NBA Free Agency Begins: Phoenix Suns Top Target, Grant Hill

The NBA owners and players announced a tentative agreement on a new CBA with a target start for a 66-game season on Dec. 25. Training camp and free agency would like start on Dec. 9. There are many details to still work out and both sides will need to formalize the CBA.

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NBA Free Agency Begins, Phoenix Suns Target Grant Hill First

At 7 a.m. Arizona time Wednesday morning, Phoenix Suns President Lon Babby was already busing making phone calls to his players' agents to check up on them after their long time off due to the lockout. Most importantly he was calling the agents of players who are set to become free agents, including veteran Grant Hillwho will be the primary target the Suns are after before the season starts according to a report by Paul Coro in the Arizona Republic.

"Grant is an absolute first order of business and top priority," Babby said of Hill. "I can't contemplate him not being here. He represents everything we want the franchise to stand for -- on and off the court. He's our ballast."    

After struggling with injury early in his career, Hill has missed only three games the last three seasons and is one of the best examples of a true professional in the NBA. 

Hill is considered one of the top 15 free agents coming into this season,  and will undoubtedly garner attention from other squads. Luckily both Hill and the Suns want this deal to get done, and he and his family are settled into the Phoenix area, so the likelihood of him leaving for greener pastures is slim. 

For more on the Suns, head over to Bright Side of the Sun. 


Phoenix Suns Early NBA Free Agency Outlook

The NBA lockout is over with a tentative agreement announced in the early hours on Saturday morning. There are many details to still be worked out and the agreement could still fall apart at many points before there's a formalized CBA. All signs, however, point to a saved season which will likely be a challenge for the Phoenix Suns who have nine players under contract, little room under the salary cap and no projected All-Stars.

We still don't know how all of the rules will play out under the new CBA, but it seems likely it will be very similar to the previous proposal. The salary cap and luxury tax are expected to be about where they were last year: $58m and $70m respectively with increased luxury penalties for the big-spending teams like Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to NBA commissioner David Stern, both training camps and free agency will start on December 9 with a 66-game season starting on Christmas Day. The Phoenix Suns will hold their training camp in Phoenix on the campus of Grand Canyon University. 

The team has nine players under contracts totaling about $52 million. That doesn't include free agent Grant Hill or restricted free agent Aaron Brooks. Those two will likely be the team's top priorities. Here's a detailed recap of where the team was in terms of salary and free agency prior to the lockout.

Brooks recently signed a deal to play in China that doesn't contain an "NBA out" provision meaning he's contractually obligated to finish his season. However, don't rule out him finding some way out of that deal so he can return to the NBA before February when the Chinese season ends. 

Foward Gani Lawal has been playing (very well) in Poland and proving he's fully recovered from January's ACL tear. The Suns have him on a non-guaranteed contract for this season for just under $800k. Lawal has an NBA out on his contract so there's no reason to think he won't be in camp on time. Center Marcin Gortat was close to signing a deal to play in Turkey but never did. 

We expect to hear a lot of speculation and discussion about trading Steve Nash who's in the final year of his contract. It will be interesting to see how that plays out and what the market for him will be at this point of his career.

With increased luxury tax penalties coming, there could be a few teams desperate to shed some contracts but it's too soon to say how that will play out and the Suns don't have a ton of room under the salary cap to take on contracts.

Overall, the Suns' current roster is heavy on role players but lacking the star power needed to compete in the NBA. The biggest need moving forward is a long-term solution at point guard with the end of the Nash-era coming one way or another. But on a roster with no likely All-Stars, there's plenty of holes to go around. 

Here's a quick look at the current projected depth chart:

Center: Gortat / Lopez  / Frye / Siler*

Power Forward: Frye / Morris / Warrick / Lawal*

Small Forward: Hill* / Childress / Pietrus

Shooting Guard: Dudley / Childress / Pietrus

Point Guard: Nash / Brooks* / Dowdell*

* free agent or non-guaranteed contract

It's very possible the Suns will struggle this season and position themselves with cap space for the summer of 2012 when there are several big stars expected 

For more on the Phoenix Suns, visit Bright Side of the Suns.


