…. When we last left off, I was recounting the circumstances of Elton Brand and Corey Maggette’s decisions to opt out of the final years of their contracts and sign as free agents elsewhere.
Here’s one very important thing to note: At the time Elton opted out of his contract on June 30, his intention was to return to the Clippers. He and David Falk said it multiple times.
His intention was so strong, he spent the next day or two helping to court Baron Davis to sign with the Clippers. Davis, the third player in this dramatic triad, decided to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Warriors at the 11th hour, when it became clear the Warriors would not give him an extension. Subsequent reports out of the Bay Area indicate the Warriors had offered Baron and extension, then pulled it back.
Needless to say, when Baron opted out of his contract, everything changed.
Udrih was no longer the primary target. Davis was, and Brand had several conversations with him trying to woo him.
One problem: The Clippers had approximately $27 million in salary cap space. If Brand wanted $15 million a season, that left only $12 million for Udrih/Davis/Maggette. Maggette wanted $10 or $11 million, Udrih was looking for a full mid-level exception deal (approximately $5.5 million a season), Davis’ market value was somewhere in the $12-$15 million a season range as well.
The question was: would any of those players settle for less to be together?
Very quickly, it appeared Brand and Davis had worked it out amongst themselves. Brand verbally agreeing to take $14 million a season (five years, $70 million) Baron agreeing to $13 million a season (five years, $65 million).
It all seemed so easy.
But of course, as the Clippers and the rest of the world would soon learn, it wasn’t.
Because David Falk, like any agent worth his salt, did not like being cut out of the negotiations. The one thing agents live in fear of is having players do their own bidding, and several high profile players have begun to do that in recent years: Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees, Arenas with the Wizards, Daunte Culpepper, Stephon Marbury, etc.
Falk heard of the verbal agreement between the Clippers and Brand and was not enthused to have been left out of the discussions, for both philosophical and financial reasons.
At the time, it appeared to be the best deal Brand could get from any team. Philly had only $12.5 million in cap space. So the Clippers stayed on what Falk later referred to as a “take-it-or-leave-it offer” at five years, $70 million.
This is the point where several sign-and-trade rumors began to leak out, as Falk looked around the league for better deals for his client via sign and trade. The Clippers passed on all of them.
Part of the reason the Clippers’ stance angered Falk (and later Brand) was because there was a way the Clippers could increase their offer. It involved renouncing their rights to several players (like Shaun Livingston) who were counting against their salary cap number. Doing so, the Clippers argued, weakened the team. Plus, it was difficult to do when they felt that they already had a verbal agreement at five years and $70 million.
Philadelphia didn’t have the same qualms. The 76ers were so desperate to land Brand, they sent Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and a future first-rounder to Minnesota just to clear an extra $2-3 million in cap space to give to Brand.
As soon as this happened, the Clippers came back with counter offers –first at five years $75 million, then five years, $81 million — by renouncing their rights to Dan Dickau, Shaun Livingston, Boniface Ndong, Smush Parker and James Singleton on July 9.
By this point though, it was too late. Brand was in Philly having dinner with the 76ers front office, having already decided to sign with Philly. Dunleavy later said he wasn’t even sure that Brand had received the counter offers, since direct contract between them had ceased several days earlier.
Why? I’ll let Brand speak for himself on this point:
“(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.”
To Be Continued …