Henry Abbott of ESPN The Magazine hears from agents and team sources who say Kobe Bryant‘s rough-edged personality is driving free agents away from the Lakers. The Buss family receives more income from the team’s local TV deal if ratings are better, and that helped persuade the team to sign Bryant to his lucrative two-year extension 12 months ago and to eschew an aggressive rebuilding project, Abbott hears. Bryant’s popularity with powerful front-row celebrities also played a role, and co-owner Jim Buss is just “waiting for [Bryant] to leave,” a source tells Abbott, fearful of engaging in a public spat with the superstar. Steve Nash nearly decided against approving his sign-and-trade to the Lakers and Paul George signed his extension with the Pacers in part because of Bryant, sources tell Abbott. Chris Bosh was one of the Lakers’ missed free agent targets this summer, and there’s more on him amid the latest from around the league:
- The Thunder will join the Sixers in voting against the changes to the lottery, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, but Wojnarowski seconds Lowe’s report (below) that the measure still has enough support to pass.
- Bosh spoke of a desire to be paid at his full market rate as he explained his decision to turn down a four-year max deal from the Rockets for five years at the max from the Heat to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “It’s always business,” Bosh said. “Nothing is ever personal. I think 100% of those dudes would have taken the deal I took.”
- Another NBA team has joined the Sixers in opposition to the league’s lottery reform proposal as the Board of Governors meet today, but the measure is still expected to receive approval, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports (Twitter links).
- Players union secretary-treasurer James Jones is an opponent of shortening games and believes, as teammate LeBron James does, that players would instead like to see fewer games on the schedule, as Jones tells Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
- Former Hawks All-Star Dikembe Mutombo has met with a group of investors about joining their effort to buy the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Heat have signed Larry Drew II, the team announced. Miami is limited to giving out the minimum salary, but it’s not clear if there’s any guaranteed money involved for the 24-year-old. The timing of the move is odd, as most teams are paring down their rosters rather than adding to them, and Drew played for the Heat’s affiliate in the D-League last season, which means the team wouldn’t have to sign him to the NBA roster just to gain his D-League rights.
The 6’0″ point guard averaged 11.4 points and 7.0 assists in 35.5 minutes a game across 41 appearances with Miami’s D-League affiliate last year. Drew spent training camp on the Heat’s NBA roster last fall after going undrafted out of UCLA.
The move gives the Heat 19 players. Miami had been carrying only 11 fully guaranteed contracts and partially guaranteed arrangements with four others. Drew is the son of former Hawks and Bucks head coach and current Cavs assistant coach Larry Drew.
The Suns are giving Earl Barron legitimate consideration for a spot on the regular season roster, and while that would force the team to rid itself of a fully guaranteed contract, coach Jeff Hornacek says that’s a move the team would be willing to make. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has the details.
“The one guy that sticks out and is really fighting for the team is Earl Barron,” Hornacek said. “He’s still on the roster for a reason. I know our guys are saying, ‘If he’s going to help us and we have to eat a contract somewhere, I think [owner] Robert [Sarver] is willing to do that.’ If it’s going to help us win games and he’s better than another guy, Robert is all for it.”
Hornacek’s comments sound familiar to the ones that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle made recently in which he insisted that owner Mark Cuban would be willing to sacrifice guaranteed salary to keep the non-guaranteed Charlie Villanueva. However, the Mavs are reportedly eager to open up an opening-night roster spot, which would appear to cut Villanueva out of the mix, and Sarver has never been particularly generous in his spending on the Suns. While we wait to see how it plays out in both Dallas and Phoenix, here’s more from around the league:
- Potential changes to the league’s revenue sharing system join the draft lottery among the major topics on the agenda for the NBA’s Board of Governors next week, tweets Grantland’s Zach Lowe. The board appears poised to implement a new lottery system for the 2015 draft.
- Erik Spoeltra this week called Heat signee signee Shawne Williams “one of the great surprises of the offseason” and raved about his shooting, notes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post. Williams has a fully guaranteed deal with Miami.
- Shawn Marion admits the Mavs reached out to him the instant he became a free agent this summer, as Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes (Twitter link). Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and other Mavs figures retain a soft spot for the versatile Cavs addition who’ll be a free agent again at season’s end, as Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com details.
The deadline for teams to sign rookie scale extensions with their eligible players is two weeks from today, and while only six players came to deals last time around, that number has the potential to be much larger this year, notes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein has more on many of those extension hopefuls that adds to the storylines we’ve been following throughout the offseason:
- Kawhi Leonard, Tristan Thompson, and Norris Cole are among the players who are in active negotiations with their respective teams about rookie scale extensions, Stein reports. Klay Thompson, Ricky Rubio, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks are also in active extension talks, according to Stein, who advances earlier reports that all of them had engaged in talks.
