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Old 07-09-04, 02:18 PM
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ESPN NBA Insider - 7/9/04

Friday, July 9, 2004

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

Money. Greed. Betrayal. Revenge. $52 million wedding gifts.

We had it all Thursday. The NBA game itself may have enough problems to make it uninteresting to some. But you don't have a pulse if you haven't been enthralled with this summer's free-agent wooing process. It's just a matter of time before NBATV gets involved and runs daily episodes to compete with the Days of Our Lives.

Soap opera writers can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, Insider reported that Cavs GM Jim Paxson should be sweating bullets over the status of Carlos Boozer. By the afternoon, Insider was first to report the Jazz were on the verge of offering Boozer a six-year, $68 million deal that he likely would accept.

By Thursday night, Boozer had taken the money, the Cavs essentially were calling Boozer a liar, Paxson was sweating his job and Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor was cementing his status as the front-runner for executive of the year.

The Jazz's deal to Boozer may set the Cavs back years. I say "may," because the Cavs might not be out of this thing yet. Assuming Boozer signs the offer July 14, the Cavs still have until July 29 to try to clear enough cap space to match it. It's the only way for the Cavs. Talk of arbitration, lawsuits and the like are pointless.

When Paxson agreed to not pick up the team's third-year option for Boozer, he opened the door to something like this. Sources claim it was Boozer's agent, Rob Pelinka, who asked the Cavs to not pick up the option. They also claim there was a verbal deal in place for Boozer to re-sign with Cleveland for six years and $41 million.

Carlos Boozer
Power Forward
Cleveland Cavaliers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
75 15.5 11.4 2.0 .523 .768



The problem for Paxson is there's no way to enforce a verbal agreement. If it was agreed to before July 1, it was an illegal agreement that would have been voided and likely brought disciplinary action from the league. If it was agreed to after July 1, it wouldn't be binding. Nothing is binding until the player-movement moratorium is lifted on July 14 and players officially can begin signing contracts and offer sheets.

Can Cleveland clear the cap space? It's unlikely. Assuming there's a $46 million cap, the Cavs are roughly $2.5 million under it after signing draft-pick Luke Jackson. Sources told Insider the Jazz's offer sheet with Boozer is flexible enough the team can, and likely will, front-load the contract and have it go down in the remaining years. When you add in signing bonuses and the like, the Cavs might have to clear up to $10 million to get far enough under the cap to match.

To get that far under, Cleveland will have to try to trade several players to teams under the cap, such as the Hawks, Bobcats, Nuggets and possibly the Clippers. The team could dangle players like Tony Battie, Dajuan Wagner and Kedrick Brown to those teams, but it won't be easy. The Cavs cannot offer a first-round pick under league rules, because they've already traded away their conditional first-round pick for next year (the Bobcats actually own it, by way of Phoenix). That means they have to convince teams to take these players off their hands for nothing.

Just as importantly, do the Cavs even want to gut their team to bring Boozer back? After his betrayal, does the team still want to re-sign him? Boozer will be enemy No. 1 in Cleveland. Trading away all of the assets will set the club back, anyway. In other words, the Cavs are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

If Pelinka and Boozer did verbally promise the Cavs they would re-sign, then what they did was despicable. But I haven't talked to a GM in the league who would have opened the door the way Paxson did. GMs uniformly agreed when news first broke July 1 that Cleveland had agreed to not pick up Boozer's option that it was a bad idea.

Verbal, wink-wink deals go on all the time in the NBA. But they rarely happen with an asset as valuable as Boozer -- especially when the Cavs were so limited in what they could do if the plan backfired. And let's stop the talk about how benevolent the Cavs were being by agreeing to pay Boozer more this year. They knew they were getting him to agree to a long-term, below-market deal in exchange for added security next season. They had powerful financial motives to let Boozer out and lock him up at a cheaper rate. No one in Cleveland wanted to pay him what the Jazz eventually offered.

