The Lakers never made an official offer to Ariza

Trevor Ariza is featured in the most recent issue of ESPN The Magazine and in an article written by Sam Alipour, he discusses how he came to sign with Houston instead of staying put and re-signing with the Lakers. (Insider subscription required.)

That script began to be rewritten at the toll of free agency, 12:01 a.m. on July 1, one minute into the day after Ariza’s birthday. He was still celebrating with family when he received a call from his agent, David Lee. “He said, ‘The Lakers called, and they think you’re worth only the midlevel,’ ” or $5.8 million a year, Ariza recounts. Technically, it wasn’t even an offer. Says Lee of the Lakers GM, “Mitch Kupchak’s exact quote was, ‘We want Trevor on the cheap, and we’re not going to make an offer. Find what the market will bear and come back to us.’ ”

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The Top 10 Head Scratchers of the 2009 NBA Offseason

The NBA offseason is by no means over, but the lion’s share is behind us, so it’s a good time to take a look back at a few of the…um…let’s say “questionable” decisions of the summer. Here are my Top 10, in no particular order. Feel free to add to the list if I missed something.

1. Trevor Ariza plays spiteful hardball…and loses.
Let’s get this straight — the Lakers offered Ariza the same deal he was getting on the open market, and he refused since the Lakers could have offered more, but didn’t? Um, okay. David Lee (the agent, not the Knicks forward) says that Ariza wanted to go somewhere where he’d be “appreciated.” Lee overestimated the market for his client, and the Lakers quickly moved on to acquire Ron Artest. Now instead of playing for the world champs, Ariza is stuck in Houston on a team that faces a very uncertain future. Lee now says that Ariza turned down a deal worth $9 million more, but still picked Houston. It sounds to me like he’s just trying to save face.

2. Grizzlies acquire Zach Randolph.
Once the Clippers traded for Randolph (and his toxic contract) last season, I thought the bar for NBA general managers had hit a new low thanks to Mike Dunleavy and his wily ways. But Dunleavy proved that he wasn’t the dumbest GM in the league when he convinced the Memphis Grizzlies to take on the final two years Randolph’s contract at the tune of $33.3 million. Remember that $25 million or so of cap space that the Grizzlies were going to have next summer? Yeah, that’s down to about $8 million with this brilliant move. Just when it looked like Chris Wallace was going to rehab his image after the Pau Gasol trade — Marc Gasol panning out, trading for O.J. Mayo — he goes and does this. Sigh.

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Shannon Brown to remain a Laker

brown

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Lakers backup point guard Shannon Brown has agreed to a two-year deal worth $4.2 million that includes a player option in the second year. Brown initially impressed Laker fans in the final third of the regular season and saw considerable playing time in the first round of the playoffs against the Jazz.

On a day in which Kobe Bryant spoke out on a variety of topics, including his own contract, the Lakers pared their unrestricted free agents down to one after Brown agreed to take $4.2 million over the next two years, with the second year his option.

Meanwhile, Brown declined a more lucrative offer from Indiana to stay with the Lakers, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein.

“This is where he wanted to be,” Bartelstein said. “The Lakers treated him well during his short time there, and he hopes to continue and improve his game.”

Brown, 23, was a throw-in with Adam Morrison in the February trade that sent Vladimir Radmanovic to Charlotte, but he became a fan favorite with his hustle and surprisingly powerful dunks. He made $796,000 last season.

Brown went scoreless in the NBA Finals, playing in only three games because of Derek Fisher’s increased playing time, though he had better stats earlier in the playoffs, including 7.2 points a game in the first round against Utah.

This is a great signing for the Lakers who seem to be getting bigger by the year. With the acquisition of Ron Artest, and assuming they resign Lamar Odom, the Lakers will cut quite an imposing figure down low with the aforementioned players, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum.

What they’ve been lacking is a point guard they can rely on. With Derek Fisher in the twilight of his career and Jordan Farmar refusing to live up to his potential, Shannon Brown is a great option. At only 23, Brown has time to develop his game over the next two seasons as he will likely see a fair amount of playing time each game.

The L.A. fans quickly took to Brown due to his hustle and sweet shot. When you’re bench consists of mid-level and overpaid athletes such as Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic, Brown’s $2.1 million a year contract is quite a deal.

Artest to L.A., Ariza to Houston

In a surprising sequence of events, Ron Artest has agreed to a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, while Trevor Ariza is headed to Houston with a five-year deal. Both contracts are of the mid-level variety, which are expected to start at about $5.8 million per season.

J.A. Adande writes…

Just as telling is the Lakers’ decision to go with Artest instead of younger Trevor Ariza. It shows they’re putting everything into these next three years and not worrying too much about the future. Ariza would have wanted a five-year contract; Artest was willing to come for three. The end of Artest’s contract coincides with the reported opt-out clause for Bryant. We don’t know whether Kobe will choose to leave in 2012, but we do know this: He’ll be 33 that summer, turning 34 in August. The three years with Artest probably represent Bryant’s last stages of physical superiority over the opposition. He’ll still be ahead of the pack in knowledge and determination, but we’ve already seen some slipping in his athletic ability and it will only decline from here.

So the Lakers are thinking short-term and trying to squeeze in a couple more championships right now. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was even willing to increase his roster’s average age and let one of his best acquisitions walk away, two things general managers are generally loath to do.

Artest gives the Lakers the same qualities as Ariza — perimeter defense and toughness — plus the ability to get his own shot, and a dash of crazy. Ariza wound up in Artest’s old spot in Houston, where he’s actually a better fit. With Yao Ming’s career on pause — at best — the Rockets have to position themselves to be good in a couple of years, perhaps by bringing in a major free agent in 2010 and/or having Yao return from treatment on his feet that might hinder him for the better part of two seasons. Amazing how quickly a team that seemed on the rise in these playoffs now finds itself retooling.

We’ll never know if Ariza was just playing hardball when he expressed frustration that the Lakers wouldn’t offer more than the mid-level because the team called his bluff and moved on. I like this signing for the Rockets, who were originally interested in Orlando big man Marcin Gortat. But when the “Polish Hammer” reportedly made a verbal agreement to join the Mavs, the Rockets moved on to the 24-year-old Ariza.

Artest is a little nutty, and he has the potential to sabotage the Lakers’ season, but it’s not like the team is championship-caliber because they have great chemistry. They don’t. They have more talent than anyone, and when Ariza became irritated with the Lakers’ unwillingness to go over the mid-level, they quickly moved on to their backup plan. Artest will accept his role in L.A. and should fit in just fine, at least defensively. But three years is a long time for him to behave; I expect he’ll have at least one dust up before it’s all said and done.

Trevor Ariza feels slighted by the Lakers

Per ESPN…

The 24-year-old swingman, who played a key role in the Lakers’ run to their 15th NBA championship, is on the verge of leaving the club, sources close to the situation said on Wednesday.

With at least five teams pursuing Ariza, the Lakers are currently unwilling to pay him more than the $5.6 million mid-level exception.

Cleveland is making a hard push for Ariza, and the Cavaliers’ coaching staff was speaking with him on Wednesday. While Cleveland can only offer the mid-level as well, Ariza’s disappointment with the Lakers’ stance has moved other suitors ahead of his current team.

Ariza’s position doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The Lakers traded for him and gave him the opportunity to flourish, yet he isn’t willing to stay even though they’re willing to match the best offer he’s getting (up to the mid-level). He apparently feels that the Lakers’ unwillingness to give him more than his market value is a slap in the face.

I suspect his camp is just leveraging these “bad feelings” to get the Lakers to raise their offer a bit, which they probably will.

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