May 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Darren Collison warms up prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Clippers let Darren Collison walk, revealing free agency strategy?

Free agent point guard Darren Collison agreed to a three-year, $16 million deal with Sacramento on Thursday.

“You know our first guy, I’ll be honest, is one of our guys that opted out. He’s a little guy. That’s very important for us.” – Doc Rivers, June 29, 2014

The deal, made one day before July 4, gives Collison his independence to compete for a starting job in the NBA. The pace of the signing, coupled by Los Angeles’ silence toward its backup guard, basically mean team president Doc Rivers has laid out a few of his cards. It also highlights the masquerade that is NBA free agency.

Take this Rivers quote from LA Times’ Broderick Turner on the eve of hunting season:

“You know our first guy, I’ll be honest, is one of our guys that opted out,” Rivers said. “He’s a little guy. That’s very important for us.”

Turner himself acknowledges that Rivers didn’t mention Collison by name, but he certainly wasn’t referring to Chris Paul. Touted as the team’s top priority entering the offseason, Collison was one of the first eight players to agree to a deal while Rivers continues to flail around in a money small forward-blowing machine.

Collison may have in fact been No. 1 on Rivers’ wish list. But you get the feeling, especially based on this tweet from ESPN’s Arash Markazi, that the term ‘priority’ was misappropriated with respect to Collison.

No, bringing in premium insurance for Paul was not first on Rivers’ docket. Convincing a team that they should be interested in acquiring some combination of Jared DudleyMatt Barnes and Reggie Bullock, that’s what Doc’s been about. Indeed, upgrading the team’s weakest link in an otherwise championship-caliber starting lineup should take top billing. This smells like an atonement for the failed Dudley and Danny Granger signings and admitting that you can’t win a ring with Barnes in your first five.

Yet, Rivers refused to offer any of his actual attractive pieces like DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick. He oddly believes that someone has to like the Barnes-Dudley-Bullock trio beyond their ability to help shed salary. The former Celtics coach has unsuccessfully tried to force them on the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade for personal and local favorite Paul Pierce.

He’s also dangled Barnes and Jamal Crawford in another sign-and-trade for Cleveland free agent Luol Deng. Adding the sixth man extraordinaire to these offers suggests Rivers has some sense of reality. You can make the argument that Crawford is actually forcing the team’s hand in this situation:

Deng appears interested in the Clippers’ situation as well, but it might take more than the four aforementioned trade-bait Clippers to get him. Rumors abound that Redick would have to go back, but this is pure conjecture:

The Clippers have a looong way to go in shoring up their wing rotation because why doesn’t anybody want Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes?


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

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