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Friday, July 2, 2010

Lebron James Free Agency Day 1

Scott officially named Cavaliers coach
CLEVELAND (AP) -- With LeBron or without him, Byron Scott has decided to get back on an NBA sideline.
Scott accepted Cleveland's coaching job just as LeBron James officially became a free agent and no longer property of the Cavaliers, who are hoping that landing the best coach available will convince the two-time MVP to stay home and try to win a title.
Scott's agent, Brian McInerney, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he and the Cavs are working through some final details, but doesn't expect any problems and that Scott has agreed to become Cleveland's next coach. As of Thursday night, the team was still hoping to officially announce Scott's hiring by the end of the day a day James listened to offers from the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.
Scott, who previously coached in New Jersey and New Orleans, may not know for some time if he'll have James on his roster. But after working as a TV analyst, the 49-year-old has decided it's time to get back to doing what he loves most.
The Cavs have been looking for a coach since Mike Brown was fired May 24, ending a five-year run with the club. Brown guided James and his teammates through the most successful run in franchise history, but fell short of winning a championship.
Scott's hiring ends a twisting drama to the Cavs' coaching search.
Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw appeared to be the favorite to become Cleveland's coach after an impressive two-day meeting with the club earlier this week. As of Tuesday, Shaw was reported to be assembling a staff to bring to Cleveland.
But despite the Cavaliers seemingly moving toward a deal with Shaw to the point where McInerney sent out a congratulatory e-mail to Shaw through several news outlets general manager Chris Grant reopened talks with Scott on Wednesday.
Scott's dream has been to coach the Lakers, but with Phil Jackson possibly returning to the champions he has decided to take on the Cavs, who could be better positioned to re-sign James with Scott on the sideline.
James has said he would like to play for a former NBA player, and Scott's resume includes 14 pro seasons 11 with the Lakers and three titles. He was a teammate of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on L.A.'s famed "Showtime" teams under coach Pat Riley and later with Kobe Bryant. He knows what it takes to win it all.
As a coach, Scott led some lesser-talented Nets teams to the finals and had a solid relationship with star Jason Kidd that unraveled toward the end of the point guard's time in New Jersey. In New Orleans, Scott took the Hornets on a surprising run to the Western Conference finals and was close with guard Chris Paul, who is James' best friend in the league.
The Cavs had an unsuccessful pursuit of Michigan State's Tom Izzo, who rejected a reported $30 million to stay with the Spartans. Cleveland had several discussions with Scott, who flew himself to Michigan and met with owner Dan Gilbert on Father's Day.
Shaw emerged as a leading candidate but then something pushed the Cavs back to Scott, landing him just in time to make an impression on James, who will hear presentations from the Nets and New York Knicks on the first day of free agency.

CP3 + Byron Scott = LeBron’s new Cavs?
It could happen.
According to a source of the New Herald‘s Bon Finnan, Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans. And given that his former coach, Byron Scott, is set to take over the Cavs … you know where we’re going with this.
Though the Hornets have made it clear that they won’t trade their superstar point guard, we can’t help but forget what Paul said when Scott was fired last November:

