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Default 07-06-2001, 11:13 PM

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Free-agent watch: MacCulloch madness taking hold
JULY 3, 2001

As the NBA's "third" season, which follows the regular season and postseason, commences with clubs imploring free agents to sign on the dotted line, we plan to keep you in the know with frequent updates on the rumors being heard and the deals being sealed around the league.

Here is some of the free-agent chatter going around the league:

From the "surprise, surprise" file comes word that plenty of teams are interested in Philly's Todd MacCulloch. Clubs like the SuperSonics and Knicks may be willing to take a chance on MacCulloch, who has a nice shooting touch, but isn't a great talent.

Lots of teams want big bodies, but demand is exceeding supply, so teams may end up paying more for lesser talents like MacCulloch. Still, the buzz is that Allen Iverson likes the way the big guy plays, so MacCulloch may end up staying in Philly with fellow free agents Dikembe Mutombo and Aaron McKie, who are virtual locks to stay in the city of brotherly love. . .

The Knicks have said they want to keep Allan Houston and Houston's agent has said his client wants to retire as a Knick. Of course, whenever something seems as certain as Houston remaining in New York, it usually means it won't happen. The numbers being thrown around for Houston's deal with Knicks are $115 million and seven years.

But New York could re-sign Houston and ship him out of Gotham in a sign-and-trade deal, which Houston would have to approve. Stay tuned. . . .

A glance at the NBA's list of free agents provides some interesting data, especially when you scan down to the list of Miami's free agents. Of the 13 players listed on the club's active roster at the end of the season, nine are free agents, a group that includes starters Bruce Bowen, Tim Hardaway and Anthony Mason. Given the club's first-round flameout against the Hornets, and Pat Riley's promise of changes aplenty, don't be surprised if the club re-signs less than five of its free agents. . . .

At the opposite end of the numbers game are the Hawks and Clippers -- each team has just two free agents. This pair of perennial also-rans already has made some noise on the player movement front and could make more moves in the pursuit of free-agent talent. . . .

The Jazz have a dicey situation brewing in regards to who is going to play center for the club next season. Olden Polynice, who started 79 games for the club this past season, opted out of his deal and is now a free agent.

While Polynice will never be mistaken for Shaquille O'Neal (or for the promising Marc Jackson), he was an effective contributor for the Jazz at times. If Polynice decides to play elsewhere, Utah may end having to overpay for an even-lesser talent because the franchise likely couldn't swing a deal for a restricted big man given its cap concerns. . . .
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Default 07-06-2001, 11:16 PM

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Is Ewing headed for Florida?
JULY 4, 2001

Look for Patrick Ewing to possibly end up playing for a team that is located in Florida. Whether Ewing will be playing for the Magic or the Heat has yet to be determined. Ewing would fit nicely into either team's $4.5 million salary-cap exception, but given his age and waning skills, is Ewing worth it?

The answer for Orlando could be yes, especially since Orlando may not have enough dough in its salary-cap coffers to close a deal with Toronto's Antonio Davis. If the Magic can sign Ewing, it would give the club the freedom to go after Tim Duncan again when Duncan becomes a free agent in 2003. . . .

The cast of The Lake Show may add some new supporting characters to the mix before the 2001 fall season. Since Horace Grant may be headed back to Disney World (read: Orlando), the Lakers could be in the market for a power forward-type to replace Grant.

San Antonio free agent Samaki Walker has been mentioned as one option for LA if Grant bolts. Walker is just 25 and he might be a nice bargain for the Lakers if they can't convince Grant to take a big-time pay cut to return to the fold.

The Lakers also may have some interest in veterans Christian Laettner and Mitch Richmond. . . .

Toronto's Davis visited the Bulls on Tuesday. The Bulls could give Davis the money he is seeking and Davis would provide some veteran leadership and on-court consistency for the baby Bulls.

Another option for Davis could be a sign-and-trade deal between the Raptors and Heat with Davis and Alvin Williams headed to South Beach for Anthony Carterand Brian Grant. A move to Miami also would allow Davis to play ball closer to his family, which lives in Orlando. . . .

The Knicks, who would love to acquire Chris Webber (who wouldn't?), are keeping their options open, and are looking at some other power forwards. Three four-spot players that the Knicks are looking at are Juwan Howard, Maurice Taylor and Raef LaFrentz.

New York also is one of a handful of teams that is taking a look at the Heat's Bruce Bowen, a defensive stopper at the No. 3 spot. He would be a nice addition to the Knicks because he would fit in easily to the Knicks' defense-first approach, which is similar to Miami's approach. . . .

Could there be a "Run TMC" reunion in Dallas? Mavs coach Don Nelson enjoyed some big-time success with the trio of Tim Hardaway (he's T), Mitch Richmond (he's M) and Chris Mullin(he's C) in Golden State and now all three are free agents.

