Much Ado About The Amnesty Rule …

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Rarely have so few words received so much scrutiny.

But if we didn’t know any better, the amnesty provision in the NBA’s new labor proposal (and that’s all it remains at this point, until the untangling process is complete) would appear to be the most important piece of the pending collective bargaining agreement.

It seems strange that something that will be utilized by such a small number of teams would be the focus of everyone’s attention. Yet when you realize the names that could potentially be impacted by the rule — Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Gilbert Arenas and several others — the intense examination of how the rule works makes much more sense.

Folks in Portland have already singled out Roy as one of the certain casualties of the amnesty rule, with John Canzano of the Oregonian providing the background for how and why it will go down:

The whisper at One Center Court is that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen won’t bother to take one last look at Brandon Roy before he goes amnesty clause on the guy who won all those games for him.

Here’s hoping Allen does. And that the longest look is into Roy’s eyes.

“Brandon’s out,” a league executive told me Monday. “Don’t know the exact details, but everyone around the league knows it’s way, way done. Paul and Bert (Kolde) are calling the shots on this one.”

While the amnesty provision seems like the hot topic of the day, there are other items in the tentative labor agreement, outlined in a letter from Billy Hunter to the players, a copy of which was obtained by SI.com‘s Sam Amick, that require more attention.

Chris Sheridan of Sherdianhoops.com dives in on the “stretch exception,” a tool designed to give teams relief from bad contracts signed after the new CBA goes into effect, while also detailing a couple of new wrinkles that will make trading players easier than it was under the previous CBA. Sheridan’s believes that the stretch exception has limitations in it that will not allow teams to abuse it and explains his theory:

… what I see happening is teams overpaying for marginal players, knowing that they can dump a guy owed $10 million in the final year of his contract if it is only going to count as $3.33 million against the cap in the ensuing three years.

For example, let’s say there are two teams bidding for the services of Kris Humphries, who is a free agent in more ways than one.

Team A is willing to give Humphries a three-year contract starting at $8 million. With 4.5 percent annual raises, Hump would have an offer of $25.08 million sitting on the table.

But Team B really needs someone to do the dirty work under the boards. So they make Humphries the same offer but with a fourth year added on, fully guaranteed at $9.08 million. Now, Hump is looking at a $34.16 million deal.

Which one do you think he’s going to take?

Team B’s, of course.

Then, after three years, if Humphries is a $9 million burden on Team B’s 2014-15 cap, they can waive him using the stretch exception, and he will count against the cap for only $3 million per season over the next three seasons.

It should make for some funny money flying around on Dec. 9 when free agency and training camps open simultaneously.

Dec. 9 is setting up as easily the most dramatic day of the past five months, since the flurry of expected activity could rivals anything we’ve seen in free agency, including Free Agent-Palooza 2011.

Buckle up and be ready!

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PAUL REMAINS THE FOCUS IN NEW YORK

Knicks fans will no doubt spend the coming days  wondering who joins Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire at Madison Square Garden this season. Chris Paul remains the focus on Knicks fans, just as he was before the lockout. Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine stokes that fire :

… unlike the situation with [LeBron] James, whom the city begged and pleaded to sign with the Knicks in 2010, visions of Paul in blue and orange are steeped in reality, not mere fantasy. Paul’s first choice by far is to team up with the Knicks’ Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to form yet another Eastern Conference big three, according to sources close to the situation.

The Knicks should have enough room beneath the salary cap next summer to offer Paul, who can become a free agent after this season, a contract starting around $13.5 million, just less than the maximum. And while New Orleans could offer him more money, Paul, like his buddies James and Wade did in 2010, will gladly take a little less to join the team of his choice.

But one team’s joy is another’s sorrow, and Paul’s current team, the poor, league-owned New Orleans Hornets, will of course do everything it can to avoid losing Paul for nothing. That means trying to trade him before or during this truncated 66-game season, according to sources.

Of course, the Hornets will first offer Paul a long-term contract extension as soon as the league’s new collective bargaining agreement is ratified and teams are given permission to speak with their players.

