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News » Thunder will hunt for bargains


Thunder will hunt for bargains


Thunder will hunt for bargains
The Thunder didn't land Tyson Chandler, a much needed defensive enforcer, to anchor a shaky defense.

But don't fret, Thunder fans. There will be opportunities to sign a quality player this summer.

Trades made, better yet trades not made, was proof it's a buyer's market. And it should remain a buyer's market the next 12 months, possibly longer.

In a buyer's market there are bargains. Ask any real estate agent you know.

By clearing cap space the past two years, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has flexibility that should benefit him in free agency.

While it was disappointing to not land Chandler, the Thunder could sign an up-and-coming player like Knicks big man David Lee, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Atlanta's Marvin Williams, the Lakers' Lamar Odom or Utah's Paul Millsap.

Other free agents this summer include: Mike Bibby, Raymond Felton, Andre Miller, Linas Kleiza, Leon Powe, Charlie Villanueva and slam dunk champion Nate Robinson.

It's doubtful Presti would sign an aging All-Star. But some team will commit valuable cap space to Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Ron Artest and Rasheed Wallace.

Some players mentioned above will be restricted free agents. They can match any offer Presti makes. Others will re-sign with their current team.

But Lee is a prime example how the shaky economy could work in Oklahoma City's favor. Lee probably will seek a $10 million-a-year deal which isn't a bad price for someone averaging 16.4 points and 11.8 rebounds.

New York would love to keep its double-double machine - Lee has 42 double-doubles this season, tied with Dwight Howard for most in the league - but the Knicks probably won't have cap room to re-sign the 6-9 power forward.

Commissioner David Stern's state of the union address All-Star weekend was bleak. Stern said the salary cap and luxury tax ceiling probably will decrease for the first time in his 25-year tenure.

This year's salary cap is $58.6 million. Several months ago projections were it would increase to $63.1 million. Instead, the new estimate is $56.5 million - a dramatic difference.

That's why many teams will be hesitant to offer big-buck, multi-year deals. The top three priorities for some teams: Cut payroll. Cut payroll. Cut payroll.

The luxury threshold tax is $71.1 million and could shrink below $70 million. That's why New Orleans' owner George Shinn, staring at a $76 million payroll, tried to avoid a $6 million penalty by trading Chandler. He probably will attempt to trade him again this summer.

Not landing Chandler disappointed many Thunder fans but if they're patient another young, quality player could be wearing Thunder colors next season.

2008-09 figures

→$58.6 million salary cap

→$71.1 million luxury tax threshold

2009-10 figures*

→$56.5 million salary cap

→$69.8 million luxury tax threshold

*estimated. Final figures won't be calculated until this summer.

The Q&A

Chris Paul Hornets G

What was your reaction to the warm Ford Center reception last Tuesday?

This was our home for two years. If it wasn't for us this team (the Thunder) probably wouldn't be here right now. We feel a connection to the fans and hopefully the fans feel a connection to us.

What's it like when the Hornets are in Oklahoma City?

When we got here (Monday) we knew our way around everywhere. We practiced at our old practice facility. It felt like we were at home.

What do remember about your two seasons in the Ford Center?

Great memories. We had a really good team. The only thing I regret is we never got to the playoffs with this crowd. It was crazy. If we could have ever got to the playoffs I think this place would have erupted and gone nuts.

Last year you were in the MVP discussion. Are you disappointed this year you're rarely mentioned?

I was real excited last year, my third year, being in the MVP hunt. But right now I'm satisfied with how everything is going. I just want to get to the playoffs and win the championship.

What's your impression of the Thunder?

They're definitely on the right path with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. They're a good, young team that could be scary (in the future).

THE BLAKE GRIFFIN SWEEPSTAKES

Checking the lottery numbers

With the Tyson Chandler trade rescinded, the Thunder probably won't move up or down many spots in the reverse standings which will determine how many of the 1,000 ping pong balls each team receives in the lottery for the No. 1 overall pick, expected to be OU power forward Blake Griffin.

Listed below is the current NBA reverse standings, number of ping pong balls each team would receive and the percentage of landing the No. 1 pick.

Mike Baldwin also projects the final standings, number of ping pong balls each team would receive and the percentage of landing the No. 1 pick.

Current standings

Team W-L Balls Odds 30. Sacramento 11-46 250 25.0 29. Washington 12-44 199 19.9 28. LA Clippers 13-43 156 15.6 27. Thunder 13-42 119 11.9 26. Memphis 16-39 88 8.8 25. Golden State 19-36 63 6.3 24. Minnesota 19-35 43 4.3 23. Toronto 21-35 28 2.8

Projected finish (April 15)

Team W-L Balls Odds 30. Sacramento 17-65 250 25.0 28. LA Clippers 19-61 199 19.9 29. Washington 21-63 156 15.6 27. Memphis 23-59 119 11.9 26. Thunder 24-58 88 8.8 25. Minnesota 28-54 63 6.3 24. Golden State 29-53 43 4.3 23. Toronto 30-52 43 4.3

HOT OR NOT

Who's hot

Utah point guard Deron Williams. Hampered by an ankle injury early in the season, the Team USA point guard is averaging 28.0 points and 10.3 assists in February. For the season, he's second in the league in assists (10.1) behind Chris Paul.

