NBA’s buyout season commences

Troy Murphy could become a hot commodity among contenders if he can get a buyout

Shortly after returning home from practice on Thursday, Leon Powe(notes) was happy to learn that his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers had ended. He hadn’t been traded, but bought out, triggering the start of the NBA’s in-season shopping spree for playoff contenders.

Each year, the buyout market picks up as soon as the trade deadline passes, giving contending teams the opportunity to strengthen or fill out their roster for a playoff run with players who have been waived. The Dallas Mavericks have already been beneficiaries this season, signing Peja Stojakovic(notes) last month after he was let go by the Raptors.

Powe and his agent Aaron Goodwin had been seeking a buyout or trade from the Cavaliers since December. They received their wish after the deadline passed when the Cavs bought out Powe’s contract and waived him.

Powe has played in just 14 games this season, averaging five points and 2.7 rebounds, but says his surgically repaired knees are no longer troubling him. A member of the Boston Celtics’ 2008 championship team, he could hook on again with the Celtics if he clears waivers. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat could also have some interest.

“When you have a chance to get a new start during the season after you lost all those games, you always want to go to a playoff team to help them better themselves,” Powe said. “I could see myself back over there in Boston. I could see myself in a number of places though. I’m just trying to find a good fit with a playoff team. The team I was on, we were losing all kinds of games. I’m tired of losing.”

Not everyone will be as fortunate as Powe, whose modest $915,852 salary this season made a buyout agreement much easier to secure. Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton(notes) sought a trade for months, and the Pistons were close to sending him to the Cavaliers on Thursday, league sources said. Hamilton, however, wouldn’t agree to surrender $9 million of the $25 million he could make over the next two seasons, scuttling a potential contract buyout and forcing the Pistons to keep him. Center Joel Przybilla(notes), who was acquired by the Charlotte Bobcats in the Gerald Wallace(notes) trade on Thursday, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Rasual Butler(notes) also likely won’t receive buyouts, sources said.

Still, there will be a handful of players cut loose in the coming days. Players must be waived by March 1 to have playoff eligibility if they’re signed by another team. Here’s a look at who could become available:

Washington Wizards guard Mike Bibby(notes): The Wizards acquired Bibby in a trade that sent Kirk Hinrich(notes) to the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, and sources close to the veteran point guard said he wasn’t happy about going from a playoff team to a rebuilding situation. One league source said Bibby might try to pursue a buyout even though he’s owed $6.4 million next season, in addition to the remainder of this season’s $5.8 million salary. The potential hang-up: Unless Bibby surrenders significant money, the Wizards might want to keep him.

If Bibby becomes a free agent, the Miami Heat, Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks could line up as suitors.

Golden State Warriors forward Troy Murphy(notes): The Warriors were expected to waive Murphy after acquiring him from the New Jersey Nets, but one source said the team is now considering keeping the 6-foot-11 forward because it needs size. Murphy hasn’t played since Jan. 7 after Nets coach Avery Johnson said he didn’t plan to include him in his regular rotation.

Murphy is expected to still push for a buyout. If he’s able to negotiate one, the Celtics will push hard to sign him. The Knicks, Lakers and Heat are also expected to have interest.

Indiana Pacers guard T.J. Ford(notes): Ford has wanted out of Indiana for a while and could soon get his wish with a buyout. The seventh-year veteran is averaging 5.7 points and 3.5 assists in 39 games this season and hasn’t played since Jan. 28. Portland and Miami are expected to pursue Ford, league sources said.

• Forward Jared Jeffries(notes): The Rockets held onto Jeffries through the deadline to see if they could deal him, then negotiated a buyout of his $6.8 million contract on Friday. Jeffries, who was traded by the Knicks to Houston last season, could return to New York next week.

Philadelphia 76ers guard Jason Kapono(notes): Kapono is expected to get a buyout from the Sixers, several sources said, after playing in just 18 games this season. Still, he’s expected to draw strong interest on the free-agent market from teams in need of another shooter.

That includes the Celtics, who will have three roster spots available if they don’t sign Chris Johnson(notes) to a second 10-day contract.