NBA Lockout Ends After Weeks Of Wasted Time

There wasn't a lot of joy on the tired faces of NBA commissioner David Stern or his counter-party, Billy Hunter of the NBA Players (Trade) Association. The two sides held a joint press conference in a small conference room in a New York law office and announced a tentative deal on the broad outline of an agreement that would end the NBA lockout and allow a 66-game season to begin on Christmas Day.

"The reason for the settlement is we've got fans, we've got players who'd like to play, we've got others who are dependent on us and it's always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides and get us playing as soon as possible," Stern said early in the hours of November 26.

There are a lot of details yet to be worked out including a vote on the deal by the player and the formal end to the anti-trust law suits that were filed after talks broke down two weeks ago. The full body of owners must also vote on the deal.

We've yet to see the exact details, but initial reports are the owners essentially got what they wanted in terms of a roughly 50/50 split of BRI, increased penalties for teams that spend excessively over the luxury tax, and shorter and smaller contracts for mid-tier players. 

The deal will likely be very similar to ones the players twice rejected over the last month. The owners perhaps moved on some relatively small issues that would have impacted a small number of players in free agency each year.

Without the ultimatums and imperious public negotiating tactics of David Stern this deal could have been reached some time ago. Without the ego and stubborn pride of the players this deal could have been reached some time ago. We'll know for sure once we are able to compare this deal to the previous proposal.

For now, we know the plan is to open both training camp and free agency on December 9. It's worth noting that there are a lot of details in the final CBA that haven't been agreed to and this deal could certainly fall apart at any time until it's officially ratified by both sides.

Here's an early look at the roster and free agency situation facing the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns.


Aaron Brooks Heads To China, Won't Be Back For NBA This Year

The NBA lockout has claimed its first victim from the Phoenix Suns roster. Point guard Aaron Brooks signed with a team in China accord to this report from Yahoo! Sports for a reported $2 million. Unlike forward/center Gani Lawal who is playing (very well) in Poland, Brooks' deal doesn't have an NBA opt-out. Brooks, will stay with his team in China until their season is over regardless of any resolution of the NBA lockout.

Brooks is a restricted free agent which gives the Suns the right to match any offer another NBA team would make him. According to Arizona Republic's Paul Coro, the Suns would likely retain the rights to Brooks once (if) he eventually returns to the NBA. This is similar to the situation Josh Childress found himself in when as a restricted free agent he left the NBA to play in Greece and the Atlanta Hawks retained his rights when he returned two years later.

The Chinese season runs until mid-February so IF the NBA lockout ends and there is a season this year, Brooks theoretically find himself back in the league. 

Brooks was acquired by the Suns in a trade deadline deal that sent Goran Dragic and a first round pick (23rd overall) to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Brooks. Brooks was supposed to provide needed scoring off the bench but his time with the Suns didn't work out as hoped. He averaged 9.6 points per game and shot 33% from three. 


NBA Lockout: Former Arizona Wildcat Derrick Williams Part Of First Lawsuit Against League

As the NBA Lockout continues, the actions taken by both the league and the players are only going to get uglier. Games have reportedly been canceled through December 15 and the chances of any games being played in 2011-2012 look slim-to-none. 

Multiple players have filed an antitrust complaint against the NBA in Minnesota and have plans to file another complaint in Northern California Tuesday evening. Among the players involved in the lawsuit, Derrick Williams is the name many across Arizona will know.

Williams was, of course, an All-American last season with the Arizona Wildcats and departed for the NBA Draft in June. He was taken No. 2 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Because of the lockout, Williams has been unable to begin his professional career. Understandably frustrated with the NBA and NBAPA for not coming to an agreement, it makes total sense for Williams to be a part of the antitrust suit.

Here is the official PDF release.


NBA Competitive Balance: Numbers Prove Spending Matters

Detailed analysis of NBA salaries over the last five years as compared to team wins and playoff appearances. Not surprisingly, the more teams spend the more they win. The NBA wants to level that gap while the players are willing to blow up the season to avoid it.


