Less than a week into the NBA free-agency period, a few pieces to the puzzle have been reportedly plugged in.
Kyle Lowry will be locked up by the Toronto Raptors and is set to sign on July 10, while Marcin Gortat will re-sign with the Washington Wizards. Both players were reportedly given lucrative offers. As for the rest of the dominoes, many have yet to fall around the league.
Names like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James top the list for nearly every franchise, but they haven't reached an agreement to this point. Then there's the tier just below the two superstars that are also testing the market.
With free agency now in full swing, let's take a look at the latest rumors from around the league, starting with Melo himself.
Anthony Keeping An 'Open Mind' During Free-Agency Tour
After meeting with the Chicago Bulls brass on Tuesday, Melo then went down to Texas to talk with both the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The final stop for the week came in California, where he reportedly spoke with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Despite each team rolling out a star-studded affair along with all the bells and whistles, Anthony still hasn't made up his mind just yet. Sean Deveney of Sporting News passes along the most recent news about Anthony:
Still, a source with knowledge of the situation told Sporting News that Anthony has not, in fact, made any decisions. “He still has got an open mind,” the source said. “The Knicks have always been on the list, that is where his home is, that hasn’t changed. But there have not been any decisions made.”
If we're to believe what every "source" says about Anthony, the 30-year-old might not be heading anywhere just yet. With his most recent team in the New York Knicks still holding out hope, there is clearly still a chance he remains in Madison Square Garden next season.
But with multiple franchises courting the superstar, it's going to be a tough row to hoe for the Knicks moving forward. Thanks to having Phil Jackson in the front office, convincing Anthony they will soon be competitive might be much easier than before.
Luol Deng Has a Wide-Open Market This Summer
While Anthony is being wined and dined by every notable franchise after his services, Luol Deng has been waiting back quietly for his time.
The former Cleveland Cavaliers forward has been biding his time and might now know the teams interested in him on the open market. Chris Broussard of ESPN notes the plethora of franchises looking for his services:
Luol Deng returned to US yesterday. Will meet w/teams next week. LAL, Dal, Clippers, Atl, Chi, Wash, Mia have shown interest. S&T possible— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 3, 2014
Of the seven teams, six made the postseason last year and could certainly use Deng's scoring presence to make another run. As for the Lakers, they now have Julius Randle and hopes of a healthy Kobe Bryant to put around the small forward.
Deng has a huge decision to make for his future but might just end up right back where he has spent the majority of his career. With the Bulls reportedly expressing interest, Deng's agent Ron Shade spoke about his client's feelings on the franchise, per Sam Amick of USA Today:
There's always going to be a part of him that belongs to Chicago, and part of Chicago that belongs to him. There were no hard feelings (about the trade). Moving forward, he'd look to have an amicable relationship (if he played with the Bulls). …
He's going to hear everyone out.
With a sign-and-trade possible, as Broussard reported, the Cavaliers might come away with something from making the deal with the Bulls last season. Following the addition of Andrew Wiggins through the draft, Cleveland might already be set at the small forward position.
Following a season where he averaged 16 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, Deng will be an important piece for whoever he decides to sign with. At 29 years old, he still has several productive years ahead of him for a playoff-caliber team.
Wizards 'Optimistic' About Bringing Back Trevor Ariza
One down, one to go.
The Wizards have reportedly already locked up Gortat for the future, but they hope to bring back another chip from last year's team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. That player is Trevor Ariza, who finished the 2013-14 season above his career average in points (14.4), rebounds (6.2) and assists (2.5).
Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report points out the most recent rumblings on Ariza:
Hearing Wiz are optimistic they'll re-sign Ariza, but likely him, Deng & Hayward waiting on Melo, the real domino in FA. Bron expected back.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) July 3, 2014
Much like every other free agent, Ariza will be closely watching what Anthony ends up doing. The versatile forward could draw a much larger market with teams looking for a fallback plan after Anthony signs.
If Ariza does eventually decide to stay in Washington, his three-point shooting and all-around game along with Gortat, Bradley Beal and John Wall could make this a scary team for the future.
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