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More smoke than fire (cont.)

Posted: Thursday July 19, 2007 12:50PM; Updated: Thursday July 19, 2007 4:30PM
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Moves that increase pressure

1. Rashard Lewis signs with Orlando ... In 2010-11 Kobe Bryant is scheduled to earn $24.8 million from the Lakers -- and that is the only salary in the league higher than the $23.8 million that will go to Lewis in 2012-13, should he meet the incentives that will kick in the sixth year of his Orlando contract. Neither Shaquille O'Neal, nor Kevin Garnett, nor Tim Duncan has been pledged so much money in one year in their current contracts. As much as Lewis and coach Stan Van Gundy will try to ignore the new standards implied by his salary, the 27-year-old small forward will be expected to produce numbers worthy of his max contract.

2. Charlotte trades for Jason Richardson and re-signs Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll ... Those deals have eaten up the Bobcats' perennial cap space, which means they'll be building around a core with no All-Stars. Is this a roster that will max out at 45 wins in a couple of years? Give credit to Michael Jordan for spending to improve his team, but the question now becomes whether the Bobcats can grow into contention. In the meantime, however, they're good enough to make a run at the playoffs next season -- a long awaited development in Charlotte.

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3. Zach Randolph is traded to New York ... Randolph and Knicks center Eddy Curry both like to operate from the same block. Maybe they can co-exist because Randolph likes to play on the move, while Curry is more of a stationary target in the post. Neither player is an accomplished passer: While New York added scoring and rebounding by dealing for Randolph, their fellow Knicks will realize once they throw the ball into him or Curry it probably isn't going to come back out again.

4. Mo Williams re-signs with Milwaukee ... The Bucks spent $52 million over six years on their promising combo guard. But perceptions change drastically when players such as Williams receive huge raises. Will his glass be seen as half-empty or half-full? It will depend entirely on whether he can help lead the Bucks back into the playoffs next year.

No-brainer moves

Chauncey Billups re-signs with Detroit ... He'll be 31 next season with a lot of good years left in him. Detroit would have been crazy to let him walk.

Andres Nocioni re-signs with Chicago ... Unless they pull off an unexpected trade for a big-scoring forward, this signing means they'll make do with a frontline rotation of Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Tyrus Thomas, Nocioni and rookie Joakim Noah -- with the goal of fast-tracking Thomas into a frontcourt scorer to complement Wallace. Nocioni's contract is moveable if necessary.

Jerry Stackhouse re-signs with Dallas ... The Mavs couldn't afford to lose Stackhouse, who is crucial to their second unit. Unless they can pull off a blockbuster for Garnett or another star to pair with Dirk Nowitzki, their smart play will be to continue building with their young team and hope Josh Howard turns into a fully-formed second star.

Steve Blake signs with Portland ... The Trail Blazers need players who are old enough to shave, and Blake provides that as a point guard who will help develop Greg Oden and the others.

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