5:31pm: The league doesn’t permit financial incentives in outside endorsement contracts that pertain to playing for specific teams, but it does allow for bonuses tied to the number of national television appearances a player makes, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders clarifies (Twitter link). Large-market teams usually show up more often on national TV than their small-market counterparts, though the quality of the on-court product has recently proven more influential than market size in network programming decisions.
1:19pm: Tobias Harris is eligible for a rookie scale extension with the Magic, but he doesn’t intend to sign one before the deadline to do so a week from today, tweets Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. The forward’s deal with Nike gives him an “upgrade” if he’s playing for a team in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, according to Broussard. Harris is set for restricted free agency in the summer assuming he doesn’t sign an extension.
Harris nonetheless said recently he wanted to remain in Orlando, and Magic GM Rob Hennigan has indicated his preference to do an extension. The Henry Thomas client and the team were reportedly still in talks as of a week ago, shortly before the Magic struck a deal with fellow extension-eligible Nikola Vucevic. Hennigan said earlier this month that he couldn’t imagine the club not holding on to the 22-year-old, and Orlando will have the right to match all offers should Harris hit restricted free agency.
Vucevic’s extension pushed the Magic’s commitments for 2015/16 to about $26.1MM, though Orlando is about to add nearly $12.755MM in rookie scale team options to that figure. Still, that’s plenty of room beneath a projected $66.5MM salary cap for a Harris extension. The math gets trickier in the future, since the Magic have six players still within the first three seasons of their rookie scale contracts. Orlando’s payroll probably would escalate quite a bit if it were to retain all or most of them, forcing the team to make difficult decisions. Drastic rises in the cap tied to the league’s new $24 billion TV deal that starts in 2016 will help ease that blow, however.
I predicted in July that Harris and the Magic wouldn’t reach an extension, explaining as I looked at his extension candidacy that the team figured to prioritize flexibility and a commitment to Vucevic, who plays at a position of greater scarcity. It appears instead that the primary resistance to a deal is coming from the player rather than the Magic. The Knicks and Lakers are nonetheless the only teams set up for significant cap room next summer among the clubs that would presumably trigger the clauses in Harris’ shoe deal, and he’s not alone among potential targets for those franchises.
The Magic have more money that counts against the cap for players who are no longer with the team than any other NBA franchise this season, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. That $14.2MM figure is likely to escalate soon with partial guarantees out to four of the team’s camp invitees. It also doesn’t include the cash going to the amnestied Gilbert Arenas, which doesn’t affect the cap. Still, Orlando isn’t alone, since “dead money” is piling up around the league as teams make cuts in advance of opening night. There’s more on the Magic amid the latest from the Southeast Division:
- Lance Stephenson admits he wanted to re-sign with the Pacers, but he told Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star that he wasn’t ready to commit when the team set a tight deadline for him to accept its offer. The team quickly moved on and struck a deal with C.J. Miles on the second day of free agency, depleting its limited room against the luxury tax line, and that sealed Stephenson’s departure, as the new Hornets guard said to Buckner. “They didn’t have nothing else. They had no more money or anything. That was basically it right there,” Stephenson said. “Soon as I said no to that offer, they went and signed C.J. I figured they thought I had no chance of coming back, they just went on and signed C.J. … I felt like it was a wrap after that.”
- The Pacers did follow up their five-year, $44MM offer to Stephenson with offers of three and four years, Buckner writes, refuting an earlier report.
- Jameer Nelson‘s agent, Steve Mountain, said as recently as June that the point guard wanted to remain with the Magic for this season, but Nelson tells Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com that he instead felt it was time to leave Orlando. The Mavs signee referred to his departure from the Magic, who waived him at the end of June, as a mutual decision.
- Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld doesn’t think the lack of a one-to-one D-League affiliate significantly hinders his team, but he nonetheless told Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post that the Wizards are looking into the possibility of having a D-League partner for future seasons.
THURSDAY, 3:43pm: Vucevic has signed the extension and the deal is official, the team has announced.
