Why can't Jasikevicus or Wallace get a deal?By Chad Ford
With just five days before the league lifts its moratorium on player movement, this summer's free agent frenzy appears to have hit a lull.
With most of the top unrestricted free agents off the board, and the top young restricted free agents waiting for the moratorium to end before announcing their intentions, free agent news slowed to a trickle this weekend.
Most surprising is that several of the most promising free agents haven't gotten deals yet. With guys like Raja Bell, Dan Gadzuric, Brian Scalabrine, Luke Walton, Bostjan Nachbar and Jerome James all having come to terms with teams, it makes you wonder why these five sleepers haven't been locked up.
Sarunas Jasikevicius, PG, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Two international free agents, Fabricio Oberto and Arvydas Macijauskas, have already found homes. But how is it that the best veteran player in Europe, Jasikevicius, hasn't? Oberto is older and Macijauskas is less athletic. Neither player has led his team to three straight Euroleague Championships. Jasikevicius, a former Maryland star, is an incredible passer, has deep range on his jumper, and plays with emotion and grit.
Given his asking price (three years, around $10 million), he'd be a great pickup for a team trying to compete for a championship. The Cavs have shown the most interest, but have waffled between him, Antonio Daniels, Marko Jaric and Damon Stoudamire. The Pacers, Blazers and Sonics have also shown interest, but it's becoming clear that the market isn't quite as hot for him as we thought going into the summer.
If teams don't act quickly, he may just decide to sign a long-term deal in Europe. That would be a shame. While Jasikevicius may not ever be a superstar in the NBA the way he is in Europe, he has the intangibles to be the type of player who helps a team win a title.
Gerald Wallace, G/F, Charlotte Bobcats
With most of the top swingmen off the board, it's pretty surprising that Wallace hasn't garnered more interest this summer.
He had an excellent year for the Bobcats last season, and has great size and athleticism for his position. Defensively, he ranked in the top 10 in steals last year. His jump shot will never be a thing of beauty, but Wallace is versatile and would be a great fit on a team still trying to fill a void at the two or three.
However, most teams assume that the Bobcats would match any offer for Wallace. They are way under the cap and have to sign somebody.
But the truth is that Bernie Bickerstaff isn't inclined to overpay. They want lots of cap room going into next summer and might be willing to let Wallace leave if the alternative is eating up an inordinate amount of their cap flexibility next year.
Kyle Korver, SF, Philadelphia 76ers
Now that it appears that Joe Johnson, Michael Redd, Ray Allen and Macijauskas are locked up, Korver stands as the best shooter left on the board. Seven of the top eight 3-point shooting teams in the league made the playoffs last season. It's clear that shooting now comes at a premium.
Korver tied for the league lead in 3-pointers made (226) and posted better than average numbers in rebounds and steals. The Sixers used him primarily as a spot-up shooter in their system, but it's clear that Korver has potential to be more. Add in his durability and better-than-expected defense and it's surprising the Heat and Cavs haven't made a stronger run at him.
The fear is that under the new rules for "early bird" free agents (players with just two years experience), the Sixers will just match any offer. However, with Jim O'Brien gone (as well as the heavy emphasis on 3-point shooting) and Samuel Dalembert looking pretty expensive for the Sixers, Korver might be worth the risk.
Ronald Murray, G, Seattle SuperSonics
Have NBA teams forgotten about Murray's magical run in November of 2003, when he averaged 20.8 ppg and 4.3 apg on 45 percent shooting with Ray Allen out of the lineup? Murray's numbers have been up and down since then, but he was so good, and so consistent, during that month that surely teams have to take a look. Even this season, when given more than 25 minutes on the floor, Murray averaged an impressive 16.1 ppg.
His shooting percentage was terrible this year and he never seemed to get into the flow, but on a team desperate for a combo guard who can put the ball in the basket, Murray seems like he's worth the risk.
