1. Day 1 Of Free Agency And What It Means
You know who the five smartest men in the room were on Day 1 of free agency?
A year ago, all five saw what the free-agent market was going to look like this summer and took pre-emptive action:
They seem genius, no? The lesson from the first 24 hours of free agency is that it's not just the superstars who are defining this market -- with too much cash chasing too little talent, teams are throwing themselves at whatever Hakim Warrick or Steve Blake they can get their mitts on, consequences be damned.
Wise GMs like the five above looked ahead, saw the landscape and did their work early, even if they endured some criticism for it at the time. (As did a sixth, Utah's Kevin O'Connor, who had the foresight to extend Mehmet Okur but couldn't look far enough into his crystal ball to see a devastating Achilles injury).
Kerr and Pritchard aren't employed by their teams anymore, even though those moves at a minimum saved their teams tens of millions in additional salary. Aldridge and Rondo would get max offers in this market, guaranteed. Ginobili and Nash would have offers that came close. Camby and even Sefolosha likely would have been richly rewarded as well.
Here's the thing: It's only going to get worse.
Do the math. We have 10 maximum-salary slots among the free-agent contenders: three for Miami, two for Chicago, New York and New Jersey, and one for the Clippers.
Seems like a perfect match of supply and demand so far. However, Pierce and Nowitzki are almost certain to return to their former teams. Gay already has committed to return to Memphis, and Johnson appears close to returning to Atlanta.
Now we have six players for 10 slots. If LeBron returns to Cleveland, that makes five. And we haven't discussed the possibility of Boozer, Stoudemire or Bosh being signed-and-traded to a team already over the cap -- a real possibility given the lucrative sixth year they can add on their deals in such an arrangement.
If all that happens, that means it's possible only Wade and Lee (by re-signing six-year deals with their current teams) would eat up max-salary slots from one of the teams with cap space.
Which would leave about $120 million in cap space out on the market, chasing a bunch of players who aren't worth anywhere near that type of money.
No matter how you slice it, it's a vertiginous drop from the elite free agents to the next tier, but with all the money chasing talent this summer and all that those teams have promised their fans by tanking one or even two seasons in the pursuit of cap space, they feel compelled to make a move.
Several GMs have looked at the landscape and realized this phenomenon, which is why the bidding has increased on even secondary players. It only makes sense -- a rising tide lifts all boats. If the players normally targeted with midlevel money are suddenly angling for much bigger prizes, it means lesser players now become targets for the midlevel.
We already have some examples. Channing Frye got two years and $4 million a year ago; after opting out of the second year and trying again, he'll get nearly eight times that amount this summer. Ditto for Drew Gooden. And Amir Johnson got $34 million even though his foul rate (7.0 per 40 minutes, the worst among any player to see more than 1,000 minutes) makes it virtually impossible to keep him on the floor.
As a result, the potential is there for some really idiotic stuff to happen this summer. Think Johnson getting $34 million is bad? You ain't seen nothing yet. Some team is going to panic and give a grotesquely bloated deal to a secondary player. We might see somebody like Al Harrington or Brendan Haywood get $50 million or $60 million. We might see Steve Blake or Luke Ridnour get the full midlevel exception.
And we seem almost certain to see Richard Jefferson recoup the $15.2 million he forewent by opting out of the final year of his contract. In last year's market, it would have been a long shot. This year? Heck, he might double or triple it.
We could avert the worst excesses of free-agency Armageddon if the likes of James, Stoudemire and Boozer move to one of the cap-space teams, whether by trade or straight signing, and soak up some of that excess cash. But it seems increasingly likely that we're going to have a ton of money chasing very little talent this summer, and the result is going to be some serious salary inflation.
All of which, of course, is going to make for some very interesting theater as the 2011 lockout date grows closer. The owners will use this as evidence that salaries have gone out of control. The players, on the other hand, will say the wild spending spree proves the owners' claims of losses are absurd.
Regardless of how they spin it, the forces of supply and demand have swung wildly in favor of the suppliers this summer. Only one thing is certain: The few GMs who saw this coming a year ago deserve a lot more credit than they're getting.
John Hollinger is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.
2. Scott Named Cavaliers Coach
3. Jackson Returns To The Lakers
ESPN Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES -- The idea of his fourth three-peat must have been too much for Phil Jackson to pass up.
The Los Angeles Lakers coach told the team on Thursday that he will return for his 11th season on the bench in L.A. and an even 20th to cap his NBA coaching career.
"Count me in," Jackson said in a statement. "After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It'll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one."
