- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Our latest serving of summertime chatter culled from conversations with a variety of knowledgeable sources -- team officials, coaches, players and agents -- plugged into the NBA grapevine:
There were strong indications Thursday night that the New York Knicks were assembling the final details of an offer sheet they believe will ultimately land Milwaukee Bucks restricted free agent Ramon Sessions.
Terms of the proposed deal were not immediately available, but NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com that the Bucks were indeed bracing for the offer sheet and also more likely to pool the free-agent cash they're prepared to spend this summer to try to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers to the signature of athletic power forward Hakim Warrick rather than matching what's coming to Sessions from the Knicks.
One trusted source insists that the Knicks believe they can extend Sessions far enough to dissuade Milwaukee from matching but without affecting their well-chronicled strategy to leave enough salary-cap space to recruit one maximum-salaried free agent in the summer of 2010. An offer sheet to a restricted free agent must be for at least two years, but it remains unclear how much of New York's $5.9 million mid-level exception Sessions would receive.
Committing the next two seasons (or more) to Sessions, after fruitless free-agent flirtations with Jason Kidd and Grant Hill earlier this month, becomes easier for the Knicks to stomach if restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson indeed return on one-year contracts bumped into the $6 million range. Lee and Robinson would thus become unrestricted free agents next summer while helping the Knicks maintain maximum flexibility.
ESPN.com reported earlier Thursday evening that Warrick, who was transformed from a restricted free agent to an unrestricted free agent last week when the Grizzlies withdrew their qualifying offer, was deciding between Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee and preparing to choose his new team as early as Friday.
He averaged 11.6 points and 5.0 rebounds last season for the Grizz. If the Cavs could add Warrick to Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon -- with their $2 million bi-annual exception to offer, as Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer helpfully reminds -- that would be three interesting bargains to supplement their trade for Shaquille O'Neal and the pricey re-signing of Anderson Varejao.
Outbidding Cleveland for Warrick, though, would still be far cheaper for the Bucks than trying to win the Sessions game. Milwaukee would still have rookie Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour at point guard if the Warrick-over-Sessions signals prove true.
Although the Los Angeles Clippers continue to prefer Sessions over Allen Iverson and other combo guards they've looked at, L.A. expects Sessions to favor signing with the Knicks because he's a lock to start in New York and highly likely to get more money there, too. He'd be a third guard in L.A. behind Baron Davis and Eric Gordon.
Questionable as the fit might be, given that Andre Miller has to have the ball in his hands to be a factor -- which, given Brandon Roy's need for touches, might naturally concern Blazermaniacs -- it's difficult to dispute the wisdom behind Portland's signing of Miller, given the finances involved.
The exact numbers call for the Blazers to pay him $6,730,800 next season, $7,269,264 in 2010-11 and a conditionally guaranteed $7,807,728 in 2011-12. At those prices, totaling nearly $22 million if they bring him back for Year 3, Miller is worth the gamble. Especially given that almost certainly will add some much-needed pep to the Portland running game, irrespective of the skepticism about how Miller and Roy will mesh in half-court sets.
Much tougher to understand is the ongoing stalemate between the Blazers and Roy on an extension, which developed because Portland initially offered a four-year deal as opposed to the maximum five years Roy understandably thinks he deserves.
Two weeks since the impasse went public, we're still waiting for the next tangible development. Roy's agent Bob Myers, though, remains optimistic, telling ESPN.com: "We're continuing discussions daily and are hoping for a resolution at some point."
I ran into LaMarcus Aldridge this past weekend on the eve of the big Chelsea-Club America match at the new American football palace in Arlington, Texas, where Aldridge was invited to take a penalty kick against vaunted Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech as part of the growing links between the NBA and clubs from the English Premier League.
Aldridge was similarly optimistic when we spoke about the negotiations toward his own contract extension this summer, indicating that he believes his deal will get done in spite of the slow start to talks for him and for Roy. I'd have direct quotes -- and video -- to share, but unfortunately I completely flubbed what would have been my first-ever Flip camera interview for ESPN.com and managed to record precisely none of it.
For the record: In what he described as his first soccer experience since fourth grade, Aldridge did convert his PK after swapping jerseys with and getting some quickie coaching from Kevin Garnett's good buddy Didier Drogba although it must be said that Cech helped matters with a half-hearted dive to his left.
And for those of you (like me) who are thrilled to hear that the two most riveting sports leagues in the world are working together, I'm told there likewise will be a heavy Chelsea presence when the NBA goes to London in October for a Chicago-Utah exhibition game.
Word is Hakim Warrick, transformed from a restricted free agent to an unrestricted free agent last week when the Grizzlies withdrew their qualifying offer, is deciding among Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee and could choose his new team as early as Friday.
The athletic power forward averaged 11.6 points and 5.0 rebounds last season for the Grizz. If the Cavs could add Warrick to Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, that would be three interesting bargains to supplement their trade for Shaquille O'Neal and the pricey re-signing of Anderson Varejao.
Yet the Grizz decided, apparently with considerable input from coach Lionel Hollins, that Boozer would have been less than thrilled to play out the final season of his contract in Graceland, thus convincing them that Randolph -- starting over for the third time -- would be more productive.
