Folks around the league have spent the weekend reviewing the new labor deal and its 450-plus pages of complicated math and lawyerly language.
As we brace for the lifting of the moratorium on signings and trades Tuesday, what follows here is the first bundle of fine-print CBA details to blip onto the Stein Line radar.
There will be more nuggets to share once the complete labor document starts to circulate, but here are 10 to pique the interest of amateur capologists everywhere:
1. Call this one the Gary Payton Rule: Players who are traded and then waived by their new team cannot sign back with the team that traded them for 30 days (20 days in the offseason). Payton, you'll recall, was dealt from Boston to Atlanta in the Antoine Walker trade-deadline swap in February, only to rejoin the Celtics three days later. Had this rule been in place last season, Payton still would have been eligible for the playoffs after Atlanta released him March 1, but he would have been forced to wait until March 31 to re-sign with Boston.
2. A trick that attracted even more attention last season -- after Alonzo Mourning and Jim Jackson refused to report to Toronto and New Orleans to eventually force their way to title contenders -- will be personally addressed by the commissioner from now on. The new rules empower David Stern to fine or suspend such players, and word is he plans to swing the hammer hard in hopes of dissuading future Zos from holding out after trades. Mourning was able to sign with Miami after the Raptors, who had acquired the veteran center from New Jersey in the Vince Carter trade, bought him out for an estimated $11 million. Had Stern possessed this option last season, Zo likely would have been forced to miss a handful of games through suspension upon joining the Heat.
3. Maximum salaries for next season are $12 million for players with zero-to-six years of service time (such as Michael Redd and Joe Johnson), $14.4 million for players with seven-to-nine years of service time (Ray Allen) and $16.8 million for players with 10 or more years of service time. So Redd's six-year deal to stay put in Milwaukee, based on 10.5 percent annual raises, is worth $90.9 million. Johnson's forthcoming contract in a Phoenix Suns' sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks, based on 8 percent raises because the Hawks set the terms, is worth $69.6 million. And Allen's five-year deal to stay in Seattle, based on 10.5 percent raises, is worth $87.1 million.
4. Despite suggestions to the contrary, the league office will continue to institute a moratorium on signings and trades at the start of every July throughout the next six seasons of labor peace. By year five, though, the moratorium is expected to last no longer than a week.
5. Players with two years or less of big-league service can be sent down to the NBA Development League a maximum of three times per season.
6. Rookie contracts indeed provide only a two-year guarantee for first-round picks, with teams able to invoke two subsequent one-year options if they choose. Rookies, though, do not become unrestricted free agents after four seasons as some expected. If a rookie plays out the original two-year deal and the two option seasons, he would still be a restricted free agent after the fourth year.
7. Offer sheets to restricted free agents like Chicago's Eddy Curry, which formerly had to be at least three seasons long, can now be as short as two years.
8. The so-called Million Dollar Exception is now known as the Bi-Annual Exception, because teams above the cap can use it only every other season. It's now worth $1.672 million for the 2005-06 season and will go up slightly every year. Capped-out teams can still use the mid-level exception (worth an even $5 million in '05-06) every season.
9. NBA teams can now pay $500,000 when buying out a player from his overseas contract, up from $350,000.
10. Along with an increase to four random drug tests per season for all veterans, ramped-up punishments for steroid violations call for a 10-game suspension for the first offense, 25 games for strike two, one full season for strike three and then a lifetime ban for the fourth offense.
NEXT UP: SOME "AMNESTY CLAUSE" FINE PRINT
Allan Houston and Michael Finley haven't said much about their futures since their names surfaced as the most likely former All-Stars to be waived via the new "amnesty clause", the onetime opportunity between Tuesday and Aug. 15 for teams to release a player without paying luxury tax on the rest of his contract.
The relative silence makes it tough to forecast exactly what they'll be looking for as free agents -- besides the chance to join a championship contender -- after their expected releases.
Which makes it tougher still to gauge how the "spread provision" in both players' contracts will affect their choices.
Houston and Finley, according to NBA front-office sources, both possess considerable spread provisions in their contracts that would result in drawn-out payment schedules from the Knicks and Mavericks after being let go.
In Finley's case, specifically, sources say the $51-plus million he's owed by Dallas over the next three seasons would be paid in annual increments of less than $5 million if he's waived by the Aug. 15 amnesty deadline. Houston's contract apparently includes a similar spread provision.
Signing with a new team for a minimum contract in the sub-$2 million area, as Phoenix hopes to do with Finley, might not be so comfortable for either player. The fact that Finley wouldn't be able to collect his $51-plus million from the Mavs as originally scheduled over the next three seasons gives hope to a team like the Denver Nuggets, who are prepared to offer Finley their full $5 million mid-level exception.
Another factor is the "set-off provision" that was restored to the amnesty clause in the final stages of collective bargaining. The set-off provision returns a percentage of what a player makes from his new team to the team paying off his terminated contract.
In the new deal, the union fought to specifically word the amnesty clause to say that the set-off provision doesn't apply. That would have enabled players such as Houston and Finley to double-dip by collecting the full balance of their old contracts in addition to the payments from their new deals. But the league wouldn't give in, insisting that a chunk of an amnesty player's new earnings go back to the original team.
What this all means is that money probably will matter to amnesty players who possess a long-term payout provision in their contract. The assumption that Finley can earn up to $21 million next season -- a full $16 million from the Mavs and $5 million from a team like Denver offering the full mid-level -- is a fallacy. To go back to the Suns, who drafted him in 1995, Finley might be looking at a pay cut of Karl Malone-to-the-Lakers proportions, even though he would eventually receive every cent Dallas owes him.
LINE ITEMS ...
Finley is the obvious candidate to address the shooting void in Phoenix created by Johnson's imminent departure, but the Suns figure to rekindle their interest in Payton as well. Reason being: Johnson not only backed up Steve Nash but enabled Nash to play off the ball on occasion to take advantage of his deft shooting touch. Payton, like Johnson, could spell Nash or play alongside him, too, but the Suns don't have roster room for both Payton and Finley. ... It's not yet clear if Doug Christie will be released by the Orlando Magic via the amnesty clause or whether he'll be able to negotiate a buyout of the one year (at $8.2 million) left on his contract. What is clear, according to NBA front-office sources, is that the Christies (mandatory reference to wife Jackie) plan and hope to be in Dallas next season if Doug can extricate himself from the Magic. It remains to be seen how much Christie can still contribute after ongoing foot problems, but he's remembered in Big D for his dogged defense on Nash in more than one Sacramento-Dallas series. ... The Mavericks, meanwhile, say they have no interest in Cavaliers forward Drew Gooden, no matter how many times Gooden is mentioned as an alleged Dallas trade target. ...
Needing a big man to balance a roster full of players 6-8 and under, and unsure (like the Bulls) about making a rich offer to Curry because of the Chicago center's recent heart ailment, Atlanta is closing in on Milwaukee restricted free agent Zaza Pachulia with what sources say is a four-year offer. ... Sacramento's Darius Songaila is another restricted free agent, but Washington remains hopeful of landing the Lithuanian banger via sign-and-trade, with guard Steve Blake potentially part of the package being offered to the Kings. ... Flip Saunders' guaranteed base to coach the Detroit Pistons is an even $20 million over four seasons, but incentives -- if he hits them all -- could take the contract past the $26 million mark. ... The memo Commissioner Stern promised during the NBA Finals that will require teams and their personnel people to stay out of high school gyms is said to be forthcoming, but the memo isn't out yet because such a directive wouldn't be part of the collective-bargaining agreement.