But once he turns that down and refuses to commit to them long-term, they’ll have no choice but to begin shopping him in hopes of avoiding a sequel to the Melo-drama that took place in Denver last season.

Here’s the problem: No team is going to give up assets for Paul unless it can sign him to a long-term extension. And the one team Paul definitely would sign an extension with, the Knicks, has nothing of value — outside of Anthony and Stoudemire — to send to New Orleans in a trade.

If the player movement that commences on Dec. 9 is as fast and furious as most expect it to be, this could be more than just a theoretical conversation.

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SCHEDULING REALITIES HIT HOME FOR SPURS

As NBA.com’s John Schuhmann detailed over the weekend, after the Christmas Day openers the remaining 990 regular season games that have to be played will be done in 119 days. That could mean some serious back-to-back(to-back) action for veterans teams like the Spurs.

They are bracing for that reality in San Antonio, according to our main man Mike Monroe of the Express-News:

For a team like the Spurs, with aging veterans among its key players, the grind will be especially difficult. Perennial All-Star and two-time Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan is 35, [Manu] Ginobili 34. Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner are 31. Point guard Tony Parker is just 29, but has been playing professionally since he was 15.

[Gregg] Popovich has been limiting Duncan’s and Ginobili’s playing time for several seasons. One expert on Popovich’s approach expects even more vigilance.

Mike Brungardt announced his retirement in July, after 17 seasons as the only strength and conditioning coach in franchise history. He was with Popovich in the 50-game lockout season of 1998-99, when the Spurs played three straight on one occasion and back-to-backs 10 more times.

“It’s going to be a situation where he has to monitor their minutes closely and probably be even more conscious of it,” Brungardt said. “Pop’s really good about sticking to a game plan with minutes for each player, adjusting as he goes. He’s got a great feel for players, always questioning, always staying on top of it. I know he’ll go into the season with a plan for exactly how he wants to approach every scenario.

“You always have to adjust on the fly. Things change. People get hurt. Some games become more important than others. But he will stay with his plan for the most part. He’s as experienced as anyone at dealing with a situation like this. He’s always done well in these types of scenarios.”

The schedule also will mean Matt Herring, who replaced Brungardt, will have to adapt his approach to keeping players at peak strength.

“When you compress that many games into that short a period of time, it’s going to be important not to overtrain guys,” Brungardt said. “I would assume that most teams will probably practice much less than in the past, simply because of the schedule. And even when they do practice, most practices won’t be as intense or as long.”

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COMING HOME? … NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS

The road home from China for NBA players that opted to go that route during the lockout appears to be blocked by the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Aaron Brooks are the four top NBA players under contract in China, and several sources involved in those contract entanglements said escape clauses won’t be allowed with the impending end of the NBA lockout.

The Chinese Basketball Association passed a rule that its teams could sign only NBA free agents during the lockout, and it was made clear to those players they would have to play the full season to be given FIBA clearance letters to sign contracts with NBA teams.

Smith has had multiple clashes with his team, and some Chinese officials fear players becoming obstinate and purposely missing practices and games once they realize they’ll be held to their contracts.

Team officials have prepared for the possibility some players could try to force their way out of deals, but their contracts give teams the latitude to fine and suspend players without pay. Chinese teams invested heavily when they signed NBA players, also providing hotel suites, personal drivers and chefs to make the players more comfortable.

“They can play, get paid [in China] and return to the NBA in March,” one Chinese team official said. “Or they can not get paid, and return to the NBA in March.”

March doesn’t seem like it’s such a long way off. But we’re saying that from the comfort of the hideout and knowing that we will spend all of our time in NBA arenas this season.

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THE FUTURE

While everyone else is stressing about what went down the past five months and moves that will be made in the next few weeks, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com was busy thinking big picture. Over the weekend he provided a sobering glimpse into the future that I hope you didn’t miss:

What happens if Oklahoma City wins a title or two?
Competitive balance has been a battle cry for small-market teams. Some of the aforementioned provisions are designed to even the playing field, and owners are virtually certain over the coming weeks to hammer out additional concessions for lower-revenue teams — all this despite the fact there’s little empirical evidence that payroll correlates with success on the court.

