Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Updated: July 7, 12:22 AM ET
Brand leaning toward Clippers but Warriors' offer hefty
By Marc Stein
The Los Angeles Clippers will have to wait at least one more day -- and maybe longer -- to know for sure that they'll be able to unveil their dream pairing of Baron Davis and Elton Brand next season.
That's because the Golden State Warriors have responded to losing Davis to the Clippers by giving Brand a lucrative alternative to consider, urging him to relocate to Northern California by taking their five-year contract offer worth an estimated $90 million.
Strong indications persist that Brand will stay in L.A., largely because he explained his decision to opt out of the final year of his previous contract Monday by saying he was trying to give the Clippers some financial flexibility to strengthen the team around him. But Brand is apparently still considering Golden State's rich proposal.
It was initially expected that Brand might verbally commit to re-signing with the Clippers on Wednesday, one day after Davis told the Clippers he was accepting their five-year offer worth an estimated $65 million to go back home to Los Angeles. Brand instead flew to Washington to consult face-to-face with agent David Falk while Golden State was poised to give him a deal possibly $20 million richer than what the Clippers can offer.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that the most likely scenario remains Brand re-signing with L.A. and ultimately teaming with Davis no matter what the Warriors present. One source said that Brand, during negotiations on a contract extension in June, specifically told Clippers management that Davis was the player he hoped they'd pursue if he became available in free agency.
Yet sources also said late Wednesday that the magnitude of Golden State's offer forced Brand to give it a serious look and has Clippers officials privately concerned that their fantasy scenario could collapse, with no decision from Brand guaranteed before the July 4 holiday.
The saga began Monday when Brand unexpectedly walked away from next season's $16.4 million salary to become an unrestricted free agent. Brand immediately announced that his "intention is to stay" with the Clippers. Falk told ESPN.com that they wanted to "afford the Clippers roster flexibility over the next nine days" to solidify the team around Brand and eventually sign a contract -- presumably with a slight pay cut -- that would enable Brand to "finish his career with the Clippers."
Brand's decision to opt out, coupled with a similar move by high-scoring swingman Corey Maggette, suddenly created a scenario where L.A. could have more than $25 million for next season to split on Brand and Davis, provided that Brand was willing to re-sign at a discount. Davis quickly gave a verbal commitment to the Clippers when his own decision to opt out Monday -- forfeiting next season's $17.8 million with the Warriors -- failed to bring Golden State back to the negotiating table.
ESPN.com reported early Wednesday morning that the Warriors responded to Davis' decision to opt out by making a lucrative offer to Brand -- after a similarly lucrative offer to Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas -- as opposed to resuming talks with Davis. The sides were far apart on negotiations for a contract extension leading into free agency.
"I'm sure a lot of people were surprised yesterday when Baron opted out, but it was done with the idea that the Warriors would come back with something else," Davis' agent Todd Ramasar told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "We still expected a discussion for Baron to remain a Warrior.
"He had a great run with the Warriors. That had become home for him. ... [But] this is about having the best team in place, especially at this point in his career. Baron just wants to win. He has a chance to do something special with the Clippers and come back home."
Free agents and teams were allowed to reach verbal agreements on new contracts as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning, but no signings or trades can be finalized before July 9. That's when the NBA will lift its annual moratorium on roster moves which is needed to compute the salary cap for the following season.
Davis' promise to sign with the Clippers makes him by far the most marquee free-agent signing in the club's quarter-century in Los Angeles under the stewardship of owner Donald Sterling. The closest thing to a big-name free agent signed away from another team in the Sterling era is Cuttino Mobley, lured from Sacramento to Hollywood by a five-year deal worth $42 million in 2005.
There are a number of reasons Brand likely won't leave the Clippers. He has a longstanding friendship with Davis, Golden State's young roster now lacks a proven point guard and Falk said Monday that Brand has been inspired to make the talent around him a top priority given what happened in Boston this season with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
It was not immediately known whether the Clippers will be able to manufacture another move or two that enables them to increase their offer to Brand while keeping Davis at his established figures.
"He's sort of the face of that team and he wants to try to get it back to where they were a couple years ago when they almost got to the conference finals," Falk said Monday, adding that Brand became a free agent with the intent to "maximize his opportunity to be on a serious contender."
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.