7:11pm: The base salary of the deal is for $48MM with incentives that could push it to $53MM, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (via Twitter).
TUESDAY, 6:21pm: The Magic are finalizing a four-year, $53MM contract extension with Nikola Vucevic, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. The year-by-year salary breakdown is the only detail still up in the air, according to Robbins (via Twitter). The pact does not include any opt out clauses and will thus keep him in Orlando through the 2018/19 season. The 23-year-old Montenegrin is a former first round pick entering his fourth season in the NBA, which gave the Magic until October 31 to come to an agreement that would prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent next summer. Vucevic is scheduled to make $2.751MM this season in the final year of his rookie deal.
Vucevic exploded in 2012/13 after coming over from Philadelphia in the Dwight Howard blockbuster. He averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, making him the league’s second leading rebounder behind Howard. While Vucevic was again excellent last season, his overall numbers seemed to plateau more than an improving young player’s should in his third year, as our Chuck Myron pointed out in Vucevic’s entry in our Extension Candidate series. Chuck also predicted a four-year, $48MM pact for the center in our 2014 Rookie Scale Extension Primer.
We heard in July that the Magic would prioritize extending Vucevic and teammate Tobias Harris, also entering his fourth season, once the season approached. Those rumors proved true even before tonight’s news broke, as there was neutral interest reported last month and just last week there was word that Vucevic and the Magic were in talks.
Paul Pierce figures coach Jason Kidd‘s departure from the Nets helped dampen the team’s enthusiasm to re-sign the forward to a new deal this summer, as Pierce tells reporters, including Andy Vasquez of The Record. Pierce cites Kidd as one of the primary reasons he encouraged the Celtics to trade him to Brooklyn in 2013, as Vasquez notes. There’s more on key figures who changed places as well as one who’s committed to stay where he is among the news from around the Eastern Conference:
- Nikola Vucevic is careful to point out that he hasn’t put pen to paper on an extension with the Magic, but he nonetheless made it clear that he’s ecstatic about the agreement that agent Rade Filipovich and the team have reached, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel details.
- Representatives for Lance Stephenson urged the Pacers to offload other players to find room for the shooting guard under the tax line this summer, with the names of Luis Scola and Donald Sloan arising in the talks, but Indiana held firm against doing so, reports Shams Charania of RealGM. The Alberto Ebanks client has said he cried when he told the Pacers he was signing with the Hornets instead, but Stephenson tells Charania that he hasn’t spoken to Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird since he made up his mind to join Charlotte.
- Charania also hears from a source who confirms that Jason Maxiell is the leading contender for a regular season roster spot among the Hornets camp invitees, as the RealGM scribe writes in the same piece. Coach Steve Clifford seems in favor of keeping Maxiell, writes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
- Christian Watford will play for the Celtics‘ D-League affiliate assuming he clears NBA waivers, reports David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). That means the C’s are following through on their plan to keep Watford’s D-League rights, though Pick hears that the power forward turned down many offers from European teams to instead go to the D-League.
- Phil Jackson shared his scouting report on every Knicks player with Charley Rosen, writing for ESPN.com. The coach-turned-executive admits camp invitees Langston Galloway and Travis Wear are destined for the D-League.
The Clippers tied for third among the teams most likely to win the NBA title as the league’s GMs see it, as John Schuhmann of NBA.com details amid the results of the league’s annual GM survey. Still, they figure to receive a strong challenge in their own division from the Warriors. While we wait to see how it plays out, here’s the latest from the Pacific:
- Jordan Hill confirmed rumors from this past spring that he wouldn’t have re-signed with the Lakers if Mike D’Antoni were still the coach, as he tells Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Medina adds the Heat, Spurs and Magic to the list of suitors who went after the power forward this summer.
- Byron Scott stopped short of acknowledging that Ronnie Price is a lock to make the opening-night roster for the Lakers, but the coach said that injuries to the team’s other point guards would make it tough to let him go, Medina notes in a separate piece. “If you look at it that way, we have to [keep him],” Scott said. “Ronnie gets more of an opportunity. So far in my opinion, he has taken full advantage of it.”
