Sunday, July 31, 2005

Random thoughts at the end of the moratorium

In the Suns awards haul at the end of the regular season, general manager Bryan Colangelo won the Sporting News' Executive of the Year award. I will argue that Colangelo didn't win this award for anything he did between July 2004 and the end of the season, which included the signing of Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson along with a key midseason pickup of Jim Jackson. No, I think he won it when he convinced Isiah Thomas to take on the huge long-term contracts of Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway during the 2003-04 season. It cleared the Suns' debts and allowed them the ability to be reborn.

In that light, I'd like to be the first to cast an executive of the year vote for the 2006 to the Nets' Rod Thorn. And even though he's had a terrific month, I think it was something he did a year ago made it all possible. When his new owner told him last summer that he wouldn't pay for Kenyon Martin, causing Thorn to lose a staredown with the Denver Nuggets, it had to be personally and professionally hurtful. He traded Martin and Kerry Kittles, two starters from the championship teams he built, for nothing but draft picks and trade exceptions. Instead of pouting, he thought long-term.

He's turned those into Vince Carter and Shareef Abdur-Rahim and one of his last draft picks, Nenad Kristic, has the potential to be an All-Star center. With Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, the Nets figure to turn into title contenders again.

On to the Knicks. Larry Brown going there is poetic and everything, but I'm not sure it's the best thing. Isiah had just started to sort of float the idea that rebuilding is in order -- the battle cry trained observers have been suggesting for some time now -- and he went and hired a first-class coach. No rebuilding now. With an average an waaaaaay overpaid roster, I'm not alone in thinking that problematic club needs a surgeon more than a coach. But if there's one thing Isiah believes in, it's band-aids. Here's another one.

On the Cavaliers. I hear a lot of people on the radio and read message boards where fans are ready to coronate Danny Ferry for his offseason. All I can really say is that he's spent a lot of Dan Gilbert's money. Don't judge the team until it plays. I'm not being critical, I'm just saying not to rush to judgment yet. Until the off-season is compete and the roster is filled, you can't give a grade. And not until you see how the team comes together can you judge how good the decisions were.

By the way, the Suns absolutely must match Joe Johnson's offer sheet he'll sign with the Hawks. The owner, Robert Sarver, doesn't want to see a huge payroll and Johnson's deal will give the Suns four guys making more than $10 million, but he does want to win a title. That means keeping Johnson. If it doesn't work out, he can break the team down later.

Finally, we just passed the one-year anniversary of Carlos Boozer signing with the Jazz. An article in today's Salt Lake Tribune looks back at it all. Having covered it and written about it more than any other writer in the country, I grew tired of it long go. So even though I think this story misses on some points I don't care anymore.

It was summed up well, I think, for me at the end of the season by a Cavs official:

"I'd lie to my mother for a million bucks, probably much less. All Carlos had to do was lie to Gordon Gund and Jim Paxson for $30 million."

I'm not calling him or anyone else a liar, I'm just saying there's some perspective there.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Saturday, July 23, 2005

There's no amnesty for E. Snow

Over the last week I've a load of two sorts of e-mail: Blog loyalists thrilled with my little explanation of the salary cap and readers wanting to know why the Cavaliers haven't released Eric Snow yet under the new "amnesty" clause.

So let's continue with more NBA legalese to satisfy both parties.

Before I begin, let me put it to rest: The Cavs will not be releasing Eric Snow or any other player.

This has come up because many fans have read or heard about the provision in the new collective bargaining agreement that allows teams a one-time chance to waive a player and not pay the luxury tax on his salary.

That is a complicated statement that is being misunderstood, based on my readings, by many fans and media outlets. If a team uses this clause, they still must pay the player and the contract still counts against the salary cap for the length of the deal.

It only saves money for teams who are over the luxury tax threshold, which this upcoming season will be around $60 million. Teams that are over the tax line, pay a dollar-for-dollar tax. So the Knicks, who were about $40 million over the line last year, wrote a check for $40 million.

The Cavaliers are going to be no where near the tax line, so they won't waive Snow. It makes no sense whatsoever to do so, they don't save any money. In addition, they won't likely be near the tax for at least two seasons (when LeBron's new contract would kick in) so it doesn't make a lot of sense long range either.