NBA Players Reject Proposal, Dissolve Union And Head To Court

The NBA players, or at least those that showed up for a Monday meeting in New York, decided the latest offer from the owners side wasn't going to work for them so they rejected it. Instead of making a final counter-proposal or taking other steps to continue the negotiation process despite commissioner David Stern's assertion it was over, they took the legal step of dissolving the union and taking the matter to court.

The legal kind of court, not the basketball court.

The move puts the entire season in serious jeopardy as the process will likely drag out for many months as both sides fight out the details of an anti-trust lawsuit. 

The latest deal from the owners contained changes to the system of free agency and other details related to how much money teams could spend that the players felt would hurt them. The players, however, had already agreed to a 50/50 split of revenue and never explained how the NBA's latest offer actually impacted them.

The league will likely now cancel more games and we could expect to see teams lay off employees as the settle in for the long haul. They've also said they will void all existing contracts.

It remains possible that negotiations could continue and a deal could be reached despite this turn of events. It's just not very likely.

Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash is signed through the end of this season. It's very possible he will never play another game in a Suns' uniform.

For more details, visit SB Nation NBA.


NBA Players Reject Owners' Offer, Ignore Deadline, Head For Cliff

The NBA Players Association meet with 43 players from 29 teams to discuss that latest offer from the NBA owners. After several hours of meetings, the players emerged and announced that they weren't willing to take the deal. The players did indicated a willingness to continue negotiations and indicated they expected to meet with the owners side before the Wednesday afernoon deadline.

The ultimatum issued on behalf of the owners by commissioner David Stern put the onus on the players to accept the current deal that splits the BRI (basketball related income) 50/50 and institutes changes to various rules related to salary cap exception, sign-and-trade rules, and the luxury tax.

If the players don't accept the current offer from the owners, Stern says the deal will be pulled and made far more friendly to the hard line owners who want even more give-backs by the players.

Union president Billy Hunter expressed in the Tuesday press conference that he didn't feel the deadline set by Stern was meaningful and that the players wouldn't be bullied into a deal they consider "bad". Hunter felt that if the deadline passed without an agreement that the owners would not pull the 50/50 split off the table for good.

In their last offer the player proposed splitting revenue 51/49. But Derek Fisher, speaking on behalf of the players, seemed to be open to moving even further if they get additional changes to the system that favor player movement in free agency.

"We're open-minded about potential compromises on our [BRI] number," Fisher said. "But there are things in the system that we have to have"

Hunter and Fisher said the areas they are looking for compromise on behalf on the owners is mid-level exception, sign/trade rule, escrow, and tax cliff. This is a surprising move since the players seem to be willing to trade significant money for rules that allow freer player movement in free agency.

The players opened the door for a deal but it seems to require the owners to accept an even larger share of the pie in return for rules that are more favorable to player free agency.

If the owners are no longer willing to negotiate and are serious about their deadline, the NBA season will likely be lost. If they are willing to move just a bit, a deal should be reached in the next few days.

The Phoenix Suns players were represented at the meeting by Josh Childress.


NBA Lockout Talks Fail Again, Games Cancelled Through End Of November

The NBA players and owners once again pulled the rug out from fans as talks that were looking positive once again failed. The crucial issues remains the split of BRI -- the total revenue pie. Other key issues include the luxury tax details and mid-level exception. 

Union president Billy Hunter says the players have already given up enough in the negotiations and met the stated needs of the owners to address their financial concerns. According to Hunter, the owners side has moved the goal posts and their "eyes got big" and they are asking for even more.

Commissioner David Stern, talking on behalf of the owners. claimed his side moved from a 47 percent of BRI to a 50/50 split (despite having been at 50/50 for weeks) and weren't willing to move any more. The previous deal was 57 percent for the players and they claim the drop to 52.5 percent gives back over $200 million in annual salary to the owners.

There was hope if the sides could come to an agreement this weekend that there would be a chance to still play a full 82-game schedule. With this latest setback, Stern closed the door on that and announced the cancellation of the NBA schedule through the end of November.

The Phoenix Suns schedule is now minus 15 games that were scheduled to be played in November. 

The two sides are still not that far apart so don't be surprised if talks pick back up next week.

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