NBA Roundup: Miller re-signs with Denver, Magic denies Howard trade talks deadBy The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Wed, Jul 11, 2012 7:00 PM EDT
Free agent point guard Andre Miller re-signed with the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets also announced the signing of first-round pick Evan Fournier, whose contract was purchased from his pro team in France. Miller averaged 9.7 points and a team-leading 6.7 assists for the Nuggets last season. Acquired as part of a three-team trade last June, he led the team in assists 17 times and recorded eight double-doubles. "Andre was great for our team and our young guys last season," vice president of basketball operations Masasi Ujiri said. "Our players and coaches were excited when they heard he was coming back. He provides leadership and consistency and he really fits perfectly in our system. We're very happy to keep him in Denver." A backup to Ty Lawson, Miller started only seven games. Miller, 36, playing in every game for the ninth time in his 13 NBA seasons and has missed only four games due to injury in 1,044 career games. Fournier is only 19 years old but at 6-7, 208, the Nuggets believe he has the natural ability and perimeter shooting touch to make in impact immediately. --Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan held a press conference at 4 p.m. ET and, at that moment, refused to confirm reports that trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets focused on Dwight Howard were dead as multiple reports indicated. "That's not accurate," said Hennigan. "We're still talking to the Nets." But unless another team joins the discussions, it's unlikely the Magic will consummate a deal with Brooklyn, Howard's preferred destination. Hennigan didn't cover up his distaste for the package offered in return, saying "there's not much there." The Nets offered multiple players -- restricted free agent Brook Lopez and unrestricted free agent power forward Kris Humphries, both in sign-and-trade deals -- and four first-round picks for Howard but were rejected, according to ESPN. Hennigan did confirm he spoke with Howard on Wednesday but did not offer insight to those discussions. Multiple reports indicate Howard was told there'd be no deal with Brooklyn. The Magic also want to retain cap flexibility, meaning a max contract in return isn't palatable for Hennigan, but draft picks and young talent with modest contracts whet his appetite. The immediate future of Lopez, who could sign a five-year, $78 million deal as soon as Wednesday night, stands as a major roadblock to any trade for Howard. Further delaying his signing would be a risk for the Nets, with cap-flexible teams such as Dallas, Charlotte and Portland capable of signing Lopez to a lucrative offer sheet structure in a way that would make it nearly impossible for Brooklyn to match with some $50 million committed to guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in 2014. Hennigan said Wednesday he's not sure where the Nets and Lopez stand, adding that he isn't sure which reports to believe. The offer sheet would also take Lopez out of immediate trade consideration. He wouldn't be eligible to be traded by the Nets until December 15 if they were to match a competing offer sheet. If the Magic do suspend trade talks, they'll likely do so to be able to focus on hiring a head coach. Stan Van Gundy was fired in May. Hennigan was hired just days before the NBA Draft in June. He overhauled the front office almost immediately and continues to lead interviews to find Van Gundy's replacement. In the end, could Howard stay with the Magic for the final year of his contract and beyond? "There's a chance, yeah," Hennigan said. -- The Brooklyn Nets are expected to finalize a contract extension with center Brook Lopez as talks to acquire center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic ended. The two sides, according to multiple reports, began negotiating a possible fifth year that would bring the final terms of the deal to five years, $78 million. Only the first four years are guaranteed. The Nets would be retaining Lopez and not using him as a sign-and-trade chip to land Howard. ESPN.com reported the Magic turned down an offer of Lopez, power forward Kris Humphries -- both in sign-and-trade deals -- plus four first-round picks. Until the deal is officially signed, a remote chance remained that Charlotte or Portland, which offered Pacers center Roy Hibbert a four-year, $58 million restricted free agent offer, could swoop in and complicate matters. The Nets were thought to be very open to keeping Lopez as part of the core of the team despite the recent aggressive run at Howard, a five-time All-NBA center, but were wary of health concerns that dogged Lopez last season. By late afternoon Wednesday, there was only an outside chance the Nets and Magic will come together on a two-team deal centered around Howard remaining when the two sides determined there wasn't a deal to be done. General manager Billy King continued dialogue with the Magic on Wednesday until time ran out in the early afternoon. The Nets needed to move forward on the Lopez pact and the Magic had roster issues plus the matter of hiring a head coach on which to focus. Lopez, a 24-year-old 7-footer drafted 10th overall in the 2008 draft, missed the first 32 games last season with a fractured right foot. He was injured in the final preseason game and had surgery Dec. 23. He played five games, averaging 19.2 points