"This is one of the biggest blunders I've ever seen in the business," one GM told Insider. "You've got to protect your assets. As a GM, I just don't know how I could explain this to my owner. I think the whole thing is depressing. It's tough to know who to trust these days. My guess is that this deal will fundamentally change the way we do business in the NBA. Teams don't like the 14-day waiting period, because things like this can happen. I think you'll see a push to get rid of it. Had the Cavs been able to have deal in place for Boozer to sign on July 1 at 12:01 a.m, this never would've happened. The long wait opened the door."

Paxson may not be at fault the way Boozer and Pelinka are here. Paxson trusted his power forward and was burned. But the bottom line is he was the guy who opened the door to Boozer's exodus. If Boozer leaves, the franchise will be set back years. After making a promising run at the playoffs last season, the team suddenly is without a power forward, period. let alone the guy who averaged 11.4 rebounds per game for them last season.

After the numerous mistakes Paxson has made in the draft (Trajan Langdon, DeSagana Diop and Dajuan Wagner, to name three), in free agency (remember Ira Newble and Kevin Ollie's big deals last year?) and trades (Andre Miller for Darius Miles, who was then traded for Jeff McInnis), how can Gordon Gund keep him in Cleveland? No one should be fired for one mistake, especially one that's caused by deceit and betrayal from another party. But when you look at the litany of problems Paxson has been part of in Cleveland, he should do the right thing and resign.

Let Boozer live with the fact that he screwed his team and caused a decent guy to lose his job.

As for the Jazz? The Boozer signing tops off a best-case scenario summer for the Jazz. The team needed bigs, and it added three very promising big guys -- Boozer, Mehmet Okur and rookie Kris Humphries. They needed a potential star in the backcourt and got one in rookie Kirk Snyder. The Jazz neeeded to make these signings this summer. With Andrei Kirilenko looking for a huge extension this fall, this was Utah's last shot to spend a ton of money in free agency.

The Jazz have made some serious upgrades, and all of them look like perfect fits for Jerry Sloan's system. Barring injuries, I think Utah is a lock for the playoffs next season and could cause some damage in the West. In my mind, Kevin O'Connor has got to be the front-runner for executive of the year. Given the limitations in place in Utah, he's really made the most of what he can do.


Around the League

Ginobili off the market; Kobe and K-Mart next? Boozer wasn't the only big name to come off the board on Thursday. Insider first reported Thursday night that Emanuel Ginobili had reached a verbal agreement with the Spurs on a six-year deal worth between $50 and $55 million.

Ginobili also was seeking an offer from the Nuggets. However, after the Spurs got within the right range, his agent, Herb Rudoy, shut down negotiations with Denver. Ginobili had stated several times that his preference was to remain in San Antonio. Ginobili is in Argentina preparing for his wedding on Saturday. Not a bad wedding present.


ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Thursday night that Atlanta had made Kenyon Martin a max, six-year offer to join the Hawks. However, Martin has not told the Hawks whether he'll accept it.

With Ginobili gone and Martin close to being off the board, the Nuggets are in a pinch. They could extend a max offer to Martin, hope he chooses them, and then hope that the Nets don't match it. However, by doing so, they take themselves out of the Kobe Bryant race.

Bryant has told several teams he plans to make up his mind as early as this weekend, and it sounds like the Nuggets are inclined to wait until they are officially eliminated. While most sources report that Bryant is seriously considering only the Lakers and Clippers, two league sources told Insider on Thursday that Bryant did have real interest in the Nuggets.

It's going to be a tough call for Denver. Kiki Vandeweghe has a close relationship with both players. The team likes Martin, but both sides agree Martin's first choice is to remain in New Jersey. The Nets can match any offer, and the Nuggets know there's a good chance they'll do just that. Even if New Jersey won't match, I'm not sure Denver is convinced Martin is a true max player. However, given the market this year, he just might be.

