With all due respect to Lebron and Wade, the biggest free agent of them all has made his decision on his plans for next season. Phil Jackson will return to coach the Lakers for one final year. Phil said simply:
“Count me in. 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.”
It goes without saying that this is fantastic news for the Lakers. For the rest of the league? Not so much. Phil has been at the top of the pyramid and the orchestrator of 11 championship teams and his unique style and leadership has meant a level of success that has been unmatched in the history of the league. I think Phillip sums up the situation perfectly in this email to me:
The signing of Phil Jackson is obviously huge. Not only will the Lakers set out on a quest to three peat with their core players still in tact, the coaching staff will be back as it was also. Now, all of the Phil Jackson and Brian Shaw questions have been answered, we’re just waiting to see what pieces will be added to fill out the roster for next season. No matter what happens in free agency with other teams, the Lakers will still start the season with the best 1-6 rotation, a back-to-back Finals MVP and the best coach this league has ever witnessed. This eliminates a slew of potentially distracting story lines that would have plagued this Lakers team if Phil Jackson did not return this year, they’ll just have to take the court and take care of business. This situation couldn’t have worked out better for the Lakers. As long as they play the free agency period safe, it’ll be hard to find any flaws with the way the Lakers handle this offseason. More than anything else, I’m just glad he’s back and I’m ready for another title run.
As Phillip states, this now sets up the Lakers perfectly for the rest of the off-season. They now have their head coach back and know exactly what their offensive and defensive systems will look like. This continuity now makes it clear what types of players should be targeted in free agency and allows potential additions to make an informed decision on what the future entails with this team. I think this also sets up a clear succession plan for Shaw to step in after next season and for this upcoming year to serve as a bridge to the future where Shaw can take an even bigger leadership role while still sitting at the side of Phil.
I really can’t think of a better way for Lakers fans to celebrate the beginning of the free agency period. Phil’s coming back, the Lakers have their championship core in tact, and there are still many valuable (yet still low cost) free agents on the market to recruit and potentially add to a team that should be the favorite to win their third straight title next season. Wow. My holiday weekend just came early.
It’s not really a free agency signing, and it’s far from a done deal, but I still think it’s significant: The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in negotiations with Kevin Durant to extend his contract through the next five seasons for $80 million. Now THIS is a deal that makes sense. Not only is he 21 and the current scoring champion, but he is the face of a young and up-coming franchise that has a lot of promise. Keeping KD around for the next five seasons not only keeps their playoff team together, but it gives their fan base something to hold onto in the same way we received a sense of star-security every time Kobe extended his contract. This is a great move by the Thunder. They have until October to finish negotiations, but I doubt it will take that long. Durant loves playing in Oklahoma City and they love having him out there.
I’m absolutely floored by the Grizzlies decision to give Rudy Gay a max deal. I can understand wanting to bring him back, he’s 23, can score with the best of them and is awfully athletic and the small forwards on the market are far from desirable (LeBron is not in their market), but seriously, you don’t give max deals to guys who don’t make the playoffs. Anyone can NOT make the playoffs. Rudy Gay would best be served as a complimentary player for an actual max-deal type player, not the top dog himself. Not to mention that he’s had a questionable work ethic and has been a black hole on the offensive end his whole career. He doesn’t have the same will to win that you’d expect from your teams best paid guy (re: Kobe Bryant). I think this move is way too reactionary to Gay scheduling meetings with other teams. Having him back is huge, but for that much money is ridiculous. Yes, someone else would have offered him a max contract, but let that other team deal with that problem. Way too much of the Grizzlies cap is going to be taken up by Gay for this next half decade, really limiting what they can do to build their team. They had been doing a great job of putting that team together – as of right now, their building process has basically stopped unless they’re willing to take on the luxury tax. Just a terrible move.
To me, this John Salmons deal for Milwaukee is huge. This was a team that played extremely well after his acquisition down the stretch of the season and will now have him locked up for the next five years. This deal makes even more sense knowing that they just picked up Corey Maggette about a month ago. They are now looking at a very solid eight man rotation with Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Maggette, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova. This team takes a significant hit without John Salmons so extending him was huge. Salmons has made a difference at every stop he’s made in this league and should, at the very least, be on the all star ballot this season. He’s very deserving of this extension as he is one of the least talked about players in the league who is making a positive difference on his respective team. I love this deal for Milwaukee. It’s not a done deal yet, but Milwaukee isn’t going to let Salmons go.
With thoughts on the Darko signing, I introduce Zach Harper, the creator of Cowbell Kingdom and Talkhoops.net. He is also a regular contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, Raptors Republic, A Wolf Among Wolves and the ESPN Daily Dime – not to mention the biggest, and only, Timberwolves fan that I know. He basically owns the internet and is a great writer, it was only a matter of time he wrote his peace here:
I’m not opposed to Darko Milicic being on the Timberwolves but it’s the terms that put him on this team that bother me. First, to sign someone to a four-year deal when they’ve never even had one good full season is really ridiculous. These are the kind of signings that kill future cap space when teams need flexibility. Second, with the addition of Nikola Pekovic from Europe, the Wolves now have too many players in the frontcourt for their liking. Since no one will acquire the unnecessary contract they already gave to Ryan Hollins, their next move will most likely be shipping Al Jefferson to a team for 40 cents on the dollar.
