From Tim to Cuttino to J.R., time for free agency
It's summer time in an Olympic year, just like the free-agent frenzy of 1996. And once again, this is the mettle round.
The test of NBA wills officially opens a minute after midnight Friday. That's when teams can start calling players on the open market, inviting them in for visits, throwing around those crazy numbers. Nothing can actually be signed until Aug. 1, but the nail-biting begins immediately.
Especially in Orlando and San Antonio. Detroit and Toronto, too.
"We'll be making calls at 12:01 a.m.," vows Magic coach Doc Rivers. "There's no reason to let anyone get the jump on you."
The Magic knows from experience. They were mettle-round losers back in '96, when the Los Angeles Lakers stockpiled the salary-cap room necessary to offer Shaquille O'Neal a whopping $120 million over seven seasons. O'Neal promptly relocated from Disney World to Disneyland.
Four years on, it's Orlando's turn. After dumping two of their three lottery picks and veterans Derek Strong and Corey Maggette in Wednesday's draft -- to the L.A. Clippers and Dallas -- the Magic has amassed more than $20 million in salary-cap space.
"They must know something," said one Western Conference executive. "I'm sure they think they're getting Duncan."
What follows is ESPN.com's guide to all the coveted commodities responsible for such speculation. Chicago, at roughly $18 million, is the only club besides Orlando with significant cap room, but that shouldn't prevent the first free-agent class of the new millennium from dominating headlines until the actual Olympics commence.
Stars of the Past
Avoid at all costs
Marc Stein, who covers the NBA for The Dallas Morning News, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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