Announcement expected in two weeks.
While representatives for forward Andres Nocioni and Bulls management continue to discuss the fine print of a five-year agreement, the business of acquiring an established big man has been pushed to the back burner.
Wednesday was the first day NBA free-agent deals could be announced, but the Nocioni agreement remains on hold while the two sides attempt to back-load the contract in a way that would allow more immediate financial flexibility for the Bulls.
That a spokesman reported Bulls financial chief Irwin Mandel spent much of the day on a golf course was a hint the deal is close. An announcement is expected in the next two weeks.
“Right now, I’d like to be a little aggressive and try to find another big,” general manager John Paxson said. “We’ll find a way to add a veteran big. That’s obviously a priority.”
Paxson had preliminary talks with center Chris Mihm, center-forward Mikki Moore and forward Joe Smith earlier this month. Apparently, he’s not close to a deal with any of them at this time.
Smith was the first of the candidates to be contacted, but he hasn’t ruled out a return to the Philadelphia 76ers, with whom he spent much of last season.
Moore led the NBA in field-goal percentage (.609) in the 2006-07 season while with New Jersey, but there are questions as to how much of his success was the result of Jason Kidd, the Nets’ floor leader.
Moore would like to re-sign with the Nets, who have made a three-year offer for between $10 million and $12 million, believed to be the best on the table at this time. If Moore believes he can do better elsewhere, the Nets could opt for free-agent center Jamaal Magloire.
In an attempt to lessen doubts about his problematic right ankle, which forced him to sit out last season, Mihm has scheduled open workouts in Las Vegas this week.
Restricted free agent Michael Sweetney has done the same. The Bulls made a $3.7 million qualifying offer to retain his rights, but the veteran center has no role in the master plan.
The Bulls also are among several teams that have inquired about forward Luis Scola, whom the San Antonio Spurs could move before he signs a long-term deal overseas.
“We’ve always liked (Scola), but you have to trade something to get him,” Paxson said.
Given his uncertain physical condition and the expected expanded role of forward Tyrus Thomas next season, the financial investment in Nocioni - reportedly for about $38 million over five years - raised some eyebrows around the league.
Nocioni seemed to be having a career season until plantar fasciitis in his right foot rendered him ineffective for the most part. He took part in just six regular-season games after the All-Star break. In the playoffs, he averaged 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in limited action.
After six weeks of inactivity, Nocioni shed his protective boot and recently began a rehabilitation program in his native Argentina.
“If we sign him to a contract that maybe other people think is not the right thing to do, then I’m not worried about that,” Paxson said. “We all have an affection for ‘Noce’ for a lot of reasons. He plays the way we want all our guys to play.”
- Thomas averaged 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games in the Pro Summer League, albeit against inferior competition.
In recent weeks, Thomas has worked on his jump shot, which he practices until he converts upward of 700 of them on a daily basis.
“I just want to use this week to get a lot better and put to use all the work that I’ve put in,” Thomas was quoted as saying recently. “Everything that I’ve worked on, from my midrange game to my back-to-the-basket game, I’ll try to make them better this summer.”
- The league announced a $55.63 million salary cap and $67.865 million luxury tax threshold for the 2007-08 season. The midlevel exception was set at $5.356 million.
- The Bulls marketing department has started its Love It Live! campaign, which features a Luvabull, the Benny the Bull mascot and a player in print ads.
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