- Iman Shumpert and the Knicks are also discussing an extension, Stein writes, countering a report from a few weeks ago that indicated that the sides hadn’t engaged in talks and that New York was content to let the swingman hit restricted free agency next summer.
- Klay Thompson’s camp is considering the idea of going after an offer sheet similar to the one the Mavs gave Chandler Parsons if Thompson and the Warriors don’t come to an extension this month, Stein hears. Parsons’ near-max deal runs three years and includes a player option and a 15% trade kicker. Rival GMs have expressed admiration for its structure and Rockets GM Daryl Morey pointed to the difficulty that trading such a contract would entail shortly after he decided against matching it. The player option would allow Thompson to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2017, which is when Stephen Curry‘s deal is set to end, as Stein points out.
- The Lakers have attempted to trade for Thompson in the past, Stein notes, though he doesn’t make any suggestion that they’re planning an aggressive push for the shooting guard if he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.
The Pistons have an agreement on a trade with the Celtics, while they join the Pacers and Rockets with interest in taking Chase Budinger off Minnesota’s hands. The trade market is heating up as the start of the regular season draws near, and here’s more on Detroit’s rivals from the Eastern Conference:
- The Bucks quietly added hedge fund manager Jamie Dinan to their ownership team in July, reports Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Dinan is a “substantial investor” in the franchise, though it’s not clear if his stake is equal to that of controlling owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. Seven additional new owners have bought shares of the Bucks, the team announced, and one of them is Jon Hammes, who was rumored to be in the running for a minority share this spring. Just how much of the team Hammes and the other new owners purchased is unknown.
- Shannon Brown is indeed a favorite to make the Heat‘s opening-night roster in spite of his non-guaranteed deal, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Brown says team president Pat Riley has praised his athleticism, toughness and defense, as Jackson notes.
- Phil Pressey is among a logjam of point guards in Boston with Will Bynum on the way, but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge calls Pressey one of the team’s best perimeter defenders, as Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald relays.
Many around the NBA believe Ray Allen will become a member of the Cavs this season and Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio is among the Cleveland optimists. “My gut tells me he’ll join the Cavs,” Amico said. Cleveland is among the many teams with interest in bringing the shooting guard aboard. Amico also notes that he believes Allen has already decided on whether or not he’ll play this season, and where.
Here’s more from Eastern Conference:
- After he struggled last postseason there were doubts the Heat would re-sign Mario Chalmers, but head coach Eric Spoelstra is a firm believer in the point guard, writes Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel. “He’s one of the all-time clutch players in this game,” Spoelstra said. “How many times does he have to prove himself?”
- In a separate piece, Richardson documents how the environment around the Heat is changing post-LeBron James. Dwyane Wade couldn’t be happier about the changes. “It’s more relaxed, more chill, an opportunity we can get some work in,” Wade said. “We can actually make some mistakes and not do things as great and not really be talked about as much. We’re a team that needs time individually to get comfortable with whatever roles we’re going to be in. It’s good it’s quiet.”
- Although Kevin Love‘s neck injury isn’t believed to be too serious, Jeff Caplan of NBA.com wonders if LeBron’s new teammates can stay healthy. Caplan points out the injury history of Love and Kyrie Irving and notes how crucial it is that the new big three get as much time on the court together as possible
- There are Atlantic Division teams that have young players with the potential to improve such as Terrence Ross of the Raptors and Tyler Zeller of the Celtics, writes Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM.com. Mason Plumlee of the Nets, Iman Shumpert of the Knicks and Michael Carter-Williams of the Sixers are also among the players Tjarks lists as internal improvement candidates for the coming season.
Hornets owner Michael Jordan isn’t on board with shortening games, an idea the NBA is experimenting with this weekend, as Jordan tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. Jordan said the league didn’t indicate to him when it let him know of Sunday’s planned 44-minute game between the Nets and Celtics that it was seriously considering such a change for regular season games, Broussard notes. The iconic former player also expressed his disagreement with LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki, who told reporters this week that they’d like to see the NBA shorten the season.
“It’s not like football,” Jordan said. “We don’t really have to worry about concussions and some of the physical damage that football players deal with after they retire. I can understand football players wanting to play fewer games from a physical standpoint. But basketball’s not the same. I’m not diminishing the fact that we go through a grueling season. But I wouldn’t want to shorten the game or play 15-20 fewer games.”
Still, shorter games clearly have their proponents, so it’ll be interesting to see if Jordan can prevail on his fellow owners to make Sunday’s game a one-time experiment. Here’s more from MJ’s Southeast Division:
- Chris Webber took to Twitter to confirm his interest in the Hawks, and while he doesn’t disclose the identities of the investors he’s partnering with, he insists they would keep the team in Atlanta.