The Lakers are still considered the heavy favorites to land Bryant. The Clippers are still believed to be running a close second. While the Nuggets fit the criteria Kobe is looking for -- a young talented team with a great front office -- Bryant's legal problems in Colorado and the smaller market are working against the Nuggets right now.

If the Nuggets lose out on both players, a distinct possibility, expect them to use their multiple first-round picks and cap room in an attempt to facilitate a trade or two.


Shaq trade could pave the way for Kobe's return: The fact the Shaq trade talk has intensified over the past two days is an indication the Lakers are actively paving the way for Kobe's return. Kobe wants to know what he's getting into if he re-signs with the Lakers, and GM Mitch Kupchak is trying to oblige.

The Heat, Mavericks and Pacers appear to be the three teams with the best shot of landing Shaq. Numerous league sources told Insider late Thursday that Miami may be the front-runner.

The Heat are offering Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Malik Allen. The Lakers want Caron Butler as part of any deal there.

I'm not sure how this trade makes sense for either team, though. The Lakers essentially become last year's Heat -- a talented team without much size. The Heat become Shaq, Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones and a bunch of role players. Still, Pat Riley admits he's interested.

"I mean Tracy McGrady got traded, he was on the market," Riley told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I've heard three or four other great-name players that are on the market, Shaq being one of 'em. You've got to pursue 'em. You're foolish if you don't try to pursue 'em and at least listen. Nothing's happened. Everything right now is so premature."

The Mavericks are offering anyone on their team except of Dirk Nowitzki. The Pacers are unwilling to give up Jermaine O'Neal. A Ron Artest, Al Harrington, Scot Pollard and Austin Croshere deal works under the cap, but the Pacers aren't on Shaq's short list of preferred destinations.

"Shaq's one of the few guys in the league that I just don't think you can ever say no to," Pacers president Donnie Walsh told Insider. "I think you have to figure out something if you have the opportunity."


Crawford-to-the-Knicks getting close: Isiah Thomas wants Jamal Crawford. How badly? Sources claim the Knicks and Bulls are talking about a deal that would have the Knicks swallowing the contracts of Eddie Robinson and Jerome Williams in an effort to convince the Bulls to do a sign-and-trade.
Of course, the Bulls would have to take back a bad contract, as well -- Shandon Anderson's. So far they've been reluctant to do even that. They've been pushing for the Knicks to trade Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington and Frank Williams for Crawford. Mutombo and Harrington are in the last years of their contracts, offering the Bulls more long-term salary cap relief.

Still, despite the snags, expect something to happen here soon. It's pretty clear the Bulls don't want Crawford back (agent Aaron Goodwin claims they haven't even made an offer), and the Bulls are reluctant to pull the trigger on their free-agent favorite -- Brian Cardinal -- until they figure out what to do with Crawford.

Chicago also has been talking to the Heat, who might be able to offer a slightly better deal -- Caron Butler and Eddie Jones for Crawford, Williams and Robinson -- but they're a little preoccupied with the Shaq talks at the moment and aren't offering Crawford as lucrative a contract.


Etan Thomas the next big to fall? With bigs flying off the shelf, the word out of Milwaukee is the Bucks are seriously considering offering Wizards big man Etan Thomas a six-year deal for between $37 and $39 million -- roughly the full mid-level exception.
Thomas averaged 8.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg but is considered an undersized center at just 6-foot-9. The Wizards, who would have until July 29 to match the offer, need bigs in the worst way, but would they really drink that Kool-Aid?

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld told Insider on Friday that while he hadn't heard of an offer to Thomas, Washington likely would match any offer. "We really want to keep Etan," Grunfeld said. "We have the right to match an offer for him, and we want to keep him."

