Friday, August 28, 2009

More Creative Financing In The NBA

Here's a longer list of things that were not included in the original Creative Financing post, either because I forgot to include them, or (in one instance) because the sweet prince who called our hotline with the information had not yet come forward. Remember; all calls are anonymous and you could receive a cash reward for information.

(Wait, no you couldn't. That's the slogan they use on Crimewatch. Ignore that.)

- As a part of the new scheme of turning this website's salary information from a static exhibit into a working reconstruction of life in First World War France, there now exists a page that lists all remaining salary cap exceptions for every NBA team. Of note on this list is the curious case of Channing Frye, the former Blazers and Knicks forward whose transformation from the next Dirk Nowitzki to the next Malik Allen is almost complete. The Suns signed Frye last month to a 2 year, $4,139,200 contract; not coincidentally, that is the same amount as the full value of the Bi-Annual Exception. However, the Suns didn't actually use their Bi-Annual Exception to sign him. Knowing that they wouldn't be using the full MLE to sign somebody due to their payroll concerns, the Suns cleverly (and creatively) used an equivalent chunk of their mid level exception instead. As the name would suggest, you get to use the Bi-Annual Exception a maximum of once every two years, so if the Suns used it this year, they wouldn't get it next year. But if they roll it over, they do. It's pretty shrewd, when you think about it.

(Teams that should have done this but didn't include Washington - who used their BAE on Fabricio Oberto, and who won't use their MLE - and Chicago - who used their BAE on Jannero Pargo and who also won't use their MLE; however, if their plan for 2010 cap space comes off, it won't matter.)

- Less shrewd is the fact that the Suns appear to have used most of the rest of their MLE on re-signing Grant Hill. The fact that he got only an 8% raise in the second year of his contract backs this up. Why would the Suns do this? They had Early Bird rights on him, meaning that they could re-sign him to a contract beginning at the value of the mid level exception, without using the actual mid level exception to do so. They would also have been able to give Hill a 10.5% increase from the first year to the second. But, as I've said above, they didn't. Indeed, it appears they used their MLE to re-sign him. So either the document I'm looking at is wrong, the Suns renounced Hill at some point for no reason whatsoever, or the Suns just used their MLE when they completely and totally didn't need to.

If you're a Suns executive, feel free to set me straight on this.

- The Blazers' offer sheet to restricted Jazz free agent Paul Millsap was oft described as "toxic". The four year offer sheet started at $7,692,932 - which represents every last dollar that Portland had under the salary cap - before dipping to an even $7,600,000 in the second year. The final two years were for $8,103,435 and $8,603,633 respectively, bringing the contract's total worth to an even $32 million.

Furthermore, the Blazers did something fairly rare when they included a maximum 17.5% signing bonus into the contract; put simply, this means that Millsap receives 17.5% ($5.6 million) of the entire value of the contract up front. They did this so that it might deter the Jazz (pressed financially this season) not to match it. But ballsily, they did so. And doing so will work in their favour in the long run; for the next three seasons of his deal, whichever team owns Millsap will have $1.4 million less in obligations to pay him than his listed salary will indicate. If ever they decide to trade him, this will be a welcome reprive for the recipient team.

You probably knew all that, but there it is again anyway.

- What you may not have known is a strange thang that happened afterwards. The Blazers had to go on a hell of a renouncing binge in order to be able to make that offer sheet, and they purged some of the game's all time greats from their salary cap in order to do so. [Note: for a fuller explanation of renouncing and cap holds and stuff, go here.] Finally cleans from Portland's page of the salary report were the seminal names of Chris Dudley, Channing Frye, Raef LaFrentz, Voshon Lenard, Shavlik Randolph, Michael Ruffin, Luke Schenscher and Detlef Schrempf, some of whom had been out of the league for years, and none of whom meant anything to the Blazers.

However, after the Jazz matched the offer sheet, the Blazers unrenounced Shavlik Randolph. [You're allowed to unrenounce people in only one circumstance; when your enounced them in order to sign a RFA to an offer sheet, which then gets matched.] This meant that Randolph was now put back onto their salary figure, once again available to be signed and traded, but most significantly eating into their cap space.

