Toronto said farewell to Kawhi Leonard. Miami said hello to Jimmy Butler. The Lakers finally have Anthony Davis.
Free agency became real Saturday.
The four-team trade that sent Butler to the Heat — with a new $142 million, four-year contract — was one of the first big moves to get done once the league’s offseason moratorium ended. But many of the other massive moves, such as Leonard’s signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and the trade to have Paul George join him, remained in the paperwork stage.
Butler acknowledged that his longtime friend, fellow former Marquette star and now-retired Heat guard Dwyane Wade “may have had a little bit of something to do with” his move to Miami.
“I don’t think anybody can take over the role that Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. had for this organization and for the game of basketball here,” Butler said when asked about taking over as a leader in Miami. “I’m just fortunate and blessed enough to be able to call him a friend, mentor, role model. He’s done so much for me.”
There was no real worry about the pending transactions around the league: Some deals, including a few that got agreed upon very quickly when the negotiating window opened June 30, simply needed to be slotted in a certain order to make the NBA’s money rules work. Others could get done as soon as the NBA said at 12:01 p.m. Eastern on Saturday that the new league year was officially underway.
“I think it’s going to be a really exciting season,” said Portland’s Damian Lillard, who wasn’t a free agent and won’t be for a long time after signing a $196 million, four-year extension that could keep him with the Trail Blazers until 2025. “Obviously, it’s exciting to see players change teams. You know people love that.”
Not all people.
Not always, anyway.
Toronto awoke to the news Saturday that two starters from this past season’s NBA champion Raptors — Leonard and Danny Green — were moving on. Leonard picked the Clippers and will sign a $142 million, four-year deal and George will be joining him in a massive trade that will send Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five draft picks to Oklahoma City in a blockbuster deal that shook up both conferences. Green is joining the Lakers on a two-year deal.
“Teams are making moves to win now and that’s obvious,” said Heat forward Meyers Leonard, who left Portland and is part of the four-team Butler deal. “The Clippers, for example, they’re in ‘win-now’ mode. They played well last year in the playoffs. They go and get Kawhi and PG and all these other players. OKC has to be thinking, ‘OK, we just got a ton of draft picks.’ So people are positioning themselves in different ways.”
The Clippers and Thunder couldn’t talk about their deal until it was finalized.
The Raptors didn’t have to adhere to such rules.
“On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said. “As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”
Davis wasn’t a free agent, but the Lakers’ move to get him surely played a role in plenty of other moves during free agency.
The Lakers’ trade for Davis got done Saturday night, and it cost L.A. a ransom. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the draft rights to De’Andre Hunter, two first-round picks, a first-round pick swap and cash went to the Pelicans — and then the Lakers had to send Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner and a future second-rounder to Washington. The Wizards sent cash to the Pelicans.
“Anthony Davis is arguably the most dominant all-around young player in today’s NBA,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Anthony represents everything we stand for, with his unwavering commitment to excellence both as a person and an athlete. This is a historic moment for the Lakers franchise, and we couldn’t be more proud to have him.”
The sign-and-trade that will have Kevin Durant leaving Golden State for Brooklyn as well as Kyrie Irving’s signing with the Nets were both still pending Saturday night. Golden State’s deal to keep Klay Thompson around at nearly $190 million for five years also wasn’t immediately announced, though there would seem to be little rush there.
Boston completed a sign-and-trade with Charlotte, a deal to send All-Star Kemba Walker (4 years, $141 million) to the Celtics and Terry Rozier (3 years, $58 million) to the Hornets.
“Kemba has excelled in this league for many years while consistently playing at a level among the NBA’s elite,” Celtics President Danny Ainge said.
Davis was back for the second straight night at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, alongside James and Lakers guard Kyle Kuzma. James chatted for a couple minutes with Clippers consultant and NBA legend Jerry West — before the Lakers and Clippers met in a summer matchup.
Also at summer league were a trio of young Atlanta stars — Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Trae Young.
“I’m super excited,” Young said when asked about the moves across the league. “Some of the trades and where people are landing at is just kind of different. It’s kind of a surprise a little bit, but it’s good cause now the league is even more wide open.”
Butler left Philadelphia via sign-and-trade for Miami, with Josh Richardson leaving the Heat for Philadelphia. Hassan Whiteside left the Heat for Portland as part of that deal, while Moe Harkless left the Blazers for the Clippers in another part of the same massive trade.
“Jimmy’s leadership, tenacity, professionalism, defensive disposition and his ability to create his own shot will improve our roster immediately,” Heat President Pat Riley said. “Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move.”
Butler said Wade told him for years that Miami was the right fit for him.
“And we were able to make it happen,” Butler said.
Among the other deals that got done Saturday:
— The Lakers added DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook, plus kept Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee.
— Orlando completed the signings of its top two free agents, Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross.
— Indiana’s sign-and-trade acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee was completed. “Having started on the team with the best record in the NBA last year, we value the leadership he’ll bring to our team, as well as his great ability to play multiple positions,” Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said.
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