Bucks land free agent big man Monroe
As one of the most coveted big men on the free agent market, Greg Monroe had his choice of destinations.
The big-market Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks wanted him. So did the Portland Trail Blazers.
In the end, Monroe wanted the best chance to reach the playoffs for the first time in his career. For the first time in a long time, the Milwaukee Bucks provided the surest bet on that front.
Monroe agreed to terms on Thursday with the Bucks on a three-year deal worth $50 million, his agent David Falk said. The deal gives the 25-year-old Monroe a chance to become a free agent again after two years if he so chooses, and it also surrounds him with one of the best young rosters in the league as he chases that elusive playoff berth.
Monroe spent the first five seasons of his career in Detroit, and the Pistons ended up in the lottery each time. He was so tired of the losing that he rebuffed any attempts by the Pistons to lock him into a long-term deal before last season, choosing instead to accept a one-year qualifying offer of $5.5 million so he could become a free agent this summer.
During another trying season in Detroit, Monroe continued to solidify himself as one of the best young offensive centers in the game. He averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds while playing the kind of throwback style of low-post banging that is so hard to find in a league where small ball is in vogue.
The Bucks were in the market for a legitimate presence in the middle after Larry Sanders had to be cut loose last season because of off-the-court issues. Monroe was near the top of their list, along with veteran Tyson Chandler, and they sold him on a young, athletic team with a savvy coach in Jason Kidd and deft general manager in John Hammond.
Falk said Monroe had similar offers from the Knicks, Lakers and Blazers, but none of them could match Milwaukee's talent and potential to make a push in the mediocre Eastern Conference. The deal also gives Monroe the potential to hit free agency again at just 27 years old and take advantage of a salary cap that will skyrocket when the league's new television deal kicks in for the 2016-17 season.
WADE OPTS TO STAY: After 12 years with the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade needed a reminder of how much the franchise valued him. Once he found out, any chance of him leaving vanished.
Wade accepted a $20 million, one-year deal on Thursday to stay with the Heat next season, ending his latest foray into free agency and wrapping up a weeks-long saga that had him seriously wondering about leaving for the first time. The 33-year-old shooting guard, an 11-time All-Star, averaged 21.5 points this past season, third-best among Eastern Conference players.
SUNS SEND TRIO TO DETROIT: The Phoenix Suns have traded Marcus Morris, Danny Granger and Reggie Bullock to the Detroit Pistons for a future draft pick, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The move was very likely a bid to clear salary space to sign free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Suns met with Aldridge on Wednesday after signing former Dallas Mavericks forward Tyson Chandler and re-signing guard Brandon Knight. Chandler, Knight and guard Eric Bledsoe were among a contingent from the Suns that made a pitch to Aldridge, who is weighing several teams to sign with.
Phoenix needs to clear salary cap space if it will be able to sign Aldridge to a max contract and took a calculated risk by unloading three players for a 2020 second-round draft pick. The move, which will clear $8.5 million off the books, isn't all the space the Suns need to sign Aldridge, but certainly puts them a big step closer.
ELLIS AGREES WITH PACERS: The Indiana Pacers and shooting guard Monta Ellis reportedly agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal that includes a player option for the final year on Thursday. League rules prohibit the contract from being signed until July 9.
The 6-foot-3 Ellis becomes a key cog in the Pacers transition from the plodding, half-court offense they used to make the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014 to the up-tempo style that is flourishing around the league. Ellis averaged 18.9 points and 4.1 assists last season, his second with the Dallas Mavericks.