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

-------------------------------------

Friday, July 9 Updated 10:47 AM EST

Rumor Central

Heat, Lakers reportedly working on deal

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Shaquille O'Neal
Lakers
Heat?
Mavericks
Pacers?
Grizzlies?
Blazers?
Kings
Magic
Hornets Jul. 9 - The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that Lakers' owner Jerry Buss has decided to trade Shaq and the Lakers are working on a deal with the Miami Heat that would bring Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick to L.A.
"Just like the coach deal with Phil (Jackson) being let go, Dr. Buss thinks it's time to deal Shaq," a team source told the paper.

The paper cites sources who say Buss is upset because O'Neal rarely works out during the offseason and comes to camp out of shape. However, the reports also indicates O'Neal's representatives "shoot down" deals. The Lakers reportedly are considering five or six offers, including the one from the Heat. L.A. reportedly wants Dwayne Wade included in the deal, but the Heat won't trade him. "It's not going to be a fair deal all the way around," a Lakers source told the paper.

Earlier this week, Miami GM Randy Pfund told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "I wouldn't make too much of it," when Shaq added the Heat to the list of team's to which he'd accept a trade.

The Mavericks are offering anyone on their team with the exception of Dirk Nowitzki. The Pacers are unwilling to give up Jermaine O'Neal. A Ron Artest, Al Harrington, Scot Pollard and Austin Croshere deal works under the cap, but the Pacers aren't on Shaq's short list of preferred destinations.

"Shaq's one of the few guys in the league that I just don't think you can ever say no to," Pacers president Donnie Walsh told Insider's Chad Ford. "I think you have to figure out something if you have the opportunity."



WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Kobe Bryant
Lakers

Lakers
Clippers
Nuggets
Spurs?
Knicks?

Jul. 9 - While most sources report that Bryant is seriously considering only the Lakers and Clippers, two league sources told Insider on Thursday that Bryant does have legitimate interest in the Nuggets.
The Lakers are still considered the heavy favorites to land Bryant. The Clippers are still believed to be running a close second. While the Nuggets fit the criteria that Kobe is looking for, a young talented team with a great front office, Bryant's legal problems in Colorado and the smaller market for the team are working against the Nuggets right now.

It's possible the Spurs could make a pitch at Kobe. The Suns could also make a run, but they would have to either trade Shawn Marion first or talk the Lakers into a sign-and-trade deal.




WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Kenyon Martin
Nets
Nets
Nuggets
Hawks Jul. 9 - ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Thursday night that Atlanta had made Martin a max, six-year offer to join the Hawks. However, Martin has not told the Hawks whether he'll sign the offer sheet.
The possibility of Martin going to Atlanta puts the Nuggets in a pinch. They could extend a max offer to Martin, hope he chooses them, and then hope that the Nets don't match it. However, by doing so, they take themselves out of the Kobe Bryant race.

The Nets are allowed to offer the power forward $103 million over six years. Other teams, however, can offer him only $85 million over six years. By allowing these other teams to set the market price, the Nets need to only match those terms to retain his services. Nets owner Bruce Ratner has made re-signing Martin the team's top priority but stopped short of saying the team would sign him at maximum dollars, the Bergen County Record reports.



WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Jamal Crawford
Bulls
Bulls
Knicks
Heat Jul. 9 - The Knicks and Bulls have swapped proposals that would send Crawford to New York. The trade would involve Shandon Anderson, Othella Harrington and Frank Williams from the Knicks and Eddie Robinson and Jerome Williams from the Bulls. Crawford has also been mentioned in rumors involving Caron Butler of the Miami Heat. What he hasn't heard, is any indication from his current team that they will even offer him an extension to stay with the franchise.
''That's all hogwash to me,'' agent Aaron Goodwin said in the Chicago Sun Times. ''If you have a player that you really appreciate and want to keep, you step up to the plate and you take care of that player. Period. You don't sit around and think about what everyone else is going to do or how badly this team may want him. If you want him, you should make it clear that you don't want anybody else to have him."



WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Manu Ginobili
Spurs
Spurs
Nuggets
Jazz
Hawks
Suns?

Jul. 9 - Insider first reported Thursday night that Ginobili had reached a verbal agreement with the Spurs on a six-year deal worth between $50 and $55 million.

Ginobili was also seeking an offer from the Nuggets. However, after the Spurs got within the right range, his agent, Herb Rudoy, shut down negotiations with Denver. Ginobili had stated several times that his preference was to remain in San Antonio.




WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Trenton Hassell
Timberwolves
Timberwolves
Nuggets Jul. 9 - Hassell has said he wants to stay with the Timberwolves but with his current team tied up in talks with Troy Hudson that may include their entire mid-level exception of $5 million per season, Hassell is exploring his options. According to the Denver Post, one of those options is the Denver Nuggets. With the Nuggets missing out on Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash, Quentin Richardson and most likely Kobe Bryant, they are looking at Hassell as a more affordable option at shooting guard.


WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Othella Harrington
Knicks
Bulls Jul. 9 - After heated words were exchanged, Knicks president Isiah Thomas agreed to get Harrington off the payroll as part of an offseason trade. Othella was upset he was left off the playoff squad and Thomas was upset that Harrington had yet to distinguish himself from the other undersized power forward the Knicks had under contract.
"I'd be shocked if he was in a Knick uniform at training camp," David Bauman said in the New York Post. "His Knick days are numbered. We want him out in a major way. The Bulls would be a good fit." Talks continue between the Knicks and Bulls in a trade centered on Jamal Crawford.
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Old 07-09-04, 02:26 PM
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Nothing on Barry?
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Old 07-09-04, 02:43 PM
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Denver trades a pick for Ilgauskas--Cleveland matches Boozer.

Sweet.
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Old 07-09-04, 03:00 PM
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My guess is that this deal will fundamentally change the way we do business in the NBA. Teams don't like the 14-day waiting period, because things like this can happen. I think you'll see a push to get rid of it. Had the Cavs been able to have deal in place for Boozer to sign on July 1 at 12:01 a.m, this never would've happened. The long wait opened the door.
It should be get rid of. I mean, what's the point of 14-day period anyway? When a team and a player agree to a deal, let them sign it imediately.
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Old 07-09-04, 03:02 PM
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Good to know we'll be seeing Manu in a Spurs uniform again unless he gets some wise-arse notions and pulls a Boozer...
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Old 07-09-04, 03:57 PM
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arent you guys scared

i think we're overpaying manu

with malik's huge contract, and us not using him, and parker expecting a contract similiar to manu's next off season, and us still needing a consistent JUMP SHOOTER, am i the only one worried we're overpaying or ginobili?
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Old 07-09-04, 04:28 PM
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we should have room for kedrick brown. didn't pop want him in the draft last year?

just to do something to help out paxson cause the cavs are nice folks.
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Old 07-09-04, 04:33 PM
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TP will want (and likely get) a significantly bigger deal than Manu. Unless TP has a lousy year, he'll have a rep as being a Top 5 or Top 10 PG, and PGs are just behind Centers when it comes to value.

I love Manu, but I don't know if he even places in the Top 10 at his position.
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Old 07-09-04, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Cant_be_faded
i think we're overpaying manu

with malik's huge contract, and us not using him, and parker expecting a contract similiar to manu's next off season, and us still needing a consistent JUMP SHOOTER, am i the only one worried we're overpaying or ginobili?
Manu's contract makes it clear the Malik is not really being overpaid. I would call Malik underutilized.

When Malik got his "big" deal he was the Spurs sixth man. Now Manu gets a much bigger deal, also as the Spurs sixth man.
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Old 07-09-04, 05:08 PM
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I love Manu, but I don't know if he even places in the Top 10 at his position.
That is a position that almost every team has a good player at. That position is easier to fill then any other.
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Old 07-09-04, 07:53 PM
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[quote=Spurs Crusader]Friday, July 9, 2004

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

Money. Greed. Betrayal. Revenge. $52 million wedding gifts.

