The NBA schedule is officially out, and the majority of the league’s marquee free agents have found homes. For the first time all summer, it feels like the season is right around the corner.
However, there are still some loose ends to tie up before the ball is officially tipped. The Phoenix Suns have a negotiation mess on their hands, the Los Angeles Clippers and Doc Rivers are working on a contract extension, and the Cleveland Cavaliers added a new coach.
Let’s take a closer look at these rumors.
The relationship between the two sides has soured, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The person also said Bledsoe, 24, strongly is considering signing the Suns' qualifying offer for $3.726 million — good for the 2014-15 season — to become an unrestricted free agent after next summer.
Taking that qualifying offer would be a risky move, as Bledsoe only played in 43 games last year for the Suns and 40 in 2011-12 with the Clippers. However, if he stays healthy and produces this year, there could be a big payday waiting on the other side.
Phoenix did offer a four-year, $48 million deal, but Bledsoe wants a max contract. Unfortunately for the guard, another team didn't swoop in with an offer sheet and force the Suns to match it like the Charlotte Hornets did with Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz.
Phoenix owner Robert Sarver provided some interesting comments on the situation, per Paul Coro of azcentral sports:
We value Eric as a player. I hope at some point we'll be able to sit down and meet with those guys and make a deal. ... We haven't heard from the guy in four months, so I couldn't tell you. I do know that when he played here, he felt good about the organization, his coaching staff and his teammates at the end of the season. We had the same feelings toward him.
It’s understandable that the team values Bledsoe as a player, as he posted nightly averages of 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals last year on his way to totaling a 19.62 player efficiency rating.
The Suns barely missed the playoffs a year ago, and they could make another run in 2014-15 after adding Isaiah Thomas. A potential threesome in the backcourt of Thomas, Bledsoe and Goran Dragic would certainly be effective in the Western Conference. Phoenix could get out in transition with all that athleticism and pour in the points.
With a possible playoff spot at stake, the Suns may find a way to make the money work with Bledsoe after all.
In the wake of owner Steve Ballmer gaining governorship control of the Los Angeles Clippers, discussions on a contract extension for Doc Rivers are expected to commence soon, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Ballmer and Rivers had been eager to forge a long-term partnership, and a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling to sell the franchise on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust has cleared the way to work toward a new deal.
Rivers has two years remaining on a three-year, $21 million contract, but his leadership and poise during the Donald Sterling fiasco deserve praise (and a subsequent raise). Not only did he keep the team together, but he also steered them to the second round of the playoffs with an emotional victory over the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
Who is a bigger threat to the Spurs this year?
Los Angeles returns Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and notable depth to a team that won 57 games a year ago. It is not unreasonable to expect even better things in the postseason this year simply because there will be more stability in place.
The franchise was rocked by the Sterling audiotapes during the back-and-forth series with the Warriors, and it had to be physically and emotionally draining for the players. With Rivers as the cornerstone for the franchise going forward, the team can focus solely on basketball this year.
It could result in a deeper trip in the playoffs.
Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe noted that the Cavaliers will make an addition to their coaching staff:
Larry Drew was a head coach for four seasons in the NBA. He went 44-38 in 2010-11, 40-26 in 2011-12 and 44-38 in 2012-13 with the Atlanta Hawks, and he went an abysmal 15-67 in 2013-14 with the Milwaukee Bucks.
That final season brings his career winning percentage to .458, which is somewhat misleading, as he had a winning record in three of his four seasons.
Drew will now have an opportunity to pursue an NBA title as an assistant for one of the best rosters in the league. David Blatt is a first-time NBA coach, so adding a veteran bench presence such as Drew will help in the experience department.
What’s more, Drew should be familiar with the Eastern Conference’s Central division from his time in Milwaukee. That extra scouting report when the Cavs are facing the Chicago Bulls may come in handy come playoff time.
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