments about the relative merits of In-N-Out Burger, ESPN.com's Marc Stein has found time this afternoon to pass along several nuggets related to free agency. Here are the highlights from the ESPN.com scribe's Twitter account:
- The Nets are still targeting point guards, with Shaun Livingston and John Lucas III among the players on the team's radar, says Stein (via Twitter). The club lost C.J. Watson to the Pacers in free agency.
- Prior to agreeing to sign with the Spurs, Marco Belinelli had a more lucrative offer on the table from the Cavaliers, says Stein, adding that Belinelli couldn't resist the lure of the Spurs' "all-world operation" (Twitter link).
- There are "strong indications" that restricted free agent Gary Neal won't be returning to the Spurs, which is why the team moved quickly to bring Belinelli aboard, tweets Stein. According to Stein (via Twitter), Neal is receiving interest at a price point that San Antonio is reluctant to match.
The Spurs are engaged in "serious talks" with unrestricted free agent Marco Belinelli, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter).
Belinelli is coming off a one-year deal with the Bulls, having averaged 9.6 PPG while shooting 35.7% on three-pointers in 2012/13. The 27-year-old signed for the bi-annual exception last summer, and figures to be in the market for a mid-level-type deal this time around.
Having reached agreements to bring back Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs almost certainly won't have any cap space available during the offseason, but the club should have its full $5.15MM mid-level exception. San Antonio is likely discussing a deal for Belinelli that would use that MLE, though perhaps not the entire thing — the Spurs could break up that exception and use the $5.15MM to sign multiple players, if they so choose.
According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), if the Spurs aren't able to reach an agerement with Belinelli, the club still plans to re-sign its own free agent guard, Gary Neal.
This post was first published on July 4th at 2:27pm CST.
WEDNESDAY, 2:00pm: Davide Chinellato of Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport (Twitter link) hears from a source that the Nets are no longer pursuing Belinelli, who is now talking to the Pacers.
MONDAY, 4:28pm: The Nets have reached out to free agent guard Marco Belinelli and discussed a multi-year deal for the taxpayer mid-level exception of $3.2MM, sources tell Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld. Sources say that the Nets are debating whether to go with a guard like Belinelli or another big man to bolster the the frontcourt.
While it has been reported that the Nets and Kyle Korver have more-or-less agreed to a deal for the taxpayer MLE, Pincus reports that he could fall outside of the Nets' price range. The sharpshooter has lots of suitors this offseason and could land a deal with a higher average annual value. It's possible that Korver is high enough on Brooklyn to give them a discount and the 32-year-old has done quite well for himself over the years, earning more than $38MM over the course of his career according to Basketball Reference.
The Nets would also like to re-sign Andray Blatche, but the most they can offer is ~$1.4MM without using a portion of their MLE. If he does return at that figure, that would enable Brooklyn to sign Belinelli.
Belinelli spent last season with Chicago and averaged 13.4 PPG, but his 35.7% percentage from downtown was the lowest of his career. The Italian is represented by Excel Sports Management, according to the Hoops Rumors Agency Database.