T-Wolves interested in Gay?

Ronald Tillery of the Commercial-Appeal thinks so

One team that will make a strong run at Gay is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Team owner Glen Taylor and president of basketball operations David Kahn have already targeted Gay as an attainable player to uplift the struggling franchise.

Griz owner Michael Heisley continues to insist that Gay will be a Grizzly next season. Memphis (namely Heisley) has the right to match any offer sheet that is presented to Gay from another team.

Gay would be a nice fit in Minnesota who could use his scoring on the wing. Neither Kevin Love nor Al Jefferson are terribly athletic, so Gay would help bolster the Minnesota front line. I am sure that David Kahn is envisioning Ricky Rubio feeding the ball to Gay on the break in two years.

But when the owner insists he’s going to match any offer for one of his restricted agents, it’s usually a good sign that it’s going to happen. He holds the purse strings, so he can spend whatever he wants to retain Gay. The Grizzlies can sit back, wait for Gay to work out a deal with another team, and then match it. Memphis has an advantage over, say, the Knicks, who hope to land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh. But if a team makes David Lee a “take it or leave it” offer on July 1, the Knicks may not have much time to beat it since they’ll be waiting on answers from LeBron and Co.

Gay is not a “max” player, but there’s a good chance that he gets a max deal, or at least a maximum offer from a team who doesn’t hold his Bird rights. This may help the Grizzlies a little bit because they won’t be on the hook for that extra year and the additional $30 million.

Gay is a nice player — he averaged 20-6-2, 47% FG, 33% 3PT — but he’s not a max guy. Chances are that whoever ultimately signs him this summer will have to overspend for his services, especially with so much cap space floating around.

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Everyone waiting on LeBron?

Carlos Boozer thinks so, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“The summer is going to get kicked off in free agency wherever LeBron goes,” Boozer said. “Once he decides what he’s going to do for the rest of his career, it will be easy for the rest of us to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Since LeBron pretty much has his pick of teams, will he make his decision quickly so that free agency can get moving or will he hold the entire league hostage, basking in his own ego all of the attention?

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the second-tier free agents — think David Lee or Rudy Gay — sign quickly if LeBron drags his feet and they’re made “an offer they can’t refuse” by a team that knows they’re not a player in the LeBron sweepstakes.

Side note: Does Boozer regret leaving Cleveland? Had he stayed, there’s a pretty good chance that the Cavs have a title by now…right?

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NBA’s 2010-11 cap number announced…

…and it’s quite a bit higher than originally projected.

The New York Knicks and other teams hoarding salary-cap space got some good news Friday when they were told at the league’s Board of Governors meeting that the projected 2010-11 salary cap will be $56.1 million.

That figure was $2 million to $3 million more than most teams had been expecting, and for the Knicks it ensures they have enough cap space this summer to sign two maximum-salary free agents.

Other teams that will be positively affected by Friday’s news include the Nets, Heat, Wizards, Bulls, Clippers and Timberwolves.

The NBA warned that the cap number might be as low as $50 million to $53 million, so this is good news for all the teams looking to cash in their cap space for a good free agent or two this summer. Check that — since they’re all way under the cap, it really doesn’t matter to those teams. It’s great news for the players, who will now find that there are now nine teams with at least $14 million in cap space heading into this summer. In essence, that’s an extra $22.5 million for just those nine teams. That list includes three playoff teams — Miami ($43.6 M, assuming Wade opts out), Chicago ($20.5 M) and Oklahoma City ($14.0 M).

This news may not matter much to big name free agents like LeBron or Dwyane Wade, who are going to get max contracts no matter where they go, but second-tier players like David Lee or Rudy Gay should definitely benefit from the extra available money that will be thrown around.

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What’s the worst-case scenario for the Knicks?

New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey isn’t optimistic about the Knicks’ chances in free agency, and he’s not afraid to say so.

Shows what kind of jagged competition the Knicks are in for this summer when the free-agent grab bag unties. If LeBron James isn’t game to accept almost half of their $33 million surplus, you can kiss off Dwyane Wade, too.

Where will that leave the Knicks? Chris Bosh is next in line. As good as he is, he has not been good enough to take the Raptors anywhere worthwhile (two first rounds) in this, his seventh season. He is better defensively than David Lee, but across the stats sheet, there’s not a discernable difference, and Toronto might get best of that deal. Bosh is a perfect Poncho to Cisco in Miami.

Vescey goes on to predict that Joe Johnson will re-up in Atlanta, that Amare Stoudemire and Mike D’Antoni wouldn’t click, that the Grizzlies will match any offer for Rudy Gay, and that the Knicks would be “lucky” to get Carlos Boozer.

In the final analysis, the Knicks may have to “settle for” re-signing Lee. Something they had better do as soon after July 1 as possible . . . before the Nets lock him up and he becomes a perennial All-Star alongside Brook Lopez . . . and they are stuck adopting unadoptable free agents.

I’m not as down on the Knicks’ chances of striking gold as Vescey seems to be. Let’s not forget that they play at Madison Square Garden in the media capital of the world and that they’re coached by Mike D’Antoni who plays an up-tempo system that players seem to love.

I could see the Knicks being in a situation where they’re hoping Memphis doesn’t match their offer for Rudy Gay and praying that David Lee is willing to come back after all the Knicks have put him through. I can also see a scenario where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all take a bit less money to play for a title year in and year out in NYC. There’s no team that has a greater upside/downside as the Knicks this summer.

Let’s assume LeBron sticks in Cleveland and Wade stays in Miami. The next best duo would be Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh. Not bad. Let’s say Bosh goes to the Heat, then the Knicks could get Johnson and Stoudemire (or Boozer). Again, not bad. What if Johnson sticks in Atlanta or bolts to the Bulls, Clippers or Nets? Then, the Knicks are looking at Gay and Stoudemire/Boozer. Could be worse.

The funny thing is that while the Knicks are waiting on Bosh/Stoudemire/Boozer, someone (like the Nets, as Vescey said) could swoop in and snatch up Lee.

Is it a bad thing that I’m more excited about free agency than I am the postseason?

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Grizzlies owner: “We’ve got the best front line in basketball.”

When asked about potentially re-signing Rudy Gay, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley made a bold statement:

Q. Will you re-sign Rudy Gay, who is a restricted free agent this summer?

A. I feel we’re going to sign him. I don’t know what else you want me to say. Rudy is an outstanding player. He fits our team well. We’ve got the best front line in basketball.

The Grizzlies’ front line consists of Rudy Gay (20-6-2), Zach Randolph (21-12-2) and Marc Gasol (15-9-2). Good? Absolutely. The best in basketball? I don’t know.

Let’s see…

Cavs? (LeBron, Jamison, Shaq)
Celtics? (Pierce, KG, Perkins)
Hawks? (J. Johnson, J. Smith, Horford)
Lakers? (Artest, Gasol, Bynum…Odom)

Would you take the Grizzlies over any of those other front lines? I’m not a big believer in Randolph, so I might be a little biased. The Cavs and C’s are older, but I’d certainly take those front lines over the Grizzlies’ for one or two seasons. And as far as young front lines go, I think the Hawks have the best in the league.

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