NBA PM: Veteran Free Agents Stay Patient
Tracy McGrady will spend next season in China after signing a one-year deal with the Qingdao Double Star Eagles. The 33-year-old weighed his options in recent weeks and, while he received interest from several NBA teams, he decided he wasn’t going to sign a non-guaranteed deal. After 15 years in the NBA, the seven-time All-Star didn’t want to enter training camp on a make-good contract and have to fight for a roster spot.
There are plenty of veteran free agents who currently find themselves in the exact same position as McGrady. They have received interest from NBA teams, but they haven’t been able to secure a guaranteed deal or a contract worth more than the veteran’s minimum. Rather than signing a non-guaranteed contract or settling for the minimum, these notable veterans are waiting for a roster spot to open up due to an injury or transaction, and then they’ll sign on the dotted line.
Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa, Kenyon Martin, Mickael Pietrus, Michael Redd, Maurice Evans, Gilbert Arenas, and Derek Fisher are among the free agents who have yet to sign with a team despite the fact that the regular season is three weeks away.
These are players who have proven that they can be significant contributors in the NBA, in some cases as recently last season. They’ve flirted with teams and participated in workouts, but they’re waiting for the right situation to present itself.
Howard started 18 games for the Utah Jazz last season. The 32-year-old averaged 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, and helped the young team reach the postseason. Howard has been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats and San Antonio Spurs among other teams, but there’s no timetable for him to sign a contract.
Barbosa was the Indiana Pacers’ sixth man and provided scoring off of the bench, averaging 11.1 points last year. The 29-year-old was also impressive during the Olympics, keeping Brazil in every contest and leading the team in scoring by a wide margin with 16.2 points per game. The Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers have expressed in Barbosa, according to the guard.
Martin was a key reserve for the Los Angeles Clippers after signing midway through last season. The 34-year-old averaged 5.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, one block and one steal in 22.4 minutes. Martin has received interest from a number of teams willing to pay him the veteran’s minimum, but he’s holding out for more money. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have been mentioned as possibilities for Martin.
Pietrus was a solid role player for the Boston Celtics last season despite playing through pain due to his arthroscopic knee surgery. He started six games and averaged 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds for the season. Now, after having his knee scoped again, Pietrus is feeling much better and hoping to sign for more than the minimum.
Redd revitalized his career last season with the Phoenix Suns, proving that he could stay healthy for a full season and still contribute when given the opportunity. The 33-year-old averaged 8.2 points in 15.1 minutes off the bench for the Suns. Redd has received interest from several teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, but so far he hasn’t been willing to sign a non-guaranteed deal.
Evans wants to play in the NBA this season and he has received calls from a number of teams, but he’s not interested in signing a non-guaranteed deal. The 33-year-old is remaining patient and weighing his options. Evans, who eventually wants to be a general manager when his playing career is over, turned down a front office position with the Washington Wizards because he believes he has another year or two of basketball in him.
Arenas wasn’t particularly effective during his 17-game stint with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. The 30-year-old averaged just 4.2 points in 12.4 minutes, but he trained hard this offseason in Los Angeles and vowed to be more productive this season. Arenas had been telling people that he was going to join the Lakers or Clippers, but neither team has expressed serious interest in the veteran guard. He may wait and join a team several months into the season, just like he did last season with Memphis. Or Arenas may take the same route as McGrady and sign a one-year deal with a team in China.
Fisher joined the Oklahoma City Thunder after last year’s trade deadline. He played 20 regular season games for the Thunder, averaging 4.9 points while providing leadership. Fisher elevated his game in 20 postseason games with Oklahoma City, averaging 6.3 points and playing 22.3 minutes off the bench. Fisher spent the last few weeks working out at the Los Angeles Lakers’ facility, but he can’t re-sign with the Lakers until March since players cannot rejoin a team for one year after being traded and waived.
Other remaining free agents include Mike Bibby, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier, Shawne Williams, Jamario Moon, Bobby Simmons, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono.
These players can be signed up until the final day of the regular season, which is why waiting for the right opportunity to present itself is sometimes the best option, especially for proven veterans.