LeBron's toughest call: Where to go?
gene wojohowski espn.com
If it's about money and loyalty, LeBron James stays in Cleveland.
If it's about winning championships, James leaves for Miami or Chicago.
If it's about the size of his world launching pad, James leaves for New York. LeBron James wants to get his hands on the Larry O'Brien Trophy. If he does, where will it happen?
If it's about building something from scratch, James leaves for New Jersey/Brooklyn.
If it's about playing for the most passionate owner in sports, James leaves for Dallas.
If it's about playing for the worst owner in sports, James leaves for the Los Angeles Clippers.
If it's about the first five, then I have absolutely no idea what NBA uniform James will wear next season. And from the number of breathless but conflicting rumors surrounding his free-agency romancing, I'm not sure James knows, either. Cav or Mav? Knick or Net? Heat or Bull?
We are witnesses to one of the great sports decisions of all time. Bigger than Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees. Bigger than Joe Namath to the New York Jets. Bigger than Robert Irsay moving the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis. (Baltimore got another NFL franchise; Cleveland isn't going to get another LeBron.)
If James screws this up, his basketball legacy will fit under a beer cap. He will become the guy who overthought or underthought himself into the wrong choice. Agents and business school professors will use James as a cautionary tale, a 6-foot-8 example of what not to do in free agency.
The King will be reduced to a spectacularly rich jester.
You see the great James calmly orchestrating some grand career scheme. I see a guy just old enough (25) to rent a car without an age surcharge. And on top of that, James is facing a kind of extreme pressure he's never seen on a basketball court. In other words, he could panic.
Basketball is easy compared with this. Players can practice shooting jumpers from the arc. They can't practice making sense of a half-dozen business scenarios from six different teams with six different presentations.
James gets only one opportunity in his life to be a free agent in the absolute prime of his playing career -- and that opportunity is now. If he signs a six-year max deal with the Cavaliers, or a five-year max deal with any of the other teams, he'll be 31 or 30 the next time free agency arrives. That isn't basketball AARP age (Kobe Bryant just led the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship at 31), but who knows what sort of physical toll the game will have taken on James by 2015 or 2016.
What would you do? Would you let your heart dictate the decision?
Cleveland hopes so. Without James, the Cavaliers would instantly lose an estimated $100 million in franchise value. The downtown businesses, according to a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer story, would lose about $200 million in LBJ-generated season revenue. And a city with a long, depressing history of sports failure would lose a chunk of its self-esteem, as well as a player who was born and raised in nearby Akron. One of its own would become an Ohio export.
Comfort counts, and James is comfortable as a Cav. Plus, he would leave $30 million on the table if he signed elsewhere.
But James is also ringless. There's the not-so-small matter of the Cavs' roster, which isn't getting any younger, better or more likely to help James with a championship.
So the heart has its limitations, as do the Cavs.
This is semi-new territory for James. He was recruited by colleges out of high school, but his entry into the NBA was a foregone conclusion. Then the Cavs drafted him. He has never had to choose an NBA team; one chose him.
Now the Bulls, Knicks, Nets, Heat, Cavs and Clippers will essentially make the equivalent of home recruiting visits to the Akron area beginning July 1. They will be selling -- that's what recruiters do -- James on everything from basketball to brand name.
The Bulls will sell the quality of their roster, the chance to connect the championship dots from MJ to LBJ, and the vitality of their city.
The Knicks will sell the wattage of New York and the franchise's plan to turn Madison Square Garden into a place where they raise banners again. What that plan is, I have no idea.
The Nets will sell a new owner with pockets as deep as the Caspian Sea, the business savvy of Jay-Z and their impending move to Brooklyn.
The Heat will sell Dwyane Wade and the audacious, but doable idea of having D-Wade, James and Chris Bosh on the same team.
The Cavs will sell familiarity and commitment.
The Clippers will sell the law of averages -- that Donald Sterling can't be the most
clueless owner every year, right?
There are no guarantees James will make the right decision. That's because championships, health and rebuilding plans aren't guaranteed. The money is, but nothing else.
James is in the rare position of having everything to gain but also everything to lose. If this works, he can start collecting title rings. If it doesn't, he'll have wasted the chance of a lifetime.
You see a guy with choices. I see a guy with perspiration stains.

The Latest News on NBA Free Agents as of 10:00 pm est according to si.com
Thursday, July 1
RAPTORS GET JOHNSON: Amir Johnson agreed on a five-year, $34 million contract with the Raptors, his agent, Kevin Bradbury, told Marc Spears. "Amir didn't want to play the free agency game," Bradbury said. "He wanted to go back to Toronto. He's young and he has security and a lot of basketball left in him." The 6-foot-9 power forward considered four teams before quickly agreed to the Raptors offer. [Yahoo! Sports]

CELTICS SHOPPING WALLACE: The Celtics are trying to use Rasheed Wallace's contract in a trade, which would allow them to keep their mid-level exception, claims Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Wallace announced last week that he would retire, but has yet to file retirement papers, so his $6.32 million salary for next season and $6.79 million the following the season would come off a team's books when he's traded to them.

Boston GM Danny Ainge is shopping Wallace's contract to get a power forward or center to replace him and the injured Kendrick Perkins. The team could then use their mid-level exception for a different player, like Orlando sharpshooter J.J. Redick, whom sources say Ainge is targeting. Other candidates: Free agent Brad Milller and Dallas center Erick Dampier. [Yahoo! Sports]

BOSH MEETS HEAT: Chris Bosh met with the Pat Riley and the Heat's contingent in Chicago on Thursday, each side gauging the chance of him joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. Bosh flew to Chicago from his Dallas home, while the Heat brass arrived after meetings with Amar'e Stoudemire and others in Los Angeles. On his Twitter feed, Bosh said he was "looking forward to seeing what Miami has to offer," adding, "stay tuned." Riley was joined for the Bosh visit by team owner Micky Arison, Heat great Alonzo Mourning, among others. Bosh told The Associated Press earlier this week that Miami is one of his top choices during the free-agent period. [AP]

