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Brand Opting Out?

From this morning's LA Times, in a season wrap of sorts from Jonathon Abrams:

Brand is ... believed to be leaning toward opting out. He has repeatedly said that if negotiations go right between the team and David Falk, his agent, that he will return. If so, it will probably be under a new contract.

"You look at security, what's on the table and what you have coming in the next year and what's on the table for how long," Brand said of his thought process. "For a new team, you look at is that team a better situation for you? And then you've got to look at salary again."

Hat tip to citizen Clip Show for posting this item in a comment.  He went on to ask, "Am I the only one just the least bit worried about EB possibly opting out? I know the Clippers will throw max $$ at him if he does, but still it doesn't sit well with me."

I can't speak for everyone, but I see this as really, really good news if you're a Clippers fan.  Here's why.

Even more so than Corey Maggette, Brand's options are extremely limited this summer as regards to getting paid (the exact amounts depend on where the cap ends up next season).

  • Memphis may be able to squeeze out a maximum offer of $16M - but why would Elton want to play there over LA?  
  • Philly could offer him max money - if they renounce Andre Iquodala, which seems highly unlikely.  
  • The Bulls could try to lure EB back to Chicago with a max offer, but ONLY if they renounce Deng AND Gordon.  
  • Miami, the popular rumor for EB given that Riley tried to sign him once before, can't offer him anything unless Shaun Marion opts out, which is just not going to happen.  (Even if Marion does opt out, they'd still have trouble making a max offer this summer.)
As far as I can tell, those are the only teams who can even make it to $10M this summer.  Does anyone really believe EB would opt out in order to take a big pay cut?

And frankly, none of those destinations look more appealing than LA with a healthy Clipper squad (and a film business to dabble in).  So unless he's looking to sign for the mid-level exception at the age of 29 and leave something in the neighborhood of $70M on the table, he seems likely to remain a Clipper in this off-season's market.  Furthermore, nothing Elton has said would lead one to think that he is likely to go elsewhere.  Players have certainly been known to dissemble where contracts are concerned (another reason Carlos Boozer is no Elton Brand), but Brand has been the most reliable of citizens throughout his career.

I also can't help but point out that the Clippers were nice enough to release David Falk's client Sam Cassell earlier this year.  We surmised at the time that it meant something - let's hope it did.

My bigger fear is that Brand would play out this contract and become a free agent in 2009.  Some intriguing teams like the Blazers and the Sonics and the Heat appear poised to have oodles of cap space that summer.  Not to mention that Elton will be a 10 year veteran at that point, and eligible to sign a more lucrative contract.  I hope Elton's not reading this, but if I were his agent, I'd be advising him to play this one out and look at free agency next year.  The risks of course are (a) that he'll get injured again and (b) that signing a long term contract at age 30 is a lot more difficult than doing so at 29 (that may be - it's only one more year, but 30 is a pretty big psychological barrier for NBA GM's).  

But my fear as a Clipper fan who wants Elton in LA is that right now, you can make a case that the Clippers are going to be competitive, based pretty much on the smoke and mirrors of 'Hey, we lost 320 player games to injury.'  That proves that you were bad - but it doesn't prove you can be good.  If Elton were to play out the final season, and the Clippers were to miss the playoffs with a healthy roster next season, the odds of losing him after that would increase exponentially.  More teams with money would be chasing him.  Those teams would be more appealing (can they be less appealing?)  And the Clippers might be a whole lot less appealing.  So the best case for keeping Elton Brand as a Clipper for life, and eventually having 42 in red, white in blue hanging in the Staples rafters, is for him to opt out now.