We had it all Thursday. The NBA game itself may have enough problems to make it uninteresting to some. But you don't have a pulse if you haven't been enthralled with this summer's free-agent wooing process. It's just a matter of time before NBATV gets involved and runs daily episodes to compete with the Days of Our Lives.

Soap opera writers can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, Insider reported that Cavs GM Jim Paxson should be sweating bullets over the status of Carlos Boozer. By the afternoon, Insider was first to report the Jazz were on the verge of offering Boozer a six-year, $68 million deal that he likely would accept.

By Thursday night, Boozer had taken the money, the Cavs essentially were calling Boozer a liar, Paxson was sweating his job and Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor was cementing his status as the front-runner for executive of the year.

The Jazz's deal to Boozer may set the Cavs back years. I say "may," because the Cavs might not be out of this thing yet. Assuming Boozer signs the offer July 14, the Cavs still have until July 29 to try to clear enough cap space to match it. It's the only way for the Cavs. Talk of arbitration, lawsuits and the like are pointless.

When Paxson agreed to not pick up the team's third-year option for Boozer, he opened the door to something like this. Sources claim it was Boozer's agent, Rob Pelinka, who asked the Cavs to not pick up the option. They also claim there was a verbal deal in place for Boozer to re-sign with Cleveland for six years and $41 million.

Carlos Boozer
Power Forward
Cleveland Cavaliers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
75 15.5 11.4 2.0 .523 .768



The problem for Paxson is there's no way to enforce a verbal agreement. If it was agreed to before July 1, it was an illegal agreement that would have been voided and likely brought disciplinary action from the league. If it was agreed to after July 1, it wouldn't be binding. Nothing is binding until the player-movement moratorium is lifted on July 14 and players officially can begin signing contracts and offer sheets.

Can Cleveland clear the cap space? It's unlikely. Assuming there's a $46 million cap, the Cavs are roughly $2.5 million under it after signing draft-pick Luke Jackson. Sources told Insider the Jazz's offer sheet with Boozer is flexible enough the team can, and likely will, front-load the contract and have it go down in the remaining years. When you add in signing bonuses and the like, the Cavs might have to clear up to $10 million to get far enough under the cap to match.

To get that far under, Cleveland will have to try to trade several players to teams under the cap, such as the Hawks, Bobcats, Nuggets and possibly the Clippers. The team could dangle players like Tony Battie, Dajuan Wagner and Kedrick Brown to those teams, but it won't be easy. The Cavs cannot offer a first-round pick under league rules, because they've already traded away their conditional first-round pick for next year (the Bobcats actually own it, by way of Phoenix). That means they have to convince teams to take these players off their hands for nothing.

Just as importantly, do the Cavs even want to gut their team to bring Boozer back? After his betrayal, does the team still want to re-sign him? Boozer will be enemy No. 1 in Cleveland. Trading away all of the assets will set the club back, anyway. In other words, the Cavs are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

If Pelinka and Boozer did verbally promise the Cavs they would re-sign, then what they did was despicable. But I haven't talked to a GM in the league who would have opened the door the way Paxson did. GMs uniformly agreed when news first broke July 1 that Cleveland had agreed to not pick up Boozer's option that it was a bad idea.

Verbal, wink-wink deals go on all the time in the NBA. But they rarely happen with an asset as valuable as Boozer -- especially when the Cavs were so limited in what they could do if the plan backfired. And let's stop the talk about how benevolent the Cavs were being by agreeing to pay Boozer more this year. They knew they were getting him to agree to a long-term, below-market deal in exchange for added security next season. They had powerful financial motives to let Boozer out and lock him up at a cheaper rate. No one in Cleveland wanted to pay him what the Jazz eventually offered.

"This is one of the biggest blunders I've ever seen in the business," one GM told Insider. "You've got to protect your assets. As a GM, I just don't know how I could explain this to my owner. I think the whole thing is depressing. It's tough to know who to trust these days. My guess is that this deal will fundamentally change the way we do business in the NBA. Teams don't like the 14-day waiting period, because things like this can happen. I think you'll see a push to get rid of it. Had the Cavs been able to have deal in place for Boozer to sign on July 1 at 12:01 a.m, this never would've happened. The long wait opened the door."

Paxson may not be at fault the way Boozer and Pelinka are here. Paxson trusted his power forward and was burned. But the bottom line is he was the guy who opened the door to Boozer's exodus. If Boozer leaves, the franchise will be set back years. After making a promising run at the playoffs last season, the team suddenly is without a power forward, period. let alone the guy who averaged 11.4 rebounds per game for them last season.

After the numerous mistakes Paxson has made in the draft (Trajan Langdon, DeSagana Diop and Dajuan Wagner, to name three), in free agency (remember Ira Newble and Kevin Ollie's big deals last year?) and trades (Andre Miller for Darius Miles, who was then traded for Jeff McInnis), how can Gordon Gund keep him in Cleveland? No one should be fired for one mistake, especially one that's caused by deceit and betrayal from another party. But when you look at the litany of problems Paxson has been part of in Cleveland, he should do the right thing and resign.

Let Boozer live with the fact that he screwed his team and caused a decent guy to lose his job.

As for the Jazz? The Boozer signing tops off a best-case scenario summer for the Jazz. The team needed bigs, and it added three very promising big guys -- Boozer, Mehmet Okur and rookie Kris Humphries. They needed a potential star in the backcourt and got one in rookie Kirk Snyder. The Jazz neeeded to make these signings this summer. With Andrei Kirilenko looking for a huge extension this fall, this was Utah's last shot to spend a ton of money in free agency.

The Jazz have made some serious upgrades, and all of them look like perfect fits for Jerry Sloan's system. Barring injuries, I think Utah is a lock for the playoffs next season and could cause some damage in the West. In my mind, Kevin O'Connor has got to be the front-runner for executive of the year. Given the limitations in place in Utah, he's really made the most of what he can do.


Around the League

Ginobili off the market; Kobe and K-Mart next? Boozer wasn't the only big name to come off the board on Thursday. Insider first reported Thursday night that Emanuel Ginobili had reached a verbal agreement with the Spurs on a six-year deal worth between $50 and $55 million.

Ginobili also was seeking an offer from the Nuggets. However, after the Spurs got within the right range, his agent, Herb Rudoy, shut down negotiations with Denver. Ginobili had stated several times that his preference was to remain in San Antonio. Ginobili is in Argentina preparing for his wedding on Saturday. Not a bad wedding present.


ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Thursday night that Atlanta had made Kenyon Martin a max, six-year offer to join the Hawks. However, Martin has not told the Hawks whether he'll accept it.

With Ginobili gone and Martin close to being off the board, the Nuggets are in a pinch. They could extend a max offer to Martin, hope he chooses them, and then hope that the Nets don't match it. However, by doing so, they take themselves out of the Kobe Bryant race.

Bryant has told several teams he plans to make up his mind as early as this weekend, and it sounds like the Nuggets are inclined to wait until they are officially eliminated. While most sources report that Bryant is seriously considering only the Lakers and Clippers, two league sources told Insider on Thursday that Bryant did have real interest in the Nuggets.

It's going to be a tough call for Denver. Kiki Vandeweghe has a close relationship with both players. The team likes Martin, but both sides agree Martin's first choice is to remain in New Jersey. The Nets can match any offer, and the Nuggets know there's a good chance they'll do just that. Even if New Jersey won't match, I'm not sure Denver is convinced Martin is a true max player. However, given the market this year, he just might be.

