Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Express News: Spurs miss out on Maggette


Web Posted: 07/09/2008 12:23 AM CDT

Mike Monroe
San Antonio Express-News

The Spurs on Tuesday night got caught in the undertow of a tidal wave of free agency misfortune that swamped the hapless Los Angeles Clippers and scuttled their dreams of returning to significance in the NBA's Western Conference.

When All-Star power forward Elton Brand, an unrestricted free agent who was the Clippers' best player, reportedly agreed to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers, the decision had a domino effect on other players and other teams, including the Spurs.

The Clippers had reached a verbal agreement a week ago with Golden State Warriors unrestricted free agent Baron Davis to bring the star point guard to L.A. The team also hoped to re-sign Brand, who had opted out of the final season of a contract that was to pay him $16.4 million, for a lesser amount, a deal that reportedly was to begin at about $15 million per season.

Pairing Brand and Davis would have required the Clippers to renounce their rights to swingman Corey Maggette, an athletic veteran who last season averaged 22.4 points.

The Spurs were believed to be the frontrunners among several elite teams, including the NBA champion Boston Celtics, which were willing to give Maggette a contract beginning at the mid-level salary cap exception of roughly $5.85 million for the 2008-09 season.

Spurned by Davis, the Warriors became players in the bidding for unrestricted free agents by renouncing their rights to the point guard. That gave them room under the NBA's salary cap to make a lucrative offer to Brand.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Brand instead opted to accept a five-year, $80 million offer from the 76ers.

Spurned again, the Warriors turned to Maggette, getting a verbal agreement to accept a five-year deal for about $50 million, according to the Times.

NBA teams can begin signing free agent players today, but the market for athletic guard-forwards appears to be shrinking. In addition to Maggette's removal from the list, Warriors swing man Mickael Pietrus reportedly has agreed to a deal with a new team. Florida Today reported that the Orlando Magic have a verbal agreement with Pietrus.

Pietrus' agent, Bill McCandless, told reporters in Orlando that several other teams, including the Spurs, had expressed interest in Pietrus.

According to NBA sources, the Spurs also have expressed interest in Wizards swingman Roger Mason, Jr., and Celtics guard-forward James Posey.

The Spurs' success in finding an athletic wing player on the free-agent market figures to affect their decision-making about some of their own free agents. Brent Barry, the 3-point ace who helped the Spurs win two titles in his four seasons with the club, opted out of the final year of his contract on June 30. He has talked with the Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Suns but has not ruled out returning to the Spurs.

Barry is one of four members of the Spurs' regular playing rotation on the free-agent market. Also free to sign with any team are center-forward Kurt Thomas, swingman Michael Finley, who started 61 games last season, and forward Robert Horry.

Thomas, who made $8 million last season, told the Express-News on Monday he owed it to his family to explore his options, but hoped things would work out to allow him to return to San Antonio.

Should the Spurs get shut out of the free agent market, they will look to first-round draft pick George Hill, a combination guard, to help them improve enough to return to The NBA Finals. Hill, limited to a contract specified by the NBA’s rookie salary scale, is expected to sign with the team this summer. On draft night, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich indicated his belief Hill will be Parker’s primary backup next season.

“He’s a really solid player at both ends of the court,” Popovich said. “I honestly believe he will make our team better right off the bat.”


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