There are a lot of contenders to the Eastern Conference crown that LeBron James and his Heat teammates have worn the last three seasons. James knows he's got to keep getting better if he wants to remain on top next year and advance to his fourth NBA Finals in his four seasons in Miami.
Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel caught up James during his charity event in Akron today to discuss all the wheeling and dealing in the Eastern Conference this off-season.
James is aware that the Heat face an even harder field in the Eastern Conference next season, and he's doing everything in his power to meet the challenge, telling Richardson, "I've seen what so many teams have done to get better. I've seen the moves that we've made, so I've got to do my part."
Here's what else is happening around the league on Saturday night:
The Mavericks have made some summer off-season moves to better surround Dirk Nowitzki with a cast of players that can help the 35-year-old make one last push for a second NBA title. Mark Cuban joined Norm Hitzges on KTCK-AM radio, as transcribed by The Dallas Morning News, to talk about some of those additions.
- Last season's hodge-podge of ancillary Mavs parts included oft-injured center Chris Kaman, who signed with the Lakers this summer. Cuban tells Hitzges that Kaman didn't pair well with Nowitzki last season because he continually dribbled during pick-and-roll sets with Dirk, instead of just picking and rolling to the rim or picking and popping for a jumper.
- Cuban feels Brandan Wright–who the Mavs re-signed earlier this summer–worked the pick-and-roll a lot better with Nowitzki.
- The Mavs owner also believes Dallas' signing of Samuel Dalembert will go better than the one-year Kaman experiment because Dalembert is primarily focused on rebounding and protecting the rim.
- The Cuban – Hitzges talk also touched on how Dirk wants to send a message next season that he's not done yet, and the Mavs can still be contenders for the Larry O'Brien Trophy despite two down seasons after their Finals win over the Heat in 2011.
- Dirk is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $22.721MM next season, but Cuban didn't offer up anything on what he'll likely pay his star forward next summer, despite assurances that he won't let the smooth-shooting German sign elsewhere.
Yesterday, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that the Spurs were in the "process of" withdrawing their qualifying offer to Gary Neal. The RealGM transactions log indicates that the move indeed took place, and if that's so, the timing is key. Yesterday was the deadline for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers without having to get the player's consent. Teams that pull QOs after the deadline also automatically lose Bird rights to those players. So, the Spurs have not only saved themselves the trouble of getting Neal's permission by presumably withdrawing his QO yesterday, but they've also given themselves more flexibility to re-sign him, if they choose. Here's more on Neal and other notes involving Southwest Division clubs:
- It's been a couple weeks since Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times mentioned that the Bucks were among the teams interested in Gary Neal, but today Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio indicates that Milwaukee remains in the running (Twitter link).
- It appears that this year's 42nd overall pick will play in France. Pierre Jackson, whom the Pelicans acquired as part of the Jrue Holiday/Nerlens Noel trade, has agreed to sign with ASVEL Villeurbanne of France, according to Gabriel Pantel-Jouve of Catch-and-Shoot (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando).
- Now that the Mavs' signings of Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert are official, Mark Deeks has provided contract details for them on the Mavs page at ShamSports. Ellis has a three-year, $25.08MM deal with a player option in the final season, and Dalembert gets two years and $7,568,030, with only a $1.8MM guarantee in year two. Dalembert also has a 15% trade kicker.
- Chandler Parsons believes that he had a critical influence on Dwight Howard's decision to sign with the Rockets, as the big man's new teammate tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
JULY 23RD, 2:45pm: The Mavericks have finally made the Ellis signing official, announcing the deal today in a press release.
JULY 12TH, 3:36pm: The deal is expected to be in the $28MM range, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today.
2:47pm: The Mavericks and Monta Ellis have reached an agreement that will land the free agent guard in Dallas, reports ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Ellis will receive a three-year deal that figures to be worth between $25-30MM overall, depending on how the Mavs' cap situation shakes out.
It was just two days ago that GM Donnie Nelson told reporters that the Mavs likely wouldn't be too involved in the Ellis sweepstakes, but it appears that was just a smoke screen. The Kings, Hawks, and Bobcats were cited as other potential suitors for the free agent guard.
Ellis reportedly parted ways with longtime agent Jeff Fried recently, after being disappointed by the lack of interest he was receiving on the open market. Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports was expected to replace Fried as Ellis' rep, though players typically have to wait 15 days before hiring a new agent, so it's not clear if Fegan negotiated the deal with the Mavs.
Even if Ellis receives $30MM from the Mavs for three years, he'll be earning a lesser annual salary than he could have received from the Bucks. The 27-year-old turned down an $11MM player option to hit the open market, and reportedly turned down a three-year, $36MM extension offer from Milwaukee last season.
