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Wade “leaning toward committing to the Bulls”?

July 3rd, 2010 2 comments
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For three years now, Pat Riley has sold South Florida on his all-or-nothing strategy to rebuild during the free agency summer of 2010. There was an idea floating around the Heat’s front office that they could pull off a monumental rebuilding coup if they could convince three max-level free agents – Dwyane Wade, plus two others – to take a little less than the maximum salary to sign on. For five years, maybe more, South Beach would be the NBA’s ultimate destination spot.

As the team entered the 2009/10 season, the Heat was little changed. Both of its second-round draft picks chose to play in Europe (in no small part because at the time the Heat did not want to pay luxury tax on their salaries), Jamario Moon was the only player of any importance who did not return (he signed with Cleveland as a free agent), and the biggest change the team had made for the upcoming year was deciding to move Beasley from power forward to small forward (and quickly back again).

The plan was widely criticized. Despite Riley’s master strategy, the math didn’t support the logic. With salary cap projections coming in as low as $50.4 million, the Heat would only be able to surround Dwyane Wade with one maximum contract free agent, with only $6.2 million to spare. Then Pat threw out a huge wrench in the strategy by offering a mid-level exception contract offer to Lamar Odom, a contract that would have paid Lamar $6.0 million and leave the Heat right on the cusp of max level money for even a second max contributor.

Wade was non-committal, having rejected an extension offer. He was screaming for help. There was much hand-wringing locally that not enough was done to surround him with championship-caliber players. After all, short-circuiting the rebuilding process would afford the Heat the opportunity to spend as much as $100 million or more on its team salary, a far cry from $50 million the 2010 off-season was expected to allow.

But Riley was adamant. Read more…

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Wade to Chicago: Legitimate Interest or Master Strategy?

July 2nd, 2010 12 comments
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For as promising as the new season had started for the Miami Heat on day one, things have taken a turn for the decidedly worse on day two.

Dwyane Wade’s decision to grant the Bulls a second meeting has columnists suggesting it was more than just a courtesy visit and South Floridians panicking over the prospect of losing their MVP-caliber shooting guard.

Per Chad Ford:

Dwyane Wade is leaning toward committing to the Chicago Bulls, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Chad Ford on Friday.

According to the source, Wade requested a second meeting with Bulls shortly after the 2006 NBA Finals MVP spent more than two hours getting wooed by the New York Knicks at a downtown Chicago hotel Friday morning. The source stressed that Wade needed the meeting to clarify issues around signing with the Bulls.

Up until today, it was deemed ludicrous that Wade would ever leave the Heat. People weren’t pitching him; he was pitching for them. Read more…

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Anecdotal evidence keeps building

July 2nd, 2010 No comments
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Not content to sit idly by and have their off-season plans destroyed by the departing Chris Bosh, general manager Bryan Colangelo and the Toronto Raptors opted instead to kick off free agency by agreeing to re-sign Amir Johnson to a five-year, $34 million contract.

The Johnson signing represents a commitment to rebuilding with the right long-term pieces for the start of the non-Bosh era. The 23-year old figures to be a key part of the frontcourt rotation for years to come and will have a chance to expand beyond his current role as a shot blocker and rebounder.

But to brush aside this ridiculous contract as a quality investment would be to assume that other teams were prepared to pay an average of $6.8 million per season over five years for a back-up big man who has had an exceedingly difficult time remaining on the floor due to his severe propensity for committing fouls. It is a perplexing expenditure for a franchise currently dealing with the consequences of another exorbitant contract that blew up in its face, and one dealing with several others (Calderon, 3 years and $29 million; Bargnani, 5 years and $50 million).

