Market heating up for Knicks’ free agents

Things have been pretty quiet this summer on the David Lee and Nate Robinson front. But now that the unrestricted free agent market has all but dried up, teams are setting their sights on the restricted free agents that are still available.

Knicks team president Donnie Walsh predicted negotiations with David Lee will come to a head early next week, and indications were Lee will either sign an offer sheet with the Trail Blazers or settle for the Knicks’ five-year offer, which agent Mark Bartelstein still believes is below Lee’s market value.

he Blazers got back $10 million in cap room when the Jazz matched their four-year, $32 million offer to forward Paul Millsap. Bartelstein is trying to get the Blazers to offer Lee a five-year, $50 million contract, but they have been reluctant, feeling that the Knicks will match.

With his eye on the 2010 salary cap, Walsh is seeking a deal averaging between $7 and $8 million.

Isn’t Millsap’s value higher than Lee’s? Millsap is just as good of a rebounder and can score with his back to the basket. Lee is an energy guy and his numbers are a little inflated since the Knicks play at such a frenetic pace under Mike D’Antoni. Walsh has his value pegged (at $7-$8 million per season), but it is Bartelstein’s job to get as much money for Lee as he can.

I don’t think the Blazers are reluctant because they think the Knicks will match, I think they’re reluctant to give Lee $10 million per season.

Meanwhile, Olympiakos made a strong offer to Nate Robinson.

The Knicks will have trouble competing with Olympiakos’ offer to fellow restricted free agent Nate Robinson. A source said the Greek team’s offer is equivalent to $10 million a year, factoring in endorsements and merchandising.

Robinson can play next season for $2.9 million and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If he goes to Greece, the Knicks will still hold his rights next summer. Josh Childress will play for Olympiakos for another season after testing the waters this summer.

The NBA needs to get rid of restricted free agency altogether. If a team can’t work out an extension by the summer before the final year of the player’s contract then that player should become an unrestricted free agent the following summer.

7/19 Update: The Hoop is reporting that Olympiakos’s offer to Robinson is for $9 million over two years.

Finally, the Knicks have interest in Ramon Sessions, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal-Times. (Actually, he posted this on Twitter.)

I hear Knicks covet Ramon Sessions, expected 2 call Bucks soon about sign and trade. Otherwise prepared 2 use mid-level. Yes, Knicks love Sessions

I’ve been waiting for the market for Sessions to heat up. I think he’s worth the mid-level, so the Bucks better figure out a way to keep him or get something in return.

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Odom does damage control

According to Jim Hill, Lamar Odom made a call to Jerry Buss.

I am told the purpose of the call was to rebuild any bridges that Odom’s agent, Jeff Schwartz may have burned by not responding to the Lakers offer of 3-years $30 million, and 4-years for $36 million.

If the Lakers do have (or had) these offers on the table, I don’t know why Odom hasn’t already re-signed. The most the Heat (or any team without cap space) can offer is a five-year deal worth around $34 million. So it makes sense that he’d be calling up Buss trying to convince him to make these offers available again. The market for Odom is not that strong, so he simply doesn’t have the leverage to demand a contract in the $11 million-plus range.

What’s not clear is if Buss is wiling to let bygones be bygones and sign Odom. He’s a character, for sure, but in the end I think GM Mitch Kupchak will convince him to sign Odom to one of these deals.

Lakers pull offer to Odom off the the table

It seems that Lamar Odom and the Lakers have reached something of a stalemate.

Sources told that Odom and the Lakers had reached an accord entering the weekend on a per-season wage of $9 million for the 29-year-old. But Odom balked at L.A.’s unwillingness to extend an offer spanning more than three years in length and spent the past few days weighing his options.

Yet it’s believed that Odom has indeed received offers from the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks that — because neither Florida nor Texas imposes state taxes — are not as far away in value from the Lakers’ presentation as it would seem.

Odom would have the ability with either the Heat or the Mavericks to sign a three-year, $19 million contract and negotiate a new deal with full Larry Bird rights in the summer of 2012 or take a five-year deal worth $34 million to bank more overall money, along with the state-tax benefits, than he could in a new three-year deal with the Lakers.

It’s funny how certain things come to light as these deals are made, or in this case, not made. California’s tax rate for people making more than $1 million is 10.3%, while Florida and Texas do not tax personal income. That means that the Lakers’ three-year offer is worth about $8 million per season after state taxes, or just over $24 million total. Compare that to the deals that the Mavs and Heat could offer ($19 million for three years or $34 million for five years) and a mid-level deal in a state with no income tax isn’t too far off.

