With just a handful of games left in the 2012/13 regular season, only one postseason club in either conference is locked into its playoff seed -- the East's top team, the Heat, remain a comfortable 10 games up on the second-place Knicks, despite the fact that New York has won 13 consecutive contests. The Bucks aren't locked into that No. 8 seed in the East yet, but they'll likely end up there, meaning last night's game in Miami, in which the Heat beat Milwaukee 94-83, figures to be a playoff preview.
Here's more from around the Eastern Conference:
It's been months since Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter, and the NBPA were making headlines, but the law firm hired to look into how the Players' Association has spent its money and conducted its business is nearly ready to release the results, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. While it's not clear exactly what the report will reveal, several players believe the union needs a change in leadership, and are hoping Hunter will step down from his post even if the report exonerates him of any wrongdoing, according to Berger.
The latest edition of Berger's "Postups" column also features some trade rumblings, so let's round those up....
Earlier today, we heard Grizzlies power forward Darrell Arthur had suffered a leg fracture, and the team's website reports the left leg injury will keep him out four to six weeks. The timetable is longer for center Hamed Haddadi, who'll be rehabbing for the next eight weeks after right thumb surgery, according to the team. Since Marreese Speights enters camp as the only healthy big man on a guaranteed deal behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the injuries could represent an opportunity for camp invitees Jerome Jordan, Jarrid Famous and Michael Dunigan. Here's the rest of what's happening around the Association:
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis sat down with Washington Post columnist Mike Wise earlier this week to discuss a number of topics related to his team's offseason and its recent acquisitions. Leonsis provided a number of interesting quotes on the Wizards' roster decisions, so let's dive right in and check out the highlights....
On the decision to amnesty Andray Blatche:
"I [was] torn. I believe people should have second and third chances. On the other hand, I don’t know where he fits now in this lineup. On the other hand, he [was] the last remaining touchpoint from the previous teams. That’s what [was] being discussed and weighed.... I’m not afraid of amnestying him and paying him the money. We have turned the entire lineup in one and three-quarters seasons. We shouldn’t forget Gilbert [Arenas] played here John Wall’s rookie season until he traded himself to Orlando."
On whether Leonsis recognizes Blatche's contract extension was a mistake:
Yes -- we made a mistake. Although the NBA has had close to $250MM of amnestied players to date. Sometimes you get a chance to take a mulligan under the new rules and that is what we did."
On when a star player might want to come to Washington in free agency:
"I think when we can establish we’re a perennial playoff team and when we have one or two young stars -- real, legitimate stars. Everyone knows that John Wall is a burgeoning star.... I think most people in the league feel this year, next year that John has the opportunity, if he improves, to be a real star player.... I view it as my part of my mission as an owner to create an environment, fan base and player development system that allows him to be a star. I think it’s a two-way street. You can’t put the onus on just the player. You have to surround him with the right people, have the right coaches."
On the expectations for the coming season:
"I won’t be happy with our plan if we’re back in the lottery.... If we just miss making a playoff spot, no, the world is not going to end. If we’re picking third because we have the second-worst record, no, I will not be happy.... We’ve turned over the roster, turned over the coaching staff. We’ve have good drafts. We took the second-highest-paid player in the league -- I think one of the bloggers calculated he averaged $23K per minute -- and replaced him with two players that will play big minutes who each averaged 10-15 points a game. We were getting zero from Rashard [Lewis]."
On how the team's roster is different after this year's trades:
"Culturally, every one of these guys is a good guy. It’s a big change. And no one is playing for a contract. I don’t think Nick [Young] and JaVale [McGee] were bad people. But they wanted stats. I understand that, relate and get it. But they weren’t playing as a team. You saw at the end of the year with Nene, who already got his big contract, right. So stats weren’t important to him. The little things were important to him."
THURSDAY, 2:28pm: The Sixers have officially signed Young, the team announced today (Twitter link).
