Around the NBA: Offseason begins to heat up

Chris Beaven

Forget the Fourth of July.

Free agent fireworks in the NBA started earlier last week when Baron Davis bolted the Golden State Warriors in favor of a return home to Los Angeles and the historically cheap Clippers. It looked like Davis would be paired with All-Star power forward Elton Brand to make the Clippers relevant again.

Then came the response from the Warriors. They made a mega-bid, reported to be $90 million over five years, to Brand, an unrestricted free agent.

And with that, yet another interesting NBA offseason began to heat up.

While this summer might not feature anything as impressive as the Boston rebuild of a year ago, some teams definitely can help themselves this season.

The Clippers would be one if they pair up Brand and Davis. But the coveted big man from Duke is going to consider all his options. Golden State’s offer appears about $20 million more than the Clippers can give Brand, so he’s probably going to have leave money on the table to stay in L.A. And the Sixers, another team with money to spend this summer, could enter the picture.

In the end, though, Brand figures to stay a Clipper. When he opted out of the final year of his contract at $16.4 million last Monday he did so to give the Clippers a chance to make a splash in the free agent waters with a move such as signing Davis, an elite point guard.

After injuries, including one to Brand that cost him nearly all of last season, devastated the Clippers they could turn things back around quickly.

Brand and Davis along with center Chris Kaman give the team a strong veteran core. Forward Al Thornton had a nice rookie year last season and their recent No. 1 pick Eric Gordon is a promising shooting guard.

Pro-active Warriors

The offer to Brand gives the Warriors a chance to dream about him on the low block operating with dangerous perimeter players Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson in Don Nelson’s free-wheeling offense.

Even if the Warriors don’t sign Brand, give them credit for immediately trying to land another star once Davis opted out of the final year of his contract last Monday. The Warriors also made a big offer to Gilbert Arenas (who Friday decided to re-sign with the Wizards).

But while they look elsewhere for additional firepower, the Warriors can’t lose sight of their current roster. Ellis and center Andris Biedrins are restricted free agents, and look like the type of young players the Warriors need to hang onto for long-term success.

What about the Cavs

Brand was one of the stars Cavs’ fans hoped to land this summer, but that was a long shot. So it appears, too, is making a move for Michael Redd.

By trading for forward Richard Jefferson and with new Head Coach Scott Skiles in place, Milwaukee looks like it should be in the playoff mix again.

That makes it unlikely the Bucks would move Redd in the offseason. So who’s left for the Cavs to pursue?

It might not be a sexy signing, but Celtics forward James Posey, an unrestricted free agent, would be a nice addition with the mid-level exception. He’s versatile, a good 3-pointer shooter, a strong defender and most importantly, a winner. The Twinsburg native has won a championship ring with Miami and Boston in the last three seasons as the type of unselfish role player who collects titles over individual accolades.

Others who could be in the Cavs’ price range are Mickael Pietrus from Golden State and Shaun Livingston from the Clippers. Pietrus is a young forward with good defensive and shooting skills. Livingston is a promising young point guard but he is coming off an awful knee injury that cost him all of last season.

Summer hoops

Fans eager to get their first look at Cavs rookies J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson can tune into NBA TV next week. The Cavs play in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Games start Friday, but the Cavs don’t open up until Monday, July 14 at 1 p.m. against the Knicks. NBA TV will broadcast that game and their July 18 game vs. Washington at 5 p.m.

The Cavs also play three other non-televised games in the event, which ends July 20.

Nine of the league’s top 14 draft picks are expected to play, including O.J. Mayo of Memphis and Kevin Love of UCLA.

Ready to go

Utah rookie and GlenOak graduate Kosta Koufos gets his first taste of NBA competition when the Jazz host the Rocky Mountain Revue starting Friday. The Jazz play six games during the week-long summer league, which also features Dallas, Golden State, New Jersey, San Antonio, a D-League all-star team and the FIBA Asian champions.

Utah’s first game is Friday night against the Spurs. Koufos knows Jazz Head Coach Jerry Sloan will be his toughest critic in the weeks and months to come.

“He told me he’s going to be hard on me -- which I love,” Koufos told Utah media in his introductory press conference last week.

More tough love

One player’s whose draft stock rocketed this past season was Joe Alexander, who left West Virginia as a junior. The 6-foot-8 forward went from relatively unknown to the No. 8 pick in the draft by the Bucks, and is quick to credit Bob Huggins for his rapid rise. The two were together just this past season, but that was enough time for them to get the Mountaineers into the Sweet 16.

“I think anyone who wants to be good in basketball likes to be challenged, and that’s what I really thrived on under Coach Huggins,” Alexander told Milwaukee media last week. “There were a lot of ups and a lot of downs, probably more downs than ups in that process. But the real thing that I enjoy is in the end in spite of all those downs, you come out a better player, so that’s why you’re able to enjoy it. Despite the yelling and all the running, despite all that, you still come out a better player.”

Alexander and the Bucks will play in the Vegas summer league.

Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail