Wrapping up BD’s departure

Tying up some loose ends: One thing the Warriors did not do after Baron Davis opted out Monday was attempt to up their previous best offer — which appears to have topped out at two years and $30 million (including all potential bonuses; the value easily could have been more like $25M). Todd Ramasar, Davis’ agent, said he did not hear Monday night or Tuesday morning/afternoon from the team, which seems to have cut the cord as soon as Davis sent his termination letter Monday afternoon.
As for free agents the Warriors have talked to, in addition to the well-chronicled Gilbert Arenas pursuit, a league source told me late Tuesday that Golden State took a run at Clippers forward Elton Brand, offering five years and $80M. Brand, however, is still set to go back to his old team, and it’s hard to see how that comes derailed now that Baron’s on board.

Without Davis, the Warriors could have something along the lines of $17M to $18M under the salary cap, with another $12M or so free before they hit the luxury-tax threshold. That means the club could spend as much as $30M on acquisitions (with at least some of them being trades). Add into that the contract of Al Harrington ($9.2M), presumably to be first on the list of players slated to go, and that’s a huge amount of cash to remake Golden State. Thanks to the free-flowing money, it’s easy to envision a bevy of restricted free agents lining up for meetings so they can claim the W’s are seriously interested and drive up their prices. What’s going to be tough is identifying when Golden State is actually interested versus when it’s just a ploy.

As for the point guard position . . . Nellie says he’s ready to see more Monta at the point this season, and while that may be true, it’s crazy to think that the Warriors can get by on nothing but C.J. Watson and Marco Belinelli if Ellis were to get hurt.

So, who’s available? Well, Sacramento re-upped Beno Udrih, the Raptors locked down Jose Calderon and Agent Zero appears set to go back to the Wizards, with the Warriors once again left second-best in the bidding for Gilbert. (Perhaps the Gilbert Arenas Rule needs to be amended to read, “Gilbert Arenas will play at least one more season for the Warriors before retiring.” That might be the only thing that gets him back here.) Aside from Baron, those were pretty much all the sure-bet, starting-caliber point guards available in free agency.

If the Warriors go the trade route, the Sonics (Russell Westbrook, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson) and Grizzlies (Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittendon) are still oversubscribed at the position (although Seattle may be less interested in dealing now that Watson has broken a thumb and is expected to be out until training camp). And as Tim Kawakami pointed out in his column today, the Knicks could part with Jamal Crawford (not a true point, but could team well with Ellis) — unless Mike D’Antoni manages to run Stephon Marbury out of town, of course.
There’s been no indication the Pistons have changed their mind about wanting to deal Chauncey Billups to make room for Rodney Stuckey, so that’s still a possibility. Jamaal Tinsley’s departure from Indiana is a foregone conclusion, but reteaming two of the combatants from Club Rio — notwithstanding Stephen Jackson’s oodles of good works over the past year — might be seen in Warriors headquarters as unnecessarily courting trouble. Kirk Hinrich is available in Chicago, and his front-loaded deal, which steps down $1 million per year, would actually fit well with a team that has a ton of space now but will be paying out big money to its youngsters later.

Second-tier free agents include Anthony Carter (who told the Rocky Mountain News he has been contacted by the W’s), Carlos Arroyo, Tyronn Lue, Jason Williams, Sam Cassell and my personal favorite: Jannero Pargo. After bouncing around the league for three years, he finally found a niche with the Hornets. He can shoot the 3 (although he has a fairly dreadful overall FG%) is great from the line and would have no trouble adjusting to the Warriors’ uptempo style. The biggest obstacle — and it may very well be a deal-breaker — is that he’s 6-1 and 175, so there’s no way that he can play with Ellis. And Ellis, it seems very clear, is going to play 40+ minutes a night, every night, for the foreseeable future as the centerpiece of this team.

— Geoff


Well, well, well

Where to begin? Of all the things I thought might happen to the Warriors this summer — and that’s a mighty lengthy list — Baron Davis passing on $17.8 million is not one of them. Of course, that’s because Baron was telling everyone who would listen it wouldn’t happen.

