Many are buying into the speculation that LeBron James will give serious consideration to returning to Cleveland in the summer of 2014 and Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game (Sulia link) says that he can see it happening. Bucher believes that James wants to be universally liked, especially in his hometown, and it's hard to imagine that he won't at least think about making peace with the place he still calls home. Here's more from around the Association..
The Raptors appear likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season, and there are questions about whether GM Bryan Colangelo, who has presided over all five lottery trips, will be back after his contract expires this summer. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, as part of his leaguewide roundup, shares thoughts from Colangelo on the state of his team. The GM takes an optimistic tone, one shared by his key acquisition this season.
"Since I’ve been there, I’ve loved it," Rudy Gay said. "It’s been great. The fans are great, and it’s a great organization. I love it so far. Instead of complaining about it, you’ve got to embrace it. It’s by far not a bad situation."
Here's what Colangelo had to say:
On the rebuilding process and patience regarding a Jose Calderon trade:
“We started a process two and a half years ago when Chris (Bosh) left, and rebuilding’s not fun, not for the faint of heart. But you know, you take these steps and you try to put yourself in a position to make steps. I think by virtue of us being real patient and strategic the last couple of years, this past summer we had a chance to pick up Kyle (Lowry) in a deal, and we had a chance to follow it up with (Gay). That doesn’t happen if we had done something differently with Jose last year."
On the team's improvement:
"You’re talking about a team that’s really young. You’ve got a changing dynamic, you’ve got new faces. Right now, there’s a little bit of a settling-in process for everyone to kind of understand what we have. But what we feel we have after the horrendous start (4-19) is a playoff-caliber team because we’re playing .500 ball. But I think this team is going to get much better just through internal growth."
On Gay and the ability to recruit free agents to Toronto:
“There is a higher level of credibility with Rudy on our team — call it star power the great talent that he is. I’m going to tell you that the guys we’ve had in Toronto love the city, love the way they’ve been treated, and it’s a top five North American city, hands down. Let me tell you something, it’s cold everywhere on the East Coast. And it’s not as north as everyone thinks."
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported last night that the Raptors will likely offer Rudy Gay a contract extension when he becomes eligible for one in July. As Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors noted, Toronto wouldn't be able to make Gay a truly long-term offer, since veteran extensions can't exceed four total years, which includes the time left on the existing deal. With two years still remaining on his contract, Gay wouldn't be eligible for more than a two-year extension.
We typically don't see veteran stars accept contract extensions, since they have the ability to sign for more years and more money in free agency. If Chris Paul were to sign an in-season extension with the Clippers, for instance, he could only add three years to his current contract instead of the five he'll be able to re-sign for this summer. However, Gay's case may be different.
With a player option worth $19.32MM for 2014/15, Gay will have the opportunity to opt out and hit free agency in the summer of 2014 if he doesn't agree to an extension with the Raptors. It's possible that Gay, like Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and other free agents back in 2010, could benefit from the fact that many teams are clearing cap space for the '14 free agent class. Clubs that miss out on top options like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (assuming both players opt out of their respective contracts with the Heat) may get desperate and make Gay a huge offer. Still, given the financial restraint many teams have shown since the new CBA took effect, I'd guess that Gay will be unlikely to land as lucrative a deal as one the Raptors appear willing to offer him this summer.
Now, plenty could change between today and July. It's not a lock that Bryan Colangelo will even still be the Raptors' general manager by that point, so there's no guarantee that the team will make an extension offer to Gay. Spears also didn't indicate whether Toronto intends to make Gay a max offer, or whether the team will offer a little less than that. But let's assume the Raps do offer Gay as much as they can for a two-year extension.
CBA rules dictate that a veteran can receive a raise of 7.5% in an extension if that amount doesn't exceed his maximum allowable salary. Gay's $19.32MM 2014/15 salary will almost certainly be above the max, so he'll be eligible to earn 105% of that amount in 2015/16, with a 7.5% raise for 2016/17. Here's what Gay's new contract would look like if he finalized a max extension:
As our chart shows, Gay's two new seasons would add another $42MM+ to his contract, which would be an awfully significant investment for a player who has never been an All-Star. Again, it's not a certainty that the Raptors will make this exact offer, but their apparent eagerness to lock Gay up long-term suggests that they probably won't be asking him to take a pay cut.
As Tom Ziller of SBNation.com wrote this morning, chasing so-called "star power" may adversely affect the Raptors' chances of building a balanced roster capable of legitimate contention. In an NBA era where contract offers are looking saner and more reasonable, I'd be surprised if there are many other teams willing to commit the sort of annual salary to Gay that the Raptors appear ready to pay him. Given how infrequently we see veterans sign contract extensions, Gay may end up rolling the dice in free agency anyway, but if the Raptors put a max offer on the table in July, you can certainly make a strong case that Gay should accept it.
