NBA PM: Free Agency, Round Two
One month ago, the NBA’s condensed free agency period began. Teams were forced to fill out their rosters quickly since training camp was getting underway at the same time. After chaotic two weeks, the majority of free agents had signed and a number of trades had been completed.
While it wasn’t your typical signing period, round two of free agency should be even stranger. Over the next two months, many of the players who signed overseas without an opt-out clause will be released from their teams and given a letter of clearance to return to the NBA. This includes players such as Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and Sonny Weems among others.
International teams are refusing to release players until their season comes to an end. In Martin’s case, he was cut by the Xinjiang Flying Tigers and sent back to the United States, but he’s still banned from signing with an NBA team until Xinjiang’s season is over.
The Chinese Basketball Association’s regular season ends on February 15 and the postseason ends on March 28. Players will be given permission to sign during that period, depending on when their team is eliminated. NBA executives are already reaching out to the overseas players and expressing interest.
Chandler, who will be a restricted free agent when he returns from China, will weigh his options but there’s a strong possibility that he ends up re-signing with the Denver Nuggets. General manager Masai Ujiri wants to bring back Chandler after trading for him last February. Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, confirmed that the two sides have been in contact frequently throughout this process.
“We speak to Masai quite often, in great detail about the future of the team and about a potential extension with them,” Luchey told HOOPSWORLD. “One day at a time is all we’re doing.”
Brooks, Mills and Weems will also be restricted free agents when they return.
The Phoenix Suns extended a qualifying offer to Brooks, which means they’ll be able to match any offer sheet he signs. However, the Suns signed two point guards – Sebastian Telfair and Ronnie Price – last month so they may be ready to move on without Brooks.
The Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors extended a qualifying offer to Mills and Weems, which means they’ll be restricted free agents as well. Mills would love to re-sign with the Blazers, but they currently have a full roster. Weems has received interest from a number of teams so he’ll have no problem finding a home if the Raptors decide against re-signing him.
Smith and Martin are unrestricted free agents and they’ll have a decision to make. After getting paid in China, they could choose to sign a one-year deal, competing for a championship and becoming free agents this summer. Or they could sign a multi-year deal with one of the few teams that have cap room.
Teams rarely get the chance to assess their weaknesses and then sign a starting-caliber player midway through the season, but that’s exactly what will happen in March.
Singleton Learning On the Fly: The Washington Wizards have struggled out of the gate, but one bright spot on the team has been first-round pick Chris Singleton. After being selected with the eighteenth overall pick in this year’s draft, Singleton has already been moved into the starting lineup just eight games into his NBA career. Singleton has been a contributor on both ends of the court and he’s fitting right in with Washington’s young core. With no summer league and a shortened preseason, this is a difficult year to be a rookie. However, Singleton is adjusting quickly.
“I feel like it’s been good,” Singleton told HOOPSWORLD. “Florida State definitely helped me prepare for this period. Over the summer, I was able to play with a lot of NBA players at UCLA and I learned a lot from them. Now, I’m just trying to take everything in. There really haven’t been many surprises. I knew it was going to be a quicker game and I was ready for the size. At Florida State, we were always one of the biggest teams in the country so I was going against people this size every day in practice.”
While the Seminoles are responsible for preparing Singleton on the court, Rashard Lewis and Roger Mason also deserve some credit for his quick start. They have helped make his transition from college to the NBA much easier with their leadership and advice.
“That’s why you have veterans like Roger Mason and Rashard Lewis. I’m definitely learning a lot from them, just about consistency and how to prepare yourself each and every day. Those are the guys that have really stepped up and told the team what to do. They’ve been in situations like this. Rashard even participated in the last lockout. He knows what we’re going through,” Singleton said.
Despite being the rookie, Singleton is older than four of his teammates: John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack. Because the Wizards are so young, Singleton has made friends quickly. That isn’t always the case, especially when a rookie joins a contending team primarily made up of veterans.
“It’s always a good thing,” Singleton said of playing with other young players. “We all relate because of our age. I get along with everyone on this team and I’m really glad to be here. It should be an advantage for us. Since we’re a young team, we need to push the pace because that gives us the best chance of winning, especially since we’re going to have twenty-something games every month. We’re there; we just need to start doing it.”
Adelman May Start Rubio: Ricky Rubio has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the first two weeks of the NBA season, and it’s likely only a matter of time until he moves into the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting lineup. While he hasn’t been starting games, he has been finishing them, often playing the majority of the fourth quarter alongside the Wolves’ starters.
Against the Chicago Bulls last night, Rubio started the third quarter alongside Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver, Anthony Randolph and Kevin Love. It was the first time that new head coach Rick Adelman had used this lineup all season, and he was asked about it after the game.
“I knew somebody was going to me ask about that,” Adelman told reporters. “I think that group earned it. They played really well in the last part of the second quarter. I wanted to stay with that group to see what we could do to start the second half.”
When asked if changes to the starting lineup will be made prior to Friday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets, Adelman wouldn’t give a direct answer.
“I’ve got a couple of days to think about it,” Adelman said.
When Rubio checks in for the Timberwolves, the offense changes completely. The tempo increases and Rubio creates easy baskets for his teammates, rather than allowing the group to settle for jumpers. Kevin Love said as much last night, without mentioning any names.
“I don’t know what it is, but we just seem to be slow when we start games,” Love said. “We’re just slow for lack of a better term. We need to push the ball and get better looks and not settle for jumpers all the time, including myself.”
Rubio has been extremely impressive, averaging 10.2 points and 7.9 assists in 29 minutes. It’s time for him to move into the starting lineup and take the Timberwolves to another level.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats today. Salary cap guru Larry Coon will host his chat at 3 p.m. ET Submit a question for Larry here. Next up is Stephen Litel, who covers the Minnesota Timberwolves and Western Conference. Stephen’s chat begins at 6 p.m. ET so be sure to get your questions in early. Lang Greene’s weekly chat will begin at 8 p.m. ET and you can submit a question here. You can always find the upcoming chats here.