- Peter May, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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Troy Murphy has appeared in 639 games over 10 seasons, including a mere 18 in 2010-11. He last set foot on an NBA floor on Jan. 7, when he logged 11 minutes for the New Jersey Nets in a 97-77 loss at Washington. But he is in demand these days.
When Murphy clears waivers on Wednesday, he will sign with a team that gives him the opportunity to do something he has never done: participate in an actual NBA playoff game. Yes, 10 years after being drafted No. 14 out of Notre Dame, Murphy will finally end his playoff drought.
The only remaining question: where?
The Celtics and Miami Heat are presumed to have the most interest in the 6-foot-11 Murphy, who has the size of a power forward but is better known as a wing player, at least on offense. He can rebound. But he was persona non grata in New Jersey and has been chilling in his crib since January, when the Nets told him to stay home. New Jersey traded Murphy to the Warriors, his original NBA team, but Golden State bought him out on Sunday.
The Celtics cleared the bottom of their roster on Thursday to obtain some flexibility to bring in someone like Murphy. Danny Ainge has a history of doing this sort of thing, signing a bought-out Sam Cassell in 2008, a bought-out Stephon Marbury in 2009 and a bought-out Michael Finley in 2010. The Celtics currently have 13 players on their roster, 12 if you don't count the just-signed Chris Johnson, who could be released at any time if the need arose.
Murphy might well prefer Miami. (If he has any doubts, he should go to www.weather.com.) The Heat might be able to offer him more playing time. The Celtics, if healthy, go 10 deep without Murphy, and Doc Rivers likes to play an eight- or nine-man rotation in the postseason. That alone might convince Murphy he has a chance to play more in Miami.
As colleague Chris Forsberg pointed out in his Monday chat, whomever the Celtics bring in is not likely to make a major splash unless the injury situation continues unabated.
There are a number of names out there for possible buyouts. Generally, you can identify the candidate by three characteristics: he is on a bad team, he is in the last year of his contract and he would be presumed to have some value on another team. Under those conditions, Richard Hamilton does not qualify because he has more than a year left on his contract. But wouldn't the Celtics (or Chicago) love to get their hands on Rip? Doesn't look like it's gonna happen.
Also, if the player is currently on an NBA roster, he needs to be placed on waivers by March 1 (Tuesday) to be eligible for the playoffs. (Finley was waived March 1, 2010, by San Antonio and signed a week later by the Celtics.) A player not on an NBA roster can be signed up to the last day of the season (as the Celtics did with Dana Barros in 2004). Rasheed Wallace fits into that category. So, too, would someone like Antoine Walker.
But as far as buyout possibilities, here are some candidates who, as they say, fit the profile.
Jared Jeffries: Houston already bought him out last Friday. He is believed to be heading back to New York, where he spent three-plus seasons. He would give the Knicks a big (6-11) defensive body, which is something they lack. Rasual Butler: The Clippers bought him out (a procedure owner Donald Sterling, a lawyer, claimed to know nothing about a few years back when the Celtics bought out Cassell). The Bulls supposedly have the edge on the 6-7 swingman, who began his career in Miami in 2002. He can shoot. Jason Kapono: OK, he is not on a bad team. The Sixers just went over .500 for the first time this season and are fighting the Knicks for the No. 6 spot. But Kapono has not been a factor this season after playing 57 games for the Sixers last season. This year? Eighteen games, six of those being cameos of less than a minute. Kapono has a ring from the 2006 Miami Heat, but his one forte, shooting, has been dreadful this season. He's shooting less than 30 percent from the field on both 2- and 3-pointers. If he can't shoot, he isn't much use to anyone. Josh Howard: He has appeared in only 14 games for the Wizards this season, not making his debut until mid-December due to injury. And then he played in only one game in January. His contract is up at the end of the year and he is on a horrible team. He also has some behavioral issues, but Ainge has never shied away from that stuff in the past (see: West, Delonte). And Ainge loved Howard coming out of college, but that was in 2003. The question now is whether the Wizards would buy him out. He's been starting for them in place of the injured Rashard Lewis. Tayshaun Prince: While Hamilton appears to be staying put, the Pistons could do something with their starting small forward. This is the last year of Prince's contract and he is undeniably on a team going nowhere. But would the Pistons move to accommodate Prince, who would presumably be of value to a playoff team? He is averaging 14.1 points a game, better than his career average. But he is slumping lately: 0-of-12 from the field in the past four games, two of which he missed. The Pistons may not be interested in doing anything with Prince. The team also is in the process of being sold, so that may factor in, as well. Samuel Dalembert: Here's a guy right out of Buyout Central Casting. He's playing for maybe the worst team in the NBA (Sacramento) and is in the final year of his contract. As a defensive-minded big man, he would seem to have a lot of appeal if available on the open market for a bargain-basement price. There has not been any indication from Sacramento that it would buy out Dalembert. But a size-challenged team like Orlando (or even Miami) could sure use a guy like him. Mike Bibby: Bibby's agent said late Monday that he and the Wizards have agreed to terms on a buyout. Miami is his likely landing spot, but other contenders, including the Celtics, reportedly have interest. "He sacrificed some money in order to win a championship," David Falk, Bibby's agent, told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard. "Once you're past 10, 11 years in the league, you want to be in a situation where you can win. He's got some attractive options open to him." Corey Brewer: The Knicks and Brewer are closing in on a buyout agreement that will make the former Minnesota swingman a free agent, sources close to the situation told Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Brewer joined the Knicks only last week as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal. Sources say that Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Dallas have expressed interest. The Celtics reportedly investigated bringing in Brewer via trade before the Carmelo Anthony deal went down. Brewer would add another young wing player to the mix and give the Celtics two lottery picks from the 2007 draft (Brewer and Jeff Green).
You'll hear some other names as well, guys like Leon Powe, Dan Gadzuric, Vladimir Radmanovic and Sasha Pavlovic. The Celtics clearly have their eyes on adding to the mix, if we can use last Thursday's deals as a guide. But if they ever get everyone healthy, the new addition, whoever he might be, might do a lot more watching than playing.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.
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