NBA PM: Blazers to Pursue Top Free Agents
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Last summer, the Portland Trail Blazers tried to make a huge splash in free agency by offering Roy Hibbert a maximum offer sheet. However, Hibbert was a restricted free agent and the Indiana Pacers chose to match the offer that their young center received.
This summer, Blazers general manager Neil Olshey will swing for the fences again and try to land a big-name free agent to put alongside the team’s core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum.
The Blazers only have $43,240,658 guaranteed for next season, which means they’ll have a significant amount of cap room this summer. Aldridge is excited about what the offseason holds for Portland.
“We have a lot of money and there’s going to be some guys available so we’ll see what happens,” Aldridge said. “I haven’t thought about [specific players]. Neil and I haven’t really talked about it to that level. He has just said we have cap room and he’s going to see who’s available and what guys want to be moved and just go from there. … He told me that we have cap room and he’s planning on using it.”
While Aldridge said he didn’t have any players in mind, he did describe one type of player he hopes the Blazers add. The 27-year-old would like Portland to put a notable center next to him. Aldridge said he would like for the Blazers to sign “a big that clogs the paint, blocks shots, eats rebounds for breakfast and dinner and plays hard.”
Over the last season and a half, the Blazers have been playing the six-foot-nine J.J. Hickson out of position at center alongside Aldridge. This summer, Hickson is an unrestricted free agent and it’s unlikely he’ll return to Portland in the same role. One of the best centers available is Nikola Pekovic of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who is a restricted free agent that has been linked to Portland in recent months.
Last year, Aldridge called Hibbert and tried to recruit him to the Blazers. The veteran power forward offered to play the role of recruiter again, but he feels like the money will be more persuasive than his pitch to potential free agents.
“If [Neil] needs it, I would,” Aldridge said. “But I think offering Roy the max did more than me calling him. I think us having the cap room, that should do it.”
Olshey has made it clear that he’ll do whatever he can this summer to improve the roster through free agency.
“I think we’re off to a great start,” Olshey told HOOPSWORLD at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament last week. “We’ve got a considerable amount of cap room this summer, we’ve got a lottery pick and we’ll be aggressive in free agency building a roster.”
Aldridge is happy with the direction that the franchise is heading in. The Blazers exceeded expectations this season, mainly because Lillard was much more NBA-ready than expected and emerged as the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. Rather than being a bottom feeder this season, the Blazers were in the playoff hunt for much of the year and it seems their rebuilding period will be relatively short.
“It’s definitely tough to have a season like this, but I think overall we’ve got some pieces out of it,” Aldridge said. “Damian is a big-time point guard so that’s always good for us. These are young guys so they should be better next year. … I’m excited that [the rebuilding period] should go faster than everyone thought. I’m happy that Damian is the player that they thought he was going to be and even better because that makes the process go faster. If we add one or two pieces, we’re good. Then, we can go back to the playoffs.”
Aldridge believes he still has room to grow as a player too.
“I feel like I have more to offer,” Aldridge said. “I have been here for awhile, but I feel like I can still get better. I think the elbow game got better as the season went on and I think that’s going to be something that we work on this summer. Terry and I talked about it and next year I’m going to try to do that more because when teams double me on the block, that’s been tough for us. I want to get better at isolations and on the other block, because I’m definitely a one-block player right now. I feel like I can definitely get better.”
The Blazers are definitely a team to keep an eye on this summer. They have the necessary cap space to lure a top free agent and every intention to do so.
The Available Head Coaches
The Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons parted ways with Doug Collins, Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank today, meaning there are currently three head coaching vacancies. Other teams are still deciding whether they should bring their head coach back for the 2013-14 season.
Interim coaches such as Lindsey Hunter of the Phoenix Suns, Jim Boylan of the Milwaukee Bucks and P.J. Carlesimo of the Brooklyn Nets aren’t guaranteed to keep their jobs.
Other coaches who find themselves on the hot seat include Ty Corbin of the Utah Jazz, Mike Dunlap of the Charlotte Bobcats, Larry Drew of the Atlanta Hawks, Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors, Mike D’Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers and Vinny Del Negro of the Los Angeles Clippers among others.
For teams that decide to make a change like Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit, there are plenty of big-name coaches available at the moment. In fact, this may be the most talented pool of free agent coaches in quite some time.
Phil Jackson, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan, Mike Brown, Avery Johnson and Flip Saunders are available. Top assistants such as Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone, Brian Shaw, Kelvin Sampson and David Fizdale may also draw interest from teams.
There is no shortage of talented coaches that are looking for work this summer, which may be tempting for the some of the teams that are on the fence about firing their current head coach.
Flopping Rules for Playoffs
During last year’s playoffs, it became clear that the NBA had a flopping problem. The NBA defines flopping as “any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player.” Fans were understandably frustrated with the act, which NBA Commissioner David Stern described as “trickery and deceit designed to cause the game to be decided other than on its merits.”
Even high-profile players such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were caught flopping after barely being touched. Paul had perhaps the most embarrassing flop of the 2012 postseason, flailing backwards after bumping into a referee who he mistakenly believed was an opposing player.
Stern was fed up and the NBA implemented the anti-flopping rules. During the regular season, a player who was caught flopping first received a warning from the league office. After that, each flop resulted in an escalating fine: $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, and $30,000. A sixth violation would be punished with a suspension and a fine.
In the 2012-13 regular season, there were 24 flopping violations, according to the league office. Fourteen players received warnings and five repeat offenders received the $5,000 fine.
During the playoffs, the anti-flopping rules will be slightly altered. There will be no more warnings. The first violation will result in a $5,000 fine, the second will result in a $10,000 fine, the third will result in a $15,000 fine and the fourth will result in a $30,000 fine. If a player violates the anti-flopping rule five or more times, he’ll be subject to discipline that is “reasonable under the circumstances,” including an increased fine and suspension.
The rules seemed to be working during the regular season. Now, with the initial warning removed for the postseason, the rules should continue to limit the number of flops during games.
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