Cousins Emerging as Kings’ Leader: In recent weeks, the message coming out of Sacramento is that the Kings are ready to take the next step and possibly become a playoff team in the Western Conference. After years of rebuilding and stockpiling young talent, this is supposed to be the Kings’ year.
Going from perennial bottom feeder to postseason contender won’t be easy, especially since the West has several other non-playoff teams that have significantly improved including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors.
If the Kings want to make that jump, they’ll need huge contributions from DeMarcus Cousins. The 22-year-old center made huge strides last season, averaging career-highs across the board – 18.1 points on 44.8 percent shooting, 11 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. The Kings will need him to continue playing at a high level while emerging as a leader in the locker room, which is something that Cousins has acknowledged.
In the past, Cousins hasn’t been the best leader in Sacramento. He butted heads with former head coach Paul Westphal, which led to him being temporarily dismissed from the team. Cousins has been characterized as high maintenance since entering the league, but he insists that he has matured and is prepared to be a leader for the Kings.
“I’m trying (to lead),” Cousins told Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. “Just in a better way that will be accepted more and accepted better.”
In July, Cousins attended the Las Vegas Summer League just to support Sacramento’s young players. He didn’t suit up, but he made the trip so that he could meet his new teammates and help them transition from college to the NBA. Cousins spent a lot of time with Kings first-round pick Thomas Robinson, cheering for him during each summer league game and giving him advice after the final buzzer. Cousins felt that it was his responsibility as the Kings’ franchise player to be in attendance and show his support.
Cousins is a very emotional player and, in the past, he has had some trouble controlling his temper on the court. Now, he’s doing a much better job of keeping his emotions in check, but he admits it’s still a work in progress.
“That’s just something I have to work on,” Cousins said. “I’m still growing as a leader myself.”
Cousins’ teammates have already noticed a difference and have been impressed with his leadership.
“He’s been doing a good job of just talking and not getting mad too much,” Tyreke Evans said. “Hopefully, he can keep it up for the rest of the season, and we’re going to help him all the way through.”
If Cousins can emerge as a leader and play at a high level, the Kings will have a much better shot at achieving their lofty goals this season.
Rubio Officially Signs With adidas: Ricky Rubio has officially joined the adidas family. The 21-year-old point guard left Nike last year and signed a long-term deal with adidas. Rubio visited the company’s Portland office recently and finalized the agreement.
“Growing up in Spain I always loved the adidas brand and their products,” Rubio said in a press release. “The last few years they’ve really changed the game with new technology and style in basketball shoes and apparel and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
“Ricky Rubio is a once-in-a-generation player,” said Lawrence Norman, adidas vice president of global basketball. “His work ethic and selflessness combined with /his superior athleticism and playmaking have quickly made him one of the most exciting young players in the game. When you watch Ricky on the court and talk to him after practice, you understand his pure enjoyment of playing basketball and that makes him a perfect fit for our brand.”
Rubio is the latest addition to the adidas basketball roster, which includes 2010 NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers and two-time NBA MVP and four-time NBA Champion Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs.
He joins several adidas players on the 2012 NBA All-Rookie teams including Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets, Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks, Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons and MarShon Brooks of the New Jersey Nets. The company recently added Portland Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard to their roster as well.
Rubio will be featured in a variety of upcoming adidas marketing initiatives and will play a role in the development of basketball footwear and apparel, according to the company’s press release.
D-League Tryouts Underway: Do you have what it takes to play in the NBA Development League? Prove it by trying out for the Sioux Falls Skyforce this weekend. The team is holding open tryouts for the 2012-13 season in the cities of each of their NBA affiliates and Sioux Falls.
The Skyforce are the D-League affiliate of the the Miami HEAT, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers. This weekend, the team’s coaching staff will be in Orlando and Miami, looking for players to fill out their roster. The cost is $150 if you register before Friday.
You could earn an invite to the team’s training camp, which gets underway in November. The Skyforce have 10 former players on 2012-13 NBA training camp rosters: Keith Benson, Marqus Blakely, Jonny Flynn, Gary Forbes, Trey Gilder, Amir Johnson, Malcolm Lee, Dexter Pittman, Greg Stiemsma, and Reggie Williams. For more information, check out the Skyforce’s website.