Falk responds

Elton Brand’s agent David Falk responded to the latest accusations by Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy in an interview with ESPN’s Marc Stein.

“This is what I want to say emphatically: The process was flawed,” Falk said. “The team should not be having two simultaneous negotiations with a player and his agent. But that’s the team’s responsibility, not the player’s. I’m not happy about it, I’m not gloating about it. I regret that the process was flawed, but I don’t take any responsibility that the process was flawed.

“Mike and I have had a good friendship for 20 years. [But] Mike has acknowledged that he and Elton were having a private dialogue, which is illegal and a violation of the collective bargaining agreement for teams to do that when they know he has a registered agent. I wouldn’t expect [Cleveland Cavaliers vice president] Danny Ferry, who’s a former client, or [Denver Nuggets vice president] Rex Chapman, who’s a former client, or [Charlotte Bobcats president] Michael Jordan to be negotiating behind my back. I think it’s unethical.

“Had the process not begun with private discussions between the team and the player that should have never taken place, [Brand would] probably be there today. Had they put [their best] offer on the table initially instead of only when another team forced their hand, I don’t think we’d be having these discussions today. Had they told us they would use their competitive advantage by offering a sixth year that no other team could offer, there could have been a different outcome. That’s the bottom line.

“They had enough cap room to pay Baron [Davis] what they were going to pay him and sign Elton for five years and $82 million or six years and a $100 million. To ask him to come down from $100 million to $70 million or $75 million, it’s patently unrealistic for him to accept that. There isn’t a player [of Brand's stature] who would accept that.

“Whether Elton said to Mike that I’m happy at X or happy at Y, I’m not disputing that. If Mike says it happened, it happened. But it should have never happened because Mike should have never allowed those discussions to take place.”

For the record, here’s what Dunleavy had to say when I asked him whether he’d gone behind Falk’s back to negotiate with Brand (a la A-Rod and the Yankees last fall).

“I didn’t negotiate with him, I didn’t go behind (Falk’s) back,” Dunleavy said. “It was my player coming to me and making a request of me to go to the owner. And I did it. the owner was receptive to me and I did it.”

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Baron’s side of the story

By Ramona Shelburne
Staff Writer

The final versions of how the last few days all went so wrong for the Clippers were still being written Thursday. Coach Mike Dunleavy came armed with text messages from Elton Brand stored in his phone to prove he’d been wronged. Brand’s agent, David Falk, staying true until the end to his version of events.

But at the end of what had turned into a very dark tunnel, there was a bright side for the Clippers. Waiting at the podium, in a crisp black suit, white canvas tennis shoes and a beaming, bright smile was two-time All-Star point guard Baron Davis, who was introduced back to the city that has always been his home at a press conference Thursday afternoon at Staples Center.

In the dream scenario; no, actually just the scenario Davis said Brand had called him with on June 30, after both had opted out of the final year of their contracts (Davis with the Warriors, Brand with the Clippers) Brand would’ve been alongside him on that podium too.

But Davis seemed happy enough to take the stage alone and embrace professionally the city he grew up in and really, has never left.

“For me this was never a money issue, it was about being rich in your heart,” said Davis, who grew up in Compton, prepped at Crossroads High in Santa Monica and went to college at UCLA.

“To come home, and to be in the place where your dream first started, 15 minutes away from where my grandfather (Luke Nicholson) built my first basketball court is a dream come true.”

As for all that other stuff, the competing versions of events, whether or not he and Brand had an “underground handshake” to both sign with the Clippers, Davis said he held no grudge.

“He (Brand) did a great job recruiting me. A great job. He got me here,” Davis said, laughing and with a huge grin on his face. “I’m not giving him like my agent fees or anything though.

“But there was never an underground handshake. We talked about it, yes. But we also talked about going to school together in college. Me and EB have been friends since the 10th grade. No matter what we say to each other, at the end of the day, you have to do what’s going to cement your future and something that you’re going to be comfortable with and that’s what he did.”

When exactly did Davis realize the dream scenario had begun to unravel?

“I had a feeling he was going to go when he stopped texting me and turned his phone off,” Davis said, laughing heartily once again.

At that point, he admitted that the thought did cross his mind that this trip down to L.A. might not be such a good idea after all. A source indicated that Golden State even came back with a counter offer on Wednesday, just to see if it could tempt him to come back.

