The Raptors have not had much trouble sniffing out deals this off-season, but completing them? Well, that’s another story.
A week after a swap with the Charlotte Bobcats involving Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans, Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw disintegrated after being reported as done, another fish appears to have squirmed off the hook just prior to being pulled onto the boat.
Former Orlando Magic forward Matt Barnes tweeted Monday night: “Nxt (sic) season I will b playing for the Toronto Raptors.”
With little of its $5.8 million US mid-level exception remaining, the Raptors were believed to be signing Barnes to a two-year, $9-million contract via a sign-and-trade with the Magic.
The only problem was, under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, there was no way to legally pull off such a manoeuvre.
Since the Magic did not own Barnes’ “Larry Bird Rights” which allow a team to go over the cap in order to re-sign or sign-and-trade its own free agents, the most it could offer Barnes was a deal starting at $1.9 million. Barnes had already been offered a similar amount by title contenders like the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. On the verge of joining his eighth team in eight pro seasons, Barnes was eager to take a far richer pact from the retooling Raptors after signing on the cheap in search of a title in recent years.
Somebody screwed up here. How do the parties involved not know how much they can offer Barnes?
How can Barnes’ agent allow him to tweet about his destination — especially after the Chandler debacle (Chandler tweeted that he was a Raptor. Evans said his goodbyes to Raptors fans. Hours later, Michael Jordan, Larry Brown and the Bobcats pulled out of the swap)? How could that same agent not know that neither the Magic or Raptors could facilitate a $4.5-million per year contract?
Don’t blame Bryan Colangelo for this mess though. He thought he could get the best remaining free agent, a guy that provides all of the elements his Raptors have lacked — toughness, tenacity, defensive chops. He was doing his job. Barnes’ camp weren’t doing theirs and Twitter, again, only compounded the problem.
If the Barnes signing falls through — and it is hard to imagine any other outcome — it becomes another illustration that, unfortunately for Colangelo, some of his best work is the stuff that does not get done.
Sure he miraculously dumped Hedo Turkoglu’s toxic contract — and give him credit, that was the toughest piece of all to get rid of — but he also almost landed John Salmons years ago and looked to have peddled Calderon’s inflated and still-growing stipend to Charlotte for a couple of solid big men signed to reasonable terms. Call the first two no-gos dirty dealings by potential partners and the last one sloppiness, but the bottom line is Colangelo could not close them and as a result, he is once again looking for another option, another chance to pull something out of thin air.
In hindsight, signing Barnes instead of Linas Kleiza with the bulk of the mid-level exception would have been more beneficial to the Raptors. But back when Kleiza was inking his offer sheet, Barnes was still holding out for more money from a strong club. The Raptors could have waited, but might have ended up with neither.
Barnes only became a reality in the past few days and a fleeting one, it appears, at that.