Two names that immediately came up were Allan Houston of the Knicks and Michael Finely of the Mavericks. Both make sense because those teams are hopelessly over the cap for the next few years and by releasing them, both clubs will save tens of millions in tax money. Plus both have injury problems. I mean the Mavericks could save money by waiving Dirk Nowitzki, too, but he's in his prime.

I also think Brian Grant of the Lakers and Eddie Jones of the Heat are options, because those teams are over the tax line. For the Lakers, it could mean the difference from being in the tax or out of it. Jones is past his prime, but still valuable.

Jalen Rose of the Raptors has been mentioned by many a media outlet, but I don't think this makes sense because the Raptors are not in the tax. I've also heard the Theo Ratliff of the Trail Blazers. I personally don't think that's likely because the Blazers are headed below the tax in the next year or so.

A guy I'd throw out there, although I haven't heard this anywhere else, is Adonal Foyle of the Golden State Warriors. He's got a crazy deal for five more seasons and the Warriors will be into the tax in two years, I think, because Jason Richardson, Baron Davis, and Troy Murphy all have high-dollar deals that are only growing in value.

I've heard that teams will have until Oct. 1, basically the start of training camp, to decide on whether they want to waive a player. Obviously the players want the date moved up so the released players have options. That will all be finalized by next Thursday.

Back to the free agency watch. Will my torrid off-season (coach search, president search/destroy, GM search, free agent chase) come to an end soon? One can only hope.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

p.s. By the way, thanks to Ben from realcavsfans.com, who is a true salary-cap expert.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I take no exception to all this

May I say, I'm so proud of my readership. In the last week, I've probably gotten 20-25 e-mails asking me about the semantics of the salary cap. I take great pride in trying to explain it as well as I can in my stories and in numerous radio interviews.

Some beat writers don't bother with it, figuring the average fan doesn't care or it is too complicated from them to understand. I've always said the real fans do want to know because this is what they talk about when there's no game to watch or talk about. Thanks to many of you for proving me right.

OK, now hopefully I can clear some of this salary cap stuff up for you.

Whenever you hear or read anything about an "exception" it means an exception to the salary cap. The NBA, unlike the NFL, has a soft cap. (Don't ask me about the NHL, I think their's might eventually be a hard cap). Soft because teams can exceed it under certain "exceptions."

Now, because the Cavaliers will be $28 million under the cap on Friday when the new NBA fiscal year starts, they get NO major exceptions this year.

The most common one you hear about is the mid-level exception or the MLE. This means teams get what an "average" or "mid-level" player is worth to exceed the salary cap each season. This is for teams OVER the cap or under the cap by less than the MLE. This year, the MLE is expected to be about $5.5 million.

You also hear about the Larry Bird exception. This means teams can exceed the salary cap to sign their own free agents or players for which they have so-called "Bird rights" to. It is named for Larry Bird because the Celtics broke the cap to sign Bird back in the 1980s in the landmark case. To have "Bird rights" a player must have been under contract for at least three years. This is why the Cavs didn't have Bird rights on Carlos Boozer, he'd played just two years.

There is also something called the million dollar exception. It used to be a worth a million, now it is worth $1.7 million. Many will just refer to it as the $1.7 million exception. You can only use this every other year if you are over the cap. The Cavs used it for Tractor Traylor last year when it was worth $1.6 million.

Teams over the cap can always sign players to the to a minimum contract at any time.

Now, many of you are still wondering why the Cavs can't spend $28 million and then sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas because they own his Bird rights. Well, this is a another little lesson concerning a thing called cap holds.

Until they are signed or "renounced," free agents have a cap hold on their team's books. The rules on these vary greatly, but just understand this, Z's cap hold is 105 percent of his salary from last year. So that's about $15 million. Jeff McInnis' cap hold is 200 percent of his salary, $7.2 million.

These holds are in place until a player is renounced or signs with a team. So, if the Cavs sign Larry Hughes for about $12 million, Z's $15 million cap hold will eat up all the rest of their money and they can't sign anyone. If they renounce him, they lose his Bird rights so they can't go over the cap to sign him later. So they will just sign him to a deal starting around $9 million and move on.

