Thursday was a busy day in Warriors land.
They signed second-round draft pick Richard Hendrix, a power forward out of Alabama. They also retained restricted free-agent swingman Kelenna Azubuike by matching the three-year, $9 million offer sheet he received from the Los Angeles Clippers.
But the biggest news of the day was that Golden State locked up its franchise player for at least the next five years. Restricted free-agent guard Monta Ellis signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the Warriors.
The signing of Ellis, who made the league minimum his first three seasons, completes the transition from the Baron Davis regime to the Ellis era. Next on the priority list figures to be center Andris Biedrins, also a restricted free agent.
But Biedrins could be part of the latest trend: NBA players checking out Europe. Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Childress signed a three-year, $20 million deal in Greece, and Houston Rockets forward Carl Landry is reportedly considering overseas options. Now Biedrins, according to a source close to the fifth-year lefty, is drawing interest from several teams in Europe.
Biedrins' camp and Golden State have yet to formally meet but should do so by early next week. First, the Warriors — looking to take advantage of salary cap space — flirted with Orlando's free-agent swingman Maurice Evans for a few days. A Warriors source told Bay Area News Group that Evans spurned their three-year, $6.4 million offer in search of more money. But the source said if Evans' demands were too high, they would just match Azubuike because Evans, who turns 30 in November, is significantly older than Azubuike, who turns 25 in December. Apparently, Evans demands were too high.
Azubuike spent some time backing up Ellis last season. But Ellis is now the starting point guard and the team's highest-paid player. He has an early termination option that allows him to walk away from the contract before the final year (2013), when Ellis is 26 years old.
"He stated to me right away that his strong preference was to play for the Bay Area fans," Ellis' agent Jeff Fried said. "Obviously, you have to factor in the economics. But this is where he wanted to be."
Biedrins' top choice is also to stay with the Warriors, according to those who know him, but the economics may not be to his liking. His camp is looking for a double-digit average salary, somewhere in the ballpark of the five-year, $50-plus million extension Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman signed in 2006. But such a deal is looking more and more unlikely for Biedrins, who figures to be offered less per year than Ellis and swingman Corey Maggette, who the Warriors signed away from the Clippers for five years, $50 million.
Biedrins could reject any Warriors' offer and accept the $3.6 million qualifying offer, becoming an unrestricted free agent next offseason, but that's a risky move. The relatively unfavorable market for him in the NBA could make offers from Europe look all the more appealing. Biedrins, a native Latvian, is even drawing interest from Russian teams. European teams only allow a certain number of foreign players on the roster. But Biedrins is a domestic player, which gives him more options overseas.
The source said teams are willing to sign Biedrins for three, four or even five years, with the salary exceeding an average of $10 million. With Europe's currency packing more value than the dollar these days, a contract averaging 7 million Euro would convert to more than $11 million U.S.
Note: An 82-81 win over the D-League Ambassadors improved the Warriors' summer league mark to 3-0 at the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City. Rookie forward Anthony Randolph had 14 points and seven rebounds. Forward Anthony Morrow had 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, pushing his Revue average up to 23 points on 56.5 percent shooting from the field, including 10-for-12 from 3-point range.
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