Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Gordon, Villanueva meet with Pistons
ESPN.com news services
DETROIT -- Sharp-shooting guard Ben Gordon and fellow UConn alumnus Charlie Villanueva were in Michigan on Wednesday on a shared free-agent visit with the Detroit Pistons.
ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported earlier Wednesday that Gordon and Villanueva could both receive contract offers from the Pistons on the first day of free agency, with Detroit apparently intent on splitting its projected $19 million in salary-cap space on the two former Huskies.
Villanueva is also believed to be high on the wish list of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who embarrassed the Pistons by sweeping them in the opening round of the playoffs. But the Cavaliers' best offer to Villanueva can start at no higher than $5.6 million, which is the NBA's projected mid-level exception for next season.
Teams and free agents were permitted to reach verbal agreements as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, but contracts can't be officially signed until July 8, when the league announces its salary-cap figure for next season and lifts the leaguewide moratorium on signings and trades.
Gordon was the Bulls' top scorer the past four years and became an unrestricted free agent after the season. Chicago officials have said bringing him back is a top priority, but Gordon could be looking for a fresh start after negotiations on new contracts with the Bulls over the past two offseasons never produced a long-term commitment.
The Bulls drafted Gordon with the third overall pick in 2004.
"I know what I have here" in Chicago, Gordon said in May. "I love all my teammates. I love this city. So I definitely, in an ideal world, would like to be back here. That's the way I felt the last two summers and [a long-term contract] hasn't happened."
As a restricted free agent last summer, Gordon found few options and accepted the Bulls' $6.4 million tender offer just before the deadline in early October.
The Pistons are in a good position to improve their lineup for the coming season with both their projected $19 million under the salary cap to work with, to say nothing about four of the first 44 picks in the NBA draft.
"We're definitely in the mode of reshaping our roster," Pistons president Joe Dumars said last week. "We need to add about three or four talented players by drafting them, signing them or trading for them."
The meeting with Gordon comes one day after Dumars announced the firing of first-year coach Michael Curry.
The two played together at Detroit, but that wasn't enough to save Curry's job after he led the team to a 39-43 regular-season record and four lopsided playoff losses to the Cavaliers after six straight Eastern Conference finals appearances.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.