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NBA free agency opens with a wild day of moves
Former Wizard Gilbert Arenas waived by Magic; Washington signs Roger Mason
The NBA’s amnesty era is under way.
Taking advantage of the league’s new get-out-of-a-contract card, the Orlando Magic waived Gilbert Arenas and the $62 million he was owed over the next three seasons as one of the very first moves after the lockout formally ended, and the New York Knicks were preparing to use the clause on Chauncey Billups — a precursor to adding Tyson Chandler as a free agent from the champion Dallas Mavericks.
There was Dwight Howard trade talk, widespread reaction over the NBA’s decision to reject a proposed trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, and dozens of moves in short order as teams worked briskly to start filling their rosters for a rapidly approaching season.
And finally, rookies could become, well, rookies. Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick this year, signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as did No. 4 pick Tristan Thompson. In Minnesota, No. 2 pick Derrick Williams practiced with the expectation his deal would be signed no later than Saturday, and Utah signed, among others, No. 3 pick Enes Kanter.
A number of teams worked out with very small groups, barely enough to play even 3-on-3 in some cases.
“It’s good to be back on the court, to hear the balls bouncing and see your teammates,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “It’s a great day to be back.”
The biggest news was likely yet to come, and New York was in the epicenter of speculation.
Chandler was on his way to New York, though was not yet a member of the Knicks. A person with knowledge of the Knicks‘ plans told The Associated Press that the team is planning to use the amnesty clause to waive Billups and possibly make other moves before having the ability to free up space for Chandler and what could be a $58 million deal over four years.
Howard showed up for the start of Magic camp, amid reports that he was seeking a trade to New Jersey. Orlando was close to making one trade, working on finalizing a deal to acquire Glen Davis from the Boston Celtics for Brandon Bass.
Arenas still gets his money, of course — amnesty only means that teams can rid themselves of salary for cap and luxury-tax calculation purposes.
Teams could begin signing players and completing other transactions at 2 p.m. Friday, with most set to begin practice shortly afterward. The lockout lasted more than five months, leading to a shortened 66-game season that starts on Christmas Day. With about two weeks to set rosters, teams were expected to make dozens of moves Friday.
A day after the Paul trade fell apart, the All-Star guard showed up for work in New Orleans. In Los Angeles, Pau Gasol — another part of the deal, he was to be sent to Houston — was at Lakers camp. Lamar Odom, who was presumed to be bound for New Orleans, showed up more than 90 minutes late for that first practice of the post-Phil Jackson-era, then left after meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak.
On Friday, though, it seems Paul could be soon on the move again.
“We’re talking about everything. Everything is on the table,” Hornets general manager Dell Demps said.
In Phoenix, a person with knowledge of the deal told The AP that Grant Hill is returning to the Suns on a $6.5 million, one-year deal, and later, the team announced that Vince Carter was waived. That move was expected, and only $4 million of Carter’s contract was guaranteed anyway. The Suns also added guards Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair, who tweeted a picture of his new jersey and said, “I’m back. Thank god!!!! So blessed.”
In Miami, point guard Mario Chalmers was smiling as he signed a new deal that could be worth up to $12 million over three years, swingman James Jones and forward Juwan Howard agreed to new contracts and center Eddy Curry — who has played in 10 games over the last three years — arrived to formally join the East champions as well.
The Heat practiced with only six available players while contracts were getting finalized. Mike Miller (hernia) and Eddie House (left knee) are under contract, but recovering from offseason surgeries.
“Excited to be a Heat. Miami, thank you for our welcome, we’ll do our best,” new Heat forward Shane Battier wrote on Twitter late Friday, just after he signed.
In Portland, the news of the day was grim. The Blazers were told guard Brandon Roy will not play this season because of knee problems, and there were widespread reports that Roy is retiring. And while Portland re-signed oft-injured center Greg Oden, it did so while saying he has “suffered a setback.”
Oden has played in only 82 games in his first four seasons while dealing with major knee issues.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the setback, but I’m as determined as ever to return to the court,” Oden said. “I appreciate the support of the Trail Blazers and our fans and that they continue to stand behind me.”
A person familiar with the decision said the Sacramento Kings agreed to a $21.3 million, four-year deal with free agent center Chuck Hayes. The team also re-signed free agent guard Marcus Thornton for $31 million over four years. Thornton averaged 21.3 points in 27 games with the Kings last season after getting traded from New Orleans.
Plus, the Kings completed the signing of No. 10 pick and former BYU star Jimmer Fredette.
For San Antonio, T.J. Ford was on the training camp roster, as was Richard Jefferson, who’s widely believed to be an another amnesty candidate. The Los Angeles Clippers completed the signing of Caron Butler for a reported $24 million, three-year contract.
The Lakers signed sharpshooter Jason Kapono, a two-time winner of the league’s 3-point shootout contest at All-Star weekend. It’s a homecoming for Kapono, a Long Beach, Calif., native who played his college basketball at UCLA. And another former 3-point shootout champion, Daequan Cook, agreed to terms on a two-year deal to stay with Oklahoma City.
Philadelphia is keeping Thaddeus Young, who finished third in voting for the league’s sixth-man award last season, with the sides announcing a tentative agreement. Dallas announced the signing of free agent forward Brandan Wright, a former first-round pick.
The Detroit Pistons are set to part ways with Richard Hamilton. General manager Joe Dumars said Friday night the team has reached a “verbal agreement” and indicated a buyout would be forthcoming. The 33-year-old Hamilton spent the last nine seasons with the Pistons, leading them to the 2004 NBA title.
“We’ve come to a verbal agreement,” Dumars said. “Once it’s official, then I can get more detailed about why buyout instead of amnesty.”
A possible landing spot for him might be Chicago, where incumbent shooting guard Keith Bogans was not practicing as the Bulls opened training camp.
Detroit re-signed Tayshaun Prince to what was expected to be a $27 million, four-year contract. The Pistons added four players — Jake Voskuhl, Kareem Rush, Walker Russell Jr. and Brian Hamilton — to their training camp roster, and re-signed forward forward Jonas Jerebko. He partially ruptured his right Achilles tendon in the Pistons‘ first preseason game at Miami last year, missing the entire campaign.
Roger Mason, a key figure in the lockout talks throughout the offseason, signed with the Washington Wizards, announcing his move on Twitter. And Toronto completed a deal with center Jamaal Magloire, the first Canadian-born player to sign with the Raptors.
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