• Center Eddy Curry: Curry has already been waived by Minnesota, and has returned home to Chicago to work out for trainer Tim Grover. Curry has played in just 10 games over the past three seasons while battling weight and off-court problems, which doesn't suggest he has much to offer a contender. Still, the Bulls and Heat are monitoring his progress.

Durant welcomes Perkins

Kevin Durant(notes) initially had a hard time accepting that good friend and teammate Jeff Green(notes) had been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Boston Celtics. Both grew up in the Washington area and came to the Seattle SuperSonics together as rookies in 2007.

But that doesn’t mean Durant doesn’t think the trade will help the Thunder. Oklahoma acquired Kendrick Perkins(notes) and Nate Robinson(notes) for Green and Nenad Krstic(notes), then did a separate deal for Charlotte Bobcats center Nazr Mohammed(notes). The two trades help address the Thunder’s biggest weaknesses: interior defense and toughness.

“It’s going to really help us out,” Durant told Yahoo! Sports. “Losing Jeff Green was tough for us. [But] we’re going to make up for that loss with Serge [Ibaka], Perk and Nazr. I’m excited. It’s going to be a new-look team for us.”

Perkins also had a hard time coming to grips with the trade. He was drafted by the Celtics eight years ago, won a championship in 2008 and was close friends with his teammates, especially Rajon Rondo(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes).

“I texted him last night and just let him know that I know it’s tough for him leaving a team he has been with for so long,” Durant said. “But I got his back and I’m going to try to make it as easy as possible for him. I’m looking forward to getting to meet him and playing hard the rest of the way.”

Perkins, 26, was expected to arrive in Oklahoma City Friday night and be examined by team doctors Saturday. He suffered a left knee injury in his last game with the Celtics against Golden State on Tuesday, so it’s uncertain when he will make his debut with the Thunder.

Perkins’ experience from playing in two Finals and his leadership is a major addition to the Thunder, but he also will be a free agent after this season.

“He’s a young guy just like us, just a couple years older,” Durant said. “But he’s been through a lot in this league and he is a veteran. He has won a championship and he could bring a lot to our team. We’re looking forward to him being there and I’m going to let him know from the beginning that hopefully he can be a big part of this team for many years to come.”

The Thunder already had high expectations after challenging the Lakers in the first round of last year’s playoffs. But the addition of Perkins could make Oklahoma City a legitimate title contender even sooner than expected.

“Everybody was saying we needed a big guy last year,” Durant said. “So now people are going to expect us to go farther. We got the guy we needed and hopefully we can make the necessary adjustments as far as defensive concerns and have him more comfortable with our offense once he gets here.

“We’re also excited about Nate. We just have to move as quickly as possible getting those guys acclimated with our style, chemistry.”

Williams’ move to Clippers a step up

Mo Williams(notes) enjoyed throwing lob passes to LeBron James(notes) for two seasons in Cleveland. Now, he’ll get the chance to do the same with the league’s newest bright star: Los Angeles Clippers forward and dunk champion Blake Griffin(notes).

“Me playing with ’Bron, we built a great relationship on and off the floor,” said Williams, who was traded to L.A. on Wednesday night in a deal for Baron Davis(notes). “As great as he is, he respected my leadership on the floor. That’s why we worked so well and jelled so well together.

“It’s going to be the same with Blake. Just watching him from afar and talking to people that know him personally, I think he and ’Bron are similar in a lot of ways. They continue to work and want to get better.”

Williams leaves a Cavs team that went from having the NBA’s best record to its worst after losing James. But that doesn’t mean he was pushing to leave.

“I never once went to them and said, ‘Trade me. I want to get out of here,’ ” Williams said. “It was a difficult situation to be in, but [the trade] was something I wasn’t expecting. It definitely caught me by surprise.”

Williams and his family live in San Diego during the offseason home, so the trade will make for a convenient commute. He could become a free agent this summer, but said he’s already agreed not to opt out of the $8.5 million he’ll make next season. He also has an $8.5 million option for the 2012-13 season.

The Clippers haven’t had much success in recent years, but that could change with the young talent they have. And if the Clippers do improve soon? That should give Williams’ old team hope.

“They’re going to have to do the same thing and that’s [build] through the draft,” Williams said. “With the Clippers getting Blake, it changed the whole face of the franchise. All you need is that one guy to bring out the best in the guys that you have on your team.”