The Lakers are still considered the heavy favorites to land Bryant. The Clippers are still believed to be running a close second. While the Nuggets fit the criteria Kobe is looking for -- a young talented team with a great front office -- Bryant's legal problems in Colorado and the smaller market are working against the Nuggets right now.

If the Nuggets lose out on both players, a distinct possibility, expect them to use their multiple first-round picks and cap room in an attempt to facilitate a trade or two.


Shaq trade could pave the way for Kobe's return: The fact the Shaq trade talk has intensified over the past two days is an indication the Lakers are actively paving the way for Kobe's return. Kobe wants to know what he's getting into if he re-signs with the Lakers, and GM Mitch Kupchak is trying to oblige.

The Heat, Mavericks and Pacers appear to be the three teams with the best shot of landing Shaq. Numerous league sources told Insider late Thursday that Miami may be the front-runner.

The Heat are offering Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Malik Allen. The Lakers want Caron Butler as part of any deal there.

I'm not sure how this trade makes sense for either team, though. The Lakers essentially become last year's Heat -- a talented team without much size. The Heat become Shaq, Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones and a bunch of role players. Still, Pat Riley admits he's interested.

"I mean Tracy McGrady got traded, he was on the market," Riley told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I've heard three or four other great-name players that are on the market, Shaq being one of 'em. You've got to pursue 'em. You're foolish if you don't try to pursue 'em and at least listen. Nothing's happened. Everything right now is so premature."

The Mavericks are offering anyone on their team except of Dirk Nowitzki. The Pacers are unwilling to give up Jermaine O'Neal. A Ron Artest, Al Harrington, Scot Pollard and Austin Croshere deal works under the cap, but the Pacers aren't on Shaq's short list of preferred destinations.

"Shaq's one of the few guys in the league that I just don't think you can ever say no to," Pacers president Donnie Walsh told Insider. "I think you have to figure out something if you have the opportunity."


Crawford-to-the-Knicks getting close: Isiah Thomas wants Jamal Crawford. How badly? Sources claim the Knicks and Bulls are talking about a deal that would have the Knicks swallowing the contracts of Eddie Robinson and Jerome Williams in an effort to convince the Bulls to do a sign-and-tra

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

-------------------------------------

Friday, July 9 Updated 10:47 AM EST

Rumor Central

Heat, Lakers reportedly working on deal




WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

Kobe Bryant
Lakers

Lakers
Clippers
Nuggets
Spurs?
Knicks?

Jul. 9 - While most sources report that Bryant is seriously considering only the Lakers and Clippers, two league sources told Insider on Thursday that Bryant does have legitimate interest in the Nuggets.
The Lakers are still considered the heavy favorites to land Bryant. The Clippers are still believed to be running a close second. While the Nuggets fit the criteria that Kobe is looking for, a young talented team with a great front office, Bryant's legal problems in Colorado and the smaller market for the team are working against the Nuggets right now.

It's possible the Spurs could make a pitch at Kobe. The Suns could also make a run, but they would have to either trade Shawn Marion first or talk the Lakers into a sign-and-trade deal.





FIRE JIM PAXSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 07-09-04, 08:25 PM
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Paxson may not be at fault the way Boozer and Pelinka are here. Paxson trusted his power forward and was burned. But the bottom line is he was the guy who opened the door to Boozer's exodus. If Boozer leaves, the franchise will be set back years. After making a promising run at the playoffs last season, the team suddenly is without a power forward, period. let alone the guy who averaged 11.4 rebounds per game for them last season.

are they really without a power forward? so..can we trade malik to them?
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Old 07-09-04, 08:41 PM
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How did Cleve think that Boozer would NOT get a big offer?
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Old 07-09-04, 09:28 PM
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Quote:
If Boozer leaves, the franchise will be set back years.
i thinkmalik would do just as well..plus there are a couple of guys in the free agent pool who might could work..so it still is hopeful-for us and them.
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