“But my grandmother raised me to be committed to the things that I say,” he said. “And when I really looked at the opportunity here, I was like, `This is where I need to be.’ ”

The Clippers seemed ecstatic to have him. Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy even called it the most significant free agent signing in club history, though team president Andy Roeser hinted that the club might not be done for the summer yet. Not with $12 million in salary cap space still available and a “blank check” from owner Donald Sterling to “do whatever is necessary” to put a great team together for next season.

“Baron plays every style,” Dunleavy said. “He’s a power point guard. He can push the ball, run the floor, he’s got a great post game. his versatility, his ability, there’s nothing on the court he can’t do.

“For some of our guys, it’ll be the first time they’ve played with a point guard who can really make plays and create easy buckets. ”

It would’ve been nice to pair him with Brand, of course. And it’s clear it’s going to take some of the Clippers brass a little while to get over losing their franchise power forward.

“I honestly don’t understand it,” Dunleavy said. “EB basically said, let’s get BD. So we made that run, we went after it, and Elton led the way with it by calling Baron and recruiting him. We were able to work out a deal and Elton was totally a part of that deal. We all thought it was done.

“There’s a contract that was marked up by David Falk, saying, `make these changes in language, this is what we want and if Baron Davis is good to go, we’re good to go.’ ”

Then, on the night of July 1st, Dunleavy said –and he pulled out his Blackberry with the text message dated at 7:53 p.m. to prove it — Brand sent him a text message asking him to make some changes to the language of that contract.

“I texted him back, and then, in the morning (and again, he showed us the time-stamp, this time 9:32 a.m. to prove it) I wrote him back saying, `I got it all done for you, language and ETO (early termination option). But that was the last I heard from him,” Dunleavy said.

“Then, it all changed and I don’t know the reason for it. David Falk had an incredible influence on him, to poison him in some way against us. We never even got a call to understand there even was a problem, or why there was a problem. … It was uncharacteristic of EB.”

Still, after all that, Dunleavy left the room Thursday smiling. Davis was on board and the Clippers still had $12 million in cap space to work with, and there’s every indication they will spend it.

Wednesday night, the team met with Atlanta forward Josh Smith and his agent Brian Dyke, though no offer was made to the restricted free agent. It’s likely the club will take the weekend to assess its options and decide its next move. After all, no other team has enough cap space to outbid the Clippers at this point.

“While, it’s going to be different than we anticipated, that’s the way it goes in the NBA. You have to adapt and watch, we will,” team president Andy Roeser said.

“The the silver lining is that when Elton opted out, it gave us the cap space we needed to go and get one of the top point guards in the league and that’s what we did with Baron Davis.

“We still have a little more work to do, we’re armed with $12 million in cap space and kind of a blank check commitment from our ownership to do what needs to be done to put the best team out there.”

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It’s official

Here’s the release from the Clippers:

The Los Angeles Clippers today solidified their point guard position for years to come with the announced signing of free agent Baron Davis to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

A two-time NBA All-Star (2002 and 2004), Davis averaged 21.8 points (12th in the NBA), 7.6 assists (6th in the NBA), 4.7 rebounds and 2.33 steals (3rd in the NBA) while playing in all 82 games for the Golden State Warriors during the 2007-08 season. Davis was just one of four players in the league last season to average 20+ points and seven+ assists (Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Chris Paul) per game. The 6’3″ guard also tied a career-high in scoring when he poured in 40 points at Chicago on January 18th, in addition to notching three triple-doubles on the season, bringing his career total to nine.

Entering his tenth NBA season, Davis brings career averages of 17.1 points, 7.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.95 steals and 35.5 minutes per game. He has appeared in 82 games on four occasions during his career and has led his teams to the playoffs in six of his nine NBA campaigns. In 46 career playoff games, Davis has tallied 19.8 points, 6.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Most recently, Davis captivated the Bay Area during the 2007 NBA Playoffs, leading the eighth seeded Warriors to a stunning First Round upset of the number one seeded Dallas Mavericks before the Warriors succumbed to the Utah Jazz in the Second Round.

Originally selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the third overall selection in the 1999 NBA Draft, Davis remained the cornerstone of the Hornets franchise until he was traded to Golden State on February 24, 2005. Davis turned in his most productive NBA season in 2003-04 while with New Orleans, when he tallied a career-high 22.9 points (6th in the NBA) to go with 7.5 assists (4th in the NBA) and a career-best 2.36 steals (1st in the NBA) per game and earned All-NBA Third Team honors. He became just the third player (Gary Payton and Michael Adams) since the 1976-77 season to finish in the top-10 in those categories.

The Los Angeles native turned in two stellar seasons at UCLA before making himself eligible for the 1999 NBA Draft. In two seasons as a Bruin, Davis notched career numbers of 13.6 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. Davis earned Third-Team All-America honors from the Associated Press after a sophomore season in which he averaged 15.9 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He was also selected as the 1998 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and is a graduate of Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, CA.

A pillar in the Los Angeles community, Davis established TeamPlay, the Baron Davis Foundation in 2004 which inspires underprivileged youth to take their best next step. He also founded and operates another foundation called the Rising Stars of America, through which he conducts basketball camps for at-risk youth in the Los Angeles area. For the past two summers, along with fellow Los Angeles native Paul Pierce, Davis has taken over the reigns of “A Midsummer Night’s Magic”, the annual charity gala and celebrity basketball game started by Magic Johnson more than 20 years ago. Davis received the LA’s Best Alumni Award from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2007 for his contributions to the non-profit’s after school mentoring programs.

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Get your CBA out

One of the biggest questions people around the league will be trying to answer in the next few days, when deconstructing this Elton Brand situation, is the issue of whether the Clippers had to renounce their rights to Brand in order to sign both Brand and Baron Davis. That’s important because by renouncing Brand’s rights, the Clippers would have lost his Bird rights, and thus would not have been able to offer a sixth year to his contract.

I was told, by a source, that the Clippers had to do that.

But a reader actually e-mailed to ask why they’d need to do that, instead of just signing Brand first (keeping his Bird rights) and then signing Davis. I, myself, didn’t know the answer, so I e-mailed salary cap guru Larry Coon to see if he could provide some perspective.

Here’s what he had to say. A word of warning here: Do not keep reading this post if numbers make your head hurt or complexity makes your eyes roll back into your head.

For those that like this sort of thing, Coon’s answer is incredibly juicy.

“It’s all academic now, since Brand signed with Philly.

However — they simply had to fit both Brand & Davis under the cap. I’m
just going to use made up numbers here, since I can illustrate the point
with them and don’t really want to look up the actual numbers. Say the
cap is $58 million, they have $32 million tied up in existing contracts
and cap holds, they have $15 million in free agent amounts for free
agents other than Brand (Maggette, Livingston, etc.), and Brand’s free
agent amount is $17 million. Right now their cap amount would be $64
million. We can assume they renounce their $15 million in other free
agents (Maggette, Livinston, etc.), putting them at $49 million,
including Brand’s cap hold.

Let’s say they want to sign Davis for $12 million, and Brand for $14
million. Here are two scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Renounce Brand first: They renounce Brand, and gain the
amount of his cap hold, so they are now at $32 million, which gives them
$26 million of cap room. They sign Davis & Brand as free agents using
cap room (i.e., the Bird exception cannot be and is not used on Brand),
for $12 million & $14 million respectively, which takes them right up to
the cap.

Scenario 2 – Don’t renounce Brand. In this scenario, they have to
re-sign Brand before signing Davis. So they sign Brand for $14 million,
and his $17 million cap hold is replaced by his $14 million salary. Now
their cap amount is $46 million. That leaves $12 million of cap room
for Davis.

So either way, they are able to sign both players to the intended amounts.

The benefit of Scenario 2 is that it preserves the Bird exception, and
therefore their ability to give 10.5% raises and six years.”

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Clips clear cap space

The Clippers just renounced their rights to free agents Dan Dickau, Shaun Livingston, Boniface Ndong, Smush Parker and James Singleton.

Per the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, a renounced player no longer counts toward team salary, so teams use renouncement to gain additional cap room. After renouncing a player, the team is still permitted to re-sign such player, but the team must either have enough salary cap room to fit the salary, or sign the player using the Minimum Salary exception.

It is absolutely no coincidence that this occured on the same day the Clips had an informal meeting with Josh Smith and his agent.

