Suddenly and swiftly, the question in Clipperland on Wednesday became: What will Elton Brand do?
In a whirlwind that amounted to "who has the salary cap space now?" the Golden State Warriors reached deep down the coastline and even deeper into their pocketbooks, offering free-agent forward Brand a five-year, $90-million contract, according to multiple NBA sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about player movements.
The offer came after the Clippers expected to reach an agreement with Brand, 29, as soon as Wednesday for a five-year deal worth about $70 million, the most the team could offer under salary cap considerations and still sign free-agent guard Baron Davis, whom the team had come to a verbal agreement with Tuesday, according to the sources.
No deal can be announced until July 9, when next year's salary cap, expected to be about $58 million, is set. Also, teams are not permitted to speak on the specific status of free agents until that date.
The Philadelphia 76ers, one of the remaining teams with significant space under the expected cap, are also expected to enter the competition for Brand's services, creating a potential bidding war for the All-Star forward.
"This is the NBA," Clippers President Andy Roeser said Wednesday. "It's very fluid and anything can happen, but we're confident it's all going to work out for us at the end of the moratorium."
Brand departed for Washington on Wednesday to meet with his agent, David Falk, according to the sources. Neither he nor Falk could be reached for comment.
As Brand flew, the Clippers spent much of the afternoon on the phone with Falk, according to the sources.
Only a day earlier, the club pulled off possibly the biggest free-agent coup in the franchise's history by landing Davis. Todd Ramasar, Davis' agent, said Tuesday that Davis verbally agreed with the Clippers in part because of the lure and likelihood of playing alongside Brand.
Brand and forward Corey Maggette, who for years have been the faces of the franchise, opted out of the final season of their contracts Monday, choosing to test free agency.
Entering his 10th NBA season, Brand has averaged 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds a year. He sat out all but eight games last season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles' tendon and was due $16.4 million next season had he stayed under the final year of his contract.
He is well-received and respected within the organization, not only in the way he trains and dedicates himself to the game, but also in how he handles himself off the court.
But the latest developments in the team's attempts to reach a deal with him on a contract have left some confused, according to the sources.
When reached by phone Monday shortly after choosing to become a free agent, he referred to the Clippers as "we" and said that he would like the Clippers to land a player "solid at the point guard spot," before he would agree to re-sign with them.
At that time Falk said that Brand's decision to opt out had partly been made to allow the Clippers breathing space under the salary cap to sign an impact free agent.
That day, the possibility of the Clippers' losing both Brand and Maggette reflected a dreary day for an organization that has seen more than its share of them.
The next, highlighted by the agreement with Davis, who had appeared to fill the need for a solid point guard, reflected unbridled enthusiasm that had rarely been seen in the Clippers' past.
Deja vu day.
If Brand departs the Clippers, they would again have enough salary cap space to re-sign Maggette, who was their leading scorer last season and was due to make $7 million next season. Maggette, however, is also an attractive free agent and is being wooed by the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers could also begin targeting Atlanta Hawks restricted free-agent forward Josh Smith, who visited the 76ers on Wednesday.
Ramasar could not be reached Wednesday to be asked how Brand's situation potentially affects Davis' verbal agreement with the Clippers.
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