Who's not

Detroit. The Pistons are 3-9 their last dozen games and are riding a five-game losing streak. They begin a five-game road trip today (Cleveland, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando and Boston).

SNEAK PEEK

Kobe coming to town

The Thunder faces another three-game week with back-to-back road games this weekend. The only home game is Kobe Bryant makes the first of two Ford Center appearances.

→Tuesday: LA Lakers. Only a handful of tickets remain to see Kobe, Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson.

→Friday: at Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki scored 46 points, the most by any opponent, in Dallas' 103-99 win two months ago.

→Saturday: at Memphis. The Thunder's first road win was over the Grizzlies on Nov. 29, the night of Bedlam football.

INSIDE SCOOP

Kidd wants security

→Dallas point guard Jason Kidd will be a free agent this summer. Kidd, who turns 36 next month, is not interested in a one-year deal. He wants to play three more seasons. Owner Mark Cuban said if Kidd continues to play like he has he'll consider it.

→Chauncey Billups said teammate Carmelo Anthony is playing with a chip on his shoulder after not being selected for the All-Star Game. Melo has averaged 24.7 points and 10.3 rebounds the past three games.

→Cavaliers power forward Ben Wallace needed 14 stitches in his right arm after he accidentally smashed his arm through a car window in Richmond, Va., playing in a pick-up football game during the All-Star break.

→Heat president Pat Riley told Jermaine O'Neal headbands are not allowed. O'Neal, 30, said he's rejuvenated by the trade but has worn a headband his entire career. He's politicking to receive an exception.

→Washington made a strong statement by not trading Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison. With Gilbert Arenas returning soon, the Wizards believe they can be a playoff team next season.

→Heat rookie Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick in the draft, could play less minutes following the trade for O'Neal. Udonis Haslem also plays power forward. Coach Erik Spoelstra like's Beasley's progress but says "he's a four."

BY THE NUMBERS

37

The number of league-leading charging fouls drawn by Steve Nash and Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao. Nash's defense is shaky but his ability to run a fast-paced offense and force turnovers is one reason NBA scouts love the two-time league MVP's all-around game.

IVERSON ON THE RECORD

Talking about heaven and hell

Allen Iverson's interview with a television reporter at Media Day two days before the All-Star Game took a bizarre turn.

The question: Do you think you're going to heaven or hell?

A reporter asked that follow-up question after Iverson said pro athletes are fake when they hand out Thanksgiving Day turkeys in front of TV cameras.

"When I do things for my community, I always tell them, especially when I go to hospitals, I don't want cameras around me, because it makes me feel like I'm doing it for (publicity)," Iverson was quoted. "That's not why I do it. I don't like cameras around because it is truly fake.

"I do things for people and for my community because it makes me feel good as a person. And it helps misfortunate people."

As for the big question: heaven or hell?

"When it's time for me to get towards that gate, either He's gonna say, 'Come in,' or 'Turn around,'" Iverson said. "And a camera won't decide whether I get in or not."

What answer does he expect?

"I've done a lot of good things in my life and done a lot of bad things in my life, so I don't know," Iverson said. "I hope the good things I've done outweigh the bad things. I'm damn sure I don't want to go to hell.

"I'm not saying that I'm not in because I think I am. Unless some things go dramatically wrong in the next how many years, I think I'll be welcomed through those gates."

TWITTERMANIA

Connecting with fans

Twitter service was introduced in 2006 and has become an online phenomenon. The service has nearly five million users, 70 percent who joined last year.

Similar to blogs, a person "tweets" by typing bite-size messages limited to 140 characters. NBA players are among celebrities who are "tweeting," providing fans insight into their lives.

President Barrack Obama has 282,000 followers. Shaquille O'Neal, who tweets once a day, has nearly 100,000 followers. After earning co-MVP honors at last Sunday at the All-Star Game, O'Neal twittered: "Kobe is the best. He told me to take the trophy home for my sons. Class act. Thanks bro."

Amare Stoudemire politicked fans on Twitter for All-Star votes. Chris Bosh's "tweets" at the All-Star Game in Phoenix were a big hit even though Bosh didn't play due to a knee injury.

After being traded to Oklahoma City, Tyson Chandler twittered: "OKC, I'm back!!! I'm looking forward 2 helping get this franchise back (where) we belong!!! See you at the top!! I want 2 thank all my fans in N.O. We had a great run. I love & will miss you all!!!"

It's uncertain what Chandler twittered the following day after the trade was rescinded.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 25, 2009

 

 
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