This series of tubes we like to call the interwebs is simply awash in Clipper rumors lately. The funny thing is, none of them really say anything we didn't know.
Livingston to become unrestricted free agent! Oh dear, whatever shall we do? It just so happens that this is an obvious next move for the Clippers. The only way to keep Livingston from becoming an unrestricted free agent would be to extend him a qualifying offer of $5.8M for one season. It would be unwise on many levels: not only would it be overpaying for a player who hasn't been in uniform for16 months; it is also the worst case scenario for the team, if he were to have a terrific season, prove himself to the league, and then sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent next summer. To suggest that the absence of a qualifying offer is somehow 'news' is a real stretch. It's even more ludicrous to suggest that this is somehow indicative of a return to penny-pinching business-as-usual in Clipperland. Of course, when the author of the story refers to Livingston as a former number 2 pick (in fact he was drafted 4th) you understand just how knowledgeable he is about the Clippers.
Brand to opt out of final year of his contract! This is a disaster for the Clippers! Only except it's pretty much what Brand has been implying he would do for a very long time, and far from being a disaster, it's the first step in the best possible outcome for the team this summer. Elton Brand is owed $16M next season. There are zero teams capable of offering him that much this summer, and only one (the Grizzlies) who can even come close. If Elton opts out this summer, his options are to re-sign long term with the Clippers, take a pay cut to sign as a free agent with the likes of the Grizzlies, or take an EIGHT FIGURE PAY CUT down to the mid-level exception to play for a contender. So what do you think he'll do, given those options? Of course, it makes it easier to guess what his next move might be when he's as much as said he'll re-sign with the Clippers and be back next season. I want Elton to opt out - it means he'll re-sign, and it means he'll be a Clipper for many seasons to come. If he decides to play out this contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent next season when teams like the Blazers and the Sonics and who knows how many others will have oodles of cap space - that's the scenario that worries me. So please Elton, opt out. Opt out soon.
Maggette to Toronto for T.J. Ford! As far as I can tell, this continues to be nothing more than informed speculation. And of course I first floated this idea on April 21, and heard that Toronto had interest in Maggette over three weeks ago. So while I agree that this is a good fit for both teams, which of course we've known for awhile, I don't think we have anything new here. The author puts the trade in the category of one of the three most likely to happen, but in fact he has nothing from either camp verifying interest. Yes, the Clippers need a point guard. Yes, the Raptors need a scoring forward who can get to the free throw line. It doesn't mean that the deal is going to happen. It would not surprise me if it does, nor would it surprise me if it does not. For one thing, each team is going to be looking for the best deal possible, so it's entirely possible that Ford and Maggette each get traded, but not for each other. For my part, if the Clippers are going to hand the offense to a 5'10" Longhorn who goes by initials instead of a name, they might as well draft DJ Augustin and keep Maggette.
What's most infuriating about the reportage of these rumors is the ignorant and salacious anti-Clipper bias. Here's the teaser (on the right, several screens down) on the HoopsHype rumors page :
The LA Clippers appear likely to let Shaun Livingston walk,but will they also allow Brand to go? If so, Brand would immediately become the hottest name in free agency.
For one thing, there is a fundamental difference between the decision not to extend a qualifying offer and the decision to let someone walk. No one, not even the HoopsWorld author, suggests that the Clippers intend to let him walk. Yet the teaser states that it appears 'likely.' As for Brand becoming the hottest name in free agency, I don't disagree that he would be the best player who was technically a free agent. It's obvious and true that "There are plenty of teams around the league that would love to add him to their front line. In fact, there are only a handful that wouldn't." But to ignore the fact that no team - not a single one - can offer Elton a maximum contract is just misleading. Of course, not wiling to stop at merely misleading, the article continues to slander in saying "their notoriously cheap owner might be willing to [let Brand walk away] to save money."
Here's another teaser for a HoopsWorld article (after the Maggette story): "Is Shaun Livingston finished? The Clippers have let it be known that they will not give him a qualifying offer, meaning the injured point guard is looking for a team that's willing to give him a chance to prove himself." Amazingly, when you click on the link and read the actual piece, there's no suggestion that his career is over, or even that his rehab has had any significant setback:
Shaun Livingston: It [sic] what may not be a surprise, word is the Los Angeles Clippers will not make point guard Shaun Livingston a qualifying offer by the end of the month to make him a restricted free agent. This means Livingston will be free to sign with whomever he likes, though considering he is still recovering from that horrible knee injury it's doubtful teams will be lining up to offer him big money. Or maybe any money. What wouldn't be a surprise is if Livingston then re-signed with the Clippers, but at something much lower than the qualifying offer for a former #2 draft pick – think two years and $3-4 million. That's enough money to entice Livingston given the likely market, and also cheap enough for the Clippers to hedge against whether or not the young point guard will fully make a recovery and be productive.
So what they actually wrote is all very reasonable and accurate, and if indeed the Clippers can sign him for 2 years and $4M, that would be great news. How they got from there to "Is Shaun Livingston finished?" is beyond me.
Of course, there have also been some whispers about Livingston's injury possibly taking longer than expected to heal, and those would certainly qualify as troubling. Marc Spears of the Boston Glove recently wrote that he has an 'NBA source' who says "Livingston can't work out back-to-back days and needs about 90 minutes of therapy before doing noncontact basketball drills." What's interesting about these tidbits of information is that we have absolutely no context for them. For instance, did we expect him to be working out on back-to-back days? As for 90 minutes of therapy, what the hell do I care? Does Shaun have the time to do 90 minutes of therapy? Does Rich Williams? Then no problem. It could be like saying that "He'll be required to where a brace on his injured knee" and implying that it's a big issue. Yup, he has to where a brace. Yup, he has to do therapy.
Don't get me wrong, I'd certainly rather be hearing good news about Shaun - stuff like he's playing 5 on 5 basketball, which as far as I know he has not yet done. Art Thompson spoke with Shaun on May 29, less than two weeks ago, and had nothing but positive things to say. He quoted Livingston as saying “I’m feeling real good.” Certainly Livingston might not want to disclose problems, but one does wonder why Marc Spears would have better sources on this story than Art Thompson. Of course, until and unless we see Livingston playing basketball, none of the speculation really matters. We know it was a horrific injury, we know that it has and will continue to be a long recovery, and we know that he'll be ready when he's ready, and not before. Summer League starts in 31 days, July 11th. Hopefully he'll be playing then. If not, the Clippers are flying completely blind on any contract offer going into next season.
And as for the rumors? They'll continue to fly, so get used to it.