and 3.6 rebounds, before he sprained his right ankle against the Charlotte Bobcats and was shut down for the rest of the season. Lopez played all 82 games in his first three seasons and has career averages of 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He's the one player the Magic would demand in return if the Nets can pull off a deal for center Dwight Howard. Any such swap faces significant hurdles, primarily because the Magic prefers a deal that brings back minimal salary commitments to unload Howard. Howard is in the final year of his contract and said in June that he won't sign a long-term deal unless he's traded to Brooklyn. Because Lopez was injured last season, a proposed three-team trade with the Magic was put on the shelf, as was a new contract with the Nets. The Nets extended a one-year, $4.2 million qualifying offer to Lopez as a restricted free agent rather than negotiate a long-term deal before the Jan. 25 extension deadline last season. --The Clippers announced a five-year deal with All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who took a break from Olympic team preparation to sign his contract. Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, agreed to a five-year, $95 million contract extension with an early termination option after three seasons. He was added to the Olympic roster over the weekend because of injuries. "Happy to officially sign my extension to #clippernation for 5 more years. Can't wait. Thanks for all the support," Griffin tweeted late Tuesday. Griffin is the first member of the '09 draft class to sign an extension. Every team is permitted one player who can sign a five-year maximum contract extension to his rookie contract per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players eligible must be voted to start in two All-Star games, named All-NBA twice or named MVP. Griffin limped through the season-ending playoff loss to the Spurs with a knee injury but said he's 100 percent entering the London games. The 23-year-old power forward is an explosive leaper whose highlight reel dunks have stretched his appeal well beyond Los Angeles does room for improvement. He shot 54.9 percent from the field in 2011-12 and averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds, benefiting from the addition of point guard Chris Paul. But Griffin's range is modest and he's prone to foul trouble, two areas in which, if he shows sizable gains, coach Vinny Del Negro said could help the All-Star reach the next level. He'll be better served getting there if the Clippers can also retain Paul, one of the top potential free agents next summer. --The Lakers didn't just patch a hole on the roster at point guard, general manager Mitch Kupchak landed one of the best to ever play the position in eight-time All-Star Steve Nash. The two-time MVP was acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade deal. The Lakers traded a package of draft picks -- first-rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second-rounders in 2013 and '14 -- for Nash, who would've been an unrestricted free agent. Nash received an official offer from the Toronto Raptors and had interest from the Knicks and Mavericks. "Once they told me that it could get done, as a coach you get really excited because you've seen firsthand what Steve Nash can do for a team," said coach Mike Brown on Lakers.com. The Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions at midseason after waiving Derek Fisher, but the season-ending playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and All-Star Russell Westbrook showed the position to be a relative weakness. Brown and Nash had a lengthy phone conversation, one Brown described as the most inquisitive he's ever had with a prospective free agent addition. Over the course of the talk, Nash dug deep on topics varying from defensive strategy to granular details of Brown's in-game situational strategy. "They were very good questions," Brown said. "(Like) how we're going to defend the pick and roll ... what we did against Oklahoma City in the playoffs ... to what I envision his role being with us. The things he picked up on were very insightful." "That's what made it exciting. He already has a feel for how he can help us in different situations." Nash, the league MVP in 2005 and '06, has never been to the NBA Finals. He also had a conversation with Kobe Bryant, who convinced Nash their contrasting leadership styles -- Nash the ever-positive cheerleader and Bryant the scowling, fiery competitor and sharp critic -- would complement the other, not create friction. "Kobe was great," Nash said in a radio interview. "He was excited." Nash averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists last season. The 16-year veteran averaged 8.6 assists per game with Dallas and Phoenix. He was drafted 15th overall in 1996, two picks after the Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant. Bryant was dealt to the Lakers. --The Lakers haven't had a great point guard since Kobe Bryant joined the team in 1996. Now they have one of the greatest of all time to pair with Bryant in the backcourt. Steve Nash, who arrived in the NBA the same time as Bryant in '96, was acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade deal that cost the Lakers two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks and about $3 million in cash. Nash was a free agent courted by Toronto and New York and sold the Suns on sending him to the rival Lakers so he could stay relatively