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News » Early opinion is in

Early opinion is in

Early opinion is in
With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Paul Pierce eligible to become unrestricted free agents after the 2009-10 season, next summer might be the most dramatic free-agency period in NBA history.

The free-agent movement this offseason isn't nearly that compelling, but there already have been a number of moves -- and others that still might happen -- that might shift the balance of power at the top of the league in the upcoming season.

The champion Los Angeles Lakers weren't content to rest on their laurels and made perhaps the biggest move of the week by agreeing to terms with free agent Ron Artest, adding another All-Star to their already-stacked lineup.

With Artest, who essentially replaces Trevor Ariza, the Lakers addressed their only area of concern -- defensive toughness -- with one of the most versatile defenders in the game. If they re-sign Lamar Odom, as expected, the Lakers will be the favorites to repeat as champions.

Of course, Artest is a bit of a loose cannon and has a history of acting out. But the Lakers are supremely positioned to handle a unique personality. Coach Phil Jackson successfully incorporated Dennis Rodman -- a player as eccentric as Artest -- into the Bulls' fold more than a decade ago, and Kobe Bryant is a no-nonsense leader who won't stand for many antics.

''I am very excited to finally be going to L.A.,'' Artest said. ''For years now, the Lakers have expressed interest in having me play for them, but we could never get the stars to align. I'm finally a Laker, and I can't wait to get on the court with Kobe, Pau [Gasol] and the rest of the team and play for Phil.

''The Lakers really made me feel wanted. I look forward to helping the Lakers defend their championship, and it will be great to finally not get booed in the Staples Center.''


The Lakers' biggest competition in the Western Conference likely will come from the San Antonio Spurs, who recently acquired Richard Jefferson in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks to go with their returning core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and a healthy (they hope) Manu Ginobili. That core has won multiple titles, so the Spurs will be a formidable foe.

The jockeying for the top spot is even more competitive in the East, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic trying to one-up each other with bold moves.

The Cavaliers made the biggest move so far by trading for Shaquille O'Neal to team with James. Besides providing a low-post presence on both ends, O'Neal has four championship rings and will relieve some pressure on James on and off the court.

''My motto is very simple,'' O'Neal said during the news conference introducing him in Cleveland. '''Win a Ring for the King.'''

The Cavaliers didn't give up anything of value in trading for O'Neal -- it essentially was a salary dump by the Phoenix Suns -- so the only issue is how much the 37-year-old has left in the tank.

''I have a lot left,'' he said. ''There's only four or five good centers in the league, and I'm in that number. I've been in it for 17 years, but I've missed three years because of injury. If you do the math, I've still got three years left. You got that?''

Got it.

The Cavaliers still want to add another player and were interested in Artest or Ariza (who's going to the Houston Rockets) before they agreed to deals elsewhere. The Cavaliers want a bigger perimeter defender and might turn to Matt Barnes next.


The Celtics, who won the title in 2008, expect to have a healthy Kevin Garnett back, and that should return them to contender status. But the Celtics aren't content to stand pat and have made a three-year contract offer to Rasheed Wallace.

Every key member of the organization made the trip to the Detroit suburbs last week to recruit Wallace in person. The plan is for Wallace to be a sixth-man big man, providing scoring and defense off the bench.

The Celtics only can offer a deal starting at the mid-level exception (around $5.6 million), and Wallace plans to take his time before making a decision.

The Magic will be the defending conference champion, but it is no better than the third pick. It traded for Vince Carter to add more scoring versatility, but it likely will lose Hedo Turkoglu, who reportedly has agreed to join the Toronto Raptors after a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers fell through.

Despite making the most news during the first day of the free-agent period by signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, the Detroit Pistons still aren't worthy of elite status in the conference. The Pistons had the most money to spend this offseason but didn't really accomplish much. Essentially, they replaced Chauncey Billups, whom they traded last season to free up cap space, and Wallace with Gordon and Villanueva.

Gordon is a good scorer and a clutch shooter, but he's not the all-around player Billups is. The same goes for Villanueva, who does many of the things Wallace does -- just not as well.

The Pistons got younger, but they didn't really get better.



unrestricted free agents

Allen Iverson, Pistons

Jason Kidd, Mavericks

Andre Miller, 76ers

Lamar Odom, Lakers

Hedo Turkoglu, Magic

Rasheed Wallace, Pistons

potential 2010

unrestricted free agents

Ray Allen, Celtics

Chris Bosh, Raptors

Tyson Chandler, Hornets*

Manu Ginobili, Spurs

LeBron James, Cavaliers

Richard Jefferson, Spurs*

Joe Johnson, Hawks

Tracy McGrady, Rockets

Brad Miller, Bulls

Yao Ming, Rockets*

Steve Nash, Suns

Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks

Shaquille O'Neal, Cavaliers

Paul Pierce, Celtics*

Michael Redd, Bucks*

John Salmons, Bulls *

Amare Stoudemire, Suns*

Dwyane Wade, Heat

*--early termination option

Opening Odds

to Win 2009-10

NBA Championship

Posted after the 2009 draft:


L.A. Lakers 5-2

Cleveland 3-1

Orlando 4-1

Boston 6-1

Denver 10-1

San Antonio 12-1

Houston 15-1

Portland 18-1

Utah 20-1

New Orleans 35-1

Dallas 40-1

Miami 45-1

Phoenix 50-1

Bulls , Atlanta, Detroit 55-1

Philadelphia 65-1

Charlotte, L.A. Clippers, New Jersey, New York, Toronto, Washington 100-1

Golden State, Indiana, Milwaukee 125-1

Minnesota, Oklahoma City 250-1

Memphis 300-1

Sacramento 350-1

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: July 7, 2009


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