Free agent leftovers

Raja Bell will sign with the Utah Jazz because they can offer more money than the Lakers. Luke Ridnour will sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Shaun Livingston will sign with the Charlotte Bobcats. Javaris Crittenton wasn’t ready to play in the summer league after undergoing season-ending foot surgery last winter. So, the Lakers’ next best option might be to simply re-sign Shannon Brown to fill the final guard vacancy on their roster. Bell would have provided a veteran presence off the bench. Ridnour could have supplied a sharpshooting option. Livingston and Crittenton would have been feel-good stories. But does anyone remember how high Brown can fly when he’s in the open court? Look for a new deal to be struck sooner rather than later as the Lakers’ roster takes shape.

Here’s what Brown’s agent, Mark Bartelstein told Yahoo!: “(Lakers general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and I have been talking and we’re getting there on something.”

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Answers to readers’ questions

Harry emails to ask “what’s the big deal” about the re-signing of Derek Fisher?

Answer: The Lakers have won five NBA titles with Fisher and Kobe Bryant playing the guard positions. Sure, Fisher struggles to guard some of the fast young point guards in the league, but who on this planet can stop Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook or Aaron Brooks with any consistency? Fisher’s leadership is what’s important to the Lakers. He also has a knack for hitting big shots in big games. Remember, the Lakers believe they can win a third straight title, so losses to Houston or Charlotte during the regular season aren’t the end of the world. Fisher has been on the winning team in 33 playoff series, the most of all active players in the NBA. He also has 212 3-pointers in the playoffs, second all-time. That’s part of the reason the Lakers wanted him back on their roster for next season.

Blue Bruin asks: Are the Heat allowed to blast through the salary cap and pay the luxury tax like the Lakers are doing?

Answer: No. The Lakers’ payroll, which will top $90 million for the second straight season and will above the salary cap of $58 million for 2010-11, are in a different situation than the Heat. The Lakers’ payroll is so high largely because they have re-signed their own players to expensive new deals over the last few years. Teams can do this under league rules. The Lakers couldn’t go out and sign LeBron James because they couldn’t add his salary because they’re already over the cap. Does that make sense?
Teams like Miami must shed players and their salaries in order to clear the necessary salary cap space in order to sign players from other teams like LeBron James and Chris Bosh. That’s why the Heat traded Michael Beasley and his $5 million salary to the Minnesota Timberwolves, for instance. Miami team president Pat Riley could re-sign his own players, including Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem but he can’t offer more than the midlevel exception (about $5.8 million) or the veteran’s minimum (about $1.3 million) to free agents from other teams. There’s more to it, but those are the basics.

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Blake, Kupchak Q-and-A

Recently signed point guard Steve Blake met the media today in El Segundo.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak joined him.

Blake’s opening remarks: “I want to say I’m extremely excited to be coming to the Lakers. As a player who has won championships at every level except the NBA, I think this is the best place to be. As a point guard, to play with the best player in the world in Kobe Bryant and other players like Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest … and to play for the best coach, Phil Jackson, so I’m extremely excited. There couldn’t be any better opportunity out there for me than to come here. I’m extremely happy Mitch wanted me here. I’m looking forward to playing my role to the best of my ability.”

Continue reading

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Kobe recruiting Bell?

The Lakers still have one open guard spot, so it makes sense they would seek a veteran with the experience of Raja Bell. Here are the top few lines from a story posted on ESPN.com: “The seemingly hard-to-picture prospect of Kobe Bryant and old nemesis Raja Bell playing for the same team remains alive. The longtime rivals will sit down for a face-to-face chat Wednesday in Los Angeles to further discuss the feasibility of the Lakers signing Bell in free agency, sources close to the situation said. Bell is traveling to Los Angeles this week to watch the ESPYs and has arranged to meet with Bryant to hear the Lakers’ face of the franchise make yet another recruiting pitch to the 33-year-old swingman.”

The story goes on to recount Bryant’s feud with Bell during the 2006 playoffs, when Bell clobbered Bryant on a drive to the basket. Bryant and the Lakers squandered a 3-1 series lead to Bell and the Suns. The report also indicates Bryant has phoned Bell several times. Bell could serve as a replacement for free agent Shannon Brown.

If he signs, Bell would join Bryant, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Sasha Vujacic in a backcourt that would be far more experienced than the one that helped the Lakers win the last two NBA championships, a scary prospect for league rivals.

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Fisher agrees with Lakers

Derek Fisher has agreed to return to the Lakers to chase a third consecutive NBA championship and the sixth of his career. He announced the news on his website this afternoon, saying, “I took time to consider all my options, many not reported in the media. I listened to every coach, every general manager, even potential teammates in order to make the right decision. I thank every one of them.