I hope you call understand all this mumbo jumbo. I'm glad so many of you are interested. Hopefully, this has helped you become a better NBA fan. Trust me, it is just a small piece of the ins and outs of the salary cap.

Take care and thanks for your loyal reading,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Anatomy of a Free Agent Search

Las Vegas -- So I was hanging out with Pete Rose inside a casino, when I was distracted by a fight and bumped into by Norman Chad, which almost caused me to ignore my cell phone that was vibrating in my pocket with information about Larry Hughes.

What a wild week it's been, let me tell you.

I've been splitting my time here at the World Series of Poker collecting information for a story I'll do later this month, at the Vegas Summer League working over NBA executives and agents, and sending dozens and e-mails and making calls to trail the Cavs free agent search.

Oh, and I did spend some time playing blackjack a few feet from a 60s and 70s cover band that was apparently being paid in booze and entire focus on this evening was to get a 40ish plus size fake blonde to dance her way out of her taught spaghetti straps. I won $45 and the straps, thankfully but with not without some tense moments, held. Always double down on 11.

After five days, I'm ready to leave, but it isn't yet in the, ahem, cards. I'll be here awhile longer searching for information.

Last year while I was here covering the Cavs in summer league I was closely observing my friend Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News handle covering a team with $20 million in salary cap space. One night Kenyon Martin showed up at the games and to talk to Nuggets officials and later he was signed. I tried to learn as much as I could.

It has come in handy this year. Thrashing around, I was able to stay on top of the Larry Hughes chase. I actually got a call at 5 a.m. local time on Friday morning telling me my story that had run that day was on the money. The Cavs had a deal with Hughes.

The Wizards people are here. I worked them over. The Cavs people are here. They had nothing to say. There's an agent, whose's client is friends with Hughes. We talked. There's an executive with another team who wanted Hughes who was talking to Hughes' agent. We talked. Bits, pieces and guesswork to be sure. And with $16 million left in cap space much, much more to be done.

But now I'm off to the WSOP, where I continue to try to figure out what the hell is going on after three days. I asked Pete Rose, trust me, he doesn't know either.

If you're bored or just dying for more Hughes info, here's my Sunday Column.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Nothing's free in free agency

It's July 5, do you know who your shooting guard is?

A week ago, I thought the Cavs would've landed a free agent by now because they have the most money in the market. This morning ESPN reported that Ray Allen will re-sign with the Sonics, which I think will start a flurry of signings in the next few days. Whether the Cavaliers get a piece of it or not is yet to be seen.

I genuinely think Micheal Redd will wait until the Bucks decide on a head coach before deciding what team he'll sign with. I think it is a good sign for the Cavs that he hasn't taken the Bucks offer, a total max out worth more than $90 million for six years, over the Cavs $70 million offer over five years.

But remember, Redd has hinted to the Bucks for months that he intends to re-sign and now has $20 million reasons to keep that promise. If he doesn't, he'll want an exit strategy and maybe if the Bucks don't hire a coach he's thrilled with, he can bolt.

Interestingly, I'm told the Cavs shipped him a video that marketed the city, the new ownership and LeBron James. Supposedly, through some slick editing, there's a scenario in there where James drives to the basket, draws a double team and kicks it to Redd for an NBA winning 3-pointer. Hmm, didn't that just happen when Rasheed Wallace stupidly doubled Manu Ginobili and left Robert Horry for an open 3-pointer in the real deciding game (No. 5) of the Finals?

Anyway, that's the package the team is selling.

Mr. Redd: Come be LeBron's Scottie Pippen and end up on the list of NBA 75 greatest players 17 years from now.

Whether or not that pitch makes up for $20 mil is a matter of money and the mind. In that case, I usually bet on money.

Speaking of money and free agency, I'll be in Las Vegas for the next week for Cavs Summer League. I'd be telling you all about Luke Jackson and Martynas Andruiskivicious. But I'm also going to be gathering information for a series of stories I'm going to be doing on the World Series of Poker, the Main Event $10,000 buy in is going on at the same time. I'll be glad to detail it for you soon.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com