This was supposed to be the appetizer for the highly awaited main course of NBA free agency next summer.
But if it wasn't already obvious to interested parties, it became painfully clear on Thursday that the eventful last nine days around the league have expanded well beyond a mere first course. And if you want to keep the food analogy going -- and no, this has absolutely nothing to do with Shaquille O'Neal's draft-day trade to Cleveland -- just look at the latest bloated deal. Also known as the Trade That Ate the NBA.
Actually, this blockbuster was more like a snowball getting bigger and bigger as it rolled down the mountain, eventually expanding into an eight-player, four-team deal involving Toronto, Orlando, Memphis and Dallas.
The linchpin of the deal was a familiar face to Lakers fans, 6-foot-10 Hedo Turkoglu, who helped lead the Magic to the NBA Finals, averaging 15.8 points in the playoffs. Turkoglu moves north of the border, joining Chris Bosh and Co. in Toronto as the Raptors pulled off a couple of sign-and-trade deals.
Forward Shawn Marion of the Raptors goes to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for forward Devean George and swingman Antoine Wright. The Mavericks also acquired reserve forwards Kris Humphries and Nathan Jawai from Toronto.
Additionally, the Mavericks traded swingman Jerry Stackhouse to Memphis (and the Grizzlies received payment to buy him out) for guard Greg Buckner.
But it wasn't all a total loss for the Magic, at least not monetarily.
The sign-and-trade move enabled Orlando to receive a $7-million trade exception, meaning the Magic has up to a year to use that money in a future deal.
Turkoglu was this summer's Elton Brand, a man of misdirection who ended up causing all sorts of ripple effects around the league.
Last summer Brand, as you'll recall, lured Baron Davis to the Clippers from the Warriors, pitching visions of a great buddy show in Los Angeles, then abruptly bolting for Philadelphia, and the Clippers and Golden State are still feeling the aftershocks. Free agent Turkoglu, whose deal with the Raptors is for a reported $53 million over five years, had reached a verbal agreement with the Trail Blazers and then changed his mind with reports suggesting his wife preferred the cosmopolitan nature of Toronto.
That triggered a chain of events. Portland then moved to pursue restricted free agent Paul Millsap of the Jazz. In addition to Millsap, other big name free agents on the outside looking in, as of late Thursday night, were Lamar Odom, Andre Miller, Glen Davis and Allen Iverson.
Memphis has had the most interest in Iverson, and a considerable long shot would be the Clippers, who have been intrigued by Iverson in the past.
(Ron Artest and Iverson in the Staples Center corridors? Talk about a reality show.)
Back to the completed deals, namely the Turkoglu blockbuster, which held short-term and long-term consequences.
Long-term? Turkoglu in Toronto could convince one of the projected free agent treasures of 2010, Bosh, to stay with the Raptors, cutting into some of the hype with LeBron James of the Cavaliers at the head of the class.
That and the expected drop in the NBA luxury-tax threshold for the 2010-11 season, a considerable worry already changing the landscape this summer, is causing many bigger names to return to their own teams.
Short-term? The complicated four-team Turkoglu deal put a hold on the deal agreed to last week between the Clippers and Memphis, sending Zach Randolph to the Grizzlies in exchange for Quentin Richardson. Accounting issues have held things up and Memphis would not have been able to acquire Stackhouse from Dallas if Randolph's contract was on their books. Once the trade is completed, including physicals, the Grizzlies are expected to waive Stackhouse and then the Randolph deal can be finalized after the waiver period of seven days passes.
The Clippers, who on Thursday signed their No. 1 pick Blake Griffin to a four-year deal worth $23 million, were concerned when it appeared the four-team deal could become even more complicated, which would further delay the Randolph trade. Apparently, the suggestion they would move on and explore another avenue was enough to get it all done.
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Los Angeles salaries
The Lakers are already committed to paying about $84 million in player salaries for next season:
*--* LAKERS 2009-10 salary Kobe Bryant $23 million Pau Gasol $16.5 million Andrew Bynum $12.5 million Ron Artest $5.6 million Adam Morrison $5.2 million Derek Fisher $5 million Sasha Vujacic $5 million Luke Walton $4.8 million Shannon Brown $2 million Jordan Farmar $1.9 million DJ Mbenga $959,000 Josh Powell $959,000 *--*
The Clippers are committed to paying about $65 million in player salaries for next season: