First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It’s still possible all of this trade talk leads to no deals now and the Hawks wait until later in the summer or next season to pursue trades. But already it’s clear that [Danny] Ferry is willing to trade a piece of the team’s proverbial “core” in an effort to gain cap space to re-build the roster. In addition to [Joe] Johnson, the Hawks have been open to moving forward Josh Smith though they’ve resisted offers so far. Apparently the Hawks balked at a potential deal with the Lakers for Pau Gasol because L.A. wanted another major piece to go along with Smith. That would leave the Hawks with less than six players under contract, less talent, and no short-term cap relief because of the $38 million and two years remaining on Gasol’s contract. Before Ferry was hired, Smith told the Hawks he wants to be traded to a franchise he considers to be more committed to winning a championship. There’s been no indication that Smith has changed his mind after Ferry’s hire, which does nothing to placate Smith’s desire to also play in what he believes to be a better sports market. Smith’s contract expires after next season. Ferry said he plans to meet with Smith soon.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: At a pivotal and dangerous crossroads, the Nets were still doing everything they could to bolster their argument to Deron Williams to stay. As a result, they go into Monday’s faceoff against the Mavericks with a blockbuster trade dangling, a lucrative contract having just been negotiated and, most notably, a scheduled meeting with the point guard who matters most. It’s make-or-break time for GM Billy King and the first-ever Brooklyn NBA franchise, which has been prepping for this moment for the last year and a half. Fail to persuade Williams, the blueprint crumbles and it won’t take long before the Nets retreat back to irrelevance.

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: Dwight Howard wants out again, and has asked to be trade to the Brooklyn Nets. I think I can speak for the entire City of Orlando on this deal. See you. As they say in my original language: Fuera! When and where do you want us to sign the divorce papers?Here are some of the printable comments on staydwight.com, a web site created by my friend Ryan Totka hoping to persuade Dwight to stay here and continue chasing an NBA title with the Magic: “He’s a childish, diva [expletive].” “OMG just go already…” “Maybe it’s time to shut down staydwight.com and start a leavedwight.com page.” “If u need help i will help you get the hell out of city beautiful myself!!!!” And so it shall be. Howard wants to go to the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, but let’s hope new Magic Rob Hennigan plays hardball and doesn’t take the table scrapes the Nets can put together. The Brook Lopez era? Please. One thing is certain: The Dwight Howard era is over in Orlando. And at this point, fans would rather kick him out the door than thank him for the memories.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Armed with what ESPN.com said was a three-year offer worth about $36 million, the Raptors made their pitch to Steve Nash in New York on Sunday. ... Meanwhile, the one current Raptor who will be most affected by Nash’s decision remains philosophical about his fate. “I’m still a Raptor. Don’t know what’s going to happen,” Jose Calderon told the Star on Sunday. “When (something) happens, if (something) happens, my agents and myself will see what are the options, amnesty or trades. So I’m just thinking about the Olympics and my national team. And waiting for news.” The Raptors may need to move Calderon’s salary — just over $10 million for one more season — to get to the financial commitment they’re prepared to make to Nash. While they could do something like move or amnesty another player with a smaller deal, they may need to maximize their cap room to attract free agents other than Nash.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: While the Rockets reached agreement with Asik, Eric Gordon arrived to meet with Daryl Morey and Kevin McHale, saying his mind is wide open about his growing free-agency options. Gordon, one of the top free agents and the Rockets’ top target from other teams, met with his hometown Indiana Pacers on Sunday. The Hornets have said they would match any offer he receives. Still, Gordon said he wanted to learn more about his choices. He will meet with the Suns later this week. “I’m completely open-minded,” Gordon said. “I’m going to listen to various teams. No one is at the top right now. If I was older, I would say I want to be on a contending and older team, but I’m young. I’m just looking forward to helping a team. They (the Rockets) are interesting. You can tell they’re trying to go after a lot of big-time players. They’ve always been a pretty good organization. They always have a pretty good team. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do this summer.”

