NBA PM: Hunting Marc Gasol
Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is widely considered to be the top free agent in the NBA free agency class of 2011. He is a restricted free agent, and his return is absolutely the key to the Grizzlies being able to pick up where they left off last season. With him they might be contenders; without him they might be a lottery team. HOOPSWORLD caught up with Zach Randolph at a recent charity event and he said he’s planning to do some recruiting of his own with Gasol, and also talked about staying in shape during the lockout, how good the Grizzlies might be this season and more in this exclusive interview:
Over the weekend highly-coveted free agent Jamal Crawford hired New York-based Andy Miller as his new agent, a move that has many saying Crawford will either land back with the Knicks or with the nearby New Jersey Nets when free agency finally opens sometime around December 9th.
As appealing as Knicks fans will find the idea of Crawford’s return, especially in light of his brilliant postseason play for the Atlanta Hawks last spring, Crawford is precisely the kind of player the Nets must target as they look to fill three roster spots with something like $15-$20 million in cap space. And in the most basic of terms, the Nets can pay Crawford a great deal more than the Knicks, who at $60 million in payroll are probably already over the salary cap that will be established under the new collective bargaining agreement.
First and foremost, Crawford would give the Nets another dead-eye perimeter threat who can play and defend either guard spot as well as switch over to the three at times. He is also the kind of player who will attract other free agents, particularly those who like to play in the post. He keeps the defense honest, and also understands how to find players in the post for easy buckets. Brook Lopez would benefit immediately, and future free agents . . .like, say, Dwight Howard . . .would find the Nets to be a more attractive option with Crawford in the mix.
There will most certainly be other suitors for Crawford before free agency is said and done, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that he chooses to return to the New York area. The Chicago Bulls are desperately seeking the kind of player they know Crawford to be, and the Hawks would dearly love to have him back in town. The Portland Trail Blazers have also expressed interest in Crawford as insurance against another Brandon Roy injury setback.
The X-Factor in the bidding for Crawford’s services could be the Denver Nuggets. They first priority is re-signing Nene, followed by addressing their power forward situation. But if they have money left over after taking care of those issues they could well look at Crawford as a possible replacement for Wilson Chandler, who will not be able to return to the NBA until his Chinese contract runs out in March.
It’s easy to see Crawford landing in New Jersey, but don’t expect him to commit too early. Once the centers are off the free agency board you can expect a number of teams to be vying for a shot at signing Crawford.
The China Gamble
When players like J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Aaron Brooks and Wilson Chandler decided to sign contracts to play in China during the NBA lockout, they knew they were making a gamble. Unlike the bulk of the players who signed in Europe, players who chose the China route had to commit to play there through the end of the CBA season, which runs until March. A week ago that didn’t seem like a bad gamble, but now that the NBA lockout is on the verge of ending, it seems those would-be NBA free agents got the short end of the stick.
Wilson Chandler, in particular probably cost himself a great deal of money by choosing China. He’s absolutely owning the CBA (he posted another 40-point game over the weekend), but he’s making just a fraction of what the Denver Nuggets would have paid him to stay put in Denver.
J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin would have undoubtedly found new NBA homes, as well, though they are hardly the high-dollar players that Chandler might have been. So, too, is Aaron Brooks costing himself a significant payday by whiling away the hours in China. Brooks was the heir apparent to Steve Nash in Phoenix, and the Suns would likely have offered up a hefty deal to keep him in place. That’s not to say he won’t have a similar deal waiting for him when he gets back, but what if the Suns replace him between now and then? What if he gets hurt playing in China?
Playing in China was a great opportunity for the players who chose that route at the time that they chose it. They may still reap the marketing benefits of building a fan base that is quite literally billions strong. But in the short-term, they would have been better off waiting a bit longer for the resolution to the NBA lockout.
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