Welcome to the dead months of the 2013 NBA offseason.
With NBA Summer League play closing up in Las Vegas on Monday and nearly every major name having found their new (or old) home, we're about to enter the phase where we're getting worked up about Mike Miller's destination.
The league will reveal its schedule soon, which will take some of the attention away from the boredom, but we're a long way off until October, folks.
That means scrounging up every last morsel of rumor and innuendo that you can find before, say, Tyrus Thomas becomes the most notable free agent on the market. No one wants that day to come, but it's coming.
Without much expected the remainder of this summer via major trades—Brooklyn and Boston took care of that one in June—these last few notable names available in free agency are the last pre-doldrum frontiers.
Luckily, some of these players seem determined to drag out their sagas until the very last penny has been pinched. If we've learned anything over the history of NBA free agency, it's that once a player hangs on the market into late July, it's very possible this thing stretches in perpetuity. The number of teams with cap room is minuscule, and that's juxtaposed by a couple veterans disappointed by their offers thus far.
Hence the crickets.
With that in mind, here is a look at the latest free-agency rumblings from across the Association.
Greg Oden Working Out for Teams, Nearing a Decision?
Anyone looking for quick evidence to show how barren the free-agent market is should start with the most sought-after player on the market being nearly four years removed from NBA action.
Greg Oden's comeback tour has long been a curiosity item for fans this summer, with the former No. 1 overall pick carrying the cache of a big name without the resume
Oden was bound to carry the post-superstar conversation. Once Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and the other All-Star caliber players went off the market, his destination instantly sprung into the national conversation.
What's been interesting is how many teams have reached out to his representatives. As many as six teams—including the Spurs, Heat, Kings, Pelicans, Hawks and Mavericks—have expressed interest in the 25-year-old big man, whose career has been completely derailed by knee injuries. Oden last played competitively on Dec. 5, 2009 for the Trail Blazers, who finally gave up on him two-and-a-half years later.
After deciding to sit out the 2012-13 season to allow his body to fully heal from a third microfracture surgery on his knee, Oden plans on suiting up for next year. According to Jeff Goodman and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Oden took his first major step in that return Tuesday by working out for the Heat, Pelicans and Kings in Indianapolis.
"[The workout] went well," the source said. "He did a ton of agility stuff, ran suicides and also did drills on the court."
No team has formally reached out to Oden with an offer yet, though it's expected to be a mere formality. Oden isn't in a position to push for a multi-year deal or one that comes with major guarantees. As such, it will probably come down to the former Ohio State standout choosing where he wants to play and taking an incentive-laden pact.
How close is Oden to such a decision? According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the seven-footer will make his decision next week:
Stein and Goodman's report notes the Spurs and Heat have long been viewed as favorites in the chase. Both are championship contenders, a key for someone like Oden, whose long-term prognosis remains as up in the air as any.
Whether Oden can help a team in its championship push obviously remains very much up in the air as well.
Mo Williams, Heat a Fit?
Back to players who have actually played basketball since the Reagan administration. T
he stagnant months of the NBA calendar are often sobering for players remaining on the market. For guys still in their mid-20s, the coming weeks and months are about latching onto any franchise that offers a steady paycheck.
For veterans, the realization is a little different. Once you hit 30 and teams aren't knocking on your door at midnight on July 1, it's a good sign your years as a viable NBA starter are over.
Even players who belong in the league and deserve a multi-year pact have to begin reevaluating where they stand on the league's hierarchy and assess what they want to do the remainder of their career.
Such is the case for Mo Williams.
The 30-year-old point guard spent last season with the Utah Jazz, starting in all 46 of his appearances and averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 assists per game. He was the same Williams as always, an above-average outside shooter and decent creator, whose team was better on both ends with him on the bench.
Still a usable bench cog, Williams has no shortage of interested teams. The problem is none of those teams seem willing to give Williams a multi-year deal someone of his caliber usually receives—mostly because teams just don't have the cap space at this point.
Williams is probably looking at cutting his $8.5 million salary from 2012-13 by more than half, which isn't an easy pill to swallow for a player whose minutes hover in the range of 30 per night.
Hence the whole reevaluation thing. While he's still holding out hope that another team will swoop in with a strong offer, Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld reports that Williams has privately told friends that if his offers don't improve, he'll probably take a one-year deal with a contender—specifically mentioning the Miami Heat.
The defending champs have their full mini mid-level exception available, worth a little over $3 million for 2013-14. Williams has experience playing with LeBron James in Cleveland (Remember when Williams was an All-Star? Yeah, I chose to forget that too) and would provide the Heat with yet another floor-spacer.
The question is whether Miami is willing to burn its entire mini mid-level on Williams. The Heat are a known contender for Oden's services and already boast two incumbent point guards. If Williams were willing to split the mid-level with Oden or another defensive-minded big, this could be a fit. But this looks like a situation where he's more concerned with landing the best monetary offer than anything else.
Bucks Still Want Jennings, Don't Want to Overpay?
Speaking of players not commanding as high of a salary as they expected, say hello to Brandon Jennings.
The Milwaukee Bucks guard turned down a four-year, $40 million deal before last season, expecting to garner interest in the max level once he hit the open market.
Things haven't exactly turned out as planned.
Jennings, like many of his restricted free agent brethren, hung out on the open market and watched as teams threw money around like candy at a parade without catching a dime. Aggressors in this market went elsewhere rather than sign Jennings to an offer sheet, one that could have tied up their cap space as another suitor swooped in and took a secondary target.
Even Jennings' team decided to go elsewhere at point guard. The Atlanta Hawks wound up matching the Bucks' four-year, $36 million offer sheet to Jeff Teague. But that whole fiasco had to be yet another wakeup call for Jennings in an offseason full of them.
Winds on the free agency front and any sign-and-trade scenarios have both been quiet, leaving open the semi-embarrassing proposition of Jennings playing for his qualifying offer in 2013-14, worth $4.5 million.
It's something Jennings' camp is considering. Coming back on a qualifying offer gives the 23-year-old guard some semblance of power, with Milwaukee unable to trade him without consent and leaving open unrestricted free agency next summer.
Still, according to Hoopsworld's Kyler, Milwaukee's hope remains signing its 2009 first-round pick at a reasonable cost:
Sources close to the process explained that the team has never wavered in their desire to ink Jennings to a new deal, they just won’t massively overpay Jennings and it seems that’s what his camp is seeking.
If both sides are looking to find an amendable ground, talks should start somewhere in the $8-9 million per season range over three years. The Bucks would probably have to give Jennings a standard opt-out after two years for his camp to even give such an offer any consideration, but that's an option that also works for both sides.
Jennings gets paid about what he's worth (if not more), while also getting two seasons to prove he's a max player. He would re-enter the open market at age 25, at which point players are historically reaching their peak seasons.
But based on what we know about Jennings' camp, his agents view their client nearly as highly as he does himself. Compromise probably isn't anywhere near getting done.
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