42

Whew! Now Let’s Play Catch-Up

OK, a lot has happened super fast. There was quite a bit of info, thoughts I didn’t get into my story for tomorrow’s paper. Here are some of the major points of the article, some of my thoughts, and some answers to your questions. Ready? Breathe. Read.

* I was told consistently by a source that Maggette got five years, $50 million. At the last-minute, I heard it was five years, $40 million. But my source reiterated that it was $50 million. That $10 million is a huge difference. That deal looks a whole lot better if it is for $40 million.

* Heard late in the evening that the Warriors made an offer to Ronny Turiaf! Don’t know all the details yet, but I was told it averaged about $4M a year. Ronny is restricted, so if the Warriors sign him to an offer sheet, the Lakers can match. I’m not sure if I like this or not yet. Turiaf is one of those dudes who impresses you in spots, but when you step back and look at what he brings overall, he’s not to impressive. He does some things well, not so much others. Is he worth $4M? Over three years, sure, why not. The Warriors need a hustler, a body not afraid to bang.

* I was shunned by Baron’s people. He nor his agent responded to the one question I had: With Brand going to Philly, is there ANY chance AT ALL that Baron goes back to the negotiating table with the Warriors? I got no love. A contact did tell me that the Clippers spent Tuesday evening talking to Baron, convincing him to stay, even working out the details of the contract (as well as preparing a fat offer sheet for Atlanta’s Josh Smith). They were pretty sure he was staying, but he was rumored to be livid over Brand’s Boozer impersonation.

* Pietrus got love from Orlando because Otis Smith, the Magic’s GM, likes Pietrus. They had some kind of bond when Smith was with the Warriors and Pietrus was a youngster. That helped MP2 get what he got. Orlando needed a replacement for Maurice Evans, who is now a free agent. There is even talk that Pietrus could start.

* Didn’t I say top-tier ballers don’t want to play for the Warriors? Brand turned down some $10 million more from the Warriors to go to … Philly! Dang. That was a straight slap in the face to the Warriors. Did the Warriors really think they were going to get a player better than Baron?

* Speaking of Brand, he just went from one of the league’s character examples to supplanting Carlos Boozer as the face of reneging. Check this out – Brand, according to insider scuttle, turned down virtually the same amount from the Clippers. Los Angeles got up to $80 million and was willing to renounce more players if necessary to give Brand more. Still, he chose Philly.

* So the salary cap is $58.7 million. The luxury tax will be $71.1 million. Based on my estimation, and figuring this out cost me hours of my life I’ll never get back, the Warriors are at about $50 million including the cap holds. Here is the breakdown:
2008-09
Al Harrington – $9.23
Corey Maggette – $8.50
Stephen Jax – $7.14
Andris Biedrins – $7.90 (cap hold)
Adonal Foyle – $6.50 (buyout price)
Brandan Wright – $2.50
Kosta Perovic – $1.70
Ant Randolph – $1.70 (rookie scale max)
Monta Ellis – $1.54 (cap hold)
Marco Belinelli – $1.45 (rookie scale max)
Kelenna Azubuike-$0.89 (cap hold)
Richard Hendrix – $0.44 (league minimum)
C.J. Watson – $0.71 (minimum salary, non-guaranteed)
Total – $50.20

That leaves the Warriors with some $8 million to spend before hitting the cap. If Andris signs a deal starting at a salary equal to his cap hold, the the Warriors can sign a free agent or two before signing Ellis and Andris. They’ll have close to $10 million if they wait to sign Randolph until they hit the cap, which they can do under CBA rules. They would also have more if they traded Harrington and got less money back.

*Here’s a concern I have: what happens when Monta and Andris want more than Maggette? Monta certainly has a claim. Say the Warriors start Monta at $9 a year (which would be $67.5M contract over six years). And say they start Biedrins at $8. That would make Stephen Jackson the fifth-highest paid player on the team.
Now, he’s up for an extension. I seriously doubt if he gets one. How is he going to react to being so far down on the salary pole but being a leader on this team while getting no extension love? Remember, Jackson has watched Richardson get shipped out unexpectedly as if he wasn’t the heart and soul of the team. He watched Pietrus and his boy Barnes get hardballed into a one-year deal. He watched his “brother” Baron Davis get his extension requests rejected in consecutive offseasons and then “lowballed” (in his eyes). He’s watching his other close friend, Al Harrington, once highly coveted by the Warriors, become a role player.
You have to wonder if Jackson is going to take one for the team or try to get his paper.

* With the way restricted free agents are about to get squeezed (only the clippers have money left), don’t be surprised if several of them ask for a sign-and-trade or choose to play for the one-year qualifying offer (and become restricted free agents next season). Including Andris. The free agent market is kind of skimpy this offseason – thanks to all the money going to the few big names out there. Some of the second-tier stars will shine a lot brighter in 2009.

* I still say go after Rasheed Wallace or Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom. Use Harrington, future draft picks, etc. – maybe even Stephen Jackson – to get a proven All-Star. They all are one-and-done, which could give the Warriors cap space next year if they don’t work out.

22

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

66

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

5

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

4

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

0

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

9

Knee problem for Webber

I commented to Tim Kawakami in the Oracle Arena media room Sunday afternoon that my one concern with writing about the improvements in Chris Webber’s game was the fact that things might turn 180 degrees at any moment.

Oops.

After a first half Sunday night in which he clearly struggled, Webber did not come out after intermission because of soreness in his left knee, the same one that gave way in 2003, eventually requiring microfracture surgery.

The team didn’t have much in the way of details — “sore left knee” was as much as we got in the locker room — but Webber said he wants to get an MRI as soon as possible. It’s not clear if the team can get that done before its scheduled departure at 10 a.m. Monday, or if Webber might stay behind to see the doctors and catch up with the team later.

With Andris Biedrins already out, if Webber is unavailable in Atlanta, Don Nelson will have few options in the middle: go small with Al Harrington or Austin Croshere, or go big with oft-inactive Patrick O’Bryant or Kosta Perovic. I’d expect the former rather than the latter, which should insure that Brandan Wright will continue to start for the foreseeable future at power forward.

I’ve been skeptical of the notion that the Warriors, with 15 guaranteed contracts, would sign another player, since many of the guys available are not clearcut improvements over what Golden State already has. But if Webber’s pain is a significant injury, I think they have to give further serious consideration to that idea.

As for Sunday’s game, the thing that stood out the most for me was the fact that seven players scored in the fourth quarter. I can’t remember the last time Golden State had that kind of diversity down the stretch of a game where the outcome was still in doubt.

– Geoff