Free agency is officially here for the NBA and Los Angeles Lakers, and while the buzz will be Dwight Howard's future, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak wasted no time to reach out to several perimeter players at the stroke of midnight. Here's a roundup of everything that's been reported since free agency began.
Dwightmare is here, but Mitch Kupchak strikes twice preemptively
Howard met with Kupchak on Saturday in an unexpected meeting between the two parties. They discussed Howard's future in Los Angeles and why he "belongs" in a Lakers uniform. The Lakers took advantage of having the opportunity to meet with Howard prior to his contract expiring and had the "first" word with Howard before he met with the competing teams for his services.
The Houston Rockets met with Howard Sunday night in Los Angeles, but not before Kupchak made the Lakers' presence felt once again. Kupchak met with Howard in person, briefly, moments prior to the Rockets' group meeting with the superstar big man. The Lakers will be the last team to meet with Howard on Tuesday and Kupchak made sure they were also the first franchise to reach out to the big man once he officially became a free agent.
Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD reports that Kupchak simply shook Howard's hand and wished him good luck in his free agency process.
The Rockets presentation included Hakeem Olajuwon, Chandler Parsons, James Harden, Clyde Drexler, Daryl Morey and Yao Ming (via Skype). Howard will meet with the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors on Monday, and the Dallas Mavericks and Lakers on Tuesday.
In short: Mitch Kupchak is a ninja.
The Lakers make their first round of "inquiries"
While Howard was off meeting with the Rockets, the Lakers front office placed several calls to free agents across the league. There is one clear theme across the majority of the players they expressed interest in: perimeter shooting on the wings.
The first report to come out was the Lakers interest in Chris Copeland. Copeland was a 29-year-old rookie who spent multiple season overseas. In his first year in the NBA with the New York Knicks he shot 42 percent from beyond the arc, and could be an under the radar target for Kupchak and company.
The Lakers have also contacted free agent Earl Clark. Clark was a surprise role player who was considered a "throw in" for Howard in the initial trade. The Lakers are expected to maintain contact with Clark but have set a budget on what they are willing to offer Clark. While the contract value is unclear, they do not want to sign him for more than a one-year deal. Two or three teams contacted Clark's agent at midnight.
Francisco Garcia is another wingman that the Lakers put a call in to. Garcia's team option was not picked up by the Rockets and he is now an unrestricted free agent. There is said to be "mutual" interest between the sides. Kobe Bryant and Garcia have gotten into a tussle or two in the past, which basically means they are destined to become teammtes going by history (except you, Raja Bell).
Another former Rocket that the Lakers reached out to is Carlos Delfino. Delfino, much like Garcia, was a cap space saving casualty as Houston cleared as much salary as possible for their pitch to Howard. Delfino is another floor-spacing small forward for the Lakers to consider. He shot 37 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Speaking of former players, former-Laker Jordan Farmar and the Lakers are said to have "mutual interest". Farmar has been tucked away overseas in a Turkish league and, in May, discussed his openness to return to the states and the purple and gold. The Lakers could be down two point guards after waiving Chris Duhon and not extending a qualifying offer to Darius Morris, and relying on the health of Steve Nash and Steve Blake to prevail could prove to be a costly gamble.
Another former-Laker that the purple and gold reached out to at midnight is Matt Barnes. Barnes left the Lakers after two seasons with the franchise and had a career year with the other Los Angeles team, the Clippers. While he isn't the consistent floor-spacer they seek, he proved to be a solid player in transition and as a cutter while with the Lakers.
California product Nick Young is back on the Lakers radar after they expressed interest in signing the "shoot first ask questions never" guard. Young signed with the Philadelphia 76ers last Summer on a one-year, $6 million deal which likely puts him out of the Lakers price range. While the Lakers are clearly looking for perimeter depth, it's hard to see Young fitting, for the price, as a small forward in a pinch.
Wayne Ellington is another shooting guard who made the Lakers' call list. Ellington finished his year with the Cleveland Cavaliers strong after the Memphis Grizzlies traded him. Ellington put up career-highs in Cleveland, but much like Young, is too small to slide up as a small forward.
Lastly, the Lakers let Chase Budinger know they had interest in bringing his versatility on offense aboard. Budinger is considered a three-point specialist while also being a solid cutter and finisher at the rim. He was hampered by knee injuries last season and never returned to his solid form and is now an unrestricted free agent. The Lakers only have their mini mid-level exception of $3.1 million to offer at best, and other teams have already expressed interest in signing him. Teams with cap space.
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