When data-driven folks point to the Spurs’ four championship as evidence to the contrary, naysayers answer that the Spurs are an anomaly. That argument will be increasingly difficult to sell if the Oklahoma City Thunder — playing in the league’s third-smallest television market — achieve their potential and routinely find themselves playing basketball in mid-June.

Yes, the Thunder have some built-in advantages. A publicly-funded $120 million renovation to their arena — along with the construction of a practice facility — provided the franchise with a solid foundation in Oklahoma City. Voters even approved a one-cent sales tax increase. General manager Sam Presti has drafted and managed the roster impeccably.

If the Thunder can translate that sound management into a Larry O’Brien trophy, it will serve as further evidence that small-market teams can prosper if they do the right things. That, in turn, could make competitive balance an antiquated notion.

“Sound management,” just as it was during the previous CBA, will always rank as a close second to serendipity (if and when your team snags the No. 1 pick in the draft you have pray there is a Duncan, James or Howard in the mix) in determining which teams compete for championships and which teams watch from the sidelines.

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23 Comments

  1. Kevin Arnovitz sounds like he hasn’t done his homework. The reason San An and OKC can compete is quite simply because they landed Robinson/Duncan & Garnett/Westbrook in the lottery respectively. Without those strokes of huge fortune, talk of fine management and fiscal prudence all you like, they’re not competing. The important thing is allowing them to cash in on this luck by allowing them to offer said players more money than they can make at “better” teams. If Chris Paul wants to take less money to play in NY, fine. He’s entitled to do this and competitive balance doesn’t take a hit. But simply allow NY to outspend New Orleans and the league is dead as a competition. The new CBA seems strong in this regard and rightly so.

    I keep hearing this debate that “there’s little empirical evidence that payroll correlates with success” and yet as a European I strongly wonder if any of those espousing this notion your side of the Atlantic have the faintest idea of how the free market European soccer leagues compare to leagues like the NBA. Look them up. You may be a little surprised. And be careful what you wish for when coming out with your “free market is best” propaganda.

    • Mixing my Kevins up there, meant Durant not Garnett obv, my bad.

    • Andy says:

      Exactly – I am also from Europe and I can tell that football (soccer as US calls it) free agent market sucks. Just check FC Barcelona, Real Madrit or Chealse London. If there would be the same kind of free agents market like in soccer, then NJ Nets would be the best team in whole NBA or at least the team with the most stars in the roster. I know that money is important for players as this is their job, but come on, any team sport is only fun when it is competitive. This is not the racing or tennis where only single games are OK, but the team efford. And I can tell that in European soccer the only realy interesting games are those between the giants – so Real Madrit vs. Barcelona, Manchaster Unated vs. Manchester City or Chealse or any other well spending team.

  2. Mac says:

    Brandon Roy to the Bulls? Everyone knows derek rose needs someone else to share the scoring with. The Bulls could limit Roy’s minutes in what will be a strenuous season and then have a healthy second scoring option in the playoffs.

  3. TS says:

    Brandon Roy is a Blazer hero, and will become a Blazer legend when his playing days are over. We all know that B-Roy is a fierce warrior, but I worry about him severely damaging his legs if he continues to play NBA ball with his type of injuries.

  4. Ali says:

    I think giving up Roy is correct. Out of 10 games, he plays one good one. We can’t be paying that large amount of money if he plays like that. I understand that he had knee surgery but if he can’t compete at a good enough level there is no way the Blazers should keep him. All of you saying that the Blazers are stupid because he is a 3 time all star don’t understand how poorly Roy has been playing; he can’t even defend anybody because of his knees. Roy is done. I love him but it’s the correct move.

  5. Joe says:

    Yes, sound management and Portland taking Greg Oden in front of you so you got Kevin Durant is how OKC has a shot at doing something. Of course you don’t have to spend the most money if you get lucky in the draft…you have to be bad in the right season and then not lose out in the lottery process. San Antonio? They were the same thing. Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili are great and all but if they didn’t get the lottery luck in the Tim Duncan season they wouldn’t have won all those titles. So it’s a combination of good management, enough money to keep them around and some luck.