The consensus opinion after the first day of the most anticipated free agency period in league history is that rampant overspending is to be the norm, so the Raptors are certainly not alone in their dread. If Darko Milicic, who has averaged five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes per game for his career and was seriously contemplating moving back to Europe (always something of a buyer beware situation), can get a four-year, $20 million contract to play in sunny Minnesota, Johnson’s contract would seem right in line. The problem with that logic, however, is that such rampant league-wide spending is never an excuse for fiscal irresponsibility which can cripple an organization for the better part of a decade, particularly one that is already at the decided disadvantage of being located in another country and desperately trying to recruit citizens of the United States. Read more…

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Minnesota’s Moves May be Telling

July 1st, 2010 7 comments
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Some interesting developments have taken place today in Minnesota.

The Wolves have agreed to terms with two centers: free agent Darko Milicic and 2008 second-round draft pick Nikola Pekovic.

Milicic agreed to a rather eye-popping 4-year, $20 million contract. Just five months ago, the seven-footer wasn’t getting any floor time, and was seriously contemplating giving up on the NBA to return to Europe. Pekovic has a verbal agreement in place on a 3-year, $13 million contract. He has played for Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos for the past two seasons, staking his claim as one of the best centers not in the NBA. The deal, as reported, could be the most lucrative rookie contract for a second-round pick in NBA history, though it doesn’t seem particularly unreasonable. In fact, it seems very much like a bargain.

In and of themselves, these additions are of no particular interest in South Florida. When combined, however, they are sure to raise an eyebrow or two.

Wolves general manager David Kahn has a strong interest in Michael Beasley. In fact, Kahn confirmed on Sunday that he had previously contacted the Heat about trading for Beasley. The deal would have sent Beasley to the Wolves in exchange for Ryan Gomes.

The Wolves entered free agency with as much as $16.4 of available cap space at current salary cap projections. If we assume the first year salaries for Milicic and Pekovic are $4.3 million and $4.0 million, respectively (based on the max annual raises for which they would be eligible), Minnesota will have reduced its total cap space to $8.1 million. We can subtract $2.8 million from that to account for the cap hold associated with its draft rights to Ricky Rubio. That gets us to available and unencumbered cap space of approximately $5.3 million.

Michael Beasley is set to make $5.0 million.

Is it possible that Minnesota is saving up just enough money to take on Beasley? Is it possible that a deal with Pat Riley and the Heat is already in place?

Mike Miller Off the Table?

July 1st, 2010 1 comment
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Per Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports:

Mike Miller has been offered a five-year, $30M contract by the Lakers.

Miller expects to be recruited by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade wherever they end up.

The Lakers have set a deadline of tonight to accept their offer.

Is Mike Miller off the table?

Miller is a close personal friend of James and so, if he is held to such a deadline, one would suspect that Miller will reject — until he knows for certain that he won’t be playing alongside James, wherever he ends up, in his quest for an NBA championship.

His expectation, however, is interesting — and more than just a little bit exciting — in another regard. There has been all kinds of speculation that James will team up with Wade and Chris Bosh in South Florida. Could they each be willing to sacrifice maximum dollars in order to bring Miller along?

What a dream scenario that would be! Without any quality big men available on the free agent market, the Heat could elect to play small – sliding Bosh over to center and James over to power forward – and create one of the most lethal offenses in league history!

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Rudy Gay Off the Market

July 1st, 2010 3 comments
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Rudy Gay is off the market, having accepted to a 5-year, $80 million contract to remain a Memphis Grizzly (is that the singular?). Gay was a Plan B target for many South Floridians, despite the cold reality that such a union was simply not realistic. I couldn’t seem to stress this enough times and have my reader base actually believe me, but it was nonetheless a virtual certainty.

The manner in which the offer came about, however, is quite interesting (and perhaps foolish). We knew coming in that Gay would be a beneficiary of a bloated free agent contract, piggy-backing off more heralded max players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but few could predict his max contract would have come from his incumbent team on the first day of free agency. The strategy when dealing with your own restricted free agents is to stall and threaten to match any contract any team offers in the hopes of scaring them away, which handcuffs the player and his agent. It is a strategy that worked for the Knicks, to the dismay of David Lee, last season.