close to his three children in Phoenix. The Lakers were in the market for a point guard after Ramon Sessions chose to become a free agent instead of exercising the option for one more season with the Lakers. Sessions had been the Lakers' main target entering free agency also, but Nash became an exciting alternative. The Lakers became exciting for Nash to think about also: He hasn't won an NBA title, while Bryant has five -- and teammates such as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who could help the Lakers win now, too. Gasol said on a Twitter video chat from Spain that he was excited about Nash joining the team. "It would be a true pleasure to play with Steve," Gasol said. "I know he still has a lot of juice in him, so I look forward to that. He makes everyone around him better. It's an exciting moment for the Lakers and Lakers fans." Nash will wear No. 10 with the Lakers. His usual No. 13 was retired by the Lakers for Wilt Chamberlain. Nash is a soccer aficionado, and there's a long list of soccer stars who have worn that number, including Pele and Diego Maradona. --For once the Bobcats might have a real home-court advantage. This one involves veteran forward Antawn Jamison, who grew up in Charlotte and still makes his offseason home there. Bobcats' management has made a pitch to 14-year veteran Jamison to finish out his NBA career in Charlotte. That's appealing to a guy who leaves four kids home each winter, moving to whichever NBA city where he's employed. Now Jamison is an unrestricted free agent and likely about to sign his last contract. "To say there's interest on both sides is definite," Jamison told the Charlotte Observer. "Now it's up to me. Do I want to come home to be with my kids? Or should I pursue the best opportunity to win a ring?" Jamison plans to explore what contenders might have to offer, but he hopes to make a decision by mid-July. The draw toward Charlotte is strong. "Being really involved in the parenting experience throughout makes a difference," Jamison said. "Kids that age (12 to 2) understand a whole lot (about a parent's presence). Taking them to school and picking them up. This would be a great fit -- to incorporate that with my job. I know the area. I know the arena. I know most everyone who works there. It's home." The interest from the Bobcats is searching for a mentor to a team with seven players 25 or younger. Jamison could be ideal, in that he's a personable veteran, but he can still play, after averaging over 17 points and six rebounds last season with the Cavaliers. --The Raptors and Rockets completed a trade Wednesday sending point guard Kyle Lowry to the Raptors for forward Gary Forbes and a future first-round draft pick. Lowry, 26, averaged 15.9 points, 7.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 38 starts last season and overall set career-highs with averages of 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals. The Raptors have been rumored to be considering using the amnesty clause to wipe point guard Jose Calderon's $10.6 million salary off the books next season. Toronto offered Canadian Steve Nash a three-year deal, but Nash went to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade. The Raptors don't expect the Knicks to match a three-year offer sheet to restricted free agent Landry Fields. Houston is hoping to make another push to acquire Magic center Dwight Howard. Orlando seeks multiple draft picks and minimal salary in return for Howard, and Houston has several first-round picks received via trade in recent years. The Rockets also have three first-round picks -- Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones -- they selected in June and could include in a deal if the two sides waited until December to execute the swap. The Rockets' roster will be in flux for at least a few more days. General manager Daryl Morey executed offer sheets with restricted free agents Omer Asik (Bulls) and Jeremy Lin (Knicks). While both teams are expected to match the offers from Houston, they can take three full days to turn in the paperwork to the NBA office. Houston also completed a sign-and-trade that sent center Marcus Camby to the Knicks on Wednesday. Camby signed a three-year deal. --The Knicks plan to keep Linsanity going at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are set to match the Houston Rockets' four-year, $28.8 million offer to restricted free agent Jeremy Lin, retaining the point guard for at least the next three seasons. The Knicks said they would match any offer Lin receives to keep him, even after bringing veteran Jason Kidd in on a free-agent deal. The structure of the offer sheet from the Rockets will be retained, meaning the Knicks will pay Lin $5 million in the first year of the contract, and $5.2 million in the second. His salary jumps to $9.3 million in each of the final two years, with the Knicks holding an option in the fourth year. By back-loading the contract, the Rockets were hoping to discourage the Knicks from matching the offer, because a more severe luxury tax goes into effect in 2014. The Rockets had waived Lin during training camp last year, partly because of the presence of Kyle Lowry. However, the Rockets agreed to deal Lowry to the Raptors on the same day they signed Lin to an offer sheet. Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists for the Knicks last season before a knee injury ended his season in March. --Deron Williams made his decision to stay with the Brooklyn Nets official at 12:01 a.m. ET Wednesday, signing a five-year contract with the franchise on general manager Billy King's iPad and tweeting a photo of the proceedings. "I am really excited to be able to officially say that Brooklyn is home," Williams said. Williams has been sitting out five-on-five scrimmages with Team USA during preparations for the London Olympic Games until the deal was officially signed. "We are obviously thrilled that Deron will lead the Nets into our new home in Brooklyn," King said in a team-issued release. "Deron is, in my opinion, the top point guard in the NBA." Williams' decision to stay with the Nets was left the Dallas Mavericks looking for alternatives. The Nets were able to offer a longer, richer deal -- five years, worth between $98 million and $100 million. Williams, who turned 28 the week before free agency began and spent his birthday at a small gathering at a restaurant in a party that included Nets coach Avery Johnson, is a Texas native. But the Mavericks, per the collective bargaining agreement, faced limitations in the parameters of allowable contract offers with a maximum of four years, $75 million. The Nets remained in the headlines after Williams' decision last week, re-signing forward Gerald Wallace and trading for Joe Johnson while also trying to work out a deal that would bring Orlando center Dwight Howard to Brooklyn. If obtaining Howard proves fruitless, the Nets are poised to re-sign restricted free agent center Brook Lopez and free agent forward Kris Humphries. Williams has said he's enjoyed living in New York with his family and liked the marketing opportunities available there as the Nets move from Newark to a new arena in Brooklyn. Williams was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Nets on Feb. 23, 2011. He averaged 15.0 points and 12.8 assists in 12 games with the Nets in 2010-2011, then averaged 21.0 points and 8.7 assists in 55 games for the Nets this past season. He's been an All-Star each of the past three seasons. --Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen are teammates again, this time as role players for the defending NBA champion Miami Heat. Lewis signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract Wednesday to join the Heat. Allen, a teammate of Lewis' in Seattle from 2003-2007, signed and gives Miami a lethal pair of 3-point marksmen. Money wasn't the most important matter for Lewis, who is owed $13.7 million as part of a buyout by the Hornets. He was acquired just before the June draft in a deal with the Wizards. New Orleans opted for the buyout rather than assuming the final year of a six-year, $118 million deal Lewis signed with the Orlando Magic. Lewis missed the final 33 games last season because of a left knee injury. He turns 33 next month and last played more than 35 games in 2009-10 with the Magic. --The New York Knicks are reportedly close to an agreement with 35-year-old point guard Pablo Prigioni. A member of Argentina's Olympic team, Prigioni met with coach Mike Woodson and general manager Glen Grunwald over two days in June and had a one-year offer from his Spanish team, Unicaja Laboral. Sport Newspaper Ole reported Wednesday that Prigioni would sign with the Knicks, who were offering a one-year deal worth roughly the veteran's minimum salary of $1.3 million. The Knicks attempted to sign him three years ago, but weren't able to come to terms. Prigioni would join a roster with several point guards, including veteran Jason Kidd, Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert. Shumpert is likely to be out until mid-January recovering from left knee surgery. --The Hornets and Magic announced the sign-and-trade deal sending Ryan Anderson to New Orleans was approved by the NBA on Wednesday, the end of the league's signing moratorium. Anderson signed a four-year, $36 million offer sheet the Magic declined to match, opting instead for a trade that brings forward Gustavo Ayon to Orlando in return. Anderson was named the NBA's most improved player last season. At 6-10, 240 pounds, he's a versatile player whose 3-point stroke makes him a difficult matchup. A career 42.7-percent shooter from 3-point range, he was a fulltime starter for the first time in 2011-12. Anderson averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in his third season with the Magic. Anderson spent his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets. Ayon started 24 games as a rookie with the Hornets and averaged 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists. --The Warriors acquired veteran point guard Jarrett Jack from the New Orleans Hornets as part of the trade that will send Dorell Wright to Philadelphia. The Hornets received the draft rights to 2006 second-round pick Edlin Bavcic in return. Wright, 26, joins a crowded group of wing players with starter Andre Iguodala and first-round pick Maurice Harkless already in tow for the 76ers. Wright averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 2010-11 but his production dipped last season (10.3/4.6). The Sixers created cap space by using the amnesty provision to release power forward Elton Brand and the $18.2 million owed for the final year of his contract. Jack, 28, averaged 15.6 points and 6.3 assists with New Orleans last season. Jack was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round in 2005, Jack played for Indiana in 2008-09, Toronto in 2009-10 and split the 2010-11 season between New Orleans and Toronto.
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