"You already know we're interested in the other two (Hardaway and Richmond)," Dallas owner Mark Cuban said. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out that we'd be interested in the third -- as a player or a coach."

Just think of the "old school/new school" marketing ideas Cuban could come up with if he is able to combine "Run TMC" with Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash. A "Run TMC" meets "Run MDS" poster would seem like a natural starting point for Cuban.
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Default 07-06-2001, 11:18 PM

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Spurs, Magic reaped rewards from free-agent success
JULY 5, 2001

Last summer, the list of NBA free agents contained 128 names. But some of the most noteworthy free agents available chose to stay put instead of changing addresses. Included in that group were Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Reggie Miller (Indiana), Tim Hardaway (Miami) and Toni Kukoc (Philadelphia).

A season later, Hardaway and Kukoc are intriguing studies. Kukoc helped the Sixers reach the Finals by leaving town -- as part of the deal that brought Dikembe Mutombo from Atlanta to Philly. Now Kukoc is on familiar ground in Atlanta, where he will be playing for a rebuilding team coached by Lon Kruger, a former college coach still somewhat green to the NBA scene. Sounds a lot like Chicago circa 1998-99, doesn't it? . . .

The theme of last summer's free-agency period was "sign this and we'll ship you where you want to go." Sign-and-trade deals were the norm as franchises packaged players according to their salary cap numbers to reel in the big free-agent fish that they wanted.

Some examples:

The trade that sent Detroit's Grant Hill to Orlando for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins.

The Magic used the same method in bringing Toronto's Tracy McGrady to O-town in exchange for a first-round draft choice.

Guard Eddie Jones arrived in Miami when the Hornets traded Jones, Anthony Mason, Ricky Davis and Dale Ellis to the Heat for P.J. Brown, Jamal Mashburn, Otis Thorpe, Tim James and Rodney Buford. So which team was the winner in this deal? Regular season: Heat. Postseason: Hornets. . . .

One of the biggest winners in the 2000 free-agent derby were the Spurs. San Antonio retained the best free agent available in re-signing Duncan and pulled off what turned out to be another coup in signing Derek Anderson and Danny Ferry.

Anderson averaged 15.5 points as the Spurs' highly effective third scorer. Ferry started 29 of 80 games and shot 45 percent from beyond the arc. Although he averaged just 5.6 points, Ferry blended in well with his new club and helped the Spurs produce the best regular-season record in the league. . . .

The "Best Start by a 2000 Free Agent" award goes to Golden State power forward Danny Fortson.

In the first six games of the 2000-01 season, Fortson averaged 16.7 points and 16.3 rebounds and was shooting 58 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line. In the sixth game of the season, Fortson scores 21 points and grabs 21 rebounds. Fortson didn't play another game as a stress fracture in his right foot sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Fortson also was at the center of the most convoluted deal involving four 2000 free agents (Fortson, Howard Eisley, Bill Curley and Bruno Sundov).

The deal went like this: Fortson was traded by the Celtics to the Warriors as part of a four-team deal in which the Celtics received Robert Pack, John Williams and cash from the Mavericks and a first-round draft choice from the Jazz. The Mavs received Dana Barros from the Celtics, Curley from the Warriors and Eisley from the Jazz. The Jazz received Donyell Marshall from the Warriors and Sundov from the Mavs and the Warriors received Adam Keefe from the Jazz.

Utah turned out to be the biggest winner in the deal as Marshall had the best season of the players involved. . . .

And then there was Joe Smith. Smith was at the center of the fiasco that was Minnesota's "secret" deal that resulted in the NBA stripping the franchise of five first-round picks.

Smith signed a one-year deal with the Pistons and produced good numbers for Detroit, while the T-wolves enjoyed another successful season that ended in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, here in July of 2001, Smith is a free agent again and the 'Wolves hope rookie Loren Woods will be able to provide some relief for Kevin Garnett in his nightly battles on the blocks next season. . . .
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Default 07-06-2001, 11:19 PM

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Lue, Williams raised value in postseason
JULY 6, 2001

Two players who could have their postseason prowess payoff in free agency are Toronto's Alvin Williams and the Lakers' Tyronn Lue.

Williams, who scored 15 points or more in eight of the Raptors' 12 playoff games, is being pursued by 10 teams (perhaps more) because he is both talented and relatively affordable -- a multiyear deal for around $5 million each season would reportedly be enough to snag Williams. Still, Toronto likely will keep him as long as the club makes Williams a respectable offer.

Lue, who wowed NBA insiders with his defense on Allen Iverson in the Finals, could very likely end up in DC with the Wizards where a chance for more playing time and the possibility of playing with Michael Jordan are big selling points. . . .

