NBA free agency big winner
THE Los Angeles Lakers are the biggest winners in the NBA free-agent sweepstakes after securing the services on The King LeBron James on a four-year, $153.3-million deal, including a player option in the final year of the agreement.
The deal, which was reached 20 hours into the start of free agency last July 1, is broken down as follows: $35.65 million in 2018-19, $37.43 million in 2019-20, $39.21 million in 2020-21 and $41 million (player option) in 2021-22.
Significantly, James’ agreement does not have a no-trade clause.
For the first five days of free agency, teams could verbally negotiate with free agents — restricted (with the current club having the option to match any offer sheet received by its free agent under the right of first refusal and keep his services) and unrestricted (no compensation at all for the old team should the free agent opt to go elsewhere although a sign-and-trade is allowable) or arrange trades.
More than $1 billion in player agreements were struck during the first 24 hours (July 1) of NBA free agency and most of the money will be going to top-tier players from the Western Conference.
Still, no signings and trades could be made official until July 7 (Manila time) when the moratorium ended. The moratorium sought to determine the new team salary cap for the 2018-19 season, which turned out to be $101.9 million.
Verbal agreements are helpful. But not all word of honor results in a contract signing.
Remember more than a decade ago when Carlos Boozer committed to re-sign with Cleveland early in free agency (July 2004) leading to the start of the contract signings but eventually reneged on the commitment and hooked up with Utah?
How about DeAndre Jordan who, in July 2015, back, had agreed to relocate to Dallas but later returned to the LA Clippers. Last June 29, Jordan opted out of the final year ($24.1 million) of his four-year deal with the Clippers to become an unrestricted free agent.
Not surprisingly, Jordan has verbally agreed to a one-year, $24.1-million pact with the Mavericks in the first few hours of free agency.
Any free agent can change his mind as to where he wants to play so long as he has yet to sign a contract.
Until yesterday, James still has to sign his Lakers contract as the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013) and the three-time championship star (2012, 2013 and 2016) is vacationing in Europe with his family.
In hooking up with the Lakers, James left nearly $56 million on the table.
The 6-foot-8, 33-year-old do-it-all forward rejected a maximum five-year, $209-million from the Cleveland Cavaliers, his employers for the past four seasons.
During the stretch, James powered the Cavs to the NBA Finals each time, including the franchise’s first and only NBA crown in 2016 that saw the city of Cleveland annex its first championship in any of the four U.S. major pro team sports leagues (Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and the NBA) in 52 years (the first since Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns won the 1964 NFL title the first championship).
With the Lakers, LeBron James will wear jersey No. 23, the same number he wore during his two tours of duty with the Cavs, and not No. 6 that he carried while with the Miami Heat from 2010-14.
With LeBron James now in Hollywood City, all seven active NBA MVPs – Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, the 2007 MVP who is seeking to break a tie with retired Lakers great Kobe Bryant (2008 MVP) when he suits up for a 21st straight season with the only NBA team he has played for, the Mavericks, Minnesota’s Derrick Rose, the 2011 MVP while with Chicago; Golden State’s Kevin Durant, the 2014 MVP while with Oklahoma City, and his Warriors mate Stephen Curry, the 2015 and 2016 MVP; Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, the 2017 MVP; and Houston’s James Harden, this year’s MVP, are in the West.
Eleven of the 15 All-NBA selections (three five-man teams) from last season now reside in the Western Conference.
Since LeBron came aboard, the Lakers have also agreed to terms with several free agents on one-year deals. The 16-championship club has hooked up unrestricted free agents Rajon Rondo ($9 million, from New Orleans), Lance Stephenson ($4.5 million, from Indiana) and JaVale McGee (veteran minimum, from back-to-back champion Golden State). Oldhand Kentavious Caldwell-Pope agreed to return for another season in exchange for $12 million or $6 million less than his stipend last campaign).
It’s strange that James does not have a no-trade clause in his four-year, $153.3-million deal while teammate Caldwell-Pope has the right to veto any trade. Both James and Caldwell-Pope belong to the same Klutch Sports Group agency.
Under NBA rules, teams can’t trade free agents they sign this summer until December 15.
Reportedly, all the hiring done by the Lakers so far in free agency had the blessings of James.
The Lakers also renounced their rights to restricted free agent Julius Randle to create more salary cap space for next summer (when San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard is eligible for free agency as LA seemed reluctant to part its young core of players that the Spurs wanted to consummate a trade this summer) even as Randle quickly agreed to join co-University of Kentucky product Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans on a two-year, $18-million deal.
The Lakers showed some interest in the Pelicans’ free agent DeMarcus Cousins but eventually backed off, perhaps worried over the 6-foot-11 All-Star center’s health condition as he has yet to fully recover from a January 31 surgery for a torn left Achilles tendon.
The back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors, however, are taking a chance at the UK alum even if they know he won’t be able to suit up in the first half of the new season – or even longer. Cousins agreed to a bargain-basement price of $5.3 million for one season and the Dubs now have five All-Stars on their Super Team.
The Lakers have two unrestricted free agents – guard Isaiah Thomas and center Brook Lopez – who remain unattached at the moment.
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