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Catch Up Post - Brand Rumors

Obviously, I haven't posted in awhile.  Rather than get into the reasons, I'm just going to dive back in with a series of catch-up posts trying to summarize the situation as I see it, with the draft fast approaching.  First up - what's with those 'Elton Brand wants out' rumors.

Rumors are a funny thing.  As they say at Golden State of Mind, '99% of rumors never happen, but 99% are fun to talk about'.  Well, the rumor that Elton Brand might opt out to sign for less money with a contender must fall into that category of the 1% that are NOT fun to talk about.

First of all, I have never seen a bit of attribution for this rumor.  Not even something as nebulous as 'sources say'.  It's just out there.  Art Thompson III, the dean of Clippers beat writers who is certainly very plugged into all things Clippererian, has mentioned it twice in blog posts:  on June 12th he wrote: "There have been rumors that Brand not only is considering opting out but also rejecting any contract offer the Clippers extend and instead severing ties with the franchise that he has played for the past seven years," and on June 15th he wrote "the rumors are Brand has grown tired of losing and is not convinced that the Clippers can rebuild into a playoff-contending team, anytime soon."

So let's be clear: if it weren't ATIII saying these things, I would ignore them completely.  These are ominous words, but they are just words, and they are counter to what Brand has said publicly.  In fact, it's worth noting a couple of things regarding this specific story as relayed by ATIII - the June 15th post included direct quotes from Brand, including one in which he said. "The best-case scenario is to be here and to get to the championship, in the time that we have, and then everything would be great."  Hardly the talk of someone who is planning to reject a maximum offer and leave 10s of millions of dollars on the table, though at the same time not a guarantee that he'll be back either.  Furthermore, in multiple blog posts focusing on Brand's situation since June 15th, ATIII has failed to mention these rumors, so take that for what's it's worth.  If it was a reliable enough rumor to bring it up on June 15th, why would it be omitted from a 'Brand contract' post on June 19th?  And frankly, while I've heard this sort of 'opt out and sign elsewhere' talk elsewhere (and was told that it was discussed on 570 AM as well), most of it seems to be coming from the echo chamber.  Yes, he has an opt out, no he hasn't made a decision, yes, he may exercise the opt out.  Some people seem to conclude that it follows that he wants to sign elsewhere, which is simply not the only possible progression, nor even the most likely one.

In addition to these unattributed rumors, a 'Clippers' insider' was recently quoted in a couple of places saying that 'no one is safe right now.'  I have no problem with that.  With names like Arenas, Redd and Davis floating around out there, I think you have to consider deals involving anyone on the roster.  Not that I would necessarily do the deals, but you have to consider them.  These are all stars we're talking about.  I've gone on record as saying that if there really is a Marion and the second pick for Brand and the seventh pick deal out there, I'd probably do that deal.  Which illustrates the point that no one is safe, and that's as it should be.

But back to Brand and his specific situation.  I've said this over and over, and I'll say it again here: everything about this summer's free agent market indicates that EB will be a Clipper next season.  The Grizzlies have the most money to spend, and he'd still have to take a pay cut to sign in Memphis.  And if indeed he's 'tired of losing', Memphis would hardly seem to be the remedy.  The bottom line is that there are zero teams that could be reasonably considered 'contenders' with the ability to offer any more than the mid-level exception to Elton Brand.  Is it possible that a 29 year old All Pro would choose to sign with a contender at a personal expense of $50M-$70M because he's 'tired of losing'?  Sure, it's possible.  But it would be literally the first time ever.  Ever.

So, given the fact that I trust ATIII, where are these rumors coming from?  Most likely from David Falk, Brand's agent.  I don't believe for a minute that Brand would leave $50M on the table to sign elsewhere.  But if Elton does choose to opt out in this summer's buyer's market, there is also the possibility that the Clippers could try to sign him at a discount, since no other teams have the money to compete for him.  Floating these 'he wants out' rumors may be a way of insuring that the Clippers pony up a maximum offer immediately.  I think they were going to do that anyway, but it's hard to tell with Donald Sterling. 

If Elton Brand truly wants out of LA, the smart thing for him to do would be to play out the final year of his contract.  He'd make $16M next season and become a free agent in 2009 when significantly more teams would have significantly more money to spend.  He'd also have the chance to prove whether or not the Clippers can compete before leaving town.  The June 30th opt out deadline is 6 days away.  If EB opts out, it's good news for Clippers fans, as he'll re-sign with the club (possibly to then be traded, but at least they'd get something in return).  If he plays out this contract, then we'll have to go through this angst times ten next summer.