The Magic must have been watching the Raptors closely in the postseason. In addition to going after Antonio Davis, Orlando reportedly has some interest in Williams and Toronto teammate Jerome Williams. After the monster season former Raptor Tracy McGrady produced last season for them, maybe Orlando thinks a move South would produce similar results for Davis, Alvin Williams or Jerome Williams.

One non-Raptor that has been mentioned as being under the Magic's radar is Sacramento's Doug Christie. . . .

Given the fact that Avery Johnson lost his regular starting gig to Terry Porter down in San Antonio this past season, it's no surprise that Johnson probably won't be back with the Spurs. Still, look for Johnson, a good guy, who can still contribute, to hook on somewhere. The buzz is that the Nuggets wouldn't mind adding AJ to their roster as a backup to Nick Van Exel.

Denver also was scheduled to take a look at Lue next week when he is in Denver for Chauncey Billups' wedding. Lue is a groomsman in the wedding. . . .

Quick hits: Miami's Dan Majerle likely with re-sign with the Heat or take a flyer with the Suns. If Thunder Dan fails to hook up with either of those teams, word is that he will hang up his sneaks.

Don't expect much noise from the T-wolves in free agency (except for re-signing LaPhonso Ellis and a maybe another free agent or two of their own). . . .

There could be a bit of a battle brewing down in Texas. Word is that the Spurs have invited Mavs shooting guard Michael Finley to come to San Antonio for a visit. While signing Finley would be a long shot for the Spurs, the club is keeping the option open in case something strange happens.

On the flip side of the equation, the Mavs have contacted Spurs center David Robinson. While both players are likely to stay in Dallas and San Antonio, respectively, a little "friendly" rivalry never hurt anybody.

The Mavs also are looking at Houston's Shandon Anderson and Seattle's Ruben Patterson as options for a defensive stopper for the franchise.
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Default 07-10-2001, 07:57 PM

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Free Agent Watch
JULY 10, 2001

Complete listing of free agents
The latest edition of free-agent notes and rumors making their way around the NBA:

When the 2001-02 season starts, Tim Hardaway will be 35. Despite his age, teams still think Hardaway has some gas left in his tank, which is why he has attracted some interest from around the league.

Three of the teams Hardaway could end up with are the Heat, Mavericks and Bulls. If the Bulls sign Antonio Davis, they could ship Brad Miller to the Heat for Hardaway.

The Bulls also are interested in Miami's Bruce Bowen. . . .

The Knicks and Allan Houston are still ironing out some issues in regards to Houston's pending new deal with the franchise. At the center of the discussion is Houston's no-trade clause.

New York would like Houston to forfeit it, Houston wants to keep it. If Houston waives the clause, the Knicks could move him in a deal for a big man next season. If Houston keeps the clause and re-signs, he would retain the power to refuse a trade. . . .

New Pistons coach Rick Carlisle was impressed with the play of Ratko Varda, a 7-1 Yugoslavian center, during Detroit's rookie free agent camp.

"Our hope is that we can find somebody that can put in some minutes as a backup or a starter," Carlisle said. "He's shown some signs of being a guy that might be able to possibly help us. He can shoot, and he's a big, strong guy, a tough player." . . .

The buzz is that Christian Laettner wants to be play for a winning franchise. Good news Christian -- the Lakers, Knicks and 76ers are interested. Plus, Laettner would be a good fit as the midlevel exception ($4.5 million) for each club. . . .

Put this tidbit in the "looking ahead" file: Next year's free-agent class will be brimming with big-time talent. Vince Carter tops the list, which also includes Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Rasheed Wallace and Antawn Jamison. . . .


BEST BETS

Chris Webber
Frontrunners: Kings, Pistons
Dark horse: Spurs, Knicks


Marc Jackson
Frontrunners: Warriors, SuperSonics, Magic
Dark horse: Bulls, Nets


Antonio Davis
Frontrunners: Bulls, Raptors, Magic
Dark horse: Heat, 76ers


Hakeem Olajuwon
Frontrunners: Rockets
Dark horse: Heat


Doug Christie
Frontrunners: Kings
Dark horse: Spurs, Heat, Mavericks
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Default 07-10-2001, 08:03 PM

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Free-agent suitors are exercising caution
JULY 10, 2001
Sean Deveney
The Sporting News


It was mid-June, and the Pistons' new brain trust, including president Joe Dumars, personnel director John Hammond and coach Rick Carlisle, gathered in Auburn Hills to talk about offseason plans.

Team mathematicians had been delivering great news: The Pistons are among the few NBA teams that are well under the salary cap. Fourteen million dollars under, enough to sign multiple free agents. By the time the Pistons' pow-wow was over, team officials had decided on their No. 1 offseason option.

