Caron Butler, one of the most pursued small forwards in this year's free-agent class, privately considers the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls as his two most preferred destinations, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Butler is most attracted to the Bulls because of the chance to play with Derrick Rose(notes) and compete for a title, but he would have to take significantly less money to play in Chicago. The Bulls have a stronger need for a shooting guard and could ultimately spend their money there. Ultimately, that leaves the Clippers with an edge over the New Jersey Nets among the suitors with the most significant cap space and a need for a starting small forward.
"He sees the Clippers with a more stable foundation of players," one source familiar with Butler's thinking said. "He isn’t sure about Deron Williams'(notes) future in New Jersey, and having a chance to win will be a big part of this."
Butler played only 29 games in the Dallas Mavericks' title run a season ago, missing the remainder with a right knee injury. At 31 years old, he’s checked out healthy again and remains a primary target for several teams looking for a small forward.
Could Crawford re-sign with Hawks?
Atlanta Hawks free-agent guard Jamal Crawford has received interest from Indiana, New Jersey, Portland, Phoenix, New Orleans and Chicago, a league source told Yahoo! Sports. Crawford also hasn't ruled out returning to the Hawks. Veterans Joe Johnson and Al Horford have told management they'd like to see Crawford re-sign.
Davis hopes work pays off
Boston Celtics free-agent forward Glen Davis appears to be in good shape after working out at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the past two months. In addition to the Celtics, Davis has drawn interest from New Jersey, Portland, Atlanta, Orlando and Philadelphia, sources said.
Davis is good friends with Magic center Dwight Howard, dating back to their AAU days.
Nets high on Nene's list of suitors
As NBA teams start to make a push for Denver Nuggets free-agent center Nene, front office officials are angling to be the first to meet with him at midnight Dec. 9 in his native Brazil.
“That will go down to the wire,” a source close to Nene said.
The Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams that reached out to Nene’s representatives Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact agents to discuss potential deals.
Once the offers arrive, it could take more than $13 million annually to sign Nene. While the market is still developing for him and the rest of a thin free-agent class, he’s clearly the focus for every team with cap space and the need for an inside presence. The Nuggets are pressed to keep him, and would likely have to pay significantly more than would’ve been necessary if they had worked a deal with him prior to his opting out this summer.
The Nets could be the major threat for Nene because of their combination of salary-cap space and desire to surround Williams with as much talent as possible to convince him to sign an extension. Privately, Williams has made it clear that he’s far less inclined to re-sign a long-term deal with the Nets if they don’t immediately improve their roster. New Jersey can also gather assets and still stay in position to make trade offers to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard(notes).
Pacers, Hornets lead pack for West
New Orleans free-agent forward David West(notes), one of the top players on the market, had inquirers from several teams on Wednesday, but there remain two main contenders for him that are more serious than the others: the Hornets and Indiana Pacers.
[ Related: Celtics looking to trade star player Rajon Rondo ]
West’s future in New Orleans could still be tied to the decision the organization makes on whether to ride out the season with Chris Paul(notes) or look to move him quickly. If general manager Dell Demps decides to continue to sell Paul on re-signing with the Hornets, he’ll be far more aggressive in working to sign West to a new deal. Without Paul, it’s hard to imagine the Hornets committing years and money to a 31-year-old power forward when the organization moves into full rebuild mode.
It’s surprising the Charlotte Bobcats haven’t reached out to West, who has spent most of his adult life living in the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina. West could give the Bobcats a tough, physical scoring and rebounding presence in the mold of coach Paul Silas, and they could use his character and professionalism in the locker room and community there.
Young appeals to Bulls
Young can score, and the Chicago Bulls can appreciate the 30 and 38 points he had in two games against the Miami Heat a season ago. The Bulls are desperate for a scoring guard, and they have expressed interest in Young, along with Denver and New Orleans, front office sources said.
Young hasn’t been much beyond a scorer in the NBA, and privately believes the chance to play for coach Tom Thibodeau could round out his game. Still, Chicago doesn’t have the cap space to make him an offer outside of Washington’s willingness to match the deal. The Bulls could find a way to be creative, however, but they’ll keep talking to several shooting guards and explore trades.
Smith still seeking trade from Hawks
Josh Smith(notes) hasn’t changed his mind on a future with his hometown Atlanta Hawks: He believes he’s probably run his course with Atlanta. Without an owner committed to making the changes to push this team past its second-round Eastern Conference ceiling, sources said he’d still welcome the team putting him into a trade.
[ Related: NBA free agent Nene eyes possible move from Denver ]
Rival executives say GM Rick Sund has told them everyone is available for deals, although Sund’s most reluctant to move Al Horford(notes). There had been serious discussions between Atlanta and the Minnesota Timberwolves for Smith around the NBA draft, but they never materialized.
No amnesty for Wizards' Lewis
Lewis is the NBA's second highest-paid player, trailing only Kobe Bryant(notes) with a $21.1 million salary this season and $22.7 million in 2012-13. The proposed amnesty rule in the new labor agreement would allow the Wizards to waive Lewis and remove the money owed him from the team salary for cap and tax purposes.
Lewis averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds for Washington and Orlando last season.
"It's not going to happen," Dutt said. "I spoke to them [Wednesday] afternoon. They see him as a big part of what they hope to do going forward, not only as a player but a leader."
More free-agent chatter
Tracy McGrady(notes) wants to play for the Bulls, sources said, and coach Tom Thibodeau has a relationship with him going back to their Houston Rockets days together. T-Mac is still a consideration to return to the Pistons, too. …Marc Gasol has significant interest around the league, but the most likely scenario is still him re-signing with the Memphis Grizzlies, sources close to him said. …The Thunder didn’t discuss a contract buyout with Nate Robinson(notes) on Wednesday, but he desperately wants to get out of the final year of his deal, a league source said. He’s just not going to play much for the Thunder. Orlando could be a landing spot for Robinson, should he become a free agent. …If Tayshaun Prince(notes) leaves Detroit without a starting small forward, the Pistons will have to work through a thin class to find a starter. For depth at the position, the Pistons will take a close look at free agent Mike Dunleavy, who is leaving the Indiana Pacers. …The Bulls still have an eye on bringing back Brian Scalabrine(notes), who’s been playing well for Benetton in Italy. He has an out clause in his contract. …Miami, Chicago and New Jersey are strongly considering offers for Knicks free-agent forward Shawne Williams(notes), who is coming off a strong season. The Knicks will make a strong bid to keep him, and he’s inclined to stay with them for a multiyear offer.
Yahoo! Sports' NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this report
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