  • K. C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The day after wooing Omer Asik in Los Angeles, Rockets management verbally agreed to a three-year, $24.3 million contract with the Bulls' restricted free-agent center, two league sources said. ... Bulls general manager Gar Forman consistently has stated re-signing Asik is a priority. Whether a back-loaded contract that climbs to $14.1 million and possibly slightly higher in Year 3 changes that is unknown. Derrick Rose is scheduled to make $17.8 million and Carlos Boozer $16.8 million in 2014-15 when Asik's deal jumps, although the Bulls almost certainly will use the amnesty provision on Boozer. ... Two league sources said the Bulls told Kyle Korver's agent there remain scenarios in which they can pick up Korver's $5 million option. However, if the Bulls match on Asik, they will have $69.3 million committed to nine players. That's only $1 million below the projected luxury-tax line with three or four players still needed to be signed.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Eric Gordon met with the Indiana Pacers on Sunday morning before heading to Texas to meet officials from the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. Gordon will meet with the Phoenix Suns later this week. The Hornets are prepared to match any offer Gordon receives, even if it’s a maximum-money offer. New Orleans is the only team that can offer Gordon a five-year, $79 million contract. The Rockets appear to be the most serious about obtaining Gordon and could explore the possibility of putting forth a sign-and-trade package that would give the Hornets compensation, so they would be less inclined to match a potential offer. Sources say Gordon wants to make a decision before he leaves for Las Vegas later this week to participate in Team USA workouts.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns brass and Steve Nash spent Sunday on opposite sides of the country, representing the different directions they are headed. Nash was at his summer home in New York City getting wooed with an offer for at least $35 million over three years from Toronto and a plan to get him $30 million over three years from New York. Suns leaders were in Los Angeles, laying out their own plan of focusing on young free agents Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon and Robin Lopez to use the salary-cap space boosted by Nash's first free-agent day. Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, General Manager Lance Blanks and coach Alvin Gentry met Beasley, an unrestricted free agent, and Lopez, their restricted free agent, in Los Angeles on Sunday and have scheduled Gordon, New Orleans' restricted free agent, to visit Phoenix on Tuesday. Going after Beasley (23 years old), Gordon (23) and Lopez (24) while not approaching the offers that Nash (38) is getting is the first sign of the front office's transition plan. The Suns also have slated Goran Dragic, the point guard they traded last year, and Raymond Felton, another point guard, for Valley visits this week and called other free agents like power forward Jordan Hill, center Chris Kaman and swingmen O.J. Mayo, Jamal Crawford and Nick Young.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Nuggets sharpshooters (and fans) can rejoice. Assist machine Andre Miller has agreed to re-sign with the Nuggets, two sources said Sunday night. The 36-year-old point guard is arguably coach George Karl's favorite player because of Miller's ability to make the proper pass and fuel the offense. The sources confirmed that Miller will sign for three years. Financial terms were undisclosed. ... Now all attention is turned to JaVale McGee, the Nuggets center who's a restricted free agent. Nuggets executives met with both Miller and McGee in Los Angeles, a source said.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Pacers met with Indianapolis native and New Orleans guard Eric Gordon on Sunday, the first day teams could meet with players. But now they may have to add two centers to the roster. The Portland Trail Blazers didn't waste any time during the first few hours of free agency, offering Pacers All Star center Roy Hibbert, a restricted free agent, a maximum contract of four years for $58 million. Hibbert is expected to sign Portland's offer sheet once the NBA's moratorium period ends July 11. The Pacers would then have three days to match Portland's offer to retain Hibbert. The Pacers also met with Hibbert early Sunday morning, but they didn't offer him a maximum contract. The max they can offer Hibbert is five years for $79 million. The Pacers knew there was a strong possibility a team would offer Hibbert a max contract after he and his agent, David Falk, decided against negotiating an extension back in January.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: So begins the most fascinating free-agent moratorium period in Blazers history. Great theater, at least. Because the Blazers reportedly reached a four-year, $58 million verbal agreement with restricted free agent Roy Hibbert over the weekend. It's a big, bold play. And I love that the Blazers are going to the mattresses, trying to land the premier center available in free agency. But we're not only about to witness a competitive and creative negotiation for the 7-foot-2 center, but also, a great Allen-Pritchard subplot. Pritchard was promoted to general manager in Indiana after the departure of Larry Bird last week. It took Pritchard two years to shake the stigma of being canned by Allen, gather himself professionally, and get another GM job. In that period, he's scouted, and done so much soul searching that he grabbed a laptop and started making notes and writing a book on management techniques. ... But what we have here is a good, cordial battle over Hibbert that will have a clear winner and loser. It's the first opportunity for Allen and Pritchard to compete over something that matters. If you're Pritchard, here's your first chance to fend off the billionaire who jilted you in a setting where you feel you have better footing and more expertise. If you're Allen, and you want Hibbert, you're going to have to go through a guy you once turned your back on to get him.