Chris Kaman will likely be celebrating the Fourth of July in style after agreeing to a two-year, $9.8 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night. That's a ton of money for a player who didn't do much last season, and makes you wonder exactly what agent Rob Pelinka did to convince Portland this was a good idea.
Kaman, 32, appeared in just 39 games for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, battling injuries and ineffectiveness throughout the year. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in less than 20 minutes per game, which translates to some pretty nifty numbers per 36 minutes, but he also spent significant time playing inferior competition in lopsided games.
It's not really clear what the Trail Blazers see that could justify this decision, but it certainly reinforces the old basketball cliche that being tall pays well. In Portland, Kaman will likely play a backup role behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez, filling out the big man rotation with third-year pro Meyers Leonard.
Hayward to meet with Hornets
The Hornets are just the latest team to throw their hat into the ring this summer, joining the Cleveland Cavaliers as suitors for the Utah Jazz swingman. It's unclear how aggressive they'll be in pursing him, but it may not matter if the Jazz match any offer, as rumored.
The Cavaliers are currently weighing offering Hayward a max-level deal worth $63 million over four years, per reports, while the Jazz remain in a holding pattern with their negotiations. A huge deal for Hayward seems likely, though, with the biggest question being who will ultimately offer it.
So the Hornets can pursue Hayward as much as they want, and he could be an intriguing fit on the wings, but it probably won't matter.
Hawks meet with Deng?
The Atlanta Hawks had a scheduled meeting with free agent forward Luol Deng on Thursday, reports USA Today's Sam Amick. He was supposed to speak with head coach Mike Budenholzer, though Amick couldn't confirm whether the meeting actually went down.
Deng, one of the top wings on the market, is reportedly asking for an annual salary of $12 million over multiple years. That's a pretty huge asking price, and could come down to how the rest of the market plays out.
Still, the Hawks have money to spend after freeing up cap space by trading Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira to Toronto, and Deng is a reasonable fit. With the meeting on Thursday signaling mutual interest from both sides, Atlanta will likely be one of Deng's top suitors this month.
Bulls closing in on deal with Mirotic
The Chicago Bulls appear to be closing in on a contract with European big man Nikola Mirotic, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The 2011 first-round pick could finally make his NBA debut next season after starring for several years with Real Madrid of the Spanish ACB League.
Terms of a deal between Chicago and Mirotic haven't been reported, but it's been speculated that he would sign using the team's mid-level exception. Ideally, that would allow the Bulls to continue pursuing the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love, though it's hard to see either scenario panning out with Mirotic under contract.
Once the Bulls sign Mirotic, he cannot be traded for at least 30 days, putting a wrench in any plans for a possible deal involving Minnesota and Love or New York and Anthony. Most likely, a finalized contract with Mirotic would take the Bulls out of the running for those stars, leaving the team to pursue lesser options like Pau Gasol.
On Thursday, Mirotic bought out of his contract with Real Madrid for $3 million, officially giving him the freedom to sign a contract in the NBA. If this news is any indication, we can expect to see him in the U.S. later this year.
Kupchak to meet with LeBron's agent
LeBron James is reportedly considering leaving South Beach, so what else would you expect the Los Angeles Lakers to do? On Thursday, general manager Mitch Kupchak reportedly flew to Cleveland to meet with LeBron's agent, Rich Paul, later this week.
That should make for quite the holiday weekend for Kupchak, who is trying to salvage the next few years of Lakers basketball by wooing big-name free agents to join an aging Kobe Bryant in L.A. It's unlikely either LeBron or Carmelo Anthony, who met with Lakers officials on Thursday, will sign off, but the effort isn't surprising.
When it comes to marquee stars, the Lakers almost always find themselves in the mix, and this summer is no different. The team will reportedly offer a four-year, $97 million max offer to Anthony, and presumably LeBron could get the same deal if he wants it.
However, pretty much every team wants LeBron, and his agent has already met with the Cavaliers, Rockets, Mavericks and Suns to discuss possibilities if he's done in Miami. So the Lakers are certainly a long shot, but don't be surprised they're trying.