Five weeks into Rudy Gay's tenure with the Raptors, GM Bryan Colangelo already sees him as the face of the franchise, and he's likely to offer Gay an extension when he becomes eligible for one in July, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. The team will also pursue a "proven scoring post player" in return for Andrea Bargnani, Spears writes.
While Raptors management has been quick to embrace him, Gay believes he wasn't given a fair shake by new members of the front office in Memphis who arrived after Robert Pera bought the team at the start of the season. Gay had an inkling he'd be traded, since he felt the new management team, headed by CEO Jason Levien, didn't give him an opportunity to show he was worth his contract, which pays him $82.3MM over five years.
"With [new management], I don't think anybody's comfortable," the ex-Grizzlies forward said. "They're rookie owners. They come in there and they want it their own way, and you can't blame them for that. But it's a player's league."
Come July, Gay will have played three seasons of his five-year deal, making him extension-eligible. The Raptors would only be able to add two seasons to his contract, since veteran extensions are limited to four years including the remaining years on the existing deal. Still, an extension would likely remove the possibility, however remote, of Gay invoking his player option to decline the $19.3MM he's set to receive in 2014/15.
Veterans have been largely unwilling to sign extensions since they can usually sign for more money and more years in free agency, but Gay may be willing to make an exception, considering how highly the Raptors view his skills and how few teams may be willing to pay him more. Gay isn't thinking long-term, Spears writes, but that could change between now and July, and he seems to have a positive view of his new surroundings.
"Last time I left it up to my agent and it worked for me," he said. "I love the city. I think the team has a lot of potential. The organization is great. [Colangelo] is here and he is watching every step trying to make this team better."
As for a Bargnani trade, I'm not sure whether Toronto will be able to find a top-shelf post option in return for a player whose numbers have declined precipitously this year. The Raptors will also be hard-pressed to avoid the tax next season, so finding an upgrade who costs less or the same amount as Bargnani's $10.75MM salary figure for next season will be a challenge.
With the Knicks, Celtics, and Nets all in playoff contention, the Atlantic Division is one of the busiest and most interesting in the NBA this season. Here are the latest notes and rumors from around the division:
Hoops Rumors would like to wish a speedy recovery to former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley as he remains in a Chicago-area hospital days after suffering a stroke, as Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal details. Heisley is interested in buying another NBA team, and has recently been linked to the Wolves and Bucks. Here's more from around the Association..
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Before the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay to the Raptors last month, one avenue they explored was a deal with the Nuggets, according to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida. Tomasson tweets that Denver turned down an offer that would have involved sending Danilo Gallinari to Memphis in a deal for Gay. All parties involved seem happy with the way things eventually turned out, and Sam Amick of USA Today spoke to Gay about the forward's exit from Memphis and the deal that sent him to Toronto. Here are the highlights from the conversation:
On telling a Toronto radio station that he missed "nothing" about Memphis:
"Obviously that was just out of a little bit of anger. There were a lot of people in Memphis and a lot of relationships I left in Memphis that I'll always have. I'm so thankful for the city doing what they've done for me up until now."
On whether he saw the trade coming:
"It was a total shock to me. I never went to any of (the new management) and told them that I wanted to be traded. I've never done that. The summer before, I did. I said this team has a chance to be a competitor in the West, and we're going to be good, but if you plan on doing anything - this is the summer before - I said I want to express to you that I may be wanting to move on."
On why he expressed an openness to a trade last summer:
"It was a post-dominated team, and I didn't get a chance to have a guy who you could say was a stone-cold guy who you went to all the time. A couple games it'd be Marc [Gasol], then it'd be me, and then it'd be Zach [Randolph], you know what I mean? So at that point, I was like, 'I want to see what I can do with an open floor.' And I got that (in Toronto), but as long as we were winning, I'd like to see myself as a great teammate. And as long as we're winning, I'll do whatever, just be on the perimeter and open the floor for the big fellas, then that's what I'll do."
On staying in Toronto long-term:
"I've played six games. I don't know about (re-signing), but I love the organization. I possibly could be here for the rest of my career, but who knows."
On the Raptors' outlook:
"I'm excited about this team -- excited about the possibilities of how good we can be. It was kind of a mixture of feelings when it first happened, getting traded and not knowing anything and one day thinking you're competing for a championship and the next day you're getting shipped off somewhere. It was a mixture of feelings... and now I've just got to embrace where I'm at. I'm happy I'm a Raptor right now.... I want to see this team be a good team, to be a playoff team again."
The latest news and notes from around the Southwest Division on Saturday evening:
Sam Amick of USA Today covers topics from around the league in his A-to-Z column, and with next week's trade deadline looming, it's no surprise the latest edition is full of intriguing tidbits. The Nets and Grizzlies figure prominently, as well as Josh Smith. We'll round it all up here: