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As Cavaliers Close Out NBA Season, Another Round Of Bidding Wars Ensues

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

LeBron and the rest of the Cavaliers have had their triumphant homecoming. And they're soaking in the glory that comes with winning the NBA title for the great, yet now title-starved - until now title-starved city of Cleveland. But if you're the Golden State Warriors, it's not too early to start thinking about next year. And that means focusing like a laser on the free agents up for grabs at this very moment. Mike Pesca from "The Gist" is here to talk more about this. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi, they might focus. But then they're going to have to rub their eyes 'cause you will not believe what's going on in free agency.

MARTIN: Will I not? Do tell. OK. Before we get into this, can you just - for those who don't know, maybe me included - I don't know - explain what this moment is, free agency.

PESCA: A couple days ago, players no longer under contract were able to put up their services for bidders, and the bidders have come. Officially, players don't get signed until July 7. But many offers have been made, including Al Horford is getting $22-something million to go play on the Celtics. And there have been - there's been a lot of movement throughout league. And the No. 1 guy that everyone is after is Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder player.

MARTIN: Oklahoma City? So they did pretty well, I remember, this past season.

PESCA: They - yes, yeah. In fact, they took the Warriors to seven games. And many thought it was shocking that they lost. And a very tantalizing suitor for Durant are the Warriors themselves. And...

MARTIN: What?

PESCA: ...Some people have said, wow, if Durant joins the Warriors, they could go undefeated in the regular season.

MARTIN: So what does that mean? I mean, the Warriors, do they just have more money? They're just going to pay Kevin Durant more?

PESCA: Well, this is the thing. The amount of money the players get is set by the salary cap. And the salary cap is set as a percentage - half - of all the money the league makes. Now, the league has gotten such huge television contracts that the salary cap went up to - it's going to be $94 million. This means everyone gets a huge raise. So there are players who are getting $10 million and $12 million who only played a few minutes.

So so many teams have the money that almost everyone can be a suitor. And when you get into a situation like the Warriors do where they lost a player named Harrison Barnes, who they might have signed, but might not, they pay Steph Curry, the only unanimous and two-time MVP, $11 million. And we're talking about paying guys...

MARTIN: He's getting a raw deal. Steph Curry needs a new agent (laughter).

PESCA: He kind of is, yeah. And insofar as we cannot justify societally paying someone millions of dollars to play basketball, with LeBron James and these great players, he certainly justifies the salaries. Other guys are getting paid millions of dollars simply because the NBA is so rich. There are still only five players on a court at a time and 82 games in a season, so someone's got to get something.

MARTIN: OK. Any other stars to note in the free agency period?

PESCA: Well, Jeremy - I don't know if he's a star, he's almost a star - is captivating. Jeremy Lin is going to Brooklyn. And Brooklyn is the birthplace of bloggers and people love talking about Jeremy Lin. But I have to go back to this guy, Jon Leuer, who's a 7-foot guy. And he played 18 minutes last year. He's getting $10 million a year. He averaged 18 minutes a game. And I've done the hourly math because he played 1,200 minutes, which comes out to 20 hours.

If he played the same amount as he played last year, the same number of minutes, he's getting half a million dollars an hour. And the guy averages eight points a game.

MARTIN: What?

PESCA: I mean - but he's - but that's just an average salary. And he's kind of an average player, so it kind of makes sense, except for the fact that Jon Leuer is getting paid half a million dollars an hour.

MARTIN: Oh, I wish I was taller and good at basketball, I guess. Mike Pesca, host of "The Gist" on...

PESCA: And a man.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah - and a dude.

PESCA: Yeah, sorry WNBA.

MARTIN: Yeah. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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