Why is this important? It isn't. It might have been had it meant that they couldn't then afford to sign Andre Miller, but they could, and thus the Randolph unrenouncement made no impact on anything ever. All it means is that, if they decide to re-sign Randolph, they now have non-Bird rights on him as opposed to no rights at all. This means next to nothing, though, since Non-Bird rights are about as much use as a paper condom. Randolph's previous salary was the minimum salary, and all the non-Bird rights allow is for the Blazers to re-sign him for 120% of next year's minimum salary, something which they aren't going to do. If they're going to bring back Randolph, it's going to be for the minimum, and since the internet currently contains unsubstantiated rumours which state that the Blazers will be bringing Juwan Howard to training camp this year, it doesn't sound like they're even going to bring Shavlik back for that.

So then, why did they do it? Well, why not, I say. I got a blog post out of it. Everyone's a winner.

- Would you like an example of how trade bonuses (kickers) work? Hope so, because you're about to get one. Feel free to skip it if you're easily bored.

The following is how John Salmons' trade bonus was calculated after his trade from Sacramento to Chicago back in February.

Salmons' 2008/09 salary before the trade was for $5,104,000, followed by $5,456,000 in 2009/10, and finally an extra season in 2011/12 for $5,808,000 that Salmons had an early termination option on. He was traded on February 18th, the 114th day of the season. Including the day of the trade, there were 57 days remaining in the season.

There are 170 days in an NBA regular season. If you don't believe me, count them yourself; since this is dull and boring to do, I implore you to believe me. As 113 days of the season gone, so had 113/170ths of Salmons' salary for that season; therefore, only 57/170ths of that season's salary was still "remaining".

Therefore, the amount of Salmons' remaining salary (including the option year) was for $12,975,341. That total breaks down as following:

Remaining salary, 2010/11 - $5,808,000
Remaining salary, 2009/10 - $5,456,000
Remaining salary, 2008/09 - $1,711,341 ($5,104,000 divided by 170, times 57)

(Note: salary that falls under option years is not normally to be included in "remaining salary" when calculating trade bonuses; however, Early Termination Option years are the exception.)

Salmons had a 15% trade kicker, the maximum allowed under the CBA. This means that, in the event that he was traded, he'd get an extra 15% of his remaining salary as a bonus, in order to ease the pain of having to move from one luxury privileged job to another. 15% of his remaining salary was $1,946,301; this was the amount of his trade kicker.

That trade bonus is spread across the cap evenly amongst the remaining amount of guaranteed years of the contract. Option years are NOT included, and the trade kicker is NOT prorated like the amount of remaining salary was above. Therefore, Salmons' $1,946,301 bonus was to be split evenly between the two remaining guaranteed non-option seasons of his contract; 2008/09 and 2009/10; $973,151 for each season.

As a result, Salmons' new salary numbers became $6,077,151 (2008/09), $6,429,151 (2009/10) and $5,808,000 (2010/11, ETO).

Just trust me that that was more boring to type than it was to read.

- Eddy Curry does not have conditional guarantees in his contract relating to his weight. Nor does Glen Davis. Nor does Jerome James. But perhaps they all should do, because it's entirely possible. Two such contracts have been signed this summer; the Grizzlies' contract of Marcus Williams is for the minimum salary of $855,189 ($825,497 on the Grizz's cap), with guaranteed compensation of $500,000. The remaining $355,189 becomes guaranteed in 15 different stages; on 15 separate dates throughout the season, Williams has to turn up weighing equal to or less than 207 pounds, and a body fat amount of less than 10%. Each time he does so, he's guaranteed an extra $23,679. Similarly, the Kings signed Sean May to a one year minimum salary contract of $884,881 ($825,497 on their cap); however, only $784,881 of it is guaranteed. The other $100,000 becomes guaranteed if May weighs equal to or less than 265 pounds on September 30th OR October 27th.

(The word "or" is an interesting qualifier there. It's not mine.)

- Ever since Kiki Vanderweghe cemented their future with the Kenyon Martin contract, his replacement Mark Warkentein has had to work very hard to avoid the luxury tax. When you commit a near-9 figure contract to a guy worth less than half of it, cap management becomes all the more important, particularly when you have a genuine max player to pay as well, and an owner who owns a brilliant football team,but who isn't too keen on the idea of tax.

