July 1, 2005
Pacers not in free agent market
They won't go after available big-name players because team is over the salary cap.
By Mike Wells
Don't expect to hear the names Michael Redd or Ray Allen, the top two players on the free agent market, linked to the Indiana Pacers during the negotiating period, which begins today.
It's not that the Pacers don't like them. They can't afford them.
The Pacers are over the NBA salary cap. They only have the midlevel exception, around $5million a year, and a $1.6 million exception to spend on free agents. Free agent signings cannot begin until July 22.
Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said the team's first priority is to re-sign its own free agents -- Dale Davis, James Jones and John Edwards. Jones and Edwards are restricted free agents, meaning the Pacers can match any offer up to the midlevel exception. Neither player is expected to get that type of offer.
"I like to try to take care of our own guys before we go on the outside looking," Walsh said. "It's different for us this summer because we know we can go out and play right now and be competitive. There are teams that have to sign people just to put enough players on the court."
Davis played an important role in the Pacers making the playoffs. He was signed March 4, the day after forward Jermaine O'Neal went down for 22 games with a sprained right shoulder. Davis, who played his first nine seasons here, started all 38 games after rejoining the team.
"Indiana is definitely at the top of the list," Davis' agent, Chubby Wells, said Thursday. "Hopefully we can get something worked out."
The Pacers, who have 13 players under contract for next season, have some leeway for possible trades because of their depth. Backup center Scot Pollard likely will be mentioned in trade rumors because he is entering the final year of his contract.
Walsh said the Pacers don't need to make drastic changes, just a tweak here and there.
Ron Artest, suspended for most of last season, will return, and the Pacers are hoping Jonathan Bender, the fifth pick in 1999, can come back from injury.
"I think we're pretty well covered at each position," Walsh said. "I think we have a good team coming back. Drafting Danny Granger made us a lot better. You can certainly get better through signings, but also through trades. We'll explore all of them."
Granger is a perimeter player who could see time at three positions. But the Pacers still might try to acquire a veteran 3-point shooter through a trade or free agency. Stephen Jackson and Fred Jones, the team's top two shooting guards, aren't considered premier long-range shooters.
The Pacers could exercise a clause in the new collective bargaining agreement that allows them a one-time option of releasing a player to avoid paying the luxury tax on that salary.
Forward Austin Croshere could be a candidate. The Pacers still would be responsible for the remaining two years of Croshere's salary of about $18.4 million. Croshere is the team's second highest-paid player but averaged only 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.
"I don't know right now. Once we get going through the summer, we'll see," Pacers president Larry Bird said. "Our owners don't want to go over the tax; that's very clear. Austin has value to this team and he works hard and does the right things. It would be tough to lose a kid like that."
New York's Allan Houston and Dallas' Michael Finley reportedly will be released by their teams to avoid the luxury tax on their salaries. Walsh said teams can wait until the Oct. 1 deadline to decide if they want to cut a player.
"You can take a chance with your money by waiting to see who's going to be released," Walsh said. "You want to leave yourself some flexibility just in case there are some players out there you may be interested in signing."
The article kind of belies the article title if you ask me.