- The Suns told Isaiah Thomas when they pitched him in free agency this summer that they valued him as a starter even though they made it clear they wanted to retain Eric Bledsoe, as Thomas tells Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Thomas isn’t concerned with whether he starts, but he did express continued bitterness toward the Kings, telling Kennedy he wasn’t surprised that they didn’t re-sign him and that he always felt the Sacramento organization underappreciated him.
After his sit down with Michele Roberts, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post doesn’t get the feeling that the new NBPA head is on board with the idea of a gradual increase in the salary cap starting in 2016 (Twitter links). The alternative is to allow the cap to jump up after the 2015/16 season — Bontemps estimates a spike to over $90MM — due to the injection of the money from the league’s new TV deal. That increase, of course, could coincide with the free agency of superstar Kevin Durant.
Let’s take a look at what else is going on around the league on Tuesday:
- It would be shocking if any of Bryce Cotton, Josh Davis or JaMychal Green were to end up on the Spurs’ final roster, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Cotton, Davis and Green all have partially guaranteed deals, but as our Expanded Roster Counts show, the Spurs already have 15 fully guaranteed contracts on the books.
- A strong showing in 2014/15 would have likely netted Nikola Vucevic a more lucrative deal next summer than the one he agreed to earlier tonight, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe. However, Lowe believes Vucevic’s shortcomings on the defensive end add risk for the Magic while also conceding the deal should be a fair one considering the rising cap (Twitter links).
- Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, also pointing to the increasing salary cap, writes that Vucevic’s extension compares favorably to the four-year, $48MM deal Utah’s Derrick Favors inked last October. Golliver adds that the pact eliminates any chance of a bidding war over Vucevic for the Magic next summer which could have resulted in an overpay.
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities expects Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to soon become more involved in extension talks for point guard Ricky Rubio (via Twitter). The Wolves reportedly upped their offer to four years, $48MM shortly after we heard that Rubio and Taylor had spoken several times on the phone. Wolfson, who speculates that a total offer of $52-54MM might do it, adds that Taylor’s loyalty to Rubio could “change the dynamic” of the talks (Twitter links here).
Here is a look at what is going on in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday night:
- After locking up Nikola Vucevic earlier tonight, the Magic will continue to work on reaching an agreement with forward Tobias Harris, who is also entering his fourth season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). While the Magic are reportedly eager to extend Harris, Wojnarowski cautions that the sides are not close on the terms.
- Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders checks in on last week’s Pistons/Celtics trade that sent Will Bynum to Boston and Joel Anthony to Detroit. According to Pincus, the Celtics utilized the $4.25MM trade exception they received in July’s Kris Humphries deal to take on Bynum’s $2.9MM salary, reducing the exception to approximately $1.3MM. They received a new trade exception of $3.8MM for Anthony. Because these exceptions expire a year after the trade in which they’re acquired, Boston essentially downgraded their trade exception by about $450K in return for three months of additional time with which to use it (Pincus Twitter links here).
- Any hope that Derek Fisher and the triangle offense could salvage last summer’s trade for Andrea Bargnani has been temporarily derailed by a preseason hamstring injury, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. There was talk that Phil Jackson and the Knicks were trying to move Bargnani this offseason, but his bloated $11.5MM salary for this season made that impossible.
The Magic will exercise their team options to keep Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson on their rookie scale contracts through 2015/16, tweets Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. The moves have been widely expected, as Robbins suggests. Oladipo’s nearly $5.2MM salary for that season is the most expensive of the bunch. Harkless will make nearly $2.9MM, Nicholson almost $2.4MM, and Fournier close to $2.3MM, as our Rookie Scale Team Option Tracker shows.
Oladipo, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, earned an All-Rookie First Team selection last season even as the Magic experimented with having the shooting guard play point guard. Fournier spent the past two seasons with the Nuggets and saw his minutes jump to 19.8 per game last season before Denver shipped him to Orlando in the Arron Afflalo trade. Harkless also came to Orlando via trade as part of the package the team sent out for Dwight Howard, though the production of the small forward took a step back last year. Nicholson also saw a dip in his scoring output as an NBA sophomore in 2013/14, though he, like Harkless, was a rotation mainstay.
