Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Latest chatter: A.I., Odom and others
By Marc Stein ESPN.com
The Clippers have coveted Allen Iverson for years. Will this be the summer they finally add him?
The following is an assemblage of the latest chatter culled from conversations with a variety of knowledgeable sources -- team officials, coaches, players and agents -- camped at the NBA's annual Sin City summer league:
LAS VEGAS -- You will inevitably question why the Clippers are chasing Allen Iverson and how they plan to fit him into their backcourt rotation when they already have Baron Davis and Eric Gordon.
Answer: Selling tickets is a huge part of it, just like in Memphis with the Grizzlies' interest in A.I.
Turns out winning the draft lottery and the right to select Blake Griffin with the No. 1 overall pick didn't exactly cause lines -- or even one line -- to form outside the Clippers' ticket offices. Factor in the decline in season-ticket renewals that the Clippers, like so many other teams, are facing, and the benefits of a one-year stimulus package -- before L.A. comes into a mess of salary-cap space thanks to Memphis' willingness to trade for Zach Randolph -- start to get clearer.
It's also true that the Clips, presumably at the behest of star-craving owner Donald Sterling, have flirted with trading for Iverson for years. So if Memphis owner Michael Heisley was right when he told ESPN.com on Sunday that Iverson is "only looking for a one-year contract," Clipperland would appear to be Iverson's most enticing option, given its big-market stage and the fact that Sterling apparently is willing to offer most or all of the $5.9 million midlevel exception, compared with Miami's interest at a much lower number.
Yet it remains to be seen whether Iverson, who famously threatened to retire at the end of his lost season in Detroit if asked to come off the bench again, can really accept a reserve role from the Clips or Grizz even if they're the only teams willing to offer something in the $5 million range. Skepticism is, shall we say, tangible.
"I have inquired," Clippers coach/general manager Mike Dunleavy said of Iverson, stopping the conversation there.
Mark Cuban announced to NBA TV during the Mavericks' summer league game Monday against Phoenix that he plans to explore his sign-and-trade options for Lamar Odom now that Dallas won't be getting restricted free agent Marcin Gortat from Orlando and with undeniable frustration seeping out of both Odom's camp and the Lakers that the sides aren't close to a deal.
The Phoenix Suns are yet another Western Conference rival that would happily volunteer to furnish Odom with a new home via sign-and-trade if they (A) had the pieces or payroll flexibility like Dallas to make a realistic proposal or (B) really thought the Lakers were prepared to part with him and reunite Odom with longtime admirer Alvin Gentry.
But they don't. The prevailing view in Vegas remains that Odom will wind up staying with the Lakers because the newly crowned champions surely recognize that what makes them such a monster -- apart from the guy wearing No. 24 -- is the long-limbed trio of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Odom.
I keep hearing that Odom doesn't have the leverage to hold out for the $10 million annual salary he wants, given that only Oklahoma City and Portland (if Utah matches the Blazers' offer sheet to Paul Millsap) have the salary-cap space to sign him outright in that range, but I would dispute that. For a couple of reasons.
Odom didn't just move to the bench last season (mostly) without complaint in a contract year. Of even greater consequence, Odom grew up with Ron Artest and is as close to Artest as anyone in the game, which suggests he'd be a useful aide to Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant in keeping Artest plugged into the Lakers' team objectives.
The Lakers still hope to sign ol' No. 24 to a contract extension this summer. Does Kobe even consider that now if Odom isn't re-signed?
The early sense I get is that the Mavericks have little interest in using their midlevel exception -- which is back in their possession after Orlando confirmed its intention to match a five-year, $34 million offer to Gortat -- to play the restricted free-agent game again with Boston's Glen Davis.
Detroit, by contrast, really covets Big Baby, whose modest $711,517 salary last season didn't stop him from stepping in admirably for injured Kevin Garnett in the playoffs. The Pistons' problem is that their offer can start in only the $3 million range compared with $5.9 million in Dallas' case, raising the obvious fear that the rival Celtics could tie up the Pistons' money for seven days, then match.
The Hornets, meanwhile, haven't abandoned their Big Baby interest, but New Orleans has to shed some salary before it can do anything significant or construct a sign-and-trade deal the Celtics would accept. The team considered most likely to trade for Tyson Chandler -- Phoenix -- just completed a buyout with Ben Wallace that rips up the contract New Orleans was hoping to score in exchange for Chandler to enable the Hornets to finally join this summer's action.
A handful of bookkeeping notes from the free-agent contracts that have been formally signed in the past week:
• Hedo Turkoglu's five-year, $52.8 million contract with Toronto includes a trade kicker and the right to opt out and return to free agency in the summer of 2013.
• Andrea Bargnani's five-year extension in Toronto starting in 2010-11 is worth an even $50 million. The deal includes an early termination option to return to free agency in the summer of 2014 as well as a trade kicker and incentives.
• Shawn Marion's five-year, $38.6 million deal with Dallas comes with a trade kicker, incentive bonuses and an early termination option after the fourth season.
• The market for point guards has been tough, as Andre Miller would tell you, but three done deals call for Dallas' Jason Kidd to receive an even $25 million (with incentive bonuses) over the next three fully guaranteed seasons, Atlanta's Mike Bibby to receive exactly $18 million (with incentive bonuses) over the next three seasons and restricted free agent Jarrett Jack to take in $20 million over the next four seasons from the Raptors ... or the Pacers in the unlikely event that Indiana matches Toronto's offer sheet.
• Artest's five-year, $34 million deal with the Lakers has a trade kicker. Trevor Ariza's five-year, $34 million deal in Houston does not.
• Brandon Bass' contract in Orlando is a flat $4 million annually for four years with incentive bonuses and a player option for the 2012-13 season.
• Rasheed Wallace's three-year deal with the Celts, starting at the $5.9 million midlevel exception, includes a player option for the third season ($6.8 million) and a trade kicker.
• Denver's Chris Andersen jumps from a minimum salary last season to $3.65 million next season in his new five-year deal worth $21.2 million, with incentives that can take that figure higher.
• Cleveland appears to have scored one of the better bargains of the summer with a two-year deal worth an even $5.5 million to hook swingman Anthony Parker, who still has no shortage of admirers even though he's 34.
• Milwaukee Bucks second-round pick Jodie Meeks was signed to a three-year deal worth $2.3 million, with the first two years fully guaranteed and partial coverage in the third.
No concrete evidence has materialized -- yet -- that the Heat are preparing to send Udonis Haslem's expiring contract to Utah for the expiring contract of Carlos Boozer.
But one trade scenario, presented online Monday by David Aldridge of TNT and NBA.com, would appear to have some promise for the Jazz, who long to find a way to move Boozer and take back less money, which generally requires the involvement of a third team.
Trading Haslem and James Jones to the Jazz would allow Miami to give Boozer a one-season test drive without endangering its 2010 salary-cap space and conceivably would help Utah out by fitting C.J. Miles into its $4.3 million trade exception in exchange for a future draft pick in another transaction.
It's also true that the Jazz have until February to find a new trade home for Boozer before the luxury-tax implications of matching Portland's offer sheet to Paul Millsap start setting in. Which means they don't have to rush and make the first Boozer trade they can complete.
• The Warriors insist that, contrary to ongoing speculation, they are not chasing a trade for Boozer. At all. Seems they're rather pleased with a summer league star named Anthony Randolph, who is reminding everyone in town why he's as close to untouchable as anyone on Golden State's roster.
• After his inclusion in the Shawn Marion deal and spending a day-plus as a member of the Grizzlies, Jerry Stackhouse won't clear waivers until week's end. But word is he already is drawing free-agent feelers from a handful of playoff teams while readying for his return -- after a virtual season off in Dallas -- by apparently bossing summer pickup games at the University of North Carolina.
• The Milwaukee Bucks continue to make Bruce Bowen's $4 million expiring contract available, but word is no trade is close. If the Bucks don't strike a deal in the next two weeks, Bowen will be waived by Aug. 1 at a cost of just $2 million, making him a free agent sure to interest various rivals of the San Antonio Spurs since Bowen is not expected to return to the silver and black.
• I've been advised by one especially knowledgeable observer not to be surprised if Delonte West is traded at some point this season, not because Cleveland is eager to part with him but because West is surely more movable from that massive Cavs payroll than Daniel Gibson.
• Before Orlando matched the offer sheet to Gortat, Dallas was aggressively shopping newly acquired Kris Humphries in search of another guard. And I'm told that hasn't changed in spite of the Mavericks' sudden need for size after losing Bass and missing out on Gortat.
• Sasha Pavlovic isn't in the Suns' future plans any more than Ben Wallace was, but Phoenix can keep Pavlovic on the roster for 52 days of the 2009-10 season before the cost involved exceeds the $1.5 million required to buy out his contract immediately, as just seen with Big Ben. So the Suns will hang on to Pavlovic for now, treating his $5 million contract (with the $1.5 million buyout) as a nice trade chip into December.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.