FRIDAY, 9:57am: The 76ers and Nick Young have agreed to terms on a contract, according to agent Mark Bartelstein (Twitter link via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports). The deal will be for one year and $6MM, says Marc Stein of ESPN.com (via Twitter).The Sixers have already reached contract agreements with Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen this offseason, so between cap holds for those players and Philadelphia's existing guaranteed contracts, there doesn't seem to be cap room available for Young. Since the reported figure exceeds the mid-level exception, it's probably safe to assume Philadelphia will clear the necessary space by amnestying Elton Brand.
Young, 27, was acquired by the Clippers at this year's trade deadline, but after L.A. re-signed Chauncey Billups and added Jamal Crawford, it became clear Young would be playing somewhere else next season. The Lakers, Celtics, and Hornets were among the teams rumored to have some interest in the five-year veteran.
The Sixers' agreement with Young doesn't necessarily mean unrestricted free agent Lou Williams is headed elsewhere, but you have to think it doesn't bode especially well for Williams' future in Philadelphia.
2:47pm: Allen left Miami without giving the Heat an answer on their offer and is "torn" on whether to leave the Celtics, says Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. TNT's David Aldridge adds (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies and Timberwolves are still options, though Allen doesn't have plans to visit either team. I'd guess his decision comes down to Miami and Boston.
FRIDAY, 1:54pm: The Timberwolves are the "dark-horse" in the chase for Allen, tweets Ric Bucher of ESPN.com. As Bucher acknowledges though, Minnesota is an extreme long shot.THURSDAY, 6:30pm: Allen is staying in Miami overnight as discussions with the Heat continue, reports Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press (on Twitter).
12:47pm: To alleviate Allen's concerns about potentially becoming a trade chip, the Celtics are prepared to include a no-trade clause or trade kicker in their offer, says Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
10:16am: Even though they've agreed to terms with Jason Terry, the Celtics are still interested in bringing back Ray Allen. However, it appears the Heat and Clippers are in the lead to sign the veteran shooter, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Windhorst says LeBron James and Chris Paul are both actively recruiting Allen on behalf of their respective teams.
We heard earlier this week that Allen was scheduled to visit the Heat today and the Clippers tomorrow. Both teams have made the 36-year-old a priority in free agency, though neither club can offer as much as the Celtics can, barring a sign-and-trade. The Heat have the $3.09MM mini mid-level to offer, while the Clips have the full $5MM mid-level. The Celtics are said to be willing to offer two years and $12MM to bring back Allen. The Grizzlies have also expressed interest for their $5MM MLE.
Allen's decision, which Windhorst says might happen by the end of the week, could have a significant impact on the offseason's shooting guard carousel. The Clippers are also considered to be the frontrunners for Jamal Crawford, though he is still weighing his options, according to TNT's David Aldridge (Twitter link). You'd have to assume that the Clips can only sign Allen or Crawford, rather than both. Meanwhile, if the Celtics miss out on Allen, they're "strongly considering" a pursuit of Nick Young, says Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio (via Twitter).
The Lakers are interested in Nick Young and Brandon Rush, Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter) has learned. As Bresnahan rightfully notes, Young is unlikely to sign for the Lakers' $3MM mini-mid-level exception but Rush could be a possibility.
The Warriors officially tendered a one-year qualifying offer to Rush on Tuesday. The soon-to-be 26-year-old could be tough to land as well, however, as Golden State GM Bob Myers has openly said that he wants to retain Rush.
As the first day of free agency continues, reports continue to pour in on teams reaching out to certain players, perhaps to schedule meetings or make contract offers. We've rounded up plenty of those items already today, but we'll use this space to follow a few more updates, as they come in....
It's past midnight on the East Coast, and that means teams may negotiate with free agents from other clubs, as the NBA's offseason gets under way in earnest. Players can't officially sign contracts until July 11, and trades can't be made official until that date either. That doesn't mean there won't be plenty of talk and agreements in principle between now and then, and if this evening is any indication, we're in for a busy couple of weeks ahead. There are several bits of news rolling in on free agents as July begins, so we'll round up what we're hearing around the late-night rumor mill here.