Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your flapjacks.

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: "The Celtics will be equipped on Thursday with their mid-level exception and all of the veteran minimum deals they can throw at people. Expect Mike Miller(notes) - the talented wing for the Washington Wizards who once played for Rivers - to be a target. But big men are the priority here. The question could very well be whether Brad Miller(notes) - a likely free agent cut to the wind because of Chicago's max-contract concerns - feels he deserves an entire mid-level exception to himself. But the Celtics will have to wait and let the saturated market finally convince a few players they're not worth as much as they first thought."

Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News: "When the Knicks go out to recruit Joe Johnson(notes) in Los Angeles on Thursday, the Hawks will also be in L.A., trying to get Johnson to agree to a new maximum-level contract. Although their No. 1 target is still LeBron James(notes), the Knicks will meet with Johnson hours before they get their sit-down with James in Akron, according to league sources. Johnson is going to be in great demand, as the Bulls are also targeting him with a maximum-level contract. The Knicks are also hoping to meet with Amare Stoudemire's representatives in Los Angeles that night. Stoudemire and Johnson both played for Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix and have said on numerous occasions that they enjoyed the experience and would be open to reuniting with D'Antoni in New York. Stoudemire isn't ruling out re-signing with the Suns and has also been linked to Miami. The one fear teams have is whether Stoudemire can still put up big numbers without Steve Nash(notes) as his point guard. As for Johnson, the Hawks intend to offer the 6-7 shooting guard a maximum contract, which would be for around $125 million for six years and would top the Knicks' best offer of about $96 million over five years. One league source said Sunday that the Hawks are going to L.A. 'to get the deal done,' even though they can't get Johnson's signature on a contract until free agents can start signing on July 8. Johnson, who turns 29 in July, has decided to meet all teams that are recruiting him in Los Angeles, where he has a home."

Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: "Dirk Nowitzki is headed to free agency. That's not a huge surprise, although the Mavericks were hoping talks about a contract extension for the nine-time all-star would come to fruition. A source confirmed that an extension now is unlikely and that if the face of the franchise is to stay in Dallas, it will happen via a new contract in free agency. Nowitzki said last month that he would exercise his early termination option and explore free agency. It's the first time he'll be free on the open market. The team was able to continue negotiating until Nowitzki officially informed them that he would opt out, which must be done by Wednesday. Assuming Nowitzki and adviser Holger Geschwindner take care of that detail, the Mavericks can begin negotiating a new contract, likely for four seasons."

Tyler Dunne, Philadelphia Daily News: " Like most members of the 76ers, Marreese Speights(notes) is looking forward to a new beginning. For him and his team. 'Very excited to just get back onto the floor and improve on last year,' Speights said during a basketball clinic he hosted Saturday at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr for children ages 8-14. After the Sixers' housecleaning, the 6-10 center/forward is ready to get the season under way. In 16 minutes per game last year, his second in the NBA, the 2008 first-round draft pick averaged 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. This fall, plenty of new faces will surround Speights, including coach Doug Collins, center Spencer Hawes(notes) , swingman Andres Nocioni(notes) and No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner(notes). 'It's going to look pretty good,' Speights said. 'It's the NBA . You never know what's going to happen. Evan Turner is a good draft pick for us and coach Doug has been around for a long time so he's a really good coach. It's going to be a good, long season.' His arms elongated over his knees as he sat on a bench, it's easy to see Speights' potential. Already this offseason he was in Las Vegas for a month to train at the renowned "Impact Basketball," the same all-star factory that produced Kevin Garnett(notes), Chauncey Billups(notes) , Dwight Howard(notes) , Paul Pierce(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes). The program fuses training, basketball and nutrition into one cohesive program. All workouts are basketball-specific. 'I was in Vegas and came back here [to Philadelphia] to work with the coaches,' he said, 'so I'm in pretty good shape. I just need to get better and better.'"

Darnell Mayberry, The Oklahoman: "Morris Peterson is making his preference known. He wants to come and play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Peterson, who was acquired as part of the draft-night trade that will bring Kansas center Cole Aldrich(notes) to town, is hoping to provide veteran leadership to Oklahoma City's stable of young talent. 'This is a great situation,' Peterson told The Oklahoman via telephone Friday night. 'I watched the Thunder all this year grow as a team and make that run in the playoffs. So to be traded there is an honor because I've watched those guys and how hard they work and how close they are as a team.' Because the Thunder is using salary cap space to acquire Aldrich and the remaining $6.6 million of Peterson's contract, league rules prevent the trade from being completed until July 8, when the moratorium is lifted and that space becomes available. Both teams are prohibited from discussing the deal until that time. To obtain Aldrich, the Thunder was forced to take on Peterson's contract from the cost-cutting Hornets in exchange for the 21st and 26th selections in Thursday night's NBA Draft. Many viewed Peterson as simply a necessary throw-in to the deal and a likely candidate to be bought out before the start of training camp similar to Earl Watson(notes) last summer, or allowed to not report a la Matt Harping following the mid-season trade that brought Eric Maynor(notes) from Utah. Peterson, however, is making his case to stick around. 'I definitely want to be in Oklahoma City,' Peterson said. 'They've got great fan support, a class organization. And they're a team that's on the rise and I feel like I can come and give them some veteran leadership and help with my basketball skills.'"

Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Now that the National Basketball Association draft is over, the real drama begins as LeBron James and an elite group of free agents will decide their NBA futures. But the Milwaukee Bucks have their own concerns as the free agency negotiation period begins on Thursday. Can they re-sign shooting guard John Salmons(notes) and point guard Luke Ridnour(notes)? The 6-foot-6 Salmons played such a key role in their drive to the playoffs, while Ridnour worked well in tandem with rookie Brandon Jennings(notes) and also as a veteran backup. General manager John Hammond already has been a busy man, trading for wing help by obtaining Corey Maggette(notes) from Golden State and Chris Douglas-Roberts(notes) from New Jersey. And the Bucks moved to bolster their frontcourt by drafting 6-11 power forward Larry Sanders(notes) with the 15th overall pick and 6-7 point forward Darington Hobson(notes) and 6-9 Keith 'Tiny' Gallon in the second round. 'We want to have a young, energetic, athletic team,' Hammond said. 'But we also know we need veteran help. There's no question that what helped us last season were guys such as Jerry Stackhouse(notes) and Kurt Thomas(notes) and John Salmons. Those guys have been around the block before. We know that it's a lot of pressure on those young guys to perform every night, especially those guys that haven't been there. The more veteran help you can have, that's important for any team.'"

Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: "Despite some foreboding signs, the Rockets do not consider themselves out of the free agency fight before they've thrown their first punch. Amid indications Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh will seek to join another top free agent on a team with cap space, a person with knowledge of the Rockets' thinking said Houston is confident it will be in the running and is considering seeking another enticement. The individual familiar with the Rockets' thinking said Houston could attempt to give Bosh a chance to sign with an All-Star guard by making a run at Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson. Bosh on Saturday told the Miami Herald that the Miami Heat, with Dwyane Wade(notes), would be in 'top contention' for his services. He also is expected to receive strong recruiting pitches from the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, who will try to get him along with the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James. Last week, Bosh appeared to tie his decision to James' when he said nothing will happen until James selects a team, a sign that Bosh might seek to join forces with the Cleveland star."

Michael Lee, Washington Post: "In addition to landing a franchise foundation in John Wall(notes), the 2010 NBA draft went a long way in establishing a new identity for the Wizards and creating some clarity as it relates to free agency. By agreeing to the trade with Chicago for Kirk Hinrich(notes) and the 17th overall pick, the Wizards revealed their hand as it relates to the futures of Randy Foye(notes) and Shaun Livingston(notes): They will find employment elsewhere this summer. The Wizards backcourt is going to be crowded with Wall, Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas(notes) taking the bulk of the minutes. Neither Livingston nor Foye has much interest in playing the role as a spot duty reserve. Both players are young and have proven that they should get quality minutes on an NBA team. It just won't happen in Washington. Livingston never seemed especially open to coming back, and the Wizards are not interested in making a $4.8 million qualifying offer to Foye when they have to address other needs in the front court. Makes sense, with more than $30 million committed to Arenas ($17.7 million), Hinrich ($9 million) and Wall ($4.3 million)."

Janis Carr, Orange County Register: "Phil Jackson said he never would want to leave the Lakers in mid-season because of an ailment or health-related issues, a point driven home this season by George Karl, who left the Denver Nuggets because of throat cancer. Jackson told a group of Western governors Sunday that Karl's situation will influence his decision whether to return to the Lakers next season. The Lakers coach is expect to announce whether he will retire after hearing from his doctors whether he is healthy enough for the rigors of an NBA season. 'My concern to be quite blunt, is I don't want to happen what happened to Denver and George Karl,' said Jackson, who has two replaced hips, a sore knee requiring a brace and a previous heart problem."

Ken Berger, CBS: "Two months after parting ways with his agent, Dwight Howard has chosen a new one - Dan Fegan, who also landed No. 1 pick John Wall this summer. Howard, 24, is at a crossroads in his career as the Magic try to surround him with the right kind of talent to begin winning championships. He also won't be a free agent until after a new - and likely owner-friendly - collective bargaining agreement is adopted. Fegan's second significant score of the summer solidified him as "one of the most powerful agents out there," one team executive said upon hearing of the Howard addition Sunday. Fegan also is a well-versed participant in the ongoing CBA negotiations that could dramatically affect Howard's on-court earning potential. Unlike this summer's crop of free agents, who can land one more massive pay day under the current CBA, Howard and other young stars face uncertainty as owners aim to take a substantial bite out of the salaries paid to the highest-earning players. 'Dwight wanted to be represented in the CBA talks,' a person close to the Magic center said. But what Howard was really looking for was an out-of-the-box, full-service and long-term approach to on- and off-court marketing, according to a one of Howard's close advisors. Fegan also is now backed by the international clout and deep pockets of the French media giant Lagardere, which recently bought Fegan's powerful BEST agency and renamed it Lagardere Unlimited. 'Dwight is an iconic superstar with an authentic brand and global appeal,' Fegan told CBSSports.com. 'Of course, our team is ecstatic that he chose us.'"

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