Trading Al Jefferson wouldn’t be a bad thing if they hadn’t killed his trade value during the week before the NBA Draft with offering him to everybody who has ever been a part of a basketball organization. And this is what the Darko signing does for them. It not only gives them a bench player for the next four years but it also justifies trading one of their best players for a pitiful return. This wouldn’t be so bad if they had taken DeMarcus Cousins in the draft but instead, they’re completely shaping their roster in an imbalanced and inefficient way. Darko’s signing just symbolizes this and that’s why it’s a bad signing. It’s a reminder of missteps and the bad things to come.
At this point, we have already seen three baffling deals/offers: Atlanta giving Joe Johnson a max contract, six years, 119 million; Milwaukee giving Drew Gooden 32 million over five years; and Minnesota giving Darko Milicic 20 million over four years.
Joe Johnson has only been offered that contract, nothing is official yet, but it was something that was expected, but still shocking. With so many teams with cap-space trying to woo Johnson as a sidekick in hopes to bring in LeBron James, a lot of us expected Johnson to receive a max deal – but not back with Atlanta. We’re talking about a 29-year-old guard whose best season saw his averages at 25 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds. At best, Joe Johnson is a second option on a really good team – as a first option, he has failed to produce a conference finals appearance. He is a good scorer and one of the league’s best shooters, but by no means should he be making more money per season than a Lebron James (who can only make that amount of money by resigning with Cleveland). For Atlanta, this would be a horrible, horrible deal. I don’t even see Johnson playing at his best for another three years, much less six for 20 million for each of those years. If it happens, it puts them in a position to make the postseason for the next few years, but nothing more outside of that.
The Drew Gooden deal is the least shocking. This will be the eighth team that he has been employed by within the last year and a half. He isn’t the smartest big man in the league, but he plays hard and seems genuinely interested in his team’s best interest. He has decent numbers per 48 minutes (18.9 and 13.7). Milwaukee definitely needed some help at the power forward spot, especially someone with Gooden’s size, so it’s not a terrible fit. But then again, this is a guy who has played for A LOT of teams in a short amount of time. He seems to frequently get lost on the defensive end, which seems counter productive to what Scott Skiles is trying to do with the Bucks. But if anyone can improve the defensive play of a player, it’s Skiles. If it doesn’t work, Gooden’s contract isn’t too terrible that they can’t move him at some point down the line.
Thoughts on Darko coming soon. And I JUST read that the Bucks have reached an agreement with John Salmons to keep him there. Thoughts on this also coming soon.
The day that so many have been waiting for is finally here. Last night the phones started (officially and openly) ringing and discussions began with selling points and recruting occurring in an attempt to woo that coveted target into committing. And today, we plan to try and cover it all for you. We’ll obviously keep you in tune with what’s going on with the Lakers and their goings on with everything free agency related, but we’ll also try to keep you tied in with updates from around the league. Today is one of those days that it’s fun to be an NBA fan as all the movement and rumors keep us locked into what every team is doing.
First, there is some Lakers news to report. Last night, the Lakers officially renounced the rights to Jordan Farmar who is now, officially, an unrestricted free agent. Farmar is now free to sign with whomever offers him a contract with no concerns about the Lakers matching the offer and keeping him handcuffed as a 7th banana in an offense that does not suit him. Reports are already surfacing that the Pacers, Knicks, and ‘Blazers are showing some interest in Farmar but may not be offering anything more than a one year deal.
And while the Lakers look like they’ll be losing one point guard, they’re actively trying to retain another. The LA Times is reporting that when the clock struck midnight (on the east coast) the Lakers reached out to their own Derek Fisher tyring to get him to commit to returning to the Lakers. The report states that they still may be a bit far apart on a dollar amount on the contract, but I think it’s fair to say that both sides are looking to continue this pretty successful relationship. In that same report, it’s also mentioned that Brian Shaw withdrew his name from cosideration for the Cav’s vacant head coaching gig and is looking to return to the Lakers (in a role that is yet to be determined – assistant to Phil? Head coach?). Shaw stated that the Cavs were looking for a decision before free agency began and he was not prepared to make up his mind on that timeline. So, it looks like the new coach of the Cavs will be Byron Scott. As a guy that was supportive of Shaw staying with the Lakers and Scott not (potentially) replacing Phil Jackson, this is good news to me. We’ll see how it all works out in the end, but I wish Byron nothing but the best of luck with the Cavs.
Around the rest of the league, nothing major has happened yet as none of the top flight free agents have made up their minds. However, there have been a few head scratching decisions. Richard Jefferson opted out of the last year of his contract (love this headline from Dwyer), leaving $15mil on the table to become an unrestricted free agent. Uh, wow. That’s a lot of coin and I hope RJ knows what he’s doing. Also curious was the Bucks decision to give Drew Gooden $32mil for 5 years of service. Many liked Gooden in this market, but the full mid-level is awfully steep for a guy that I thought would be offered (maybe) $2-3mil for 3 years. Plus, it looks like the Hawks are set on offering Joe Johnson the max they possibly can in an attempt to keep their best player in the ATL for a long time. I can kind of see the logic of wanting to keep Joe (he’s been very good for the Hawks), but at that price for that long? Again, curious decisions all around.
So stick with us throughout the day as Phillip and I will try to keep you tied in to the happenings from all around the league. Any Lakers news will surely see an update in this thread – we’ll update at the top of the page – and if any deals from other teams tickle our fancy, you’ll get some choice words on those too. Enjoy, as commenter DY called it, the NBA version of Black Friday as all these teams go shopping.