As difficult as it remains for many league observers to digest the idea that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley felt he could no longer afford Pau Gasol but now is willing to give the combustible Randolph some $33 million over the next two seasons, there's little doubt that Randolph will feature hugely for the Grizz next season.
Given how far away Hasheem Thabeet looked in summer league, Memphis needs a big man who can shoulder a big load. Perhaps Thabeet will be presented as a starter for the Grizz, since he's the No. 2 overall pick, but they will have to put him third on the crunch-time depth chart behind Randolph and Marc Gasol. At best.
Next up for Jamaal Tinsley, after his Wednesday meeting with the Knicks and former boss Donnie Walsh, is a weekend sitdown with Riley in either Miami or Los Angeles.
"I gave my word to Pat Riley that he could meet with Jamaal before we made any commitment," Tinsley's agent, Raymond Brothers, told ESPN.com.
Brothers said Memphis is the third team currently in the Tinsley hunt after his buyout from Indiana last week. It's believed that if Tinsley ends up in Miami, the Heat will use their $1.9 million biannual exception to sign him.
Tinsley officially became an unrestricted free agent on Thursday at 10 a.m. when he cleared waivers.
If you're thinking Dirk Nowitzki will have a problem with Dallas' recent signing of Tim Thomas because of the infamous kiss Thomas blew at Nowitzki during an on-court confrontation in the 2006 Western Conference finals, think again.
Nowitzki said he was disappointed to read from Germany that the Bulls pulled out of the original construction of the deal that landed Shawn Marion in Dallas and would have sent Thomas from the Bulls to the Mavericks. Nowitzki then was pleased to learn the Mavs were able to get Thomas anyway this week as a tall shooter off the bench for the veteran minimum of $1.3 million.
"That stuff is long gone," Nowitzki said this week. "We were in the bottom [six] in 3-point shooting and we needed to address that. I'm happy he's a Maverick."
The clash with Thomas isn't exactly a haunting memory. Nowitzki wound up scoring 50 points in that game, outscoring the Suns by himself in the fourth quarter (22-20) to put Dallas within one win of its eventual trip to the NBA Finals.
During our recent visit with him at the Vegas Summer League, Heisley confirmed that he remains open to selling the team but insisted the franchise won't be moved even if a prospective buyer does materialize.
"We've got nobody interested in buying the team," Heisley said. "[But] I've been so upfront on this. Our situation is well documented. I think Memphis deserves an owner who's there, whether he's from there or whether he moves there. And I said that when I first came to Memphis [from Chicago]. So there's nothing changed about my position.
"I don't foresee anybody buying the team in the near future. As I've said over a year ago, I've focused myself on rebuilding this team, and I think we've done a good job. Contrary to some opinions, I think we've done a very good job.
"If I'm going to change [that position], I'll come out and say: 'Hey, this team's not for sale.' Our position is, if the right situation comes up, we'll sell it."
One more Grizzlies item: Memphis' deal with second-round pick Sam Young is a three-year contract worth $2,658,000. The third season, at $947,800, is a team option. Taken No. 36 overall in June's draft, Young averaged 13.6 points (a team high) and 4.2 rebounds on 51.9 percent shooting in summer league play, helping the Grizz go 5-0.
The Lakers did issue a news release earlier this week to announce a done deal, moving their Oct. 9 exhibition game against Golden State to their formerly fabulous Forum home and making me want to find a way to be J.A. Adande for a night so I could try to sneak into my old seat on the baseline. That's where I was stationed for two seasons in the mid-1990s as a Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Daily News, grateful to occupy one of the great media-row spots in sportswriting history and not just because of the proximity to the four (or so) Laker Girls rotating from corner to corner after every quarter.
The game will be part of the team's efforts to commemorate the Lakers' 50th anniversary in L.A. They played at the Forum from 1967 to 1999, winning six championships (1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988) during that span.
What wasn't announced, though, is that the Lakers seriously flirted with moving that exhibition to an outdoor venue.
In addition to the NBA's previously scheduled trip to the Palm Springs area to play on a hardwood floor laid down on center court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the second straight year -- Phoenix is playing host to the Warriors on Oct. 10 this time -- word is that the Lakers looked hard at scheduling this exhibition in front of what could have been a massive crowd at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Lakers began to pursue the outdoor idea when they scrapped their plans to hold training camp in Hawaii, which forced them to move both their preseason dates (now Oct. 7 and Oct. 9) with Golden State. But because neither of those games was a weekend game, thus preventing L.A. from moving to an earlier hour to guard against a steep temperature drop like the Suns and Nuggets endured in the desert last October, league approval could not be secured.
The sense I get, though, is that the Lakers and other teams will continue to explore their outdoor options. Out-of-the-box ideas are encouraged these days, as evidenced by the NBA's decision to stage the 2010 All-Star Game at the glittering new Cowboys Stadium.
The game between Phoenix and Denver, in spite of the wind and cold, was the NBA's first sanctioned outdoor game since a Suns trip to Puerto Rico in 1972 and was widely considered a success.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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