NBA News and Notes

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Salary cap set at $55.63 million, moratorium period ends Wednesday
July 10th, 2007

New York, NY (Sports Network) - The NBA announced Tuesday that the salary cap for the upcoming season will be set at $55.63 million.

The cap, which will rise about $2.5 million from last season's $53.135 million, takes effect Wednesday, when the NBA's moratorium period ends and trades can resume. Negotiations with free agents has been allowed since July 1, however the deals could not be finalized until the new cap was determined.

The mid-level exception is also rising, from $5.2 million to $5.36 million, and the tax level is up from $65.42 million to $67.87 million. Teams must pay a $1 tax for every $1 by which they exceed that figure.

The minimum team salary is set at $41.72 million, 75 percent of the salary cap.

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Report: Francis headed for free agency after Blazers buyout
July 11th, 2007

Portland, OR (Sports Network) - Steve Francis' stint as a Trail Blazer will be a short one, as Portland will waive the 30-year-old guard and agree to terms on a buyout of the final two years of his contract, multiple media sources reported Wednesday.

Francis was traded to Portland from the New York Knicks along with Channing Frye in exchange for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau and Fred Jones in a draft night trade on June 28. The Trail Blazers, according to sources that include the Washington Post and Newsday, will buy out the remaining two years of Francis' contract for almost the full price, paying more than $30 million of the $34 million owed to Francis over the next two years.

The former all-star will become a free agent after he clears waivers next week. Francis averaged a career-low 11.3 points per game in New York last season, well below his career average of 18.4 points per game.

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Re: NBA News and Notes

Pistons re-sign Billups
July 11th, 2007

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) - The Detroit Pistons re-signed guard Chauncey Billups to a multi-year contract Wednesday.

Terms of the deal were not released, but last Friday, the Detroit Free Press reported Billups and the Pistons agreed on a five-year, $60.5 million contract with the fifth year being a team option.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Chauncey Billups," said Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars. "We have said from day one that re-signing Chauncey was our top priority of the offseason and we are excited that he will be a Piston for years to come."

Billups had opted out of his contract on June 25, making himself one of the top unrestricted free agents on the open market. He was in the final year of his six-year deal and was slated to make over $6 million in 2007-08.

Last season, Billups averaged 17.0 points and 7.2 assists per game.

Originally the third overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by Boston, Billups has averaged 14.5 points and 5.3 assists with the Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons.

He has found a home over the last five seasons in Detroit, guiding a Pistons team that has turned into perennial playoff contenders and won it all in 2004.

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Sign-and-trade deal sends Lewis to Orlando
July 11th, 2007

Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - The Orlando Magic have landed one of the top members of this year's free-agent class in forward Rashard Lewis, who was acquired from the Seattle SuperSonics in a sign-and-trade deal on Wednesday.

Lewis was dealt in exchange for a future conditional second-round draft pick, according to Orlando general manager Otis Smith. Per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though a report in the Seattle Times last Tuesday said Lewis had agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract.

"Rashard is a young, athletic forward and a proven scorer in this league," said Smith. "We feel his skills will be a tremendous addition to our team and we are very excited to have him join the Magic family."

The six-foot, 10-inch Lewis, who turns 28 next month, averaged a career-high 22.4 points per game last season, and pulled down an average of 6.6 rebounds per game. He has averaged 16.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for his career.

Lewis, who turned pro after his senior year of high school and was a second-round selection by Seattle in the 1998 NBA Draft, was likely considered expendable by the Sonics after their selection of University of Texas phenom Kevin Durant, the number two overall pick in last week's draft, and the acquisition of Georgetown's Jeff Green, selected fifth overall by Boston.

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Suns complete draft-day deal, send Jones to Portland
July 11th, 2007

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - The Phoenix Suns completed their draft-day deal with the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, sending forward James Jones to Portland.

Jones was dealt along with the 24th overall selection in the June 28 draft, which was used by Portland to select Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez, in exchange for cash considerations.

Jones, a four-year veteran, averaged 6.4 points and 2.3 points in 76 games for the Suns last season. He came to Phoenix in a sign-and-trade deal from the Indiana Pacers in 2005, and has averaged 6.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game over his career.

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Raptors sign Kapono
July 11th, 2007

Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - The Toronto Raptors have signed free agent forward Jason Kapono to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

The 6-foot-8 Kapono averaged 10.9 points while leading the NBA in three-point field goal percentage last season, connecting at a .514 clip with Miami. The single-season percentage was the fourth-highest in league history and best since the 1995-96 season when Tim Legler held a .522 mark for Washington.

"Jason is an ideal fit four our system and for our locker room," said Bryan Colangelo, president and general manager of the Raptors. "We anticipate he will contribute significantly to our team in a variety of ways."

"(Raptors head coach) Sam (Mitchell) loves his ability to knock down shots which spreads the floor and opens up scoring opportunities in the lane on dribble and penetrations and post-ups."

The 26-year-old holds a career average of 7.4 points, shooting at a .459 percentage rate from three-point range in four season with Cleveland (2003-04), Charlotte (2004-05) and the Heat (2005-07).

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Report: Milicic headed to Memphis
July 12th, 2007

Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - The Memphis Grizzlies have reportedly agreed to a deal with forward/center Darko Milicic.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal, citing an NBA source, reported that the seven- foot unrestricted free agent has come to terms in principle on a three-year deal with a starting salary in the range of at least $6 million.

Milicic played 80 games for the Orlando Magic last season, starting 16, and averaged a career-best 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. He was acquired by Orlando in a trade from Detroit during the 2005-06 season.

The Pistons made Milicic the second overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft and he languished on the bench for most of his first three seasons. He played only 34 games his rookie year and averaged just 1.4 points, then played just 37 games the following season and saw limited action during 25 games in 2005-06 before being dealt to Orlando.

Milicic, just 22 years old, could have been a Grizzly from the start of his career. Detroit received Memphis' top pick in the 2003 draft as part of a trade a few years earlier.

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Re: NBA News and Notes

Spurs sign Vaughn, Bonner
July 12th, 2007

San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) - The San Antonio Spurs re-signed guard Jacque Vaughn and forward Matt Bonner on Thursday.

Vaughn spent last season with the Spurs and won his first NBA Championship. He played in 64 games, averaging 3.0 points and 2.0 assists in 11.9 minutes a game. A 10-year veteran, Vaughn has also played for Utah, Atlanta, Orlando and New Jersey.

The 6-10 Bonner played in 56 games last season, netting 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.7 minutes a game. Prior to joining the Spurs Bonner spent two seasons with the Toronto Raptors.

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Spurs get Spanoulis in trade with Rockets
July 12, 2007

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -The NBA champion San Antonio Spurs acquired guard Vassilis Spanoulis from the Houston Rockets for center Jackie Butler and the draft rights to Luis Scola.

The Spurs will also get the Rockets' second-round pick in 2009, San Antonio said in a statement Thursday night.

Spanoulis, who averaged 2.7 points in 31 games as a rookie last year, has said he didn't want to return to the Rockets because he was homesick and wanted to remain in his native Greece.

Butler played in 11 games for the Spurs last year, averaging 3.7 points.

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Nets waive Robinson

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - After re-signing Vince Carter, the New Jersey Nets released 18-year veteran Clifford Robinson.

The 40-year-old Robinson appeared in 50 games for New Jersey last season, averaging 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds. He was the most tenured active player before his release.

In 2 1/2 seasons with the Nets, Robinson averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds.

The Buffalo, New York native owns career averages of 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals with Portland, Phoenix, Detroit, Golden State and New Jersey. Named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team twice (2001-02 & 1999-00), Robinson won the 1992-93 NBA Sixth Man Award when he played for the Trail Blazers.

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Report: Fisher returning to Lakers

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Derek Fisher, who was released from his contract with the Utah Jazz last week so that he could seek the proper medical care for his 11-month-old daughter fighting eye cancer, has reportedly agreed to re-join the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fisher, who helped the Lakers to three NBA titles, has agreed in principle to a three-year, $14 million deal, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Fisher left the Jazz for a short period during the Western Conference semifinal round this past season when it was learned that his daughter Tatum had the disease. He returned to help the Jazz defeat the Golden State Warriors and advance to the conference finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.

A 10-year veteran, Fisher averaged 10.1 points and 3.3 assists this past regular season. In 16 playoff games, he averaged 9.5 points and 2.6 assists. He played his first eight NBA seasons with the Lakers.

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Peterson inks 4-year deal with Hornets
July 13, 2007

Morris Peterson and the New Orleans Hornets agreed to terms on a 4-year contract, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Friday.

The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract has not been announced, said Peterson would sign the deal following a vacation.

Peterson visited Salt Lake City earlier this week to meet with Utah Jazz officials. He also said Detroit, New Jersey, Cleveland, Miami and Toronto had expressed interest in him.

He has spent his entire seven-season career with the Raptors.

The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Peterson, who can play shooting guard or small forward, has career averages of 12 points along with nearly four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

His production and playing time fell last season - averaging 8.9 points and 21.4 minutes - one season after career highs in scoring (16.8), rebounding (4.6), steals (1.3) and minutes (38) a game.

Peterson produced sporadically during a first-round series against the Nets last season. He scored 17 points in Toronto's Game 5 win, then had nine points, eight rebounds, two steals and a block in Game 6 when the Raptors were eliminated.

After helping Michigan State win the 2000 national championship, Peterson was drafted 21st by the Raptors. He averaged 14 points in his second and third NBA season and 12.5 in his fourth season.

As a restricted free agent in 2004, the Hornets signed Peterson to a $15 million, three-year offer sheet and Toronto retained him by matching the deal.

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Utah signs Hart
July 13th, 2007

Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - The Utah Jazz dipped into the free agent market on Friday, signing guard Jason Hart to a multi-year contract.

Hart has appeared in 240 career games over six NBA seasons with Milwaukee, San Antonio, Charlotte, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers, owning career averages of 5.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.9 rebounds. He split time between Sacramento and the Clippers in 2006-07, appearing in a combined total of 36 games and averaging 6.9 points.

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Kings reach deal for Moore
July 13th, 2007

Sacramento, CA (Sports Network) - The Sacramento Kings have reached a deal in principle to obtain free agent forward/center Mikki Moore.

"We're really excited to come to an agreement with Mikki Moore," Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. "He brings athleticism, length, skill and experience to our team and we're looking forward to watching him play for the Kings."

The 7-foot Moore, a nine-year NBA veteran, enjoyed careers highs with the New Jersey Nets last season, averaging of 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

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Portland brings back G Blake
July 13th, 2007

Portland, OR (Sports Network) - The Portland Trail Blazers signed free agent guard Steve Blake to a three-year contract Friday. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 27-year old Blake returns to the team he spent the 2005-06 season with. The guard averaged 8.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists, while shooting 41 percent from three-point range in 68 games with the Trail Blazers in 2005-06.

"Steve embodies the kind of culture we're building here in Portland," said Blazers general manger Kevin Pritchard. "He's an intelligent, hard-working, team player with a tremendous grasp as to what it takes to play the point guard position."

Blake averaged 6.4 points and five assists per game in a 2006-07 season split between Milwaukee and Denver.

The University of Maryland product is entering his fifth NBA season with career averages of 6.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in stints with the Washington Wizards, Trail Blazers, Bucks and Nuggets.

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Grizzlies sign Milicic
July 13th, 2007

Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - The Memphis Grizzlies signed free agent forward/center Darko Milicic. Per team policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

Milicic played 80 games for the Orlando Magic last season, starting 16, and averaged a career-best eight points and 5.5 rebounds. He was acquired by Orlando in a trade from Detroit during the 2005-06 season.

"We are pleased that Darko Milicic has become a Grizzly," said Memphis general manager and vice president Chris Wallace. "Darko is just 22 years old but already has been in the NBA for four seasons. He has been blessed with tremendous basketball skills, excellent size and impressive athletic ability. In Detroit he was exposed to a championship organization, and in Orlando he practiced alongside a great big man in Dwight Howard and received significant playing time as well as playoff experience. In Memphis, he will play for Marc Iavaroni who is recognized as one of the premier teachers of big men in the game. Darko is poised to take a major step in his career and Memphis is the perfect place for him to blossom."

The Pistons made Milicic the second overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft and he languished on the bench for most of his first three seasons. He played only 34 games his rookie year and averaged just 1.4 points, then played just 37 games the following season and saw limited action during 25 games in 2005-06 before being dealt to Orlando.

Milicic, just 22 years old, could have been a Grizzly from the start of his career. Detroit received Memphis' top pick in the 2003 draft as part of a trade a few years earlier.

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Report: Bulls sign Smith
July 14th, 2007

Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - The Chicago Bulls have reportedly signed forward Joe Smith to a two-year contract.

The Chicago Sun-Times, not citing a source, reported the signing Saturday. The paper said it is likely the deal is for the mid-level exception of $5.36 million.

Thought to be the top free-agent priority of the Bulls this off-season, Smith 8.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 2006-07, splitting time between the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.

The 12-year pro has career averages of 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

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Jackson, Artest both suspended
FOXSports.com

Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson are no strangers to NBA punishment. On Saturday, both players were penalized once again.
Artest and Jackson will both be suspended without pay for the first 7 games of the 2007-08 season, the league announced Saturday. The punishments are a result of separate criminal incidents.

