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First Cup: Tuesday

11/29/2011
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: The whisper at One Center Court is that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen won't bother to take one last look at Brandon Roy before he goes amnesty clause on the guy who won all those games for him. Here's hoping Allen does. And that the longest look is into Roy's eyes. "Brandon's out," a league executive told me Monday. "Don't know the exact details, but everyone around the league knows it's way, way done. Paul and Bert (Kolde) are calling the shots on this one." If you wondered who would follow Kevin Pritchard and succeed Rich Cho in the cursed Portland GM seat, we apparently have a two-headed solution. And so it appears that the Blazers new brain trust – Allen and his childhood pal – is ready to make the first basketball mistake of this "BFF" era. Cut Roy? If he can't play anymore, sure. Makes total sense. The guy makes $15 million a year. Lots of back-to-backs in a shortened season. But there's no sense in flushing the three-time All Star before you've taken a long look at him in training camp, watched him run, and gauged whether a long offseason has been good to his knees. Maybe even seen him in a scrimmage. Allen makes that hasty move, and we all see right through him, don't we?

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: The roller-coaster ride has just begun. Agents burned up phone lines Monday, alternately getting in touch with clients stuck playing overseas and evaluating free-agency options for athletes suddenly seeking new jobs. Teams also went into overdrive. While the CBA has yet to be formally approved and about 40 B-list items are still being negotiated, GMs and talent evaluators were already poring over their options. Who to sign? Who to cut? Who to keep? To amnesty or not to amnesty? And the biggest Q: How in the world will the NBA pull it all together and put on a legitimate nationally televised show Christmas Day? "Crazy" was a term used by many when discussing the NBA’s decision to open free agency and start 30 camps on the same day. The dual move is necessary to get the league up and running by Dec. 25. But with the CBA still in its infancy and team officials uncertain about many rules governing player movement, questions easily outnumber answers.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: With speculation focused on free agents such as Jason Richardson, who would command most or all of the $5 million midlevel exception, or Vince Carter, who might consider signing for the veteran's minimum if the Suns waive him, another possibility for Bulls shooting guard is getting overlooked: C.J. Watson. Bulls managementtalked last season and through this offseason about playing Watson more off the ball in 2011-12, which would lead them to pursue veteran help to back up Derrick Rose at point guard. One possibility could be T.J. Ford. Bulls management has liked Ford in the past, and he's represented by Arn Tellem, who's also Rose's agent. Tellem long has had a strong relationship with Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. ... The Bulls are considering many scenarios as they prepare for what appears will be a fast and furious free agency period scheduled to begin Dec. 9. A decision on Keith Bogans, who started all 82 games at shooting guard last season, will be made before then. ... Though nothing is definitive, it's considered less of a possibility the Bulls will use their entire midlevel exception on a long-term deal for a shooting guard because of luxury-tax concerns in the first year of Rose's five-year maximum extension near $100 million.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: With the NBA ready to lace up the sneakers and get back to the business of fiscal insanity, the first pressing question of this overdue season is: Which team will make a $12 million mistake on Nene? Let's hope it's not the Nuggets. Although 6-foot-11, Nene plays small in big moments. Could there be more cost-efficient options for Denver than to blindly follow conventional wisdom and offer a blank check to Nene, a free agent who claims he wants to get a championship and get paid? The trouble is: Any team who pays too much for Nene might unwittingly take a giant step backward in the pursuit for a league title. While the Nuggets brain trust of Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri are perfectly capable of formulating their own ideas, here are my two cents: You want to break the bank on a center? Then make an aggressive play for restricted free agent Marc Gasol of Memphis and force the Grizzlies to play an uncomfortable game of roster Twister to match the offer, if they won't let Gasol move on to the Rocky Mountains. ... Nene is a solid basketball piece. Denver coach George Karl would miss Nene if the Nuggets let him go and fail to reinvest the money they have pocketed to upgrade the roster in some meaningful way. But here's the bottom line: While his statistics are easy on the eyes, anybody with basketball savvy can see Nene is not a money player. So spend $12 million per year on Nene? Buyer beware.

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: The Celtics and Leo Papile have parted ways after more than 14 years. The team has made no official announcement, but sources confirmed he is no longer with the club. Papile had no comment when reached last night, but other people close to the situation said it was time for both to move on. Since coming aboard in 1997 with the hiring of Rick Pitino, Papile has served under various titles but mainly has been a talent evaluator. ... “I think Leo and the Celtics have had a good relationship, but I also think this will be the right thing at this point,” the source said. “Leo is a basketball guy — always will be — but he’s got other things going on, too.” Papile is expected to continue as coach of the BABC.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: A person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the litigation said Monday that the lawsuit settlement and union re-formation likely won’t occur until the middle of this week or later. ... Teams remain in the dark about the schedule that they will play once the season begins. As it stands, only the six teams scheduled to play on Dec. 25 know where their seasons will begin. But with an unofficial deadline approaching, players and coaching staffs can’t sit idly by until the final terms are resolved. Wizards Coach Flip Saunders and the rest of his coaching staff — Randy Wittman, Don Zierden, Sam Cassell, Gene Banks and Ryan Saunders — are scheduled to meet at the practice facility at Verizon Center on Tuesday. They will map out the game plan for a shortened season and a possibly condensed training camp. The group has come together to watch film and discuss strategy several times during this protracted offseason, and Saunders has also had individual meetings with each one of his assistant coaches.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The line to sign up with a team that finished within two victories of an NBA championship forms to the left. Based on the initial interest, the Miami Heat seemingly shouldn't have too much trouble getting this right. Still more than a week from the Dec. 9 post-lockout start of the NBA free-agency period, the Heat already have words of interest from Samuel Dalembert, expressions of interest from Shane Battier, and an open dialogue with Caron Butler, three of the more intriguing free-agent prospects in the Heat's spending range.