- The formal sale process and vetting of prospective owners can’t start for the Hawks until all of the team’s existing owners determine whether they’re selling, and they’ve yet to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Free agent power forward Tyrus Thomas has changed agents as he attempts to return to the NBA, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Thomas hired Roger Montgomery of the Montgomery Sports Group, according to Kennedy, replacing John Hamilton of Performance Sports Management. Thomas has been out of the league since the Hornets (then the Bobcats) put him on amnesty waivers in July 2013.
- Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel takes a stab at predicting the Heat‘s opening-night roster amid his latest mailbag column.
Owner Michael Jordan‘s presence in Charlotte’s pitch meeting with Lance Stephenson was key to the team’s ability to strike a deal with the shooting guard, but the mere presence of Jordan via video conference was enough for Gordon Hayward, as Hayward tells USA Today’s Sam Amick. Hayward was “ecstatic” about the idea of playing for the Hornets before the Jazz matched Charlotte’s max offer sheet this summer, Amick writes.
“I didn’t know what to expect … but they blew me away with their presentation,” Hayward said of the Hornets. “They came in and did a whole analytical presentation too, which was really, really impressive. It spoke to the analytical part of me. I was a computer engineer and math major in college, so that was really impressive to see. It just showed that they’re taking steps to try and become a next-level team and push toward trying to win a championship.”
There’s more from Amick’s profile of Charlotte’s legendary player-turned-owner amid the news out of the Southeast Division, as we pass along:
- Hornets assistant coach Patrick Ewing was also in the team’s meeting with Stephenson, and head coach Steve Clifford credits the presence of the former Knicks star as a linchpin in the recruitment of Stephenson, a Brooklyn native, as Amick details.
- The Hawks will probably release camp invitee Jarell Eddie, since he has a non-guaranteed deal and the team has at least partially guaranteed money out to 15 others, but the swingman has impressed the team’s brass so far, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Justin Hamilton has only a partially guaranteed deal with the Heat and has missed time with a heart condition, but coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday gave a subtle hint that suggests the team intends to keep him around, observes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra pointed to Hamilton’s absence as a reason why the team’s frontcourt rotation is in flux, Winderman notes.
Scouts and executives are convinced that forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns is the best of Kentucky’s prospect-laden roster, but the team’s NBA showcase might have benefited point guard Tyler Ulis more than any other Wildcat, observes Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider-only). Still, several GMs were skeptical about how much they could learn from coach John Calipari‘s unusual combine, as Ford relays.
“There’s a herd mentality in the NBA,” said a GM who spoke to Ford. “We came because everyone else was coming and you want as much information as you can. Things like this don’t really tell you much and can, in fact, be dangerous. We saw these guys exactly how Calipari wanted us to see them. But this event isn’t reality. The game is reality. Watching Cal in a real practice when he’s really getting on guys is reality. This was a show. I keep reminding my scouts of that.”
More from around the Association..
- Executives from teams who’ve spoken with TNT’s David Aldridge are eyeing a 2016/17 salary cap anywhere from $75MM to $101MM, though the figures are merely “guesstimates,” as Aldridge notes in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com.
- Former Sixers and Clippers point guard Maalik Wayns and Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania have mutually agreed to end their contract, the team announced via Twitter (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Wayns will undergo surgery on his left knee according to the Euroleague’s website and David Pick of Eurobasket.com tells Hoops Rumors the injury is severe. Wayns played in 27 NBA games over the past two seasons before signing this summer with the Lithuanian team.
- Heat rookie James Ennis isn’t a lock to make the Heat roster, but he’s helping his chances with strong play in the preseason, writes Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald. Ennis has a three-year deal with Miami that includes a partial $200K guarantee for this season that becomes a full guarantee if he’s on the roster through opening night.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Heat have waived the non-guaranteed contracts of Chris Johnson and Reggie Williams, the team announced. The moves take Miami’s roster down to 18 players, with three players still to be shed before the deadline to set opening-night rosters two weeks from today.
Johnson, not to be confused with the Sixers swingman of the same name, was bidding to return to the NBA after spending the 2013/14 with Zhejiang Guangsha of China. The 29-year-old center from LSU went scoreless in his only preseason appearance this month for the Heat. Williams spent much of last season in the D-League as well as with the San Miguel Beermen of the Philippines, though he did ink a pair of 10-day contracts with the Thunder. The Heat didn’t put Williams on the floor in any of the three preseason games they played while the 28-year-old swingman was on the roster.
The Heat still have much to decide before the regular season, with only 11 players under guaranteed contracts. Shannon Brown, Andre Dawkins and Shawn Jones, all of whom have non-guaranteed deals, are trying to beat out Khem Birch, James Ennis, Justin Hamilton and Tyler Johnson, who have partial guarantees.