On the first night of free agency, De’Aaron Fox was the first huge winner.
Huge, as in $163 million — or even more.
Fox and the Sacramento Kings agreed on a max deal Friday night, agent Chris Gaston said. It’s a five-year pact that will pay Fox $163 million, and that figure could rise to nearly $200 million if Fox makes an All-NBA team or receives other league honors.
Fox’s numbers have improved in each of his three NBA seasons. He averaged 11.6 points as a rookie, then 17.3 points two seasons ago and finally 21.1 points last season for the Kings. His field goal percentage has also risen in each of the last two seasons. Fox’s extension will kick in for the 2021-22 season and start at $28.1 million.
Free agency opened in the NBA on Friday at 6 p.m. EST. No deals can be signed until 12:01 p.m. Sunday, and many of the biggest available names — such as the Lakers’ Anthony Davis and Fred VanVleet, who has seen his star rise meteorically with the Toronto Raptors — did not make immediate decisions on their futures.
Davis is expected to remain with the Lakers; the question there is how the new deal will be structured. VanVleet is expected to command at least $80 million over the next four seasons, if not more, and Toronto has made clear that they would like to keep the undrafted guard who became a huge part of the Raptors’ run to the 2019 NBA championship.
Among the moves agreed to on Friday:
▪ Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard have both decided to return to the reigning Eastern Conference champions, each telling The Associated Press on Friday that they have agreed to accept Miami’s offer of two-year deals to remain with the Heat. The second year is a team option on both contracts.
Dragic’s deal, when signed, will be worth about $18 million for this season. Leonard agreed to a deal that will pay him around $9 million this season.
“Happy to be back,” Dragic told the AP. “That was my plan, to come back, but in this crazy business you never know.”
Dragic will be entering his seventh season with the Heat and is coming off a year where he averaged 16.2 points while playing off the bench in the regular season. He became a starter again in the playoffs and tore his plantar fascia in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, an injury that hurt Miami’s chances. Leonard averaged 6.1 points for the Heat this past season, starting for much of the regular season.
▪ Danilo Gallinari, one of the top wings on the free agent market, agreed to a three-year contract worth $61.5 million with Atlanta, a person with knowledge told AP. ESPN and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the agreement.
Gallinari, 32, averaged 18.7 points for Oklahoma City last season and is a 38 percent career shooter from 3-point range.
The Hawks were one of the teams who entered free agency with considerable cap space, and have been looking for veteran talent to add to the group that includes Trae Young and Kevin Huerter.
▪ The LA Clippers are losing a key contributor, as Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, agent Rich Paul told ESPN. The deal is for the full midlevel exception: $9.25 million the first year and $9.72 million the second, according to ESPN. Harrell is coming off his best season as a pro and will leave the Clippers with a significant void to fill.
In addition to the Harrell signing, veteran forward Wesley Matthews agreed to a one-year, $3.6 million contract with the Lakers, The Athletic reported. Matthews averaged 7.4 points in 67 games for the Bucks last season, his 11th in the NBA.
▪ Swingman Joe Harris has agreed to re-sign with the Nets keeping one of the NBA’s best shooters in Brooklyn. Priority Sports, which represents Harris, announced the deal on Twitter. ESPN reported that Harris would get $75 million over four years. Harris finished his fourth season in Brooklyn by averaging a career-best 14.5 points in 69 games in 2019-20.
▪ Latvian sharpshooter Davis Bertans agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract with the Wizards. Bertans is coming off a career year in which he averaged a career-high 15.4 points per game, while shooting 42.4 Percent from long distance.
▪ The Timberwolves reached a $60 million agreement with restricted free agent shooting guard Malik Beasley that’s for three years plus a team option for a fourth year, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to AP. Beasley averaged 20.7 points in 14 games after joining Minnesota.
▪ The Mavericks and Trey Burke agreed on a $10 million, three-year contract to bring the guard back after he played well in the NBA bubble. Burke originally joined Dallas in the trade with New York headlined by Kristaps Porzingis in early 2019. The Mavericks didn’t re-sign Burke before last season, and he ended up in Philadelphia. The 76ers waived Burke in February before the coronavirus shutdown.
▪ The Pistons received commitments from centers Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor, people familiar with those deals told AP. ESPN, which first reported the Plumlee agreement, said he would sign a three-year deal for $25 million.
▪ Jordan Clarkson agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal to stay with the Utah Jazz, ESPN reported, citing his agent, Rich Paul. The shooting guard, 28, averaged 16.7 points per game off the bench during Utah’s first-round playoff loss to the Nuggets. And it appears Derrick Favors — a post player who spent most of his NBA career in Utah before playing with New Orleans last season — returned on a deal that will pay him nearly $30 million for three seasons.
▪ Facundo Campazzo agreed to a two-year deal with the Denver Nuggets, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal. Campazzo, a 5-foot-10-inch point guard has played in the Olympics twice for Argentina, the Basketball World Cup twice, has a pair of EuroLeague championships, and is known as a spectacular passer.
▪ Veteran center Dwight Howard is going to join the 76ers on a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum of $2.6 million, agent Charles Briscoe told the AP. Howard heads to Philadelphia after helping the Los Angeles Lakers win this past season’s NBA title.
Raptors to play in Tampa
The Toronto Raptors will start the NBA season next month in Tampa, Fla., because of travel restrictions by the Canadian government stemming from the pandemic.
The Raptors had been looking at other sites for several weeks, including Sunrise, Fla., the home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. But with NBA training camp less than two weeks away and a season starting Dec. 22, the Raptors were pressed to make a final decision.
Instead, they will play home games at Amalie Arena, home of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement Friday.
An official familiar with the Canadian government’s decision told The Associated Press there is too much COVID-19 circulating in the United States to allow for cross-border travel that is not essential.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity and not authorized to talk publicly about the matter, said there’s a chance that the decision could be reviewed next year.
The Raptors, the NBA’s lone Canadian team, and the league needed an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must isolate for 14 days. The US-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel.
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, said the Canadian government made the right decision.
“With the current situation it is almost impossible for the government to reasonably sanction travel back and forth travel outside a bubble,” Morris said.
The league will release the first half of the schedule around Dec. 1; the second half of the schedule is likely to come in January or February, and there is a possibility that the team — for now, anyway — could return to Toronto at that point.
LaMelo not taking sides
Now that LaMelo Ball is a member of the Charlotte Hornets, some basketball fans are hoping that the 1-on-1 game between his outspoken father LaVar and six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan might actually come to fruition.
But Ball, who was drafted No. 3 overall by Jordan’s Hornets, said during his introductory news conference Friday at the Spectrum Center that he “doesn’t think it’s going to happen.”
“And I think we know how it would turn out, to be honest,” Ball said with a smile.
When asked to elaborate, Ball replied, “Well, I mean it is my pops and my boss, so I’m on both sides now.”
LaVar Ball turned heads when told USA TODAY Sports in 2017 that he “would kill” Jordan in a one-on-one game in his prime. Ball averaged 2.2 points while playing at Washington State while Jordan was a 14-time NBA All-Star and 10-time scoring champion.