When Elton Brand exercised his early termination option and became a free agent last Monday night, both he and his agent David Falk had plenty to say. It would give the Clippers flexibility to sign another player, they said. EB wanted to emulate what had happened in Boston, where three stars sublimated their individual desires for a team goal, they said. He would commit to the Clippers, if they would commit to winning, they said.
Since that time, neither Brand nor Falk has made a single statement on the record. Not when Baron Davis verbally committed to the Clippers (seemingly fulfilling both the 'flexibility under the cap' and 'commitment to winning' concepts in Brand's ETO decision). Not when Golden State began courting him with a big money offer. And not now, as Philadelphia also pursues him. It's been over a week since Elton Brand last spoke to anyone on the record.
Which leaves everyone guessing. He's the biggest free agent of the summer and by far the biggest who is officially undecided. No one else - not Josh Smith, not Corey Maggette, not really even Baron Davis for that matter - can make a decision until Elton Brand moves first. So naturally Elton is the center of the free agent universe. Every basketball writer has to focus on him, because so much depends on his decision.
But what do you write when EB doesn't return your calls? You write what you can. Jonathan Abrams has tried to cover the current situation as thoroughly as possible in an evolving article on the LA Times website now. It lays out where we are, and detailing the offer that the Sixers are supposedly structuring for Brand. At least we know they are clearing cap space by getting rid of the contracts of Calvin Booth and Rodney Carney for a trade exception. They could be doing it to make a big offer to Josh Smith.
Hysteria seems to have gripped the citizens of ClipsNation full force. He's selling his house! Oh my! (Of course, he listed it June 5, so the timing is not exactly tied to any offers from the Warriors or Sixers.) Baron Davis told Dan Patrick he's going to be a Warrior! (Yeah, he told him that before he changed his mind and agreed to a deal with the Clippers.) And now there are 90-some comments on the last post I wrote about Brand.
Look, we don't have any more information from Elton today than we did last Monday night. It's a little nerve-wracking, I'll grant you that. But we suspected most of this would happen from the start, didn't we? We suspected Philly would try to get in the game. We suspected (after the first day or so), that Elton would take his time and listen to everyone, if only to do his due diligence. Did Philly shed contracts in order to squeeze out a bigger offer to EB because of 'smoke signals coming from Brand's teepee' as John Hollinger so politically incorrectly put it? Maybe, maybe not. Remember, they've got their sights set on Josh Smith too, and a bigger offer there is just as relevant as a bigger offer to Brand. They'll offer the money to Brand first for two reasons - one, he's better. But more importantly, he's unrestricted and can answer with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. With Smith, if they make the offer and he accepts it, Atlanta has 7 days to match, which could tie up Philly's money for 7 days. So an offer to Smith precludes an offer to Brand. So you go after Brand first, whether or not it's a long shot.
The idea that the Sixers have a more exciting team for Brand to join just doesn't ring true. Andre Miller? EB's been there and done that, and even if he thought Andre was a great piece of the puzzle there, this is pretty clearly his last season in Philly. So I hardly see Miller as a big draw. Does Elton want to get into the Eastern Conference where he can make the all star team and the playoffs without breaking a sweat? Maybe. But I fail to see the Sixers as having a more promising future than the Clippers with Baron Davis.
It's particularly interesting how much disagreement there is out there over exactly how things can happen. After maintaining for days that the Clippers did not have to renounce their rights to Brand in order to sign Davis, and then seemingly getting verification from Tim Kawakami and Larry Coon, Abrams is back insisting that indeed the Clippers DO have to renounce Brand:
Contrary to other reports, the Clippers cannot offer Brand a sixth year in their offer, according to an NBA source who is not authorized to speak about player issues. In order for the Clippers to create enough salary cap space to land Davis the team had to renounce their rights to Brand, thus forfeiting the possibility of tacking on another year, leaving it with the hope of re-signing Brand to a maximum of five years.
I'm not saying I'm right and he's wrong. The CBA is ridiculously complex, and there are myriad things about it that I do not fully understand. I am saying that based on my understanding of it, the Clippers do NOT have to renounce their rights to Brand. (More important than the 6th year may be the 10% raises.) Time will tell exactly who is correct on this one.
There's also the question of the 'no trade clause' raised by Marc Stein. Whether it's a major chip or not would seem open to debate, but the Clippers are the only team who can offer it. Earlier today, Abrams was reporting that they would not include the 'no trade clause' in their offer, but as of now there is no mention of no trade clauses in Abrams story.
The moratorium is lifted tonight at 9 PM. I doubt that things will start flying they way they did June 30th at 9:01 PM, but things should heat up tomorrow. Until then, relax, go to yoga class, have a nice dinner. We'll know when we know.