Warkentein didn't start well, paying Nene $60 million that he hadn't earned on the premise that he might do one day, and giving Reggie Evans a completely unnecessary 5 year contract to be the backup to the backup. But since then, he and the Nuggets have turned it around. Nene has lived up to his presumptuous salary, and Denver was able to take advantage of the always generous Billy King when they dumped off Evans's salary for that of Steven Hunter, a slightly smaller one that was also one year shorter. They've since been able to move that deal onto the Grizzlies, for the cost of some cash and a first round pick, completely absolving themselves of the deal. They made a similar deal towards the deadline last year, when they were able to move Chucky Atkins' salary to Oklahoma City in exchange for Johan Petro's smaller deal. They gave up a first round pick to do so, but they received a second round pick in the deal too. (The first rounder they gave up was the 26th pick in last year's draft, and the pick they got back was the 34th; let it be known that I'd rather have an unsigned Sergio Llull than a signed Taj Gibson.) Warkentien also managed to create the fine Allen Iverson deal, where the Nuggets got the better player and saved a boatload of short term salary in doing so. The Nuggets have managed the rare but special feat of being able to save money and improve their basketball product at the same time, not letting the bad Martin deal cripple their short and long term improvements. We should look up to that.

Unfortunately, they're going to struggle to dodge the tax again. Even after the Hunter dump, the Nuggets are still awkwardly in the tax territory and with less than a full roster to speak of. It's already cost them Linas Kleiza, and they don't have any more basketball assets that they can really lose. As such, they've had to get creative. And that's where Ty Lawson comes in.

It's never really mentioned, because it's never really important, but most rookie scale contracts contain performance incentives. So widespread is it, in fact, that every first rounder signed this season has them except for Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn, Austin Daye, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison and Wayne Ellington. (Yes, even Blake Griffin has them.) Lawson has them, too, and his case gives us a fine example of quite what these incentives can be. To earn the full 120% of his rookie contract that he signed for, Lawson has got to make five promotional appearances for the Nuggets, play in summer league, play in another two week summer skills and conditioning program, and play 900 minutes next season. As well as do all that suitcase carrying and doughnut fetching that's considered mandatory for a rookie in the NBA. (Although the contract doesn't stipulate the suitcase and doughnuts bit.)

In signing Lawson to a deal like this, the Nuggets may have given themselves a small saving this season, which gets them one step closer to breaking even. Since all money saved by the Nuggets is all money that can potentially be spent by Arsenal, I'm all for this.

- And finally, another example of how not to creatively finance. Does it involve Otis Smith? Oh yes. Yes it does.

In the weeks leading up to the start of last season, the Magic decided they needed a third string point guard. They were right. They did. They only had two, and one of them was Anthony Johnson. One injury to Jameer Nelson, and Ol' Fatneck would suddenly become their only option. At that point, they might as well just fold the franchise. (Or trade for Rafer Alston. Same sort of thing.)

They hunt around, and eventually pick a good one. They decide upon signing Mike Wilks, a career journeyman who puts the journeyman into journeyman. Since leaving Rice University in 2001, Wilks has spent various amounts of time with the Kings, Bucks, Hawks, Timberwolves, Rockets, Bulls, Spurs, Cavaliers, Sonics, Nuggets and the Wizards. He has appeared in 229 games over parts of six seasons, and there's a reason he's been getting all these look-ins; he's all right. Wilks will always be disadvantaged by his 5'10 frame, but he's not bad.

With that in mind, the Magic signed Wilks to an unguaranteed contract for training camp, somewhat expecting him to make the team but absolving themselves of all liability if something better came along. However, during a preseason game on October 16th, Wilks tore his knee up. Badly. He completely tore his ACL, slightly tore his MCL, and badly sprained his meniscus, knocking him out for the season. Because he was under contract to the Magic at the time, the Magic were now liable for his salary until he returned to full health.(That's the rule. Same as any job, really.) And this meant his contract became guaranteed.

This is why the Magic kept Wilks on the roster for half a season, despite him not playing any games; they were stuck with paying him anyway, so they might as well keep him around. They only shifted him from the roster when they were able to include him as salary filler in the Alston trade, sending him to the Grizzies, with whom he stayed on the roster until the end of the year. That was Mike Wilks's year in a nutshell - two teams, 7 months, 1 injury, 0 minutes played, over a million dollars earned. Could have been worse, I suppose.

The same thing happened to the Heat. Always willing to play the training camp game, Miami obliged us once again last year by bringing in the full compliment of 20, even when most of the extra signings (Omar Barlett, Tre Kelley, Eddie Basden, Matt Walsh, David Padgett) had no real chance of making the team. Along with Padgett, they signed former Davidson point guard Jason Richards right after summer league, to a contract that had only $50,000 guaranteed. However, Richards too blew out his knee, and so the Heat were liable for his salary until the day he recovered. And that saw them have to pay him for the full season.

The worst part about it all was that Richards's now-guaranteed salary meant that the Heat were now going to be taxpayers, when previously they'd budgeted to be just under it. As a result, they had to salary dump Shaun Livingston, now the Thunder's premier backup. Bad times.

The lesson here; if you're a decent basketball player, but of only a fringe NBA talent, do your damndest to get a training camp gig somewhere. Accept $0 guaranteed money if you have to. Just sign the contract. And then take a dive. It's a particularly good idea if you're broke. Antoine Walker, take note.

(This isn't just an excuse to take cheap shots at Orlando, by the way. Wilks was a good signing, an NBA calibre third string point guard, with whom they just happened to get highly unlucky. They did nothing wrong; these things just happen sometimes. It is, however, an eye opener. These are things that you don't really consider a possibility until they happen. Dallas had better find an Erick Dampier-sized straight jacket next summer.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Creative Financing In The NBA

If you Google the term '"creative financing" otis smith', you'll find quite a few hits. It's long been a favoured phrase for Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith, and his most famous usage of the phrase came in the run-up to the 2007 offseason. Smith used the term "creative financing" to describe how the Magic were going to handle having maximum cap room, juggling signing other team's free agents with retaining Darko Milicic. It was a fairly generic term that said something without really saying anything. And it only gained its resonance after Smith used all his money to give Rashard Lewis a ridiculously, amazingly, biblically terrible contract

You'll also, slightly depressingly, find this website fourth in those search results. There's a reason for that. "Creative financing" is something that I've harped on about for a while. The financial side of the NBA gives me a jolly; watching and learning how the NBA teams manage (or mismanage) their salary cap space, the luxury tax threshold and all their exceptions gets me off in ways that it really shouldn't. I don't know why it's fun, I only know that it is. I think you agree.

Therefore, there follows a list of some of the better examples of creative financing in the NBA today, some of the ways in which executives and cap experts have manipulated the system, staved off the shackles of oppression, and beaten the terrorists.

- The Bulls set a precedent by signing four players to descending contracts at the same time. At one point, the contracts of all four of Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Smiling Joe and Sulking Ben had contracts that shrunk on a year-by-year basis. The idea of this was to maintain future salary flexibility to allow them to retain Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas down the road as well. It didn't work, though; even though they paid them backwards, the Bulls overpaid all four, then overpaid Deng as well, and those combined with a staggeringly powerful fear of the luxury tax unbecoming of a team with such hefty profits (and an irrational hatred of the man) led to Gordon leaving as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Which sucked. Still, it could be worse. They may well have maximum cap room in 2010. (Yay! Because cap space went so well for us last time.)

- The Hawks are currently trying something similar. In the last six weeks, they've re-signed all three of Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby and Zaza Pachulia, all to pretty decent value contracts. All three also have contracts that dip in value in the 2010/11 season, a crucial offseason for the Hawks if they are to be able to pay to keep their star player, Joe Johnson. Knowing this to be true, GM Rick Sund has tried to set himself up to be able to pay all four players without going into the luxury tax. It's a good idea, in a way. But the downside of it is that this means the Hawks are going to be grazing their balls against the powerful stone grinding wheel that is the luxury tax threshold, and all they'll have done is retaining a good yet inadequate core. Of course, they would have had some financial flexibility, but they decided to use it all on Jamal Crawford, instead of re-signing the thoroughly comparable Ronald Murray for a third of the price. It's a strange decision.

- Quite a few players have taken second year dips in multi year contracts. The Magic (the creative financing GENIUSES that they are) once did it with Tony Battie, a move which enabled them to give Lewis even more completely unnecessary money than before. The Raptors have done it with Jarrett Jack, as they'll be struggling to stay under the tax next season. Others to have signed contracts that either descend or that have the occasional dip in them include Kris Humphries, Devin Harris, Speedy Claxton, Jarron Collins and Marcus Camby. But it's not common.

- Contract guarantees can be fun, too. There's way more leeway to them than there is often considered to be. Most unguaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts are guaranteed against lack of skill; that is to say, 'if we don't think you're good enough, we're cutting you.' Furthermore, any of those include dates on which the contract will become guaranteed if the player is still on the roster. But you can get way more creative than that if you want to. One such example is that of Matt Harpring; the Jazz re-signed Harpring to an oversized 4 year $25 million contract, but with conditional guarantees on the fourth year. Harpring were to only be guaranteed $4.5 million if he either:

a) missed 47 games combined during the 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons due to injuries to his right knee, or
b) missed 35 games in the 2008-09 season only due to injuries to his right knee.

Neither of these happened. Harpring gutted out the injury, as well as a concurrent serious injury to his ankle, and saw through all three seasons. It came at a cost, though; he's now about to retire. What a trooper, though.

- Leon Powe had something similar but different going on with his first contract from the Boston Celtics. Powe signed a three year minimum salary deal with the first year guaranteed, but with performance-related guarantees on the other two years. His second year salary became guaranteed if Powe either made the 2006/07 rookie team, or if his point, rebound and assist averages added together to total more than 14.0 in more than 41 games played. His third year had a similar guarantee, but with the threshold raised to 16.0. It turns out that this was quite a good idea, as Powe became a valued contributor while playing for the cheapest possible price. Shame about the latest knee injury.

- There's not much flexibility for creativity with rookie scale contracts. They follow a strict formula - two guaranteed years, two option years - and even though players and teams can negotiate the contract's value to between 80% and 120% of the scale amount, almost everyone gets the 120%. (The only ones I can think of that haven't are Ian Mahinmi, George Hill and Sergio Rodriguez.) However, this season, the Indiana Pacers found a new way to make things interesting. When signing Tyler Hansbrough, they gave him the customary 120%, but with an interesting caveat; all four seasons of the contract are only 80% guaranteed. (Note: that's all that rookie scale contracts have to be guaranteed.) The purpose of this isn't entirely obvious; if Hansbrough really sucks or dies or something, the option years won't be exercised anyway, so having a partial guarantee on them doesn't make much of a difference. But it's interesting because it's creative. And, dammit, that's what we're after.

- Speaking of creative, check out Brandon Roy's guarantee conditions. Intense.

- It might be the Mavericks, not the Magic, that are the kings of creative financing. (A cynic would say that they need to be, considering that they overpay almost everyone. That cynic would have a point.) Particular favourites of Donnie Nelson and friends include conditional guarantees based on championship wins (given to Jerry Stackhouse and Greg Buckner) and team based performance incentives (see this). Having unguaranteed final seasons in contracts is a good ploy of theirs; Erick Dampier has an unguaranteed 8 figure final season in 2010/11, with conditions that he's never going to meet, giving the Mavericks a massive trade chip to play with. Buckner's contract - which they initially signed, then gave away, but have now brought back - has only a small percentage of his final two years guaranteed. You probably already know about the last year of Stackhouse's deal, and the uses that had. And you may also have known that the last year of Jason Terry's contract is only $5 million guaranteed as well.

But the Mavericks have saved their best unguaranteed contract trick for last. After the Magic matched the offer sheet that Dallas gave to Marcin Gortat, the Mavericks found themselves with a full MLE again. Rather than use on an MLE calibre player, they instead decided to spend $4.5 million of it on Drew Gooden, a poor player with the worst defense in the NBA and an increasingly bad understanding of offensive continuity. The contract, though, has a caveat; only $1.9 million of the $4.5 million is guaranteed. And there's no guarantee date.

It's fairly normal for players to sign partially guaranteed one year contracts. If it wasn't common practice, training camp would suck. But it's rare for players earning more than the minimum to do it, and it's the first time I've ever seen it on a contract this size. It's actually quite a clever ploy, because it gives the Mavericks quite a trade chip. In a year when so many teams are over the tax, and so many teams need to make instant salary savings, unguaranteed contracts have to be considered even hotter shit than usual. And by signing Gooden to one, the Mavericks give themselves a pretty mean trade chip between December 15th (the first date Drew can be traded) and January 10th (the date all contracts become guaranteed). He was, without a shadow of a doubt, signed with this intent in mind. So expect it to happen.

As for what's in it for Gooden.......well, not a lot. $2 million for three months work is never bad, but for this to have been the best he could get, his other offers must have really sucked.

- And finally, here's an example of how not to creatively finance. Naturally, it involves Otis Smith. And it also involves the man in the opening picture, James Augustine.

Augustine was drafted by the Magic in the 2006 draft, and signed a two year rookie minimum contract with the team. He stayed with the team for the whole two years, barely playing, and was became a restricted free agent. The second year of his first contract was only 25% guaranteed until July 30th, and the rule with qualifying offers is that they have to be at least the same amount of guaranteed money and the same guarantee dates as the final season of the previous contract. So when Orlando tendered him a qualifying offer, Augustine accepted it immediately, and was thus under contract for the 2008/09 season for $972,581 (the amount of the QO = minimum salary + $175,000), of which $243,145 (25%) was guaranteed, with a guarantee date of July 30th 2008. Orlando then waived him before that date, meaning that they essentially paid Augustine a quarter of a million dollars to have him under contract for two weeks in mid-July.

It's definitely financing, no question about it. And it's definitely creative. But it was also really, really thilly.

Otis Smith's job became far easier and far more secure when the Magic's NBA Finals appearance prompted the aptly named Rich DeVos to start stumping up luxury tax dollars. Imagine what would have happened, though, if that hadn't happened. There'd be no Marcin Gortat. There'd be no Brandon Bass. There might not have been any Vince Carter trade, and there might not have been any Matt Barnes signing. The Magic would be relying on the man who coined the term "creative financing" to do that exact thing. And it's hardly something he's renowned for.

I commend the Magic's offseason. They've done pretty much everything right. Even the little things, such as the inclusion of Ryan Anderson into the Carter trade, were done correctly. Otis Smith has had a good summer. But Magic fans should be very, very grateful to ownership. Spending is easier without a budget.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can basketball in South Korea be interesting? Just about.

The South Korean basketball league [KBL] has some quirky rules. It's a relatively new league, only ten years in existence, that unashamedly focuses on Korean national players. Part of that means heavily restricting the amount of Big Foreign Americans™ that so heavily permeate all the other leagues around the world.

A few years ago, the KBL had a rule that barred any players standing 6'8 and above. What the intended purpose of that was, I don't know, but presumably they quickly figured out how damaging that rule was to their basketball product, because they have now done away with it. Now, tall foreign dudes are allowed. And they're kind of prevalent.

Every summer, the KBL holds a draft of foreign players who want to play in their league that year. The players that are drafted are mostly tall guys, as apparently Korea doesn't produce much talented size of their own. (Ha Seung-Jin excepted, of course.) The criteria for entry in the draft, though, is pretty weird. The following is looted without permission from the Korean Basketball League website:

[The] Korean Basketball League (KBL) Pre-Draft Tryout Camp for Foreign Players will be held from July 22nd (Wed) to 24th (Fri), 2009 at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A.

The players who are interested in playing in Korea for the 2009~2010 season, which will start from the middle of October 2009 to the end of April 2010, and meet the qualifications below are asked to fill out the application form and send via a fax or by e-mail the required documents to KBL office by May 22nd, 2009.

A: Qualifications:

1. Must have at least a high school diploma
2. Must be at least 18 years of age
3. Have not had a contract with teams in Europe Division I (Spain, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Israel, France, Russia, Greece) Club for the most recent consecutive two (2) years
4. Have not had a contract with teams in NBA for the most recent consecutive three (3) years

B: Required Documents

1. KBL Tryout Application Form (must be signed by a player)
2. Resume (with a recent photo)
3. Personal data (stats must be official game stats)
4. A copy of university / college / high school diploma
5. Letter of Clearance from previous team (optional)
6. Letter of Recommendation (optional)
7. Character Reference from 3 non-family members (optional)

By ruling out anyone to have played in any of the world's significant leagues in the past two or three years, the KBL essentially guarantees itself a lineup of nothing but castoffs, of has-beens and never-weres who can't hack it on the big stage, but who still want the dosh that comes with being halfway decent. This leaves the KBL running with the very real prospect of overpaying mediocre players, and missing out on any true talent.

(It's also nice to know that character references are optional.)

It kind of works, though. 730 players applied for the pre-draft camp, of which 212 were invited. That 212 was later reduced down to a list of 143, and I'll reproduce that list in an awkwardly small font for you now.

Chris Alexander
Demetrius Alexander
Marcus Allen
Menelik Barbary
Robert Battle
Rashad Bell
Brandon Bender
Mario Bennett
Tyrell Biggs
Jason Blair
Tyrelle Blair
Odartey Blankson
Luke Bonner
Dreike Bouldin
Craig Bradshaw
Bruce Brown
Damone Brown
Jamaal Brown
Antoine Broxsie
John Bryant
Melvin Buckley
Babacar Camara
Marquin Chandler
Gyasi Cline-Heard
Brandon Cole
Daniel Coleman
Robert (T.J) Cummings
Dwayne Curtis
Brian Cusworth
Joe Dabbert
Adeola Dagunduro
Chris Daniels
Robert (Chris) Daniels
Quincy Davis
Eric Dawson
Christopher Devine
Anthony Dill
Nigel Dixon
Seth Doliboa
Jakim Donaldson
Robert Dozier
Johnny Dukes
Duane Erwin
Marquis Estill
Peter Ezugwu
Thomas Fairley
Desmond Ferguson
Michael Fey
Alton Ford
Jean Francois
Gabriel Freeman
Elbert Fuqua
Christopher Garnett
Travis Garrison
Brandon Gary
Reginald George
Johnnie Gilbert
Simeon Haley
Hernol Hall
Lamont Hamilton
Brian Harper
Darrell Harris
Aaron Haynes
Adrian Hill
Herbert Hill
Jamal Holden
Daniel Horace
Justin Howard
Gabriel Hughes
Ryan Humphrey
Chris Hunter
Gerald Inman
Cedric Jackson
Anthony Johnson
Ivan Johnson
Jasper Johnson
Kevin Johnson
Jonathan Jones
Bradley Kanis
Joe Kennerly
Darnell Kirkwood
Gordon Klaiber
Joe Krabbenhoft
Abdullahi Kuso
Sean Lampley
Dan Langhi
Donald Little
Art Long
Longar Longar
Corey Louis
Kevin Martin
Bryant Mathews
Amal McCaskill
Glen Mcgowan
Bryson McKenzie
Alex McLean
Jarred Merrill
Corey Minnifield
Marcel Momplaisir
Sylvester Morgan
Scott Morrison
Faheem Nelson
Ahmad Nivins
Yemi Ogunoye
Bambale Osby
Omari Peterkin
James Peters
Brent Petway
Marvin Phillips
Kevin Pittsnogle
Ricardo Powell
Shaun Pruitt
Shawn Redhage
Darius Rice
Dewayne Richardson
Jason Robinson
Kevin Rogers
Jeremiah Russell
Soumaila Samake
Kahiem Seawright
Andre Smith
Frans Steyn
Greg Stiemsma
Joseph Taylor
Charles Thomas
Harvey Thomas
Victor Thomas
Garnett Thompson
Darian Townes
Mack Tuck
Larry Turner
Cory Underwood
Tiras Wade
Jermaine Walker
Samaki Walker
Gary Ware
Reginald Warren
Tyrone Washington
DeSean White
Gary Wilkinson
James Williams
Tarvis Williams
Waki Williams

It's a great list for scrubs. On it are recent NBA second round draft picks Robert Dozier and Ahmad Nivins, who applied before they knew they were going to be drafted this summer, as well some undrafted favourites of my own such as Cedric Jackson, Tyrell Biggs, Gary Wilkinson and Joe Krabbenhoft. (Inspired stuff to hold the camp in Vegas, by the way. Really drives up the attendance.)

Players from the list to have spent even a minute on an NBA roster in the past include Chris Alexander, Demetrius Alexander, Mario Bennett, Damone Brown (in his first stint post-drug bust), T.J. Cummings (giggidy), Nigel Dixon, Desmond Ferguson, Alton Ford, Herbert Hill, Ryan Humphrey, Sean Lampley, Dan Langhi, Art Long, Bryant sexpest Matthews, Amal McCaskill, Brent Petway, Darius Rice, Soumalia Samake, Frans Steyn, Larry Turner, Corey Underwood and Samaki Walker. The D-League turnout isn't bad either, with players like Greg Stiemsma, Jasper Johnson and Longar Longar trying to find Eastern pastures new.

There's also a welcome signing of former West Virginia star and middle school teacher Kevin Pittsnogle, whose agent clearly thought his client was worth the $100 bucks just to get his name in such esteemed company. And also on the list is a man named Chris Hunter. Whether it's THE Chris Hunter, the one who is currently under contract to the New York Knicks, is not explicitly clear. But since I know of no other Chris Hunter in the world of professional basketball, I'm going to have to assume that it is.

(Note: It's not THE Anthony Johnson, obviously, nor is it THE Kevin Martin.)

That was the pre-draft camp list. It's quite the who's-who of nobodies. All the veterans of the Asian tour, such as Dixon and Langhi, are still going strong, and it's a thrill to see it if you're easily pleased. We all like our Amal McCaskill news, after all.

They've since held the draft. Like the camp, it was held in Las Vegas, despite Las Vegas being several thousand miles away from South Korea. (I still support this decision.) Like the NBA draft, it's full of all the pomp and ceremony that should accompany such an event. Unlike the NBA draft, though, it has an interesting caveat - after a player is selected, they have 5 minutes to sign a contract with the team, and 5 minutes only. If they don't get it done, then that's it; they're out. This frankly brilliant rule should be enforced in the NBA, and would be if I had any say in it. Just saying.

(By the way, due to the sketchy nature of the South Korean Won - the name of their currency - teams have a salary cap of 1.8 billion. That's just a pretty number to say. Everyone's a millionaire.)

The draft went as follows -

Round 1

1st - Daegu Orions - Herbert Hill
2nd - Busan KT Magic Wings - Greg Stiemsma
3rd - Seoul SK Knights - Samaki Walker
4th - Anyang KT&G Kites - Nigel Dixon
5th - Incheon ET Land Black Slamer - Chris Daniels
6th - Changwon LG Sakers - Chris Alexander
7th - Wongju Dongbu Promy - Marquin Chandler

Note: Mobis Phoebus, KCC Egis and Samsung Tigers forfeited their first round picks, instead re-signing their foreign players from last year; namely, Bryant Dunston, Micah Brand and Terrence Leather (giggidy).

Round 2

11th - Wongju Dongbu Promy - Gary Wilkinson
12th - Changwon LG Sakers - Craig Bradshaw
13th - Incheon ET Land Black Slamer - Amal McCaskill
14th - Anyang NT&G Kites - Rashad Bell
15th - Seoul SK Knights - Joe Dabbert
16th - Busan KT Magic Wings - Jasper Johnson
17th - Daegu Orions - Kevin Martin
18th - Ulsan Mobis Phoebus - Abdullahi Kuso
19th - Jeonju KCC Egis - Mack Tuck
20th - Seoul Samsung Thunders - Bryant Matthews

It may still seem pretty weird that so many people battle for so few spots. KBL teams are only allowed to field 2 foreign players on their roster, and, as of next year, they're only going to be allowed to have one on the court at any given moment. Furthermore, there's only ten teams, which leads the whole non-Korean world battling for all of 20 roster spots. And when 730 people are wanting those 20 spots, the odds aren't good.

But there are reasons why it's the case. Firstly, the KBL play a 54 game schedule. Not many leagues play more than that (for those unfamiliar with basketball outside of the USA, the NBA's 82 game schedule is a glaring anomaly, and farrrrrrrr from the norm), and players like to play in games. Thus, it's attractive to them to play in a league that features a large amount of games, even if they have to tolerate two-a-days on all off-days and inflammatory head coaches willing to chew the ass of anyone too stupid to hide. (Giggidy.)

But mainly, the motivations are financial. The following is also looted, without permission, from the KBL website;

The terms of the players contract is from September 1st, 2009 to March 31st, 2010(7 months contract). Each player will receive the net amount of US $25,000 per month during the regular season. Players will additionally receive a net winning bonus of US $300 for every win.

2. In the playoffs, players will be compensated for his extended services on a pro rata basis with the monthly payment of the net amount of US$25,000. The players will additionally get paid a playoffs incentive bonus.

3. The clubs shall provide a dormitory room, meals during the season, and a round trip of airfare (business class)

4. A player once can invite one of his relatives during the season. The clubs shall provide a round trip of air fare and lodging for up to 7-Days.

For $25,000 a month, I'd play wherever the hell you wanted me to.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Assassination Of Devean George By The Coward Donnie Nelson

February 13th, 2008. Wednesday. Raining.

The Dallas Mavericks are tootling along with a 34-17 record. They're pretty good, and perhaps they know it, because they're suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to do something stupid.

A veteran team with only one good young player decides on a plan to get older and worse. The Mavericks decide that Jason Kidd is a significant upgrade over Devin Harris, and work out a variety of scenarios that see them trade Devin and two future first round draft picks for Kidd. They're wrong, but they work hard at it anyway, determined to obtain a player that puts them further away from the hump that they're already sliding away from. Two years ago, it would have been a steal. But not now.

Eventually, they stumble upon a scenario that both they and the Nets can agree upon. Dallas agrees to trade Harris, the picks, cash, DeSagana Diop, Maurice Ager, Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George to the Nets in exchange for Kidd and Malik Allen. The fillers are largely meaningless; outside of Harris, only Diop is a significant player for the Mavericks, and even then he sucks more ass than most people care to acknowledge. The core of the deal is Harris for Kidd, and both teams seem pretty happy with that. The fundamental pieces are together, peripherals of the long-awaited deal are finally in place, and everyone's a winner. (Except Dallas.)

Things then get a bit weird. Through a hitherto little-known technicality, one of the least important components of the deal - backup forward George - has the power to veto the trade. George re-signed with the Mavericks in the previous offseason to a one year contract, and Dallas will have early Bird rights on him when his contract expires. However, if George gets traded, the recipient team will