A month after meeting in the NBA Finals, the Lakers and Heat kicked off free agency Friday night by making moves to get back there next season.
Soon after free-agent negotiations could officially begin at 6 p.m., the Lakers and Heat were both active on the market as a compressed and unusual offseason kicked into gear.
While the biggest free agent available, superstar Anthony Davis, will reportedly take his time before making his expected return to the Lakers, according to ESPN, the defending champs didn’t just wait around. After officially announcing their trade for guard Dennis Schroder earlier this week, the Lakers on Friday added another veteran in Wesley Matthews. The 34-year-old wing, who started 67 games for the Bucks last season, agreed to a one-year, $3.6 million deal, according to The Athletic.
The Lakers also appeared to be re-signing veteran Dwight Howard — briefly confirmed with a tweet from the big man himself Friday night, saying he was “staying right where I belong,” but the 34-year-old soon deleted the tweet.
And soon after The Athletic reported Howard agreed to a one-year deal with the 76ers, according to his agent Charles Briscoe.
The Heat, meanwhile, did lock up two of their own free agents in Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard. Dragic, the veteran guard who came alive during Miami’s playoff run before getting injured in Game 1 of the Finals, agreed to a two-year, $37.4 million deal, The Athletic reported. Leonard, a 28-year-old center who started 49 of 51 games during the regular season, is inking a two-year deal worth almost $20 million, according to ESPN.
“Happy to be back,’’ Dragic told the Associated Press. “That was my plan, to come back, but in this crazy business you never know.’’
The biggest money free-agent signing early on Friday night was guard Jordan Clarkson agreeing to stay with the Jazz on a four-year, $52 million contract, according to ESPN. After being traded to Utah last season, Clarkson averaged 15.6 points per game before the Jazz lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Derrick Favors also agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal to reunite with the Jazz, according to The Athletic, after spending last season with the Pelicans.
Centers are flocking to Detroit en masse.
Even after drafting center Isaiah Stewart with the No. 16 pick on Wednesday night and trading for center Dewayne Dedmon (plus reportedly acquiring center Tony Bradley), the rebuilding Pistons continued to load up their frontcourt by agreeing to sign centers Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor, according to reports. The 30-year-old Plumlee landed a three-year, $25 million deal, ESPN reported, while Okafor, the No. 3 pick in 2015, agreed to a two-year deal.
De’Aaron Fox landed the first max-contract extension of the offseason. The Kings guard cashed in with a five-year, $163 million extension, according to The Athletic.