Travis Hansen, SG/SF, TAU Vitoria
Hansen spent one lackluster year on the Hawks before heading overseas last year. After a rocky start at TAU, Hansen turned it on in the last two months of the season and was great. He helped his team get all the way to the Euroleague Finals and did it in front of a host of NBA GMs and scouts.
Hansen is a great athlete, plays tenacious defense, can play multiple positions and has turned himself into a very good 3-point shooter. The Nuggets and Rockets have shown the most interest, but you have to wonder why teams such as the Cavs (assistant GM Chris Grant drafted him in 2003), Heat, Bobcats, Magic and Jazz aren't in the mix.
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The Nets are running out of patience with the Blazers and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The two teams have been in talks for the past week about a sign-and-trade that would put Abdur-Rahim in New Jersey. The Nets are trying to use their $4.9 million trade exception to acquire him. While that amount is no more than the mid-level exception that every team over the cap owns, a sign-and-trade would allow Abdur-Rahim to get an extra year and larger bonuses each year. The difference could amount (depending on where the cap comes in) to an extra $9 to $11 million over the course of the deal. The Blazers were holding out for a No. 1 and lately have been trying to get the draft rights to the Nets' second round pick this year, Serbian center Mile Ilic. So far the Nets have refused to budge, offering only a future second-round pick.
The team's trade exception expires July 29, so there is a growing sense of urgency. If the Nets can't land Abdur-Rahim with their trade exception, they would be willing to pay him their mid-level. However, his agent, Aaron Goodwin, is holding out hope that if the Blazers can't work out a deal with the Nets, they might be able to get one done with the Kings, Rockets or Clippers.
Expect things to work themselves out soon. The Nets also have strong interest in Stromile Swift and will try to work out a sign-and-trade with the Grizzlies for Swift if they don't get things with Abdur-Rahim resolved in the next few days.
If the Nets can land either Swift or Abdur-Rahim with their trade exception, look for new owner Bruce Ratner to keep spending money. Their next signing would likely be free agent guard Keyon Dooling with part of their mid-level exception. The Nets are looking for a combo guard who can help Jason Kidd keep his minutes down to about 30 a night and they seem to have narrowed in on Dooling as their guy.
The Hawks have targeted Eddy Curry this summer, sources say, because GM Billy Knight believes that Curry is the one attainable free agent center out there right now. Knight is convinced that the Sixers and Bulls would match any offer he might make for Samuel Dalembert or Tyson Chandler, but Curry is a different story. Given his health problems and rocky relationship with the Bulls, the Hawks feel like the Bulls would be unwilling to match or, at the very least, would be amenable to a sign-and-trade that could send Al Harrington to Chicago.
It looks like free agent point guard Antonio Daniels has narrowed his choices down to the Lakers and Blazers. It would appear that the Lakers would be a no-brainer. Phil Jackson loves big guards and the Lakers, now that they've agreed to trade Chucky Atkins, could offer him a starting position. However, two things are holding him back. One, the Lakers want Daniels to sign a two-year deal. This has been the Lakers mantra all summer as they try to protect potential max cap space during the summer of 2007 so that they can make a run at Yao Ming in free agency. Daniels, who turned 30 in March, wants more job security, and feels he can get it from his other suitors.
Two, new Blazers head coach Nate McMillan loved Daniels in Seattle and has been pushing to get him to come aboard as a tutor for Sebastian Telfair. The Jazz, Heat, Magic and Cavs have also shown interest in Daniels.
It looks like Vladimir Radmanovic and the Sonics are in contract gridlock at the moment. The Sonics want to re-sign Radmanovic, but he's asking for starters money (a starting salary between $8-9 million) and a position in the starting lineup. "Vladimir's a starter," his agent David Bauman told Insider. "He needs to be paid like one and he needs to be played like one."
