In a sweeping and shocking turn of events, the Philadelphia 76ers emerged Tuesday as the winners in landing coveted free-agent forward Elton Brand, prying him away from the Clippers.
Brand reached a verbal agreement with the 76ers on Tuesday for five years and about $82 million, spurning a comparable offer from the Clippers, according to multiple NBA sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on player movements.
In a day of wheeling and dealing, the Golden State Warriors also reached a verbal agreement with Corey Maggette, the Clippers' leading scorer last season, for a five-year deal worth about $50 million, Maggette said.
Deals can be announced starting today with the lifting of the NBA's moratorium and the salary cap penciled in at $58.68 million.
In turn, the Clippers will now have an abundant amount of salary cap space and are expected to turn their pursuits toward Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, whom they are expected to meet with in Los Angeles today, and Charlotte Bobcats forward Emeka Okafor.
Both, however, are less experienced than Brand and are restricted free agents, meaning any contract offer can be matched by their current teams.
The defections are not expected to affect the Clippers' acquisition of free-agent point guard Baron Davis, who agreed to a five-year, $65-million contract after opting out from his contract with the Warriors last week.
"It doesn't affect it," said Todd Ramasar, Davis' agent, who added his client was disappointed he won't be playing alongside Brand. "Baron made a commitment to the Clippers."
So, apparently, did Brand before suddenly changing his mind.
Last week, Brand reportedly had neared a verbal agreement with the Clippers for five years and $70 million.
Brand and David Falk, his agent, had said earlier that the player's decision to opt out of the final year of his Clippers contract would be made with the notion of freeing up cap space for the Clippers to land a proven point guard. Brand and Falk have not been reached for comment since then.
And exit Brand, who also reportedly received a hefty contract offer from the Golden State Warriors for five years and $90 million.
The Clippers upped their offer to Brand on Tuesday, agreeing to renounce their rights to several players and bumping it up to five years and $81 million.
But there was no bite from Brand, who was in Philadelphia at dinner with 76ers personnel, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
"I thought that we made some moves that had the chance to get a great team on the court," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said, adding he hadn't been able to contact Brand since Thursday. "I thought we had a deal with Baron. I thought we had a deal with Elton. It was a big commitment from our owner. I don't know what happened with Elton. It just didn't work out."
Even as the possibility of losing Brand grew increasingly apparent Tuesday when the 76ers traded forwards Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and a future No. 1 pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves to clear cap space for Brand, the Clippers planned a scenario to sign and trade Maggette with the hopes of acquiring a power forward, said NBA sources who weren't authorized to comment about personnel matters.
Maggette, however, proved it's time to move on to plan C.
Within an hour of news hitting that Brand had neared an agreement with Philadelphia, news broke that Maggette was entering into a deal with the Warriors.
"I really, really enjoyed the fans in Southern California," Maggette said. "I had a great opportunity being there and I will never forget the fans. I wish the Clippers would have at least [given] me an opportunity and they didn't. But there's no bad blood and I wish them the best."
Maggette said he had called the Clippers asking whether they were willing to match Golden State's offer. The response, he said, was no.
The two players opted out of their contracts on the same day last week, choosing free agency. Brand left $16.4 million on the table, owed next season, and Maggette left $7 million. Now, they also find their new teams on the same day.
In seven years with the Clippers, Brand, a two-time All-Star, averaged 19.2 points and 10 rebounds. He missed all but eight games last season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Maggette played eight seasons with the Clippers and averaged 17.2 points.
"Now, we'll just have to go out and find new good players," Dunleavy said.
Last week, with the news of Davis' agreement and what had appeared to be the imminent deal with Brand, the Clippers appeared on the edge of reshaping their organization with a bright eye to the future.
Just as suddenly, the edge became a circle. And the Clippers appear to be turning in it again.