First off, let’s cover some turf that was discussed in the story you’ll never read — the one I sent into the office around 6 p.m. or so last night, or just in time for me to call back within the hour and say, “Tear that sucker up.”

Obviously, this was before BD dropped his bombshell, so I’m not sure this stuff still has relevance in the new Warriors world, but . . .

Don Nelson had this to say at Monday’s press conference for rookie picks Anthony Randolph and Richard Hendrix: “Matt Barnes and Cro, those guys will not be back, so there’s going to be some minutes there (at the forward spots). The team is going to take on a different shape, a different look. So there will be more opportunities for our youth.”

Chris Mullin didn’t necessarily agree, but did say it wasn’t realistic to think the Warriors could bring back both Barnes and Mickael Pietrus. And he said Patrick O’Bryant is as good as gone.

For his part, Barnes said, via text message: “(Nelson) is the boss. I would love to be a Warrior. I owe so much to Nellie and to the organization. But with the tough season I had last year, it doesn’t look like I’m wanted. . . . This is a cold game and a tough business.”

As for the point guard . . .

Here’s a Nelson quote that I couldn’t get into the paper due to language restrictions: “Opting out of a $17 million contract, that’s ballsy. Nobody can say Baron doesn’t have balls.”

Although I’m sure that a certain radio host who’s not a media member will disagree with me, the Warriors most definitely have been lowballing Baron. Consider this: When Chauncey Billups was 15 months older than BD is now, he got four guaranteed years worth approximately $11.5 million per season. When Steve Nash was 18 months older than BD is now, he got five guaranteed years worth $13 million per. BD was being asked to take significantly less security than that.

Thing is, nobody should be shocked by this turn of events. Lowballing has been the Warriors’ default negotiating position for a few years now; it’s how they chiseled Barnes down to a lone season at $3 million after his breakout year in 2006-07, and how they forced Pietrus to eat the one-year qualifying offer last season. It’s why the books look better and has worked for the team.

In this instance, however, it appears to have backfired. The Warriors have had plenty of opportunities to discuss an extension, but by sticking with their usual modus operandi, when Elton Brand opted out with the caveat that he’s returning to the Clippers, the opportunity was there for Davis to go home. And he’s jumping at it. According to multiple sources and several different reports, he will try to head to L.A. as a free agent as soon as possible, with Brand taking a less-than-max deal to make it happen.

“We’re grown-ups, and we understood that it was a possibility,” Nelson said. “We didn’t think it would happen, but it did and we’ll deal with it.”

According to the Washington Post, the Warriors’ first thought in dealing with it was to make a run at Gilbert Arenas, which would be great except — as always when it comes to Agent Zero and this franchise — the salary-cap cards are stacked against the W’s. The Wizards can and are willing, according to the Post, to pay Arenas for one more year than the Warriors can (six versus five), and can give 10.5 percent yearly raises instead of the 8 percent that Golden State can give. The total amounts will depend on the salary cap numbers, since the maximum allowable starting salary is a percentage of the cap.

If Arenas is not an option, where do they go next? Atlanta forward Josh Smith, an RFA, would fill the Warriors’ hole at power forward, but the contract would have to be large enough to make the Hawks give up on matching the deal. And that presumes Monta Ellis is ready to run the team on his own.

— Geoff


Baron Davis opts out


What promised to be a tumultuous offseason for the Warriors was kicked into overdrive Monday when point guard Baron Davis left $17.8 million on the table and opted out of the final year of his contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent and throwing Golden State’s immediate plans into confusion.

Davis has maintained for months that he wants to remain a Warrior, and according to one team source was telling teammates last week that he would not opt out, but with mere hours to spare the man most responsible for breaking Golden State’s 12-season playoff drought reversed course dramatically.

