Once NBA teams got the answers they were seeking, although maybe not looking for, from the top free agents, the flood gates opened with everyone trying to make the move that would put them over the top.
Even with most of the marquee names off the board, or close to it, there's plenty of quality depth out there. Players who have found a home can spend their time recruiting more talent, while the free agents can keep fighting to cash in on their success.
In this constantly evolving rumor world that has taken over the NBA offseason, anything can change on a dime. As we scour through the latest round of rumors, just remember that nothing is official until pen gets put to paper.
Lance Stephenson Drawing Attention from Dallas
Under normal circumstances, a 23-year-old shooting guard who averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game should not have any trouble finding a home.
Lance Stephenson, as we saw numerous times during the 2013-14 season with Indiana, is hardly a normal player. He's very intense and controversial, not to mention a bit irritating for his team, to the point where Pacers star Paul George told reporters, via Zach Harper of CBSSports.com, after the Eastern Conference Finals that he wasn't sure if Stephenson should return.
George may get his wish, as Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com is reporting the Dallas Mavericks have emerged as a "serious" contender to sign Stephenson:
Source: Stephenson a serious candidate for Mavs: Add Lance Stephenson to the list of the Mavericks’ targets if... http://t.co/pMqGSLBX1a— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 12, 2014
There is a caveat that MacMahon mentions: Chandler Parsons. The Mavericks signed Parsons to a three-year offer sheet but must wait on the Houston Rockets to decide if they want to match it.
Stephenson has already turned down a five-year, $44 million deal from the Pacers, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard:
Sources: L Stephenson & Pacers at impasse. Indy offers 5 yrs/$44 mill. Lance wants more, will talk to others. Chi, LAL, Hornets interested.— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 2, 2014
That was a bold step to take for a player whose history and reputation aren't exactly glowing, so Stephenson's camp must have some idea of what he can get on the market.
However, if that was the case, wouldn't you think a team would have made a deal closer to what he was looking for by now? Perhaps teams were waiting for the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony deals to drop, but Stephenson isn't even close to their class of player at this stage.
Ray Allen's Future Uncertain
When LeBron announced he was going back to Cleveland to Lee Jenkins of SI.com, it was widely assumed that Ray Allen, who spent the last two years in Miami, would follow suit to position himself for another championship run.
Instead, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, Allen could opt for retirement if LeBron and the Cavaliers don't appeal to him:
As for Ray Allen, he is contemplating retirement. But if he returns, it sounds as if it will be with LeBron and Cavs.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 12, 2014
The good news for Cleveland is Allen's decision may not mean much, because Amico also reported that Mike Miller was closing in on a deal with the team:
Cavs closing in on deal with free agent G Mike Miller, source tells @FOXSportsOH. "Unless something unforeseeable happens," Miller will sign— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 12, 2014
Even though it would be nice to have Allen and Miller on the same roster, it's also a bit reductive for the Cavaliers since they would merely be serving the same basic function as the long-range weapon that catches passes from LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
Miller is the better option when you consider he's four years younger than Allen, shot a higher percentage from three-point range last season (.459 to .375) and did it playing against tougher Western Conference competition.
Paul Pierce in Free-Agent Purgatory
It seemed for a while that Paul Pierce would find a way to reunite with Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, but the Clippers have faded into the dusk, and only the Brooklyn Nets are being talked about in rumors for the 36-year-old.
According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com, one problem could be the price tag Pierce has put on himself.
The Nets would like to pay Pierce around $6-8 million per season on a short-term contract, sources say.
Pierce, however, as first reported by Sports Illustrated and confirmed by ESPNNewYork.com, would like to be paid around $9-10 million.
Sources have said since before the start of free agency that it likely was going to take somewhere in the neighborhood of $9-10 million to entice Pierce to come back.
For the Nets, taking a conservative approach with any player makes sense. This team lost a vast fortune with its frivolous spending last year, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe.
The basketball side of the Nets’ business is projected to have lost $144 million over the 2013-14 season, according to a confidential memo the league sent to all 30 teams in early June. (Grantland has reviewed and verified the memo with a half-dozen sources.) If that strikes you as out of whack, that’s because it is.
What's the best potential move that could be made?
Lowe also mentions that Washington was second in that category last season with roughly $14 million in financial losses. The Nets lost more than 10 times as much money as the next-closest team in basketball.
Granted, the $3-4 million difference that Pierce is looking for won't make much difference in the grand scheme of things. But the Nets can't afford to keep operating like they're printing money. I mean, they can because Mikhail Prokhorov is worth $10.9 billion, according to Forbes.com, but he understands that no business can sustain losing that much money every year.
Pierce, though, has a legitimate case to ask for what he wants. He's not asking to be paid like a star anymore, which is good because he's not; rather, he wants compensation for being a very good role player who averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season.
The Nets are still built to win now, even though it will cost them a whole lot of money, so keeping Pierce would make sense. It also makes sense for the former NBA champion to keep exploring all his options until a deal comes together.
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