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Dunleavy, Mobley speak

By Ramona Shelburne
Staff Writer

MANHATTAN BEACH — It will take more than one day for the dust from Tuesday’s disastrous turn of events to settle, but on the first day after life without Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, the Clippers began picking up the pieces and constructing plans to retool their team while everyone else around the country tried to dissect how it all came to pass in the first place.

“The bottom line for me is I’m hurt by it as well as our team. Our players feel the same way,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said of Brand’s departure Wednesday evening. “We felt like Elton was a great player and with the lineup we had, with getting Baron Davis we feel like that really would have put us in the hunt as far as the playoffs and going deep into the playoffs. I don’t know why he made the decision.

“I loved the guy. I don’t know what poisoned him against us, but up until the last text message I had from him, I did everything he asked me to do, period. I’m shocked by it because of how much I loved the guy as a player and how close I thought we were.”

Shooting guard Cuttino Mobley, now the longest-tenured Clipper after the defections of Brand and Maggette, said he was incredibly disappointed, but hopeful the club could still make noise in the Western Conference.

“It’s tough, because everything was right there for us, assuming the components (Brand and Baron Davis), and then something happened. I don’t even know what happened,” Mobley said Wednesday morning on his way into the team’s training facility. “You never really know. It’s all speculation. But we just have to work on what we still have here, you know.

“We got Baron Davis (who is expected to finalize his agreement in the next day or two), myself, Al Thornton, Chris Kaman. That’s super close to the Finals, that’s what I think.”

Still, Mobley seemed downcast less than 24 hours after learning that the two cornerstones of the franchise had bolted without compensation via free agency. Maggette’s departure was somewhat expected, but Brand’s came as a shock to the organization, which thought it had a verbal agreement with Brand on a five-year, $70 million contract offer last week, according to Dunleavy.

Instead, Brand listened to offers from other teams, then wanted the Clippers to raise their offer, which they did, first to $75 million, then to $81 million.

“I don’t know whether Elton ever got those (offers) or not,” Dunleavy said.

By day’s end Tuesday Brand was already in the City of Brotherly Love having dinner with the front office of his new team.

So what exactly happened in between?

Several versions of the story were presented Wednesday.

Brand and his agent told the assembled media in Philadelphia that the Clippers had “forced their hand” by making a take-it-or-leave-it offer, that they felt unloved and disrespected by the Clippers.

Said Brand: “(Philadelphia) gave everything they could. Even though it was less than (Golden State’s $90 million offer), they gave everything they could and that really made me say, `Hey, that’s the kind of people I want to work for and work with.’

“Another team, that I passed on, didn’t come close to that.”

Falk was even harsher.

“What you want when you’re a franchise player you want to feel that you’re wanted,” Falk said. “And I think it was very disturbing to feel that … it was basically accept it or don’t accept it.

“That’s a very difficult position to accept when you’re a player of Elton’s stature and you’ve done as much for the franchise as Elton has over the past seven years. I think that set in motion a chain of events that led us here today.”

Dunleavy seemed offended by those comments.

“Things were said that are totally not true, they’re used out of context as far as ultimatiums. The ultimatium that was made was whether to opt out or not opt out, not as far as a deal,” Dunleavy said.

“I can show text messages to Faulk and all those things, (that we) made a verbal deal. You don’t have to keep a verbal deal. It’s not binding. You can say, ‘You know what? I changed my mind I want to go to the East Coast because my wife’s family is there. Or it’s easier to make the playoffs. Or I can be an All-Star in the East as opposed to the West.’ But just say it we had a verbal deal and I just changed my mind.”

Mobley didn’t want to take sides, but revealed that he’d been worried about Brand’s status as soon as he opted out of his contract on June 30 and became an unrestricted free agent.

“I’ve been talking to Elton all along. Last week was the last time I talked to him, and he was scaring me the whole time,” Mobley said. “I don’t really know why he didn’t want to come back. He’s like my brother, so it’s tough.

“But whatever’s best for him, you know. He’s from New York, his wife is from Jersey. I don’t know.”

So what’s next for the Clippers?

Atlanta forward Josh Smith became the team’s first target. Smith was in Los Angeles Wednesday, shooting an adidas commercial, which had been previously scheduled.

He is a restricted free agent though, so Atlanta can match any offer sheet he signs. The Hawks have stated they intend to keep him, but a league source noted that if the competing offer was overwhelming, Atlanta would have a hard time doing that.

