NBA AM: Chris Paul’s Top Choice, The Knicks?
While the ongoing lockout, which seriously threatened the 2012 season, is nearing its conclusion the topic of discussion has now turned toward the 2011 free agency period.
The upcoming free agency period, slated to begin December 9, figures to move at an extremely frenetic pace as team executives will only have two weeks to fill out their respective rosters instead of the typical two and a half months.
But while the 2011 free agent crop is starting to evaluate their options it should come as no surprise that a potential 2012 free agency candidate is starting to overshadow them on the rumor mill.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, when New Orleans point guard Chris Paul hits free agency in the summer of 2012 he will be eyeing the New York Knicks, who already have All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the payroll, as his top priority.
Paul’s first choice by far is to team up with the Knicks’ Anthony and Amare Stoudemire to form yet another Eastern Conference Big 3, according to sources close to the situation.
The Knicks should have enough room beneath the salary cap next summer to offer Paul, who can become a free agent after this season, a contract starting around $13.5 million, just below the maximum. And while New Orleans could offer him more money, Paul, like his buddies James and Wade did a year ago, will gladly take a little less to join the team of his choice.
Paul’s current team, the poor, league-owned New Orleans Hornets, will of course do everything they can to avoid losing Paul for nothing. That means trying to trade him before or during this truncated 66-game season, according to sources.
The Paul defection stories aren’t new in nature but have continued to gain momentum following LeBron James and Chris Bosh’s decision to join Dwyane Wade in Miami.
Anthony’s trade to the Knicks, his preferred destination, last season after months of prolonged posturing may push the small market Hornets to take an aggressive approach which may mean dealing their superstar instead of losing him for virtually nothing next summer.
Fortunately for Hornets fans, rumors are just that – rumors.
To be fair, Paul has reiterated to HOOPSWORLD and other outlets on numerous occasions his love for the city of New Orleans.
Paul’s biggest priority on the court is the ability to routinely contend for NBA titles and there is genuine concern amongst his camp that the perennially cash strapped Hornets are willing to invest enough financially to make that an annual reality.
The Hornets are fully expected to offer Paul a long-term contract extension once the new collective bargaining agreement becomes official.
It is highly unlikely Paul accepts the Hornets’ extension offer upfront instead of keeping his long term options open.
The refusal to sign the extension will undoubtedly keep the rumors of Paul’s potential defection afloat throughout the upcoming season.
Keep in mind from a leverage standpoint the Hornets are at a disadvantage since other franchises won’t be willing to part ways with top tier talent if Paul refuses to commit to them long term (see Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets).
While the small market Hornets will be able to offer Paul more money over the course of a new deal than any potential suitor for his services, recent history suggests elite superstars may be willing to accept a lower base salary because they’ll likely recoup those dollars from lucrative endorsements received by playing in larger markets.
Expect plenty of Chris Paul speculation to continue as the season progresses.
Brandon Roy To Golden State? On Monday reports surfaced that the Portland Trail Blazers were likely to make three-time All-Star guard Brandon Roy an amnesty cut casualty.
“Brandon’s out,” a league executive told John Canzano of The Oregonian. “Don’t know the exact details, but everyone around the league knows it’s way, way done. Paul (Allen) and Bert (Kolde) are calling the shots on this one.”
If Roy is indeed out in Portland there is another Western Conference team who has an immediate need for a big and productive shooting guard to come off the bench.
The Golden State Warriors.
Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times added the following regarding a potential pairing of Roy and the Warriors.
I’m told the Seattle native [Roy] would prefer to stay on the West Coast, and he would like to play for the Warriors. It needs to be pointed out that Roy’s former agent, Bob Myers, is now the assistant GM for the Warriors.
New Warriors head coach Mark Jackson has the tough task of finally squeezing wins out of the talented but undersized backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis.
Roy’s price tag would seemingly be much lower in free agency if the Blazers used the amnesty provision, being that the $60 million he’s still owed on his contract is fully guaranteed. Plus he has already showed the willingness to come off the bench in Portland when he began having knee issues.
One team’s amnesty junk could turn out to become another franchise’s reserve treasure in a low risk high reward scenario for Golden State.
Bismack Biyombo’s Future In Doubt: Bismack Biyombo’s rookie season may be in doubt.
The No. 7 overall pick of the 2011 draft is reportedly still under contract to Fuenlabrada, a Spanish League team which may delay his arrival to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer addressed Biyombo’s status in his recent Q&A session with fans of the Bobcats.
Biyombo is suing Spanish team, Fuenlabrada, for breach of contract. I’m told the trial would start Dec. 19 in Spain. Assuming Biyombo wins that suit, it’s a fair guess he’d be free to sign with the Bobcats. No guessing how long the trial would run or how long it would take to get a verdict (particularly so close to Christmas).
The Bobcats are extremely thin depth-wise on the interior and the rookie center project was expected to have an opportunity to earn minutes right out of the gate.
The lone center under contract for Charlotte for the 2012 season is DeSagana Diop.
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