Still, why would Odom reject the Lakers’ offer if everyone knows it’s the best that he has available? Portland isn’t interested, though that could change if the Jazz match the Blazers’ offer sheet to Paul Millsap. None of the other teams with cap space seem too eager to make a run at Odom, so it seems strange that he is playing hardball here. It’s not like he has a history of playing consistent basketball year in and year out. As far as his on-court performance is concerned, the guy is kind of a flake.

My guess is that Odom’s camp waits to see what happens with Portland then come back to the Lakers and accept this three-year deal. But one wonders if Jerry Buss is sick of playing games and might decide to stick it to Odom if/when he comes crawling back.

NBA Free Agency Rumors: AI, Odom, Childress and more

– The Clippers are interested in signing Allen Iverson, and if he’s interested in a big market where he can rehab his image, this might be the place. It looks like Miami isn’t willing to offer much money, but if cash is more important than playoff potential, then the Clips are a good fit.

– According to GM Mitch Kupchak, Lamar Odom and the Lakers aren’t on the same page. The team has offered $8 million per season but Odom wants $10 million, and the contract’s length may be an issue too. Dallas, Miami, Phoenix and Portland (if the Jazz match their offer for Paul Millsap) have emerged as possible landing spots for Odom. He doesn’t have much leverage if the Blazers aren’t interested. The other three teams would have to work out a trade and it would take a good player (Josh Howard, Michael Beasley, etc.) to get the Lakers to bite.

– The Jazz have until February to move Carlos Boozer before the luxury tax implications of keeping both Boozer and Paul Millsap kick in. Right now, it looks like the Jazz are planning to match, even if they have to take out a loan to pay Millsap the huge signing bonus that is a part of his deal with the Blazers. If the Jazz do match, it will be interesting to see if the Blazers have a Plan C after missing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Millsap.

– After a brief flirtation with the Bucks and the Bobcats, Josh Childress is heading back to Greece. The Hawks still hold his rights, and his camp was unable to work out a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee or Charlotte, so Childress’s best option was to play for Olympiakos for another season.

– Brandon Roy wants a fifth year option, but the Blazers have only offered four years. It’s not clear what the Blazers are worried about; I’d want to lock him up for as long as possible.

Surprisingly, Orlando matches offer sheet for Gortat

When the Mavs signed backup center Marcin Gortat, it seemed like a done deal that the Magic would let him go. But Orlando elected to match the offer.

The Orlando Magic will keep Marcin Gortat by matching the five-year, $34-million offer sheet extended to him by the Dallas Mavericks, the Orlando Sentinel first reported Monday.

“Having quality big men is an absolute must in our league, and Marcin has worked very hard to fit into that category,” Magic general manager Otis Smith said in a statement. “He provides tremendous depth to our frontcourt and we’re happy to bring him back.”

Gortat’s agent, Guy Zucker, told the Dallas Morning News his player is “very, very disappointed.”
The decision is a bold and costly one for the Magic, who will plunge further into luxury-tax territory than many rivals anticipated after their recent trade for Vince Carter by first signing Brandon Bass away from Dallas to a four-year deal worth a reported $18 million and then matching on Gortat.

Retaining Gortat and adding Bass will likely take the Magic’s payroll into the $80 million range for next season, which would force Orlando to cut a luxury-tax check of more than $10 million in July 2010 barring roster moves between now and June 30 of next year to lower that figure.

I don’t get it. They’re willing to give Gortat almost $5 million a season, but they refused to give Hedo Turkoglu — the player mainly responsible for handling and distributing the ball during the Magic’s run to the Finals — the $10 million per season that he was asking for? I don’t mind the Gortat signing by itself, but the Magic may have ruined a good thing by trading for Vince Carter (and in the process, trading away Courtney Lee) and letting Turkoglu get away. Clearly, they are willing to spend — why not keep the most consistent star and main ball handler from last year’s conference champs?

But back to Gortat. It’s understandable why he would be upset. He was penciled in as the starter for the Mavs, but now he has to play behind Dwight Howard for the foreseeable future, limiting the upside of his next contract. But whining through his agent isn’t going to do him any good, is it?

The Magic really screwed the Mavs over on this one. They took their sweet time to match Gortat’s offer sheet, and at the same time they agreed to terms with Brandon Bass, ensuring that Dallas wasn’t going to be able to sign either player. This is a huge blow to the Mavs’ title hopes and is more evidence that the NBA should shorten the time span for a team to match an offer sheet for a restricted free agent.

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