Sunday, July 6, 2008

S.A. Express News - Spurs at front of line for Maggette

NBA: Spurs at front of line for Maggette

Web Posted: 07/04/2008 12:59 AM CDT

Jeff McDonald

Three days into the NBA’s free agency period, Corey Maggette is still talking to teams and weighing his options. It appears the free-agent swingman is heading into the holiday weekend a little bit closer to becoming a Spur than he was before the week began.

A source close to the negotiations said Thursday that, though no deal is imminent, talks between the Spurs and Maggette are serious and the interest is mutual.

The Spurs are believed to have offered Maggette a multi-year deal, starting with their $5.8 million mid-level exception. Maggette became an unrestricted free agent this week when he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Meanwhile, published reports out of Orlando suggest the team perceived to be the Spurs’ stiffest competition for Maggette might be near dropping out of the race altogether.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic are formalizing a contract offer for free-agent point guard Chris Duhon, perhaps by the end of the week. In that event, Orlando would be all but forced to abandon courtship of Maggette.

The Spurs’ most significant challenger for Maggette’s services might now be the new NBA champions.

The Boston Celtics have made an offer to Maggette as well, one he told the Boston Globe on Thursday he is seriously considering. The most the Celtics could offer Maggette is the mid-level exception, same as the Spurs.

Looming over all of this is the question of what happens with Elton Brand.

Brand, like Maggette, opted out of his Clippers contract this week, ostensibly to re-sign at a bargain and allow Los Angeles to nab Baron Davis. But now Brand is pondering an offer worth an estimated $90 million over five years from Golden State.

If he rejects the Warriors’ offer, Golden State could use its ample cap space to make a run at Maggette. Maggette might wait until Brand makes his decision before making up his own mind.

Under NBA rules, teams cannot sign free agents until Wednesday, but they can elicit oral commitments before then.

The Spurs’ ongoing pursuit of Maggette could affect what happens with a pair of their own unrestricted free agents — Brent Barry and Michael Finley, who split time at the same position Maggette might soon occupy.

Since opting out of his contract on Monday night, Barry has talked to Houston, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the Spurs.

The Spurs have also expressed interest in bringing back Finley, but his agent, Henry Thomas, says talks have not gone much further than that.

Though Finley’s preference is to remain in San Antonio, where he has spent the past three seasons, Thomas said he expects to field inquiries from other teams.

“We’ll be talking to other teams,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if we didn’t.”

As Maggette mulls his options, the Spurs continue to look at other free-agent possibilities.

They have inquired about Washington forward Roger Mason, Detroit guard Jarvis Hayes and Denver forward Eduardo Najera, none of whom are likely to command the full mid-level exception.

Denver guard J.R. Smith and Toronto guard Carlos Delfino remain possibilities as well. Both are restricted free agents, affording their current teams the right to match any offer they receive.

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