The Orlando Magic are looking for a bundle of first-round draft picks in any package they receive exchange for Dwight Howard, and the Brooklyn Nets are willing to surrender three.
They also want a couple good young players, and the Nets are willing to give them three — Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries. Problem is, the Magic already have Glen Davis and Ryan Anderson at the power forward position, which makes Humphries a bad fit.
And therein lies one of the holdups to the Nets completing the transformation from swamp dwellers to urban superteam, a league source told SheridanHoops.com.
If Brooklyn cannot find a third team to take Humphries — and that team will likely have to come from the Western Conference, because nobody in the East wants to provide the Nets with an assist — their pursuit of Dwight Howard could be in vain.
Day 3 of free agency brought a decision from Deron Williams, who announced via his Twitter feed that he would stay with the Nets. He gets a five-year contract worth nearly $100 million, and he’ll be playing alongside guard Joe Johnson.
The Nets and Magic have discussed several variations of a trade that would bring Howard to Brooklyn — the only place he wants to be dealt, and now all eyes are on the Magic to see what their timetable and their options for proceeding forward might be.
One part of the equation that is making things tricky is the amount of dollars that are being earmarked for restricted free agents, whose original teams can match.
Which is where we shall begin in wrapping up a wild Tuesday on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday.
1. Eric Gordon agrees to four-year, $58 max offer sheet from the Phoenix Suns.
You knew this much money was going to be thrown at the New Orleans’ Hornets shooting guard, given the list of suitors that were lining up to talk to him.
The Suns struck first with max money — just as the Portland Trail Blazers had done a couple days earlier in agreeing to a max offer sheet with Roy Hibbert.
Problem is, there is little reason to believe Hibbert will ever wear the Blazers’ red and black or Gordon will don a Suns home uniform out in the desert. Both guys are max players given their resumes, and Indiana and New Orleans will be able to keep both players at a discount — instead of giving them five-year deals with 7.5 percent raises, they both can be kept at a reduced rate, one fewer year in a contract with 4 percent raises.
Which means there will be a lot of Portland money and a lot of Phoenix money still to be spent sometime after the NBA’s signing moratorium ends on July 11. And the Trail Blazers will likely have a matching decision of their own after Nicolas Batum, one of the most sought-after free agents still on the markets, inevitably finds a team willing to give him a max deal.
2. Landry Fields gets offer sheet from Raptors, Jeremy Lin to visit Rockets
These two New York Knicks restricted free agents were key starters last season, and both could end up impacting the Knicks pursuit of Steve Nash. With Toronto already having offered Nash a three-year deal worth in excess of $30 million, and with the Mavericks sitting on a pile of cash with Williams having re-upped with the Nets, there is little the Knicks can do outside of a sign-and-trade to make Nash a financial offer in the ballpark of what he is being offered elsewhere.
Fields and Iman Shumpert (and perhaps Lin) would likely be a part of that sign-and-trade, but if Fields and/or Lin sign offer sheets they will effectively come off the market. Fields has reportedly reached a verbal agreement with Toronto on a three-year, $20 million deal. New York could choose to match, but in doing to they would create trade vetoes for both players that would last for a full year. Also, neither player could be traded to the team that signed them to the offer sheet.
Also, David Aldridge of NBA.com reports the Lakers are trying to get in the mix for Nash, who would have to be acquired in a sign-and-trade likely involving Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill, Matt Barnes and/or Metta World Peace. The Knicks’ best offer would include Shumpert, Jerome Jordan, Dan Gadzuric and Josh Harrellson.
3. Which means July 14, not July 11, may be the key day in free agency
With so much money being extended in offers to restricted free agents (let us not forget the backloaded $25 , three-year deal Omer Asik of Chicago has agreed to with the Houston Rockets), the two-day matching window for those players’ original teams could lead to a serious reshuffling of the deck just 72 hours after the moratorium ends.
That’s where things could get interesting for the Nets in their pursuit of Howard, because money from Western Conference teams needing a power forward could become available. That, in theory, could facilitate a three-team trade in which Humphries would find a home where he is wanted, and the Nets could end up with Howard.
But that scenario, it must be stated, assumes that the Magic are willing to accommodate Howard’s request to be dealt to the only team he insists he will sign an extension with — Brooklyn.
And there is no rule that says Orlando has to make Howard happy.
“They could go to Dwight and say ‘Here are the three teams we can make deals with: And Brooklyn is not one of them. What do you want to do’?” a source briefed on the Howard discussions told SheridanHoops.com.
There were various reports out there Tuesday saying the Lakers (Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace) and the Hawks (Al Horford and Jeff Teague) were among the teams getting into the mix for Howard. Los Angeles has long been a distant second on Howard’s wish list, and Atlanta is his hometown. And if the Magic refuse to play ball with Brooklyn, Howard could be forced to choose between the two.
One player often mentioned as a fallback option for the Nets is Turkish forward Ersan Ilyasova, but he has received a four-year offer from a European team in addition to offers from the Nets, Bucks and Raptors, according to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype, who quoted agent Tolga Tugsavul. Ilyasova played in Turkey for Anadolu Efes during last year’s NBA lockout.
Also, Brooklyn has reached agreements in principle with free agents Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic, impeding their ability to take on one of the Magic’s big contracts in any potential deal with Orlando. A new collective bargaining rule effectively imposes a hard cap of $74 million on Brooklyn for next season.
4. Meanwhile, the unrestricted guys are being pursued, too
The rockets withdrew their qualifying offer to Courtney Lee, making him a free agent, and the Mavericks kissed Jason Terry goodbye after learning they had lost out on Williams. ”What Jet did for this city and franchise will never be forgotten,” Nelson said. “He’s one of the greatest clutch performers in the history of our game and even a better person. We wish him nothing but the very best.”
Terry is headed to Boston for a three-year deal worth almost $16 million, which likely takes Ray Allen out of the mix for the Celtics.
If Allen is interested in signing at a discount, the Miami Heat would love to have him — which LeBron James made clear in this tweet:
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 4, 2012
Dallas, meanwhile, could make a big-money offer to unrestricted free agent point guard Goran Dragic. But in doing so, they would be taking themselves out of the mix for going after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard a year from now when both could become unrestricted free agents.
Dragic reportedly has a five-year, $40 million offer from the Rockets to remain in Houston, but that offer could disappear if the Rockets make a backloaded offer to Lin to steal him away from the Knicks. But the Slovenian point guard also has drawn interest from his original team, the Phoenix Suns.
5. All of which means …
There are a lot of moving pieces and interchangeable parts, and with 170 free agents on the market and still a week left before anyone can put pen to paper, there are a lot more developments set to unfold before we see exactly how everything shakes out.