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: If Chris Paul is to become a Knick sometime this season, it likely will be Glen Grunwald's job to get him to New York. Knicks owner James Dolan appointed Grunwald, whose official title remains senior vice president of basketball operations, to the role of interim general manager in June when Donnie Walsh decided not to return as team president. It is likely, according to several sources with knowledge of the situation, that Grunwald will hold the position for the entire 2011-12 season.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Final details of a new, lockout-ending collective bargaining agreement still must be settled by negotiators and approved by both sides, but a new schedule is expected this week. Some details have been released, including the fact each team will play at least one set of three straight games. Some may play as many as three sets of three in a row. There will be many more sets of back-to-backs. For a team like the Spurs, with aging veterans among its key players, the grind will be especially difficult. Perennial All-Star and two-time Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan is 35, Ginobili 34. Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner are 31. Point guard Tony Parker is just 29, but has been playing professionally since he was 15. Popovich has been limiting Duncan’s and Ginobili’s playing time for several seasons. One expert on Popovich’s approach expects even more vigilance.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: For the first time since general manager John Hammond arrived on the scene in 2008, the Bucks will be below the salary cap, with salaries currently totaling about $52 million to players under contract. The salary cap level is expected to be $58 million for the 2011-'12 season, with the luxury tax at $70 million. The Bucks were hovering just below the tax level in recent years, in part because of the max contract (six years, $91 million) signed by guard Michael Redd in the summer of 2005. Redd's contract is off the books, giving the Bucks at least some flexibility in signing players. The Bucks' top salary now belongs to center Andrew Bogut at around $12 million. Hammond is not facing a massive roster shake-up at this point, in part because of the major trade the Bucks swung on draft day in June. The Bucks acquired veteran guard Stephen Jackson, guard Shaun Livingston and guard Beno Udrih in the three-team deal while also landing Charlotte's No. 19 overall pick, which was used to acquire Tennessee forward Tobias Harris. But the Bucks do face decisions on several players, including Mbah a Moute, forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Keyon Dooling. And Milwaukee is in the market for a backup center.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The Pistons have three main candidates for amnesty. One time Pistons hero Rip Hamilton is on the books for roughly $19 million over the next two seasons. Ben Gordon hasn't lived up to expectations since signing in 2009 and is owed nearly $35 million over the next three seasons. And then there's Charlie Villanueva, under contract for nearly $23 million over the next three seasons. But there's something else to consider. I asked a Pistons official during the summer: 'Who would get the ax if the amnesty provision is approved?' He responded: "It depends on who you can trade."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks could choose to use the amnesty clause now. It allows teams to waive one player over the course of the new labor agreement, which is for 10 years with either side allowed to opt out after six. But the Hawks almost certainly won't waive Johnson now because they still would owe him $107 million over the next five seasons (with prorated amounts for this season). Waiving Marvin Williams or Kirk Hinrich, two other potential amnesty candidates, would provide little or no salary-cap relief. Barring a trade, it appears likely the Hawks will take another shot at making their first East finals with largely the same group from last season. That might be a reasonable goal if the Hawks can find value among low-priced free agents to add to their returning talent.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: The most glaring hole on the roster now is at small forward, where James Johnson is the starter by default. However, there aren’t a lot of high-profile, young small forwards available in free agency. The most interesting player available to fill that hole would be former Utah Jazz all-star Andrei Kirilenko, who is currently playing in his native Russia. The question would be if the Raptors could afford him, or if he would be interested. Other than that, Colangelo has said in the past he’d like to sit a bit and see how his current group of relatively young players reacts to new coach Dwane Casey before making any substantial moves. With Valanciunas and another first-round draft pick coming next summer, and possibly armed with a huge amount of room under the salary cap, Colangelo might just want to see how this season plays out, with an eye to making a major splash next summer.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Andrea Bargnani doesn’t want to talk about it, but the big man is in great shape as the season finally approaches. Quietly, Bargnani, who has been knocked in the past for not always being the first player to arrive in the gym and the last to leave, has been in Toronto for the past few weeks undergoing vigorous individual workouts. Coming off of a season where he averaged a career-best 21.4 points per game but somehow saw his rebound rate fall and his blocks per game drop in half, it seems Bargnani knows he will have to hit the ground running with new head coach Dwane Casey. ... According to a source present or with knowledge of all of Bargnani’s workouts this month, the big man has dropped some weight and is moving extremely well. Bargnani looked good on Monday, nailing the bulk of his shots and running well, but declined to answer questions from the Toronto Sun afterwards.

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: When the 2010-11 Trail Blazers season ended with a loss to Dallas in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Portland's players, coaches and executives agreed that there was one area on the roster that needed to be upgraded in the offseason: The front line. It had been rendered woefully thin by a litany of injuries and the trade-deadline deal in which they dealt two centers and a power forward to Charlotte to obtain small forward Gerald Wallace. Seven months later – five of which team officials spent handcuffed by the NBA lockout – Portland still is woefully short-handed inside, and the team potentially has fewer tools with which to solve the problem. ... If Portland is to get front-line help, it might need to turn to players willing to take less money to play in Portland. Former Blazers Joel Przybilla and Jeff Pendergraph could fit that bill. The team's scouts also could search for diamonds in the rough in the NBA Development League, where Portland found Johnson. The Blazers also need a true backup power forward in case they decide to trade Wallace, who has a player option for 2012-13. He could become an unrestricted free agent next summer, making him a valuable trade commodity.