  6. roy says:

    I LOVE ROY! STAY IN PORTLAND =(

  7. roy says:

    BLAZERS GOTTA BE STUPID IF THEY LET THE 3 TIME ALL STAR BRANDON ROY GO!!!! AND THATS COMMING FROM A BLAZER FAN! I LOVE ROY AND SO DOES PORTLAND! HE CHANGED THE FACE OF THIS WHOLE FRANCHISE…. HE TRYS 100 PERCENT TO HELP THE BLAZERS OUT AND IF U ASK ME HES DOING A HECK OF A JOB CONSIDERING HE HAD 2 KNEE SUGERYS ON BOTH KNEES!! KEEP BRANDON ROY IN BLAZERS! IT WOULDNT BE THE SAME WITHOUT HIM! =( ;)

  8. Blackmamba24 says:

    What are you talking about… Blazers have alot of talent, bringing in Gerald Wallace & Mathews. Blazers were the only team in the West last season to give Mavericks a run for they money…. This is coming from a Lakers fan.

  9. DrPepper434343 says:

    T-Mac Will be Back (I can Feel it)

  10. LoL@NBAblogcommens says:

    They got rid of Andre Miller and picked up Raymond Felton and they also got Gerald Wallace wesley mathews has proven he can take over roys spot he’s a great player. But if roy does go into the pool that means Miami and The Celtics and Lakers and whoever can grab this guy for cheap which is gonna happen regardless of what names out there. This could be the most intresting season ever even the golden states clevelands and those below .500 teams could make some noise.. Well not Cleveland they don’t have “THE KING” but Can’t wait for free-agancy!

  11. Ben says:

    I’m not sure why, historically at least, some feel the need to argue there is no bias against small markets.

    It’s not the results that make this obvious, it’s the fact that the big market teams routinely snap up all the best players, paying way over the cap to get them, while smaller teams clearly have to make their way to the top by paying less. The fact that a small team can win doesn’t change the fact that its a lot harder for them to.

    If the Thunder start winning, the reason why will most likely be because the new deal will make it harder for other teams to steal their players off them with offers that can’t be refused. And maybe it will usher in a new era where dynasties are for more regularly begun on who you draft where, smart free agent decisions, and not just by throwing money at several of the stars in their prime.

  12. Anthony says:

    please make a deal

  13. rich says:

    TRUTH IS – both sides haven’t agreed officially on anything yet. They were just making those recent announcements on ‘tentative agreement’ to save what’s left on the confidence of the fans. I won’t be surprised if we are now just being taken for a wild ride to nowhere.

  14. Gary says:

    If the Blazers get rid of Roy they will not see a championship. They always seem to do this. Build up a good team then start to dismantle it before they even get a real chance to play together. The did it during the Drexler era, and druing Rasheed Wallace’s era too.

    • rich says:

      Errr, what’s that got to do with the topic ?
      To satisfy your craving for a Blazer’s talk, I think it’s about time to get rid of Oden, Roy and Miller. 2 are crippled; 1 is consitently inconsistent. But even if, I don’t think Blazers have enough to win (even) a conference championship in the next 5 years. But surely they’ll make it harder for other teams to beat them in 7.

      • tm1723 says:

        umm Miller is already gone

      • Gary says:

        It’s one of the very first things mentioned…

      • roy says:

        UMM ROY CHANGED THE FACE OF THE FRANCISE! HES A 3 TIME ALL STAR!!! AND THA LAST PLAY OFF GAME VS DALLAS HE SCORED MOST OF THE POINTS IN THE 4TH QUARTER LEADING BLAZERS TO A WIN! AND KOBE BRYANT AND ARTEST CALLS HIM ONE OF THE TOUGHEST GAURDS TO PLAY AGAINEST IN THE NBA! BLAZERS ARE GONNA GET RID OF THAT???? WOW…CRAZYYYY….!!!!!. I LOVE ROY AND HE WILL ALWAYS BE A PART OF THA TEAM IF U ASK ME… ;)

      • Takeru says:

        Ya gotta get rid of contract. Doctor said he might have a year or two left!!!!!!!!