The NBA and its players are on a collision course with a potential extended lockout, and when loss-making, small-market teams are signing marginally above average players like Rudy Gay to maximum contracts without batting an eye, it is extremely confounding. Particularly when they don’t need to. But hey, owner Michael Heisley was staunchly committed to the developing small forward, and he got his man.

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Joe Johnson Gets His Max Deal

July 1st, 2010 No comments
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The Atlanta Hawks have offered up a ridiculous 6-year, $119 million contract offer to Joe Johnson. This is good news for a Heat team that figures to be battling it out with the Bulls for Eastern Conference supremacy for years to come. Johnson figured to be a nice Plan B alternative in Chicago, once which most figured would solve the team’s problem of not having the required cap space to offer up two maximum contracts. It was hoped by some that Johnson would be accommodating to a contract starting in the $13 million range – the theory being that without the necessary cap space to secure James and Bosh, a pairing of Johnson and Bosh would round out Chicago’s rotation quite nicely. Now, however, that appears impossible.

Of course, nothing can be made official until the end of July Moratorium on the 8th. But if the Hawks play hard ball and refuse a sign-and-trade, as they seem destined to do, it would be awfully difficult for Johnson to turn down that offer.

While the Hawks have secured their own star two-guard for years to come, they don’t gain anything with the move. The team now figures to have access to just a mid-level (~$5.7 million) and a bi-annual ($2.08 million) exception with which to improve its roster from last season.

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How the Heat can afford three max contract players

July 1st, 2010 10 comments
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Can Riley make the room to offer 3 maxes of these?

Videos such as this, which suggests that the Heat can acquire three maximum contract players without sacrificing Mario Chalmers, and articles such as this, which suggests that the Heat cannot acquire three maximum contract players even if they sacrifice both Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, are confusing the heck out of us.

We’re all trying to figure out what it would take to be able do what no other team in the league can do — offer Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh full, maximum contracts.

So what’s the true answer?

Neither of the above is correct. Based on the league’s current salary cap projections, the Heat can make three maximum contract offers if, and only if, it trades away both Beasley and Chalmers.

Allow me to explain. Read more…

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Bosh Scenario to Miami Apparently Premature

July 1st, 2010 5 comments
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The first step of Pat Riley’s mater rebuilding plan is apparently not as complete as initially reported.

On Wednesday, Miami Herald radio host and ESPN contributor Dan LeBatard reported that the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors had an agreement in place in which the Heat would acquire the services of forward Chris Bosh. Under the terms of the agreement, the Raptors were said to have agreed to a sign-and-trade of Bosh to the Heat, in exchange for Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony.

But multiple league sources have now disputed any such deal exists. In fact, a high-level Raptors source has suggested the team has no interest in Beasley or Chalmers. Toronto would, however, consider a $16.6 million trade exception (which would be produced if the Raptors were to trade Bosh for nobody in return) and the return of its first-round pick from Miami in the 2009 Jermaine O’Neal trade. Read more…

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Richard Jefferson Opts Out

July 1st, 2010 3 comments
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Apparently, sometimes cash just isn't enough

You wanted shocking news to start off the most anticipated free agency period in league history? You’ve got it.

But it has nothing to do with the Heat.

Richard Jefferson has opted out of his contract.

I’ve said it before. An eight-figure salary is something that most NBA players can only ever dream of achieving. It’s a goal right up there with winning a championship and customizing that new Ferrari in the driveway. So it’s difficult to imagine that a player would voluntary sacrifice that kind of money when a similar payday does not appear to be on the horizon.

But that’s exactly what Richard has done. Jefferson has opted out of the $15.2 million he was due next year. This comes as a shock to just about everyone.

Why would he do it?

It doesn’t figure to provide the Spurs any flexibility with which to acquire new talent, as they remain over the projected salary cap after incorporating available exceptions (though it does mean a tax free 2010-11). They also now have to find a replacement for their starting small forward. Read more…

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