With talks on a contract extension going nowhere, Davis played the last major piece of leverage he had. Although he is unlikely in the short term to recoup that $17.8 million — the final piece of a six-year max deal he signed with the New Orleans Hornets in 2002 — he can now negotiate a long-term deal with another team to try to set up a sign-and-trade situation.

The move leaves the Warriors with some unexpected room under the salary cap, although the exact amount won’t be known until the team sets its 2008-09 figures next week. Golden State currently has only six players currently under contract — starters Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson, plus untested youngsters Marco Belinelli, Kosta Perovic, C.J. Watson and Brandan Wright — although it holds matching rights on three restricted free agents, including young stars Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis.

Just got confirmation from the Warriors: Baron Davis, the man who led Golden State to its first playoff berth in 13 seasons, has opted out from the final year of his deal, passing up $17.8 million in order to gain his freedom after talks about an extension went pretty much nowhere.

More to come later.

— Geoff


Chris Mullin on the TPE: “It’ll probably expire”

Talked to Mullin a little while ago, and here’s what he said:

““It’ll probably expire. If the right player is there, it’s an opportunity we would take. But with a lot of our pending situations coming up … you don’t want to put yourself in jeopardy with those guys.”

Translation: In the absence of an Earth-shattering move — think Carlos Boozer or Shawn Marion — the Warriors are saving their pennies to give to Andris and Monta.

— Geoff


Trade exception swirling ’round the drain

It’s not dead yet, but as of 4 p.m., the Warriors have not made a move that utilizes their expiring-in-8-hours trade exception. And as a Warriors official pointed out, both executive vice president Chris Mullin and his No. 2, salary-cap guru Pete D’Alessandro, were in attendance at the team’s press conference, which most assuredly would not be the case if the team was in the throes of finalizing a deal.

— Geoff


TPE or not TPE, that is the question…

… whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous luxury-tax payments or take arms against a sea of poor trade options.
OK, OK, I’ll stop massacring the words of poor William Shakespeare. But today is the day: the Warriors have until midnight California time to make a deal and bring in a player to “complete” the Jason Richardson transaction on the salary-cap ledger.
Chris Wilcox? Kyle Lowry? Javaris Crittendon? Brian Cardinal? OK, maybe not that last one.
Based on Chris Mullin’s conversations with the media in recent weeks and what we know of the team’s financial realism as imposed by Robert Rowell, the biggest problem is this: Using even $5 million of the exception will almost certainly guarantee the Warriors pay the luxury tax next summer. And Mullin isn’t going to be able to sell that unless he’s sure the player it nets will push his team into the top four Western Conference squads. And a player of that caliber is most likely going to have made more than $10,099,999 in 2007-08, which that the maximum amount that the Warriors can take on. (BTW, this is why Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich is not a possibility for the exception — his front-loaded contract paid him $11 million in 2007-08.)
Wilcox would provide another option at power forward, but though he probably could be had, word out of Seattle is that the Sonics are not desperate to move him.
Lowry or Crittendon would make sense as a backup point guard, but not if the Grizzlies, who took on an added contract load (Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner) in order to pry O.J. Mayo away from Minnesota, want to offload additional salaries on the Warriors’ books.
If something does happen, expect it to take place relatively early this afternoon. While the exception does not technically expire until midnight local time, it’s very likely that any movement will be finished before the close of business in New York, unless it’s a deal for a player who suddenly becomes available at the last minute.

— Geoff


It’s Randolph…

For once, the draft gods smile on the Warriors: Anthony Randolph, expected by many to be gone by the time Golden State drafted at 14, slipped through to the team with the worst lottery luck in NBA history.
It’s a pick that’s may not make much impact for next season — at 6-10 and 197 pounds, Randolph is in many ways a clone of Brandan Wright, and Wright earned only 376 minutes out of Don Nelson as a rookie last year — but adds another athletically gifted piece to the Warriors’ long-term plan.
Best line of the night so far comes from ESPN’s Jay Bilas: “(Randolph) makes Brandan Wright look like Mr. America.”

— Geoff