Four teams and a dozen players are now said to be involved, not to mention four future first-round picks and millions of dollars.
But the proposed blockbuster deal that would bring power forward Kris Humphries and a first-round pick to the Cavaliers while helping Orlando superstar Dwight Howard land with the Brooklyn Nets was still just a very strong rumor at press time Monday.
It was a rumor that had very specific names attached to it and seemed to be on the verge of becoming reality — Wednesday was the consensus for it to become official — but there remained a chance the tight-lipped Cavs’ willingness to get involved was being blown out of proportion to national media outlets by the eager Nets and Magic.
Complicating matters even more, there was a late-evening report that the always active Houston Rockets were gearing up to make one final run at Howard, but that appeared to be a long shot, at best.
Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles Clippers, who would reportedly take second-year swingman MarShon Brooks from the Nets while sending a lottery-protected first-round pick to Orlando, emerged as the fourth and final team in the talks involving the Cavs.
Everything was fluid late Monday, but ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports were reporting the Cavs, in addition to getting Humphries from Brooklyn in a sign-and-trade, would acquire veteran swingman Quentin Richardson from Orlando and point guard Sundiata Gaines from the Nets. The Nets would also give Cleveland a first-round pick — the year was not known — and $3 million.
The Nets would get Howard, the centerpiece of the deal, as well as Orlando’s Jason Richardson and Earl Clark, while the Magic would get veteran forward Luke Walton from the Cavs and center Brook Lopez through a sign-and-trade with the Nets.
Brooklyn’s Damian Jones, Shelden Williams and Armon Johnson would also go to Orlando, which would get two first-round picks from the Nets and the one from the Clippers.
From the Cavs’ perspective, the keys to the deal are Humphries, an unrestricted free agent and reality television show star thanks to his brief marriage to Kim Kardashian, and the first-round pick.
More to the point, the biggest key to the deal — and perhaps the lone remaining stumbling block to its completion — is Humphries’ new contract.
Several reports said Cleveland, with the goal of maintaining its substantial salary cap flexibility, wanted Humphries to agree to a three-year contract with the Nets before the sign-and-trade was completed, with the huge stipulation that only the first year be guaranteed.
Humphries just finished a one-year deal with the Nets and is said to be reluctant to sign another, which is basically what he would be doing if the final two years weren’t guaranteed. Agent Dan Fegan went so far as to tell Sports Illustrated that talk of his client signing a one-year deal was “ridiculous,” but that could also be a matter of semantics.
In any event, it would make no sense for the Cavs to take on Humphries for the long term if they aren’t totally sold on him as a key building block, and it appears they are not.
Not only would the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder likely command a contract that starts at a minimum of $8 million, thus eating up a huge chunk of the team’s salary cap room, but he’s also a power forward. With Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Samardo Samuels, that is the one fairly deep position on a weak and thin Cleveland roster.
From strictly a basketball standpoint, the 27-year-old Humphries has slowly developed into a solid player who can hit the 17-foot jumper and rebound, though his numbers were not impressive until last season, when he averaged career highs of 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds in 62 games (all starts) for the Nets.
That might be the one reason Humphries would be willing to have just one year of his new deal guaranteed — if he puts up big numbers again, he could make even more as a free agent in the summer of 2013. However, it’s highly unlikely he would average 34.9 minutes a game in Cleveland, like he did for the Nets last season, and next year’s free agent crop will be much deeper.
Over an eight-year career that has also included stints in Utah, Toronto and Dallas, Humphries has averaged 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds.
If the Minnesota product is willing to have only one year guaranteed, the Cavs would likely be interested in helping facilitate completion of the trade, because they would get another first-round pick. Cleveland already has its own No. 1 in 2013, plus a first-rounder from Miami as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade and the potential to get Sacramento’s first-rounder.
The 6-6, 236-pound Richardson is nearing the end of his career and is not much more than a 3-point bomber at age 32, but his contract — $2.6 million in 2012-13 and a player option for $2.8 million in 2013-14 — fits into what the Cavs are trying to do from a flexibility standpoint.
The 6-1, 200-pound Gaines is a 26-year-old point guard who would compete for time with Donald Sloan. In three NBA seasons, Gaines has already played for Utah, Minnesota, Toronto and the Nets, with whom he averaged 5.1 points and 2.2 assists last season.
One of the reasons the Cavs wouldn’t hesitate to add Humphries for one season is the fact they would be ridding themselves of the final year of Walton’s contract, which calls for him to be paid a whopping $6.1 million.
The Cavs are still in the running — some reports said they were the front-runner — to sign 37-year-old point guard Derek Fisher, who played for NBA finalist Oklahoma City last season. That might change if Cleveland adds
Gaines, though it could still sign Fisher to tutor Kyrie Irving and waive Sloan, who has a non-guaranteed contract.
Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who will earn $16.47 million in the final season of his contract, recently said the Cavs were on his short list of acceptable teams. More than likely, Bynum listed Cleveland simply because it has cap space and he’s trying to drive up interest elsewhere.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.