According to Stein, the Mavericks continue to negotiate with Samuel Dalembert, and could pursue other bigs as well, but Dallas may be capped out after Ellis' deal, leaving just the $2.65MM room exception to offer non-minimum players.
Amin Elhassan of ESPN (hat tip to SportsDayDFW
) spoke about the Mavericks'
signing of Samuel Dalembert
, calling him a player who will be well-suited for a role as an impact player on the defensive end. Elhassan also doesn't think that bringing Dalembert on board will impact the team's pursuit of Greg Oden
, who could be "the steal of the century" if healthy. Here are some more news and notes from around the Association this evening:
- Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown addresses his relationship with LeBron James and his stint as coach of the Lakers in part one of an interview with Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.
- The Knicks, Heat, and Thunder have shown interest in Sebastian Telfair, HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy tweets.
- Kennedy, as part of his NBA PM piece, passes along comments from Chris Douglas-Roberts, who's confident that the Lakers will bring him to training camp for a second straight year.
- Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York tweets that contrary to reports, the Bulls, Clippers, and Rockets are all front runners for Marcus Camby, and that the 39-year-old center is still weighing opportunities. It isn't clear as to what reports Zwerling is alluding to, as his list of frontrunners hasn't appeared to change much from this past week (with the exception of the Heat).
- The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer touches on LeBron James and Andrew Bynum and a broad spectrum of Cavs-related topics in her mailbag column.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com tweets that former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway Sr. networked with several teams in Las Vegas about potentially joining an NBA coaching staff and is optimistic about his chances.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
FRIDAY, 7:01pm: The Mavs have officially signed Dalembert, the team announced in a press release.
THURSDAY, 2:03pm: Dalembert will ink a two-year, $7.5MM deal with the Mavs, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. According to Wojnarowski, the second year will only be partially guaranteed.
WEDNESDAY, 6:58pm: The Mavs have reached a verbal agreement on a deal with Samuel Dalembert, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein reported earlier this evening that the two sides were close to an accord. Dallas and Dalembert's representatives from Pinnacle Management are continuing to hammer out the final details of his contract, and presumably that includes the financial specifics. The Mavs appear to have about $3.3MM of cap space available, and they can also use their $2.652MM room exception.
GM Donnie Nelson and company have thought about adding Dalembert for years, believing him to be an ideal fit with power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Dalembert is best on the defensive end, where he's averaged 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes for his career. His rate last season was virtually the same, even though he saw spotty playing time in Milwaukee.
The Mavs made Dalembert their primary target after missing out on Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, but he's not the only free agent they've been eyeing. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News wrote earlier today that the team was expected to reach an agreement to re-sign Brandan Wright once it struck a deal with Dalembert. The team would like to sign Greg Oden as well, and Dallas remains high on Bernard James, who agreed to postpone the deadline for the Mavs to decide whether to guarantee his contract for this coming season. The Mavs are also discussing a new deal with Devin Harris, who consented to call off his initial three-year, $9MM deal with the team after suffering a toe injury.
The Mavs have made Samuel Dalembert a target for the past couple of weeks, and now it appears they're nearing an agreement with the veteran center, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets. Dallas is one of several teams looking at Greg Oden, but Stein adds that the Mavs feel compelled to add Dalembert after missing out on Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum (Twitter link).
Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning news wrote over the weekend that Dallas and the Pinnacle Management client were "inching toward" a deal, so it looks like they're finally approaching the end of that process. Stein identified Dalembert as the Mavs' prime target a week ago.
As for Oden, the Mavs are aware they can be outbid, but they've met face-to-face with the Mike Conley Sr. client and continue to try to sell him on the idea of making his comeback in Dallas, Stein tweets. The Mavs would like to sign both Dalembert and Oden, and with the prospect of a crowded frontcourt, the team convinced Bernard James to postpone the date when his contract for this season goes from non-guaranteed from fully guaranteed, as Stein also reports via Twitter. That date was originally this past Monday, but James' salary remains non-guaranteed. Dallas wants to let its pursuit of the other big men play out before committing to James, though the team is still high on him, according to Stein (Twitter link).
The team is also likely to re-sign Brandan Wright, one of its own free agents. None of the big men the Mavs appear to be going after have the cachet of Howard or even the oft-injured Bynum, so it's odd to see them place such a priority on Dalembert, who played only a bit part with Milwaukee this past season. Dalembert would seem to be a lateral move, at best, from Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, who've signed with other teams after spending 2012/13 with the Mavs.
3:30pm: Oden's agent tells Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida that it will likely still be a few weeks before his client picks a team, and stopped short of calling Miami the frontrunner, though Oden is "very interested" in the Heat (Twitter links).