DIRK'S DETOUR: Dirk Nowitzki was supposed to be headed to Dallas to speak with the Mavericks' brass about a new contract, but he made a pit-stop in New York City to have dinner with teammate and confidant Jason Kidd. Kidd, who was a free agent a year ago before he inked a three-year, $25 million deal with Dallas, recently said he thought Nowitzki would re-sign. Mavs GM Donnie Nelson was minutes away from boarding a plane for Germany to meet with Nowitzki on Tuesday, but didn't seem too worried about the big man's detour. "A day doesn't matter at this point," he told NBA.com's Art Garcia. "We've got all our lines in the water. We've been talking to players and agents." [NBA.com]

HAWKS WANT ANSWER: Atlanta offered Joe Johnson a max six-year contract worth $125 million, and if he doesn't make a decision soon, the Hawks may be forced to withdraw their offer and look elsewhere, a league source told SI.com's Ian Thomsen. The Knicks, who have Johnson as one of their sticking points in their pitch to LeBron, met with the Hawks guard Thursday morning before they talked to James. Two Knicks sources described their meeting with Johnson in Los Angeles as "very promising."
-- Ian Thomsen

GRIZZ KEEP GAY: Rudy Gay agreed to a five-year, $81.6 million contract with Memphis, with a player option on his fifth year, reports NBA.com's David Aldridge. Gay had scheduled a visit Thursday afternoon in Minnesota with the Timberwolves, but the Grizzlies contacted Gay's agents Thursday morning and said they now would be willing to match any offer sheet another team gave him. Gay then had no incentive to look elsewhere, and canceled his trip to Minnesota. [NBA.com]

WADE MEETS WITH BULLS: Dwyane Wade and his representatives spend about two hours with the Bulls on the Day 1 of free agency. The Heat are still "very confident" they can re-sign Wade, who grew up in Chicago. Details of Wade's talks with the team weren't immediately known, but his chat did coincide with LeBron's meeting with the Nets. Both meetings ended at roughly the same time, and the nets' contingent quickly left Cleveland to fly to Chicago for an afternoon meeting with Wade. [AP]

Hours after the Bucks reportedly agreed to a deal with forward Drew Gooden comes news that guard John Salmons is closing in on a new contract to remain with Milwaukee, reports NBA.com's David Aldridge. A league source told Aldridge a deal that would pay Salmons $39 million over five years, and up to $5 million in potential bonuses, is "real close." [NBA.com]

Once strongly considering a return to Europe, Darko Milicic, the man selected after LeBron James in the 2003 draft, has decided to give the NBA another chance, thanks to a four-year, $20 million deal from the Timberwolves.

Though over the salary cap, the Orlando Magic may be interested in acquiring Carlos Boozer through a sign-and-trade, reports the Deseret News. Boozer is reportedly high on Magic center Dwight Howard's list of preferred additions, according to a CBS Sports report Wednesday. [Deseret News]

GOODEN GETS DEAL: Drew Gooden reached a five-year, $32 million contract with the Bucks, reports Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Bucks GM John Hammond and Gooden's agent Dan Fegan cut the deal early Thursday to help solidify Milwaukee's frontline. The Bucks are still negotiating with free agent John Salmons to return. [Yahoo!]

The Atlanta Hawks have offered Joe Johnson a six-year, $119 million contract, two NBA sources told SI.com. Multiple executives believe that Johnson is likely to sign the deal and remain with the Hawks.Hawks GM Rick Sund delivered the offer to Johnson in Los Angeles shortly after midnight Thursday. Johnson then met with coach Mike D'Antoni and a group from the Knicks with the Rockets and Mavericks on hold for meetings later Thursday.
--Chris Mannix

(UPDATE: Johnson is slated for a second meeting with the Hawks Thursday, reports Ken Berger of CBS Sports. Agent Arn Tellem said that he expects his client to make a decision on the Hawks' max deal "in the near furtue." [CBS Sports])

The Houston Rockets have identified Chris Bosh as their primary target this offseason, a source told SI.com. The Rockets visited Bosh in Dallas just after midnight Thursday morning and are discussing sign-and-trade options to bring Bosh to Houston. Among the trade candidates that could be sent to Toronto are forward Luis Scola and guard Aaron Brooks. Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted: "Just finished meeting with @chrisbosh - great player & person. He is about winning so I focused on how w/Houston he can win a championship."?
--Chris Mannix

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