Brand, Maggette could opt out

Times Staff Writer

Big questions await the Clippers heading into the season. Potentially bigger ones loom at its conclusion.

While the team deals with injuries to start the year, key players can become free agents at season’s end.

Elton Brand and Corey Maggette can opt out of their contracts, while several others, including Sam Cassell and Quinton Ross, are playing in the last year of their contracts.


The situation is similar to four summers ago when six Clippers were free agents, including Brand, Maggette, Lamar Odom and Andre Miller.

Brand signed an $82.2-million, six-year offer sheet with the Miami Heat and Maggette signed a six-year, $42-million offer sheet with the Utah Jazz, while Odom signed an offer sheet for six years and $63 million with the Heat and Miller signed one with the Denver Nuggets for six years and $51 million.

Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling matched the offer sheets only for Brand and Maggette, keeping the players and a core of the team intact.

But the Clippers don’t have the luxury of first refusal this time around.

“Both players are and have been very important to our team,” said Andy Roeser, team president. “It wouldn’t surprise us if one or both decide to opt out. But whether or not that happens, our goal is to have them as part of our nucleus for a long time.”

Brand, making $15.3 million this season, and Maggette, earning $7 million, both have player options and can become unrestricted free agents.

Of the two, Maggette will almost assuredly opt out next summer, making him free to re-sign with the Clippers or another team.


He declined a contract extension this summer when the Clippers offered a deal for three years and $25.5 million, the maximum allowable under league rules.

By waiting until after this season, Maggette will be eligible to receive a six-year deal with the Clippers or a five-year deal with another franchise.

But heading into the season, he said his focus was on basketball.

Getting a contract “is [agent] Rob Pelinka’s and the management’s job,” Maggette said. “That will take care of itself. My job is on the court.”

In Brand’s case, much will depend on how he recovers from his ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

The Clippers will be the only team capable of giving him a maximum, six-year deal and he stands to make $16.4 million next year if he declines to use his opt-out clause.

Through a team spokesman, Brand declined to comment.