The Clippers are really only bidding against themselves then, as they’re the last team with a significant amount of salary cap space.

A message left Wednesday afternoon on the cellphone of Smith’s agent, Brian Dyke, wasn’t returned.

The other option is Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor. The Bobcats have previously offered him an extension in the neighborhood of $12 million a year and he passed, meaning that Okafor would be an expensive proposition for the Clippers.

Okafor’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

At the end of a long day, and after eight very long days that ended up in severely disappointing fashion, Dunleavy still found reason for optimism.

“We wish Elton nothing but the best,” he said. “The good news is it’s really hard to get a really good point guard in this league, and we just got one. He’s going to be all signed up with us. We have a lot of money. Our owner is 100 percent behind us and we have the ability to use that money and use it wisely. You never know how decisions work out. Something could work out in our favor.”

Staff Writer Elliott Teaford contributed to this report.

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Falk’s explanation

So what exactly happened to make Elton Brand spurn the Clippers and want to move to the East Coast yesterday? We got one very powerful, inflammatory side of the story this afternoon as Brand’s agent, David Falk, laid into Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling during Brand’s introductory press conference in Philadelphia.

Falk said that Sterling essentially presented a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer to Brand, and wouldn’t even make himself available to discuss it. That, Falk said, was taken as an insult by Brand’s camp and “set off a chain of events that led us here (to Philadelphia) today.”

“We were told, midafternoon on monday June 30, that offer was on the table,” Falk said. “And it was explained to us that Coach Dunleavy, who acts as the quasi general manager in LA, had really gone to the mat on Elton’s behalf and was able to get a certain amount of money from the owner, and I believe he did. Mike explained that the owner realy wasn’t comfortable with the offer and that if Elton turned the offer down, he’d be just as happy as if he’d accepted it.

“I think that what you want when you’re a franchise player, when your’e a franchise worker in any organization, you want to feel that you’re wanted by the team. And I think it was very distrurbing to feel that when the management tells you that if you turn it down, they’d be just as happy and they basically told us that the owner was unavailable to discuss the offer any further and it was basically accept it or don’t accept it. That’s a very difficult position to accept when you’re a player of Elton’s stature and you’ve done as much for the franchise as Elton has over the past seven years. I think that set in motion a chain of events that led us here today.”

A Clippers spokesperson said they didn’t plan to have any comment on Falk’s statements.

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The day after

I swung by the Clippers practice facility to get a look at the wreckage after yesterday’s disastrous day. The place is still standing, everyone inside is OK, but there were more than a few aftershocks being felt throughout the building still.

Never got to speak with coach Mike Dunleavy this morning. He was upstairs, on his cell phone the entire time I was in there. Word is the Clippers are going to meet with Atlanta forward Josh Smith today, though I don’t know how formal that meeting is yet.

Smith was already scheduled to be in Los Angeles to film an adidas commercial. But, seeing as how the Clippers all of a sudden need a power forward, and are the only team in the NBA with enough cap space to make a realistic offer to the up-and-coming young star, a little more business has been added to Smith’s agenda in LA today.

The Clippers also have feelers out to Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor.

Both players are restricted free agents, but my contact in Atlanta said that if LA offers Smith big, big money, Atlanta probably won’t match it. The Hawks have stated that they want to keep Smith, at all costs, but the feeling is they won’t want to spend more than the $14 million a year they pay Joe Johnson.

Before we go, a couple day-after takes on how the Elton Brand situation went wrong. I spoke with a friend of Brand’s today who said that as early as last week, he was starting to lean towards signing with the 76ers. The appeal of playing back East, near where he and his wife are from, became very enticing.

There is also a theory, going around the league, and articulated well by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski that this was a power play by Brand’s agent, David Falk.

Falk, the article says, got angry when Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy reached out to Brand directly instead of going through him. Dunleavy did this, of course, because Falk had stopped returning the Clippers calls.

I’ve heard the story a little differently –that Falk was angry Dunleavy had encouraged Brand to opt out of his contract — but the message is still the same. Something the Clippers did made Falk mad and he took his client and ran.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be able to piece things together better. There is no black box on these things, so everything is just hearsay. But we should know a little more in a couple hours, after Brand’s press conference in Philadelphia, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. EST.

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