The Los Angeles Clippers are making a hard run at signing free agent Baron Davis, multiple league sources said.
Within hours of the midnight deadline on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors guard opted out of the $17.8 million owed him in the final season of his six-year contract. Davis could still re-sign with the Warriors, but the possibility of returning to his Southern California roots is most intriguing to him.
Davis’ decision stunned the league late Monday.
“You just don’t opt out of that kind of money,” a dubious Eastern Conference general manager said.
Davis’ career had been reborn under Don Nelson’s small ball, but acrimony over a benching in the season’s final game and the organization’s reluctance to enter into long-term contract negotiations have strained relations between the Warriors and Davis. With a burgeoning movie production company and a love for Los Angeles, where he was a high school and UCLA star, the Clippers are a natural for Davis.
The possibility of bringing Davis to Los Angeles promises to be a major incentive in re-signing their own free agent, forward Elton Brand. The Clippers could have between $25 and $27 million a year to share between Brand and Davis, space that could help be cleared by renouncing Corey Maggette and Shaun Livingston.
Before Davis opted out, sources said the Clippers were prepared to make a lucrative long-term offer to Sacramento Kings point guard Beno Udrih. Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy is believed to be enamored with Udrih, who blossomed after leaving the long shadow of Tony Parker in San Antonio. Udrih is still a possibility, but clearly the chance to get Davis would elevate the Clippers back into Western Conference contention.
The Clippers also still have a brief window to make a run at Gilbert Arenas, but the Wizards were close to agreeing to a $100 million contract with Arenas, an Eastern Conference executive said early Tuesday. Once Washington re-signed forward Antawn Jamison for four years, and $50 million, Wizards officials believed that Arenas would honor his word and stay in Washington.
Brand and Maggette opted out of Clipper contracts on Monday, but Brand has expressed a strong desire to negotiate a new contract with the team. Finding a way to fit Davis, 29, into the franchise would make Brand – who left $16.4 million on the table with the opt-out – far more eager to stay with the Clips. Davis had one of his best seasons in the league, averaging 21.8 points and 7.6 assists without missing a game for the Warriors.
Orlando and New Orleans are possible destinations for Maggette, sources said. Maggette, who scored 22 points a game, has probably played his last game for the Clippers.
Gerald Wallace has fallen so far out of favor with Charlotte owner Michael Jordan that the Bobcats will look to move the forward this summer. …San Antonio is plotting a bid for Denver restricted free agent J.R. Smith. Brent Barry, who the Spurs nearly traded for Smith in 2006, also opted out of his contract and became an unrestricted free agent Monday. The Spurs hope to re-sign him along with Kurt Thomas, another of their veterans. …The Dallas Mavericks are expected to make a run at re-signing center DeSagana Diop, a league source said. The Mavs traded Diop to New Jersey in the Jason Kidd trade. The Mavs could be willing to use their entire mid-level exception to sign the 26 year old. …The Nets will likely use free agent Nenad Krstic in a sign-and-trade, but are determined to re-sign Bostjan Nachbar, a favorite of coach Lawrence Frank. …The Chicago Bulls have surrounded new coach Vinny Del Negro with three veteran assistants, including Bernie Bickerstaff and Del Harris, league sources said. Bob Ociepka will be the third assistant.