James gets visitors; Gay nets big contract
While LeBron James listened to reasons why he should leave his team, Rudy Gay was given a huge reason to stay.
The first big deal of the free agency period went to Gay, who agreed to a five-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday that will pay him more than $80 million, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
While not on the top level of players available, Gay was expected to draw interest from a number of teams. He canceled a planned visit to Minnesota when the Grizzlies stepped forward with their offer.
The most noteworthy development on the first full day of free agency didn’t involve a player. The Los Angeles Lakers announced that Phil Jackson would return for a run at a third straight title and a 12th as an NBA coach.
“Count me in,” Jackson said in a news release. “After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It’ll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one.”
James received visits in Cleveland from the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks, and he’s set for more in the coming days before deciding where he will play next season.
In the meantime, deals are getting done around him.
Darko Milicic—drafted right after James with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft—agreed to a four-year deal with the Timberwolves. It includes about $16 million in guaranteed money.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who also went in the top five of that draft, were both in Chicago. Wade met with the Bulls and Nets, and Bosh was visited by Miami. They will visit with Knicks officials today.
After years of slashing payroll so it could be a player in this year’s market, New York finally got to make its pitch to James. Arriving just as the Nets left, the Knicks spent more than two hours speaking with James and his advisers.
The Heat, Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and the Cavaliers also are expected to meet with James before the end of the week.
The next big deal could go to Joe Johnson. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta was prepared to offer a maximum-value contract to its All-Star guard, who also met with New York and Miami after free agency opened Thursday.
Other top names in the class, considered the deepest free agent pool ever, include Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki and Carlos Boozer.
Deals can’t be signed until July 8. There is a moratorium period while the salary cap for next season is determined.