“At the end of the day, there’s one person I could not turn away from. Kobe Bryant asked me to stay but supported whatever decision I made. He and I have played together for 11 seasons, came into the league together as kids and has been loyal to me even when others had doubts. We have won five championships together.

“I have decided to continue with Kobe, continue with our teammates and the fans of Los Angeles. While this may not be the most lucrative contract I’ve been offered this offseason, it is the most valuable. I am confident I will continue to lead this team on and off the court. Let the hunt for six begin.”

The deal is for three years and $10.5 million, with the third season a player’s option.

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Fisher close to re-signing?

Here’s what Yahoo! Sports is reporting today:

“A source close to Derek Fisher said he’s confident the free-agent guard will re-sign with the Lakers instead of going to the Miami Heat. Fisher reportedly received a $2.5 million offer for next season from the Lakers. He has been seeking a two-year contract with a starting salary closer to the $5 million he made last season. Depending on whether the Heat sign both Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, they could be in position to offer only the veteran’s minimum to Fisher. Fisher visited with the Heat in Miami on Saturday.”

This story might have legs. Certainly, this would seem to be the week to get a deal done. I’ve been told the widely reported Lakers’ offer of one year for $2.5 million is inaccurate, as is the Fisher camp’s demand of $10 million over two seasons. Still, even if it’s a little bit more (say, closer to $3 million for 2010-11), that’s a good deal more than the veteran’s minimum of $1,352,181 that’s mentioned above.

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Farmar agrees with Nets

It’s official now, Jordan Farmar will sign with the New Jersey Nets once he passes a physical. Here’s my story:

“Jordan Farmar and the New Jersey Nets agreed on a three-year contract worth $12 million, the team announced Sunday night. The former Lakers point guard must pass a physical exam in order to complete the deal
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“Farmar is expected to serve as a backup to Nets starter Devin Harris.

“‘He comes to the Nets with a championship pedigree, which will prove to be invaluable to his teammates,’ New Jersey team president Rod Thorn said in a press release posted on the Nets’ website.

“Thorn also called Farmar ‘an excellent complement’ to Harris.

“Farmar played four seasons with the Lakers after standout careers at UCLA and Taft High School of Woodland Hills. He averaged 7.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 18 minutes in 82 games last season.

“The Lakers declined to re-sign Farmar, opting instead to sign free agent Steve Blake as a backup to Derek Fisher or a possible replacement if Fisher decides to sign elsewhere. Fisher met with Miami president Pat Riley on Saturday.

“The Heat reportedly made a ‘compelling offer’ to Fisher, according to an ESPN.com report, but an unnamed source would not elaborate in an interview with the website. Fisher made $5 million last season with the Lakers.”

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Fisher heads home unsigned

Derek Fisher met with Miami Heat president Pat Riley earlier today and things went well, according to a league source. Fisher returned to Southern California, but the source declined to say whether a contract offer was made to the unrestricted free agent guard. Riley declined to comment. The Heat are expected to sign guard Mike Miller and re-sign forward Udonis Haslem as Riley attempts to surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with enough talented and experienced players to make a title run. Fisher has said he would prefer to re-sign with the Lakers. The Lakers also would like to retain the 35-year-old’s services, but the side haven’t made progress on a new contract.

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Fisher travels to Miami

Miami Heat president Pat Riley has invited Lakers free agent Derek Fisher to South Florida as Riley attempts to surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with talented and experienced players. Riley and Fisher are scheduled to meet today in Miami. James, Wade and Bosh give the Heat a high-powered trio of superstars, but the roster still needs more names. Fisher would give the Heat some serious veteran leadership plus a championship background. After all, Fisher has won five titles in seven trips to the Finals with the Lakers. Fisher also has not ruled out a return to the Lakers. Talks between Fisher’s agent, Rob Pelinka, and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak are said to be ongoing. In addition to the Heat, the Chicago Bulls, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Jersey Nets are believed to be interested in signing Fisher.

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Heat are new favorites

Odds to win the 2010-11 NBA Championship (courtesy Bodog Sportsbook):

Miami Heat 7/4.
Lakers 11/4.
Orlando Magic 10/1.
Boston Celtics 12/1.
Chicago Bulls 15/1.

Personally, I would like to see the rest of the Heat’s roster before I bet on them to win anything next season. I mean who’s going to get stuck inbounding the ball on this team? Whoever it is, he’ll never see the ball again. Just label me dubious.

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