Oct 8, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) dribbles the ball as Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce (34) defends in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency: Clippers place early calls to Darren Collison, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza and Paul Pierce

The Los Angeles Clippers hit the ground calling at 12:01 p.m. ET on Tuesday–the official beginning to NBA free agency. As expected, Doc Rivers began with one of his own in backup point guard Darren Collison, followed by veteran swingmen Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza. Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:

Ignore the first half the Tweet, as those are mere whispers. Collison declined his $1.9 million player option for the 2014-15 season a week and a half ago along with Danny Granger and Glen Davis.

With no other ball handler on the bench, Collison remains the No. 1 priority among the team’s own free agents according to ESPN’s Arash Markazi.

Interest in Deng and Ariza, both 29, hints at the organization’s desire to upgrade over Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley at small forward. Shopping them just puts it right out there in the open.

Unfortunately, the former Cleveland and Washington players will get offers far above what the Clippers current cap situation can afford. Removing all opted-out contracts and Willie Green’s waived salary gets Los Angeles down to about $71.7 million, or $5.3 million below next season’s projected $77 million tax line, leaving them limited options.

The non-taxpayer MLE is worth $5.305 million, the BIE is $2.077 million. Any trade dump of Barnes and Dudley has to return enough salary so that the Clips stay over the cap. Otherwise, it removes the BIE from their arsenal and drops the MLE down to the room exception at $2.732 million. Good luck getting Deng or Ariza to take that kind of pay cut. But the opening hours of free agency didn’t end there. The Clippers reportedly opened up their small forward search even wider to Doc favorite Paul Pierce and began looking frontcourt in former Cleveland center Spencer Hawes.

Dan Woike of the OC Register pointed out that the Clips appear to be interested in signing every wing in the free agent pool.

Once again, adding either player would have to be considered a coup because it can only happen on a steep discount. Hawes will be looking for a raise on the $6.5 million he earned in 2013-14. A possible player-coach reunion could in theory convince Pierce to join on the cheap. 
Though signing any of these guys will be near impossible, Los Angeles shouldn’t have any trouble getting sit downs with all of them.

It’s part of what makes the team so attractive. The question is whether they can convincingly pitch championship glory over more money.

Markazi’s use of ‘some guys’ feels understated, especially with LeBron James setting the trend of ‘getting yours’ with his max contract demands. If you have to choose the most likely among players mentioned to end up in Lob City, the smart money is on Darren Collison on a slight hometown discount followed by Pierce. He self-admittedly has little left in the tank and wouldn’t be begrudged a homecoming of his own.   All salary information taken from ShamSports.com.  

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Tags: Darren Collison Luol Deng NBA Free Agency Paul Pierce Spencer Hawes Trevor Ariza

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