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Livingston's Contract

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On a 15 man roster, the Clippers have only 5 players (Chris Kaman, Cat Mobley, Tim Thomas, Al Thornton and Brevin Knight) signed to fully guaranteed contracts next season.  (Pathetically enough, those 5 were the Clippers starters more than once this sad, sad season, so we know what we're dealing with if those are in fact the only players who come back.)  In addition to those 5, Josh Powell is signed for two more years, though his contract is only partially guaranteed.  And of course we know that Corey Maggette and Elton Brand both have early termination options which they can exercise to become free agents.  If Maggette and Brand exercise their ETO's, the Clippers will have 9 free agents among the 15 players who finished the season on the roster.  So it's going to be a busy off-season.

Some of these free agents will be easier to deal with than others.  In the case of Elton Brand, it's a matter of offering him a maximum contract and hoping he signs it.  (By the way, I've often criticized teams for 'bidding against themselves' for a player's services, but the rules change for Elton Brand.  You offer him a maximum contract even if no one else is able to, because it's the right thing to do.)  

On the other end of the spectrum, you don't bother offering Dan Dickau a contract (I think Dickau outplayed Brevin Knight this season, but Knight is signed, Dickau is not, and neither one of them was particularly good.  So there's no point bringing Dickau back.)  And players like Nick Fazekas and Marcus Williams and Paul Davis are relatively easy  also - they play in Summer League, they come to camp on make good minimum deals, if they make the team great.  In the meantime, if someone else makes them a better offer, maybe you guarantee the money for Ze Freak - but I don't see offering him more than the minimum based on 300 NBA minutes.  The other guys are welcome to go elsewhere.

Quinton Ross is likely gone.  I would suspect that even MDsr recognizes that the experiment failed.  Let Q try to find a good team who can use him as a stopper.  (It's hard to dedicate that roster spot to such a one-dimensional player on a bad team.)  Besides, with Brevin Knight signed and likely to at least play backup point guard minutes, you can ill-afford to have another backcourt player so woefully incompetent on offense.

Smush Parker I won't comment on.  I assume he'll end up in camp.  FSM forbid, he may make the team.  If it were up to me, he would not have been here at all, so I can't really speak to what they're planning to do with him.

The complexity increases with Maggette.  You make nice with Corey and his agent Rob Pelinka - you tell them how much you want Corey to be in LA.  And you start with the same 3 year deal starting at $8.5M you offered him last summer.  He'll want more, and then you do your level best to figure out if you're actually going to lose him for nothing in return.  Maybe you increase the offer.  Maybe you can work a sign and trade.  But in Corey's case, you definitely don't bid against yourself.  I don't think another team is going to offer him more than that 3/$30M deal, so it's a matter of maintaining a pretty strong negotiating position without insulting the guy.  (Of course, given Donald Sterling's attachment to Corey, it may go very differently.)

But by far the most complicated situation for the Clippers this summer is Shaun Livingston.  The Clippers have until June 30 to make a qualifying offer of $5.8M to make Livingston a restricted free agent.  If however they rescind that qualifying offer before the 30th, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.  

I had been under the perhaps wishful impression that Livingston would play some this season, so that the Clippers would not be flying quite so blind on his new contract.  But $5.8M is a LOT of money to pay a guy who has played in 145 of a potential 328 games in 4 seasons (and whose career PER is a less than awe-inspiring 11.7).  

It would be nice for the Clippers to maintain the right to match offers - but realistically it's not as if any other team is going to offer him a contract starting at $5.8M.  That's approximately the same as the full mid level exception, and there are other players teams can go after for that sort of money.  If the Clippers don't make the qualifying offer, Livingston becomes an unrestricted free agent, and would be free to sign with another team, perhaps believing he could leave the ghosts of Danny Manning and Ron Harper behind him.  But if they do make the qualifying offer, he could choose to accept it for a single season, hoping to have a strong 08-09 and cash in big time as an unrestricted free agent in summer 2009.  So there aren't any particularly good solutions.  

The question of loyalty will certainly come into play here.  The Clippers have of course paid him a lot of money already to play in fewer than half of their games these last four years.  And situations like these usually create a mutual 'need' in the actors - the Clippers 'need' to justify their use of the 4th pick in the draft; Livingston 'needs' to prove that the organization's faith in him was warranted.  So it seems unlikely that Livingston would go to another team, even if he were able to.

I'd like to see Livingston signed for less money, but more seasons.  Something in the neighborhood of 3/$10M.  It's more money for Shaun in aggregate, mitigating his worst case scenario of never being able to play at a high level again.  It also addresses the Clippers worst fear - not that he can't play (there's insurance for that), but that he plays, he plays great, and then he signs somewhere else at the age of 23.

But I have no idea how the Clippers will approach this one.  Like I said, it's complex.