For NBA players who find themselves unemployed as the calendar keeps ticking days toward August, it's hard for paranoia to not set in.
Rookies and young players have to start assessing their overseas options in hopes of a payday, with every tryout and training camp invite serving as one last vestige of hope away from the $24,000 maximum in life as a D-Leaguer.
And, then, there are the veterans. For players of a certain age, mortality starts setting in right about the time you don't get a call at 12:01 a.m. on July 1. The NBA is said to be a fraternity—once you're in, you're in. Only once those calls start drying up and the offers start getting lesser do players begin dealing with the harsh realities of a future without basketball.
Such is the case right about now for plenty of notable veterans. While there are still a few teams remaining with cap space and a desire for bench help, the overwhelming preponderance of organizations have nearly filled out their rosters.
Only mini mid-level exceptions and veteran minimum contracts are being offered—and only tepidly so. The market will only continue to dry up as August rolls around, so it will be an interesting few days and weeks for names we're plenty used seeing on an NBA floor.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of all the latest free-agency rumblings surrounding veteran talent.
Lamar Odom Warming to Lakers Reunion, Lakers Not so Much?
If there's one thing we know about Lamar Odom, it's that he likes candy. If there are two things we know about Lamar Odom, it's that he likes candy and is married to a Kardashian. But, if there are three things we know about him, that's when we get to the actual basketball stuff.
Well, kind of. We know that Odom likes playing basketball in Los Angeles—or at least somewhere with a beach. If it's somewhere where there's warm weather, a never-ending supply of Skittles and in a city open to reality television stars, then Odom could be had.
Last season Odom made his return to the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that drafted him out of Rhode Island all the way back in 1999. Suffice it to say things didn't go as planned. Odom's return to sunny SoCal was supposed to reinvigorate the offensively gifted forward after he went through a hellish 50-game stint with the Dallas Mavericks a year prior.
Odom's 82-game stint with the Clippers somehow went even worse. Though not as divisive a force in the locker room as he had been in Dallas, Odom suffered through the worst statistical year of his career. He averaged career lows in points (four) and minutes (19.7) per game while shooting below 40 percent for the second consecutive season.
The Clippers scored nearly five points per 100 possessions fewer with Odom on the floor, though it's fair to point out most of his minutes came with the second unit. Los Angeles was also strangely a borderline elite defensive team with him on the floor, which is either an indictment on DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin or a statistical outlier brought forth by plenty of minutes with Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes.
Considering Odom's Lakers teams were by and large better with Odom on the floor defensively, we'll give him some credit. However, one has to wonder how much a player who spent his entire regular season getting back into shape really helped all that much.
Digressions aside, Odom has made no formal announcement on his future. The Clippers have long since moved on in free agency, meaning the Lakers would be his only L.A.-based option. Could a reunion be in the works? According to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, Odom has considered it, but the Lakers aren't that interested:
Considering the way things ended—first with the David Stern-vetoed trade to New Orleans and then a deal to Dallas for peanuts—it's safe to say Los Angeles is glad it got out of the Lamar Odom business while it could. His past two seasons have proved Mitch Kupchak correct in sending Odom elsewhere, though the Lakers' moves elsewhere have backfired quite a bit (see: Howard, Dwight).
The only reason the Lakers should express any interest is simple: What more do they have to lose? Odom, assuming he would take the minimum, is a low-risk player who could still be effective if motivated. Considering their starting 2-guard would probably be Nick "Swaggy P" Young if the season started today, the Lakers could do a whole lot worse.
Delonte West on Radars of Knicks and Grizzlies?
Unlike Odom, Delonte West was an effective player the last time he set foot on an NBA floor. He averaged 9.6 points and 3.2 assists in 44 games with the Mavericks in 2011-12, knocking down open threes and doing all the things that make him a valuable backup.
But, as it has many times during his career, West's personality defects quickly wore out his welcome with the Mavericks. Dallas suspended West for his part in an argument between teammates last October, later choosing to cut the 30-year-old guard rather than try to work things out.
Always a difficult personality—West suffers from bipolar disorder, a disease that has been the root cause of many of his problems—the remaining 29 NBA teams chose to follow the Mavericks' path.
He later tried making a comeback with the Texas Legends of the D-League, starting eight games before the season came to a close. The rust of missing more than three months of action showed, as West averaged just 10.3 points per game and shot 35.1 percent from the field.
West spoke of the difficulty he faced watching last season as an unemployed NBA veteran, per SLAM's Tzvi Twersky:
I had tears in my eyes watching games this past year — not because I’m bipolar, but because I’m sitting at home and miss the game. When my agent calls, I’m going to be on the next flight. Not to be cocky, but some teams that are trying to win are one guard away, one guy that can make a couple great plays away from going to the Finals.
It seems one year away from the game hasn't done much to hurt West's confidence—though whether that's a good or bad thing remains up to interpretation. As for whether any team has any tangible interest in putting a happy bow on this semi-tragic story, it seems like the answer is a very tepid yes.
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com is reporting that both the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks have reached out to West's representatives. The talks are said to be “preliminary at this point," and no formal offers have been made at this time.
It's unlikely West would garner anything more than a veteran's minimum deal with a minuscule guarantee—if any guarantee whatsoever.
From an entertainment standpoint alone, I hope he goes to the Knicks. Putting West in a locker room with Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace, Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert would be off the charts on the unintentional comedy scale. I would probably pay $10 per month to watch their interactions on a Big Brother-like feed.
Can we just make this happen already? Yes? Yes.
Memphis in on Mo Williams Too?
Perhaps one of the more perplexing veterans still out on the market is Mo Williams. We've long reached the point where most attribute his All-Star game selection to the deifying hands of LeBron James, but Williams remains a valuable offensive player who has started for much of the last nine seasons.
The 30-year-old guard spent the 2012-13 season with the Utah Jazz, again getting the nightly nod despite struggling with injury. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 assists per game, continuing to space the floor and knock down long-range jumpers.
Despite the expectation that this past season would be his last as a starter, few expected Williams to be looking at the August half-offer sheets.
But as it does to many veterans, contractual expectations priced him out of the market early, and teams quickly moved on to secondary targets. Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld noted Williams was so discouraged by his lack of long-term offers that he would consider signing a short-term deal with a contender.
Well, it looks like Williams has found that contender. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Memphis Grizzlies have thrown their hat in the ring on the Williams chase:
Should he sign in Memphis, Williams would serve multiple purposes—all of which would improve the Grizzlies' championship effort. He would give Mike Conley a reliable backup who can distribute and play off the ball—a role Jerryd Bayless could only intermittently fill last season. And, more importantly, Williams would be a floor-spacer and a long-range shooter on a team firmly in need of both traits.
No team attempted fewer three-pointers last season than Memphis. The Grizzlies also shot a dreadful 34.5 percent on those shots, a clip that was better than only six other franchises. Memphis' lack of shooting came up in a big way during the Western Conference Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs essentially ignored Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince on the wing.
Adding Williams wouldn't solve those ills but would go a long way toward helping. The Western Conference got markedly better this offseason, while the oft-injured Mike Miller represents the Grizzlies' biggest haul in free agency. A healthy Miller will help solve those spacing problems; adding Williams might make them a thing of the past.
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