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Spurs front-runners in race for Maggette

The San Antonio Spurs have targeted Corey Maggette and are the front-runners to sign the Los Angeles Clippers' free agent forward, multiple league sources said Tuesday night.

While no deal was imminent, Maggette would be expected to sign a multi-year deal for the mid-level exception, a move that would fulfill the Spurs' desperate need for perimeter athleticism and scoring. Maggette would be leaving the Clippers, just as the team came to an agreement with Golden State free agent Baron Davis on a contract. With so much sudden salary cap space, the Warriors could be a threat to swoop in and take Maggette for themselves. The Boston Celtics have also shown serious interest in Maggette.

Another team with salary cap room, the Philadelphia 76ers, will present Atlanta Hawks restricted free agent Josh Smith an offer sheet on Wednesday when he visits with Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski in Philadelphia, two league sources said.

The Spurs struggled to generate points in the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and believe Maggette could make a dramatic impact as a complement to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Maggette averaged 22.1 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Clippers, who expect now to quickly re-sign free agent Elton Brand.

The Spurs had targeted Maggette as an explosive offensive addition to an offense that struggled to generate points in the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Maggette averaged 22.1 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Clippers, who expect now to quickly re-sign free agent Elton Brand.

Maggette, 28, opted out of his contract with the Clippers on Monday, along with Brand. He had hopes of returning to the Orlando Magic, but the Spurs, who have an interest in Denver restricted free agent J.R. Smith and Detroit free agent Jarvis Hayes, made an aggressive push in the last 24 hours to sell Maggette on playing an important part in restoring them to a championship team.

“He’s going to take a lot of the offensive load off (Manu) Ginobili, but (Spurs coach Gregg) Popovich will have to hide him defensively on the floor,” a Western Conference scout said Tuesday night.

Maggette can sign on July 9, once the NBA’s moratorium on free agents is lifted.