Free Agent Summit – Where Might the Clippers Fit?


So the biggest names in the free agent bonanza that is headed the NBA’s way July 1 have decided to get together and discuss their options as they prepare to possibly change the landscape of the NBA.

Dwayne Wade has told the Chicago Tribune that he planned on meeting with LeBron James and Joe Johnson this summer to discuss each of their plans. Chris Bosh was rumored to also be included in the discussions and now Amare Stoudemire has told Fanhouse that he, too, would like to be among his peers as they discuss their particular situations.

The NBA has rules on the books that prohibit players from “tampering” with other players, but good luck policing – or even defining – that ambiguous term. Today’s NBA stars are a close-knit group. More than colleagues, many players are friends and, in regards to Team USA and All-Star rosters, this group has played together in some regard already.

The agent for Wade has downplayed the possible discussion, saying that calling it a “summit” is a media-driven noun that is being used to conjure up images of clandestine meetings where great world powers decide the fate of mankind. And, well, he’s not far off on this image.

The fact of the matter is that the money these guys are looking for (all of them should be able to get max contract offers) is prohibitive in terms of the players gathering to decide that they’ll all become teammates and create an unstoppable team that would dominate the NBA in ways never before seen.

So if they’re not going to get together to choose a team for all five of them to join, then why are they getting together?

Well, that’s the $1 billion dollar question whose answer will likely wait to be unveiled until July 1, the first day free agents are allowed to sign with other teams. In the mean time, I’m dusting of my speculating shoes and am going to try to shed some (dim) light on the situation.

The first thing that will come up is the money – they’ll all encourage one another to get as much money as possible under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, set to expire after the 2011 season. Speculation is rampant that the next CBA will include less money available for players, both in terms of money per year and in total dollars paid out (This is the reason it’s widely-believed that Stoudemire will exercise his player option, even though he’s set to be paid $15 million next season).

After that, it’s likely they’ll discuss the repuations of the franchises that will be suitors for their services. This is where the Clippers could be in BIG trouble.

Donald Sterling is notorious for his mis-management of the franchise and his spendthrift ways. The franchise will have to rely on Baron Davis (or another of  the current players on the roster, if Baron is to be included in a sign-and-trade) to wave the Clipper flag proudly to attract looks from these guys (and for the sake of this discussion, I’m including Stoudemire and Bosh in this grouping, even though the Clippers appear to be set at the 4 spot, with rookie-in-waiting Blake Griffin ready to man that position).

The fact that the Clippers currently don’t have any management types (i.e., head coach or GM) might actually play in the team’s favor, even though I’ve previously discussed the failings in this thinking. The idea that the possibility of bringing in a coach tailored to any new addition’s liking could be more attractive when discussed in a group setting.

But the fact of the matter is this – the Clippers are entering this free agent derby with a strike against them already and are likely to be a second-tier destination that will attract second-tier players. Joe Johnson used to be the best-case scenario in this second-tier situation but the fact that he has been included in this non-summit and his history with current Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni mean he’s not likely to head west to Staples Center to play his home games.

So, in re-reading this entry, I guess it’s a long way of making a short statement: I have no idea what these guys will discuss when they get together but they will likely talk about how the Clippers are a less-than desireable landing spot for these guys.

In the team’s current state, anyways.