Jackson had told the Lakers he needed to address health concerns before committing to another season. His right knee has been bothering him for some time.
Jackson received a clean bill of health early this week after going through a series of examinations to check out both surgically-replaced hips, his heart that had a stent placed in it during the 2003 playoffs, kidney stones that had bothered him this season as well as his right knee that caused him to start regularly wearing a knee brace for support.
• To read the entire McMenamin story, click here.
4. Daily Dime Live Wrap
ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans, giving their opinions about free agency -- all in Daily Dime Live.
5. How Would Team Trinity Do?
LeBron, Wade and Bosh.
The dream of every team in the free-agent chase is to unite those three All-Stars on one roster, creating a powerhouse trio unlike any the league has ever seen and seemingly ensuring a steady stream of championship parades in the coming years.
There's just one little catch for Team Trinity, regardless of the city the esteemed trio plays in: assembling the rest of the squad.
Putting three superstars together via free agency requires a full-on roster evisceration that would make even the 1998-99 Bulls shudder. Miami, for instance, is pursuing the trio by working a sign-and-trade of its last three contracted players to Toronto for Chris Bosh. If successful, the Heat could have a roster of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Bosh and 10 empty slots that could be filled only with second-round draft choices and minimum-wage contracts.
• To read the full column, click here.
6.Judging The Free-Agent Signings
So the first of the big free-agent dominoes has fallen, and surprisingly it's Memphis' Rudy Gay. Even more surprising, he's staying a Grizzly. With a five-year, maximum deal worth more than $80 million that no suitor could match, the Grizzlies comfortably won the rights to retain Gay's services.
Gay's return comes as a surprise because of the penny-pinching ways of Memphis owner Michael Heisley, but there's always been a madness to his method. This is the same guy who traded Pau Gasol in a pure salary dump and yet has paid the same money to visibly inferior players in Zach Randolph and now Gay. In this instance, keeping Gay now rather than matching another offer prevented the likely outcome of having to match a heavily front-loaded offer sheet from another club for similar overall dollars.Nonetheless, Gay is now grossly overpaid. No other Grizzly will make more than $5 million this year, but Gay is on the books for more than double that despite the fact that he's probably only the team's third-best player. While he's an impressive scorer, his game is completely one-dimensional and he's shown no improvement whatsoever in the past two seasons.
It's certainly possible he could do more -- Gay is only 23 and has enviable physical talents that could allow him to improve his game in several directions. But the thing he seems to need most is a change of scenery and a winning environment where more is demanded from him. That's the one thing he won't be getting for the next half-decade.
• To read the full column, click here.
7.Big Bucks For Gooden
So here I am, trying to talk myself into Drew Gooden at five years and $32 million. And apparently, it's working. A lot of people want to use this deal as Exhibit A for all the ridiculous contracts that are going around. My first reaction was equally negative. But the more I study it, I actually think this might be a good deal.
First, let's talk about the potential negatives. Drew Gooden was a free agent last year and didn't improve in the intervening 12 months; last year he got $1.9 million in guaranteed money. By that standard, paying him 16 times as much appears to be a stretch.
Additionally, the history of players in their late 20s who get the full midlevel exception or close to it is unrelentingly awful. Most of these players aren't stars to begin with, and most players of that type begin to decline rapidly in their late 20s and early 30s. As a result, we've seen a steam of Brian Cardinals, Morris Petersons and Antonio Danielses glued to the bench by the end of their contracts. Or in some cases, right at the beginning.
That's the bad news. The good news is that Gooden has a decent chance of living up to his contract anyway. You don't think so? Let's run through the facts:
• To read the full column, click here.
8. Free Agent Slot Machine
The ESPN Free Agent Slot Machine results are based on the likelihood of each potential scenario for each player and team, as provided by ESPN.com NBA experts.
• Click SPIN for another possible outcome.
Complete 2010 Free-Agent List
Not too long ago, Hedo Turkoglu went on NTV SPOR in Turkey to say that he did not want to return to the Raptors.
As free agency shakes out, the Raptors' need for a small forward to replace the disgruntled Turkoglu -- who would presumably be heading somewhere -- was part of the reason some felt Toronto might consider taking on Luol Deng's big contract in a sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh. Such a move would make the Bulls exceptionally attractive for players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
However, Turkoglu's back on the same TV channel on Thursday, only this time after spending some time listening to the soothing tones of newish Raptors' assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo, who is now in Turkey telling Turkoglu how much better things could be.
Here, translated into English, is some of what Turkoglu had to say:
• To read the full blog entry, click here.