It wasn't power forward Chris Webber. It wasn't center Antonio Davis. It wasn't even the Pistons' free agents: Dana Barros, Corliss Williamson and Joe Smith. No, the Pistons' top option among the available free agents was none of these guys. In fact, no one is the option.

"That's exactly what we discussed," Hammond says. "If you look and you have all this money, there is the temptation to spend it, even if it's not for guys you really need. But we all agreed, we can sign certain guys, but we are not going to give money away. We won't sign guys for the sake of signing them. We can do nothing if that is our best choice."

Nothing sounds like a pretty good option, especially considering the relatively low wattage of this free-agent class. If a team under the cap, such as the Pistons, can't land Webber or Davis, the best choice might be to hold out until next year, when Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Mike Bibby, Raef LaFrentz, Michael Dickerson and Bonzi Wells might be on the market.

Consider the Pistons' restraint a lesson learned. Remember the absurdity of spectacle that attended last summer's free-agency drive? The Magic used $1,500-per-night hotel rooms, closed-off sections of Disney World, T-shirts featuring their free-agent targets in Orlando uniforms and stretch limousines to recruit Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady.

Shortly after Bulls operations chief Jerry Krause criticized the Magic for such extravagance -- "we don't have to have a dog-and-pony show," Krause said -- the Bulls put together their free-agent recruiting package for McGrady, Eddie Jones and Tim Thomas. That included an airport greeting from screaming fans, the team mascot, the Luvabulls and a bear hug from Krause. McGrady threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game.

Orlando's sales pitch netted Hill and McGrady. The Bulls got Ron Mercer and, embarrassingly, not much else. In fact, Jones and Thomas played the Bulls for patsies, using Chicago's offers as leverage. The lesson here: Professional basketball players don't make decisions based on the stretch in a team's limousine. One can just imagine McGrady weighing the Bulls against the Magic and choosing Orlando because the dance team was much peppier.

"All that stuff was fun and nice," McGrady says. "But if you take it all away, it would not change my choice. You are thinking about winning and your family and your future."

Perhaps the greatest extravagance of this free-agent period has been the Magic's wakeup call to Davis' home at 12:01 a.m. July 1, the first official minute of free agency.

Dumars and the Pistons met with Webber over the weekend, but the meetings were kept entirely under wraps. Dumars says he would be willing to have his No. 4 jersey un-retired so Webber could wear it as a member of the Pistons, and the team has put together a video, but that has been the extent of Detroit's recruitment. No theme-park junkets and no sign of Dumars marching Webber through downtown Detroit pounding a bass drum.

Even the Bulls have taken a subdued approach despite having as much as $18 million under the salary cap. They're not bothering to pursue Webber. And when Davis visited Chicago last week, the team was cautious. Sure, Davis got the VIP tour of the city, but if the Bulls are optimistic about their chances of signing him, they're keeping it to themselves. The ebullience of last season is missing.

It had been widely assumed the race for Davis was limited to two teams, the Magic and Raptors. But Davis would rather not play in Canada, and Orlando might not be able to clear the cap room to sign him. The Bulls present Davis with a third option. They can afford to pay him well, and living in Chicago would put him near his wife's family, which resides just outside of the city.

After last summer, it's easy to understand why the Bulls are looking at Davis' interest with skepticism. Nobody wants to be the patsy for two straight years, and Davis and his agent were adamant in saying Davis' interest in Chicago is legitimate. Still, the Bulls don't like the idea of being the third option.

They are determined not to be embarrassed again and are taking a we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it approach.

"That's one of the things (Davis) tried to do, is convince them he is serious," says a source within the negotiations. "They had some very positive meetings. Everyone likes to kick the Bulls while they are down, and they know that. (Davis) knows the Bulls got burned last year, so he made sure they knew that's not what he was there for."

The Bulls will make an offer to Davis. The Pistons will make an offer to Webber and have called to inquire about Davis. Other free agents -- Eddie Robinson, Alvin Williams, Bruce Bowen, Marc Jackson and Nazr Mohammed -- will get calls or offers from the Bulls and Pistons. But it will be done without hoopla and merriment, without Benny the Bull and Hooper.

If things don't work out, there's always the most important option out there: nothing.
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Default 07-11-2001, 09:23 AM

Damn MFFL, you get the prize for find the most articles.


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Default 07-11-2001, 02:06 PM

These are just the ones I post. I typically read 5 to 10 times as many as I post.
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Default 07-11-2001, 10:15 PM

Man...they don't make us read this much in high school.


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Default 07-11-2001, 11:43 PM

But HS stuff is mostly-useless crap that is boring. Basketball is interesting stuff.
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Default 07-11-2001, 11:45 PM

Oh yes...high school would be a breeze if we studied this stuff.


"Why don't I go eat hay, down by the bay? I can make things out of clay. I just may. What do you say?"
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