9:50am: ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported yesterday that Greg Oden was expected to meet with the Mavericks, Kings, and Pelicans this week in Las Vegas, as the list of potential suitors for the former first overall pick grew. Stein and Yahoo! Sports scribe Marc J. Spears have updates on the Oden situation today, so let's dive in and check out the highlights from their respective pieces….
- Oden has now had meetings with the Heat, Spurs, Celtics, Mavs, and Kings, according to Spears. The Pelicans had been hoping to meet with Oden on Wednesday, but he's heading back to Indianapolis today, which figures to postpone that meeting until later this week.
- New Orleans' pitch to Oden figures to focus on the fact that the big man could start his comeback attempt away from the media spotlight and with no immediate pressure to contribute if he signed with the Pelicans, according to Stein.
- The Pelicans are expected to make Oden an offer with a starting salary of about $3MM, reports Spears, noting that three other clubs will likely extend offers in the same ballpark.
- Stein reports that the Kings are viewed as "long-shot contenders" for Oden, and may end up shifting their attention to Nuggets restricted free agent Timofey Mozgov. Yannis Koutroupis of HoopsWorld mentioned that possibility yesterday (on Twitter), and Stein says Sacramento is "planning a hard push" for Mozgov.
- The Mavericks are still hoping they'll be able to sign both Oden and Samuel Dalembert to solidify their frontcourt, writes Stein.
The Rockets made a big splash signing Dwight Howard this summer, but now they're left to figure out what to do with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who they offered as part of a sign-and-trade for Josh Smith before he signed with the Pistons.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tells Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that Asik and Lin are "going to be here.” Morey has repeatedly said he doesn't want to move Lin and Asik, but he gave a more detailed reason why to Feigen today:
"The reality is James (Harden) and Dwight (Howard) want to play with Jeremy and Omer,” Morey stated. “I’ve been kicked down to assistant GM. They’re going to be here."
Here's more on the Rockets including an update on Asik's summer plans and updates from the Mavericks…
- Feigen also tweets that Asik is in Turkey for national team workouts and will not be with the Rockets for at least a month. He also answers a cap question, via Twitter, that the Rockets have the smaller "room" exception, instead of the full MLE.
- Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com tweets that the Knicks don’t think they’re getting Brandan Wright because he’s close to re-signing with the Mavericks.
- Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Mavericks are nearing a deal for free agent big man Samuel Dalembert.
7:46pm: The injury to Harris prompted the Mavs to sign Ellis, Stein writes. That makes sense, since GM Donnie Nelson said two days ago that the team likely wouldn't be in the mix for Ellis, comments that seemed misleading when word broke of the Mavs' agreement with Ellis earlier today. The money that was to go to Harris is now set to go to a big man, according to Stein, so perhaps the club won't be signing another point guard. The Mavs envisioned Harris starting at shooting guard, as he often did with the Hawks, Stein says, so that lends further credence to the Ellis-for-Harris substitution.
6:51pm: A toe injury has prompted the Mavericks to nix their agreement to sign Devin Harris to a three-year, $9MM deal, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The decision was mutual, Stein notes. Dallas remains interested in signing him, but the surgery required is expected to keep Harris out until the start of the regular season, according to Stein (Twitter link). First-round pick and fellow point guard Shane Larkin suffered a broken ankle in summer league practice, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports notes via Twitter, so it's possible the pair of injuries prompted the Mavs to call off their plans with Harris.
"All indications" are the Mavs will sign Monta Ellis using cap room instead of a sign-and-trade with the Bucks, Stein tweets. So, the decision not to sign Harris gives the club the flexibility to sign a big man as well, with Samuel Dalembert still the primary target, according to Stein (Twitter link).
The Mavs have signed point guards Jose Calderon and Gal Mekel to deals this summer, as our Free Agent Tracker shows, and they have Josh Akognon on a non-guaranteed contract, so they're not entirely devoid of help at the position. Still, Calderon is the only point guard with more than eight games of NBA experience on the roster now, so perhaps the team will look elsewhere. Aaron Brooks, D.J. Augustin and Beno Udrih are among veteran point guards still available on the free agent market, though none have been linked to Dallas this summer.
Harris, an Excel Sports Management client, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Knicks had been in touch with his representatives prior to his decision to head to Dallas, and the former No. 5 overall pick out of Wisconsin said this spring that he'd be open to listening to offers from the Bucks. Milwaukee has hired former Hawks coach Larry Drew, inked Zaza Pachulia and has a signed offer sheet from Jeff Teague, all of whom played with Harris in Atlanta this past season.