Picking up the options on all four will give Orlando nearly $12.755MM on top of the meager $14.87MM in commitments the team already had on the books for 2015/16. That leaves plenty of room for extensions with Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris, deals that the team is working toward, though the preponderance of rookie scale contracts on the Magic’s ledger will force GM Rob Hennigan to be cautious as he commits long-term money.
Avery Bradley credits the D-League as a huge factor in his success playing for the Celtics, explains Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com. “I was able to learn a lot up [in Maine],” says Bradley. “I didn’t take it as punishment at all. That’s one thing I do remember. At first I was disappointed, and being a young guy, it’s kinda overwhelming at first [in the NBA] seeing all the superstars, all the guys you watch watch on TV, and now you’re practicing and I had the injury. I got down on myself a lot, but the D-League gave me a chance to get that confidence back.” Bradley hopes to take his game to new heights after signing a new four year, $32MM deal this offseason.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- While many experts have picked the Celtics to finish near the cellar of the Eastern Conference, Jeremy Gottlieb of Boston.com sheds some optimism on Boston’s upcoming season. While Gottlieb admits that the idea of the Celtics contending for a playoff berth is far-fetched, he cites the presence of coach Brad Stevens, the potential financial motivations of some of the players on the roster, such as Rajon Rondo and Evan Turner, and the weakness of the Eastern Conference as reasons not to underestimate this team.
- Although the Celtics were never in contention to acquire Kevin Love due to a lack of an ability to create a package that Minnesota coveted, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck is confident that GM Danny Ainge will turn the franchise’s assets into a winning team, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I’ve got confidence that with all these picks and these young guys and our willingness to spend money that we can get there,” said Grousbeck. “We’re a patient group. We will take a multiyear plan if that’s what it takes. But I think this June there could be some fireworks. I think this June we’ve got so many pieces to this puzzle that we might be able to shake loose a real piece or two for this team going forward. So, I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later.”
- Magic forward Maurice Harkless is playing with more confidence this year, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Coach Jacque Vaughn has praised Harkless for his continued development. “There’s some areas that he’s improving, and he still can improve some more. But overall his confidence and feel on the floor has definitely grown,” said Vaughn.
Jimmy Butler has been turning heads in Chicago with his play during training camp. The Bulls swingman is in better physical condition this year, but is also motivated by being eligible to sign a contract extension prior to the October 31st deadline, Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com writes. “My confidence is high and that’s the way you have to play this game,” Butler said. “All summer I worked on my game, the biggest thing is just confidence, taking shots I know I can make. I’m really happy on the way that I’m going right now, but I still got to keep going.” If Butler and the team don’t come to terms on an extension by the deadline he will become a restricted free agent next summer.
Here’s more from the east:
- The Celtics made a minor trade earlier today with the Pistons, shipping Joel Anthony to Detroit for Will Bynum. Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com examines what the trade does to Boston’s salary cap situation and the team’s rotation.
- After a difficult season under former coach Mike Woodson, J.R. Smith is starting fresh with a clean slate, Fred Kerber of The New York Post writes. Knicks head coach Derek Fisher said of Smith, “What I’ve tried to do with all of our guys, not just J.R., is kind of manage our relationship based on our relationship and not the relationships they have may have had with other people, other coaches. Jay’s been great, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t continue.”
- In addition to fellow rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, Devyn Marble also hopes to make an impact for the Magic this season, Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders writes. Orlando signed Marble to a three year deal with the first year fully guaranteed, which went a long way towards giving Marble confidence, notes Taylor. “It’s good to have peace of mind,” Marble said. “It’s something that you don’t necessarily have to worry about. For me, I’m still going to come ready to play and still continue to work hard; nothing is guaranteed even though it technically is. I’m still going to find ways to help and I would want to be here for the rest of my career. I’m just doing anything I can in the time frame now to help the team out.”