Scratch Philadelphia from the list of NBA teams pursuing Hawks restricted free agent forward Josh Smith. The Sixers signed Elton Brand to a five-year, $82 million contract Wednesday, thus ending the Sixers' pursuit of Smith.Smith was in Philadelphia last week for a visit and was wined and dined by the Sixers, but left town without a verbal agreement to sign an offer sheet.
He's in Los Angeles now being courted by Brand's old team, the Clippers. With Brand out of the picture the Clippers are suddenly in the market for a power forward to replace him. Smith has been mum on his future, as have been his agents, Brian Dyke and Wallace Prather.
But it's clear they are hunting for an offer greater than the $9 million a year starting salary the Hawks offered last October. And in a league where Andrew Bogut commands a $72.5 million extension, it's no wonder restricted free agents like Smith, Chicago's Luol Deng, Charlotte's Emeka Okafor and Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala are willing to fish for more lucrative offers than what their respective teams have offered.
Smith's career numbers don't match up with Brand's, a two-time All-Star with career averages of better than 20 points and 10 rebounds. But Smith is seven years younger (22 to Brand's 29). And he wasn't going to stretch the Sixers' wallet for $82 million anyway -- he was hoping for something along the lines of a frontloaded, five-year, $68 million deal.
But rather than wrapping up their top free agent in the first week teams can sign free agents, the Hawks will head into the second week of the frenzy with things still up in the air.