The problem for the Sonics is that they have Rashard Lewis playing his primary position, small forward, and a combo of Reggie Evans, Nick Collison and Danny Fortson holding down the power forward spot. Evans is also a free agent, so there might be an opportunity there, but it seems unlikely. If Radmanovic is a sixth man, the price would be way too rich for the Sonics' blood.
The Sonics, however, hold Radmanovic's restricted rights making it difficult for him to just bolt the team. Teams like the Hornets are interested and have the cash to do a deal, but are fearful that the Sonics will match. A sign-and-trade might be the only way out of the jam for both teams. The Sonics need a big man and there are plenty of suitors for Radmanovic if teams over the cap can get into the bidding. One trading partner that might make some sense is the Celtics, who are willing to part with Antoine Walker and/or Gary Payton in a sign-and-trade. The Sonics have interest in both.
The Timberwolves are making a strong push for Clippers free-agent point-guard Marko Jaric. That could be the best signal yet that the team plans to jettison Sam Cassell this summer. Jaric is a restricted free agent, but the Clippers have shown some interest in being willing to facilitate a sign-and-trade. Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy would love to have Jaric return as a back-up to Shaun Livingston and Cuttino Mobley, but he isn't going to break the bank. Jaric likes the Clippers, but would prefer to get a starting gig in the league. The Nuggets and Cavs have also shown strong interest in Jaric this summer.
The Bucks have been very busy this summer, drafting Andrew Bogut, trading for Jiri Welsch, and coming to terms with free agents Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons and Dan Gadzuric. The team has also been trying to re-sign center Zaza Pachulia. However, sources say that it looks like the Hawks are prepared to throw more cash his way should they be unable to land a big-time center like Dalembert, Chandler or Curry via free agency.
The Cavs have been showing a lot of interest in free agents Reggie Evans and Damon Stoudamire. The team is looking for a rugged rebounder to put next to Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The team missed Carlos Boozer and feel that Evans, who was the best rebounder per minute in the NBA, would be a great fit. If the Cavs offer the full mid-level, the Sonics might not be match. The team has also shown strong interest in Abdur-Rahim. That could also signal the end of the Drew Gooden era. The Cavs are also after another point guard to platoon with Eric Snow. Snow is a bigger, defense-minded guard so the Cavs are trying to go the opposite direction with his backup. Stoudamire might be a good choice. He's a good perimeter shooter, can push the ball up the floor and is coming off one his better seasons in recent memory. Then again, he's 31 years old and has had more than his fair share of legal problems the past few years. The team has also looked at Jasikevicus as well as two bigger guards in Daniels and Jaric.
The Miami Heat wanted to make a big splash this summer in the free agent market, but it looks like they'll end up standing pat by keeping a couple of their own free agents. The team came to terms with restricted free agent Udonis Haslem early last week and is getting closer to getting a deal done with free-agent point-guard Damon Jones. The Heat will, however, have to use most of their mid-level exception to lock up Jones.
Poor Nikoloz Tskitishvili. After three years of being labeled one of the all-time great draft busts, he finally caught a break this summer by landing on the Timberwolves' summer league squad. With former Suns scout Rex Chapman now playing a big role in Minnesota, Skita finally got a chance to show his stuff in front of some sympathetic eyes. In his first game, he had 25 points, 10 rebounds, shot 4-for-5 from three and looked much better than the No. 1 pick in the draft, Andrew Bogut.
Alas, Skita broke his hand just nine minutes into the Wolves' second summer league game and will be out the next 4 to 6 weeks. Unfortunately for Skita, who wants to keep playing in the NBA, not Europe, no one is willing to break open the bank after one great summer league performance. Every one remembers that he was the MVP of the Reebok Vegas Summer League last year and then went on to do very little for the Nuggets and Warriors last season.
Spanish point guard Jose Manuel Calderon is expected to sign with the Raptors when the moritorium ends. The 24-year-old Calderon averaged 12 ppg and 2.9 apg this past season in the Euroleague and hit 46.6% of his three-point attempts.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.