Jackson was suspended after pleading guilty to criminal recklessness last month for firing a gun outside an Indianapolis strip club last fall. Under the terms of his plea deal, Jackson paid a $5,000 fine and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. In return, the Golden State Warriors player had his jail sentence suspended and a felony converted into a misdemeanor conviction.

Artest was suspended for pleading nolo contendre to infliction of injury on a spouse. Artest and his wife got into a fight last year in which the Kings star was accused of continually pushing her to the floor. The arrest report also stated that the woman was slapped in the face, and that Artest prevented her from leaving and that he initially stopped her from using the phone to call 911.

Artest and Jackson were Pacers' teammates in November, 2004 when they were involved in a brawl with fans during a game against the Detroit Pistons. Artest was suspended for 73 games and the playoffs — the NBA's harshest punishment for a fight — and Jackson was suspended for 30 games.

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Williams reportedly to stay in Milwaukee for 6 years, $52 million
July 14th, 2007

Milwaukee, WI (Sports Network) - Mo Williams and the Bucks have agreed on a deal that will keep the 24-year-old point guard in Milwaukee for the next six years, at a price tag of $52 million, a Milwaukee newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Miami Heat had reportedly been in talks to sign Williams, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Saturday that the deal was in place to keep the former Alabama University player in a Bucks uniform.

Last season was a breakout one for Williams, who averaged a career-high 17.1 points per game, and tied a career mark with 6.1 assists per game for the Bucks. Williams is entering his fifth season in the NBA, with the last three spent in Milwaukee after his rookie season in Utah.

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Mourning coming back for final season
July 15, 2007

MIAMI (AP) -Alonzo Mourning is coming back, one more time.

Ending nearly three months of suspense about his future, the Miami Heat center said Sunday night at his annual Zo's Summer Groove charity game that he'll play again next season - a choice he kept secret to the end, insisting he was still deciding just hours before the actual announcement.

``I will be coming back,'' Mourning said.

This was the third straight summer Mourning considered retirement before choosing to keep playing. Next season will be his 15th in the NBA, not including a full year he missed with kidney problems that led to him getting a transplant in 2003.

``It will definitely be my last year,'' Mourning said.

Mourning averaged 8.6 points last season for the Heat, and his 5.44 blocks per 48 minutes led the NBA by a wide margin. He started more than half of Miami's games last season while Shaquille O'Neal recovered from knee surgery, and the Heat clearly wanted him back - especially since his $2.8 million salary for next season makes the seven-time All-Star a bargain.

Some of his teammates weren't surprised by the decision.

Heat forward Dorell Wright, who played in the charity game along with a list of NBA players that included Carlos Boozer, Sam Cassell and Damon Stoudamire, predicted before the game that Mourning would be back, simply based on the weightlifting regimen he'd been following this offseason.

``I love having Zo in the locker room and out on the court,'' Wright said.

Cleveland guard Damon Jones, Mourning's former teammate in Miami, said the 6-foot-10 former Georgetown star's presence ensures that Miami will have a ``championship confidence'' next season.

``He's one of those guys who really cares about winning,'' Jones said. ``He showed last year when Shaq went down that he can still play ... he had great numbers and he puts it all on the line.''

And Mourning's decision suggests that Heat coach Pat Riley may be returning as well.

Mourning said repeatedly in recent weeks that Riley's status for next year would weigh heavily on his decision. Riley started a lengthy vacation this weekend and was not immediately available for comment Sunday night, but Mourning indicated that he expects the coach of five NBA champions to be on the sideline again.

``I think he's got an incredible basketball mind and he wants to continue to share it with the world and with this team and I don't see him retiring now,'' Mourning said. ``Honestly, I don't. That's my own personal opinion but, hey, I could be wrong.''

Mourning's return is the first offseason personnel move that worked out to Miami's liking.

The Heat lost 3-point specialist Jason Kapono to Toronto in free agency, may see free agent forward James Posey sign elsewhere in the coming days, and Mourning said guard Gary Payton won't be coming back to Miami - although neither Payton nor the team has publicly expressed those sentiments.

Miami also missed out in its pursuit of Milwaukee point guard Mo Williams, who agreed to take a $52 million, six-year deal and stay with the Bucks. But Mourning said he's certain the Heat will find help elsewhere before next season begins.

``There's other players out there that can possibly be available,'' Mourning said. ``Decisions have to be made in order to possibly obtain them. I'm going to leave it to Pat Riley. You want to see a guy like Mo Williams and a player of his caliber. You want to see that. But if it doesn't work, you've got to move on. That's the nature of this business. Everything doesn't go your way all the time.''

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