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves got busy during the first 24 hours of NBA free agency, wooing Portland swingman Nicolas Batum to town on Sunday evening and scheduling visits for two other players, league sources said. The Wolves are expected to offer a four-year deal that could approach $50 million for Batum, a 6-8 restricted free-agent swingman who would address two of their biggest needs -- small forward and shooting guard -- with one big signing. No contract can be signed until the NBA's moratorium on trades and signings ends July 11. The Trail Blazers and their kajillionaire owner Paul Allen then would have three days to match the Wolves' offer. The Wolves also called Boston restricted free-agent center Greg Stiemsma one minute after free agency commenced late Saturday night and brought him to Minneapolis for a visit on Sunday morning. Los Angeles Lakers unrestricted free-agent power forward Jordan Hill -- who played for Wolves coach Rick Adelman in Houston -- is expected to visit on Monday while the Wolves still are believed to be pursuing a trade for Lakers star Pau Gasol. ... The Wolves also have talked with the agents of unrestricted free-agent guards Willie Green and Jamal Crawford.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers have about $20 million available in salary-cap space to spend in free agency. Don't expect them to spend much of it. They'll take a frugal approach to free agency this summer, even though they have several holes to fill. The free-agent class is comparatively weak. There are few good, young stars on the market. Secondly, the Cavs want to maintain their flexibility at the trade deadline in February and next summer. This time next year, a punitive or "super" luxury tax kicks in. The tax will be assessed at different levels based on the amount that a team is over the threshold. This year, it's a dollar-for-dollar tax. Starting next year, teams could pay $1.50 on the dollar, and up to $3.50. Experts predict teams will want to dump players — perhaps some very good ones — to stay out of that tax threshold. Teams with cap space could benefit greatly. With all that being said, the Cavs will have to fill out their roster. They need shooting from the small forward or power forward positions.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers reached agreement in principle on a two-year, $6 million contract extension with Lavoy Allen on Sunday, the first day of free agency, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The deal cannot be officially signed until the moratorium on signings is lifted on July 11. ... The Sixers also spoke to the representatives of unrestricted free agents Lou Williams and Spencer Hawes.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: At 11 p.m. June 30, 2010, Sam Presti knocked on Kevin Durant's door. At 11:02, the Thunder and Durant had a deal on a contract extension. Don't expect anything like that in this summer of numbers crunching. The Thunder has secured the services of Durant and Russell Westbrook, and now comes time to corral James Harden and Serge Ibaka — starting Sunday, with the window open until Halloween for contract extensions. But getting Harden and Ibaka signed will not be as easy as knocking on a door. More like solving a Rubik's Cube. To keep this core together, the Thunder is going to have to take some organizational risk, and Harden and Ibaka are going to have to sacrifice, perhaps greatly, and even that combination might not suffice. “We've got to understand there's going to be some tough challenges ahead,” said general manager Sam Presti. “We're going to do everything we can to make it work.” The numbers are staggering against the Thunder. The luxury tax, which penalizes teams for surpassing the payroll cap, has been fortified by the new collective bargaining agreement.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: While the Mavs' primary focus is on [Deron] Williams, [Delonte] West will have to wait. "Free agency is kind of tricky," West said. "First and foremost, you always want to go after the guys at the top of free agency, guys that can definitely put your team over the top. After that I think the dominoes will fall into place." West signed a one-year, $1.18 million free-agent contract with the Mavs last Dec. 13 and endured a season riddled with injuries. West played 44 games, including 33 starts, and averaged 9.6 points and 3.2 assists in 24.1 minutes per game. He shot 46.1 percent from the field, 35.5 from 3-point range and 88.6 percent of his free-throw attempts. The Mavericks like his aggressiveness. But they haven't given West a commitment. "Obviously I'd love to remain here in Dallas," West said.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: So much of what the Mavericks will do in free agency rests on the decision of Deron Williams that it’s hardly worth talking about options and targets until they find out whether they are working with D-Will or without. That said, there’s one name that has been pretty much under the radar but makes so much sense it’s unbelievable there hasn’t been more talk about him. Center Marcus Camby is a glove-like fit for the Mavericks. Big, mobile, shotblocker and willing to play 24 minutes or less. As much as you’ve heard me trumpet Joel Przybilla in the past, Camby probably makes more sense. Of course, he’s going to make more $$$$ too. But it’s a good name to keep in mind as the dominoes start to fall, perhaps by Monday evening.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs have extended Danny Green a $2.7 million qualifying offer, more than triple the pro-rated $854,389 he earned last season, giving the team the right to match any offer sheet he signs on or after July 11. For the first time in his four NBA offseasons, however, Green can exert a modicum of control over his future. ... Utah is one team that expressed interest Sunday, the first full day of free agency. Green expects there will be others. For the Spurs, who ended with the best record in the Western Conference last season at 50-16, the crux of this offseason is to bring back as many pieces as possible, rather than recruit major reinforcements from outside. Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ 36-year-old pace-setting power forward, is the team’s first free-agent priority. A notch below are Green, forward Boris Diaw and backup point guard Patrick Mills.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Danny Ainge says he’s serious about bringing Ray Allen back for a sixth season with the Celtics, and put his cell phone where his heart was at midnight yesterday, at the moment the guard’s contract expired. “We want Ray back, and we’re approaching this as the first thing we have to get done,” Ainge said yesterday morning. “It’s our No.‚ÄČ1 priority.” The Celtics general manager also understood that Allen, who unlike Kevin Garnett is committed to testing the market, was about to be consumed by a rush of calls. The Celtics, though, came in with the confidence they can pay Allen more than any other team — in this case a potential $12 million, two-year deal that would pay Allen $6 million each season. The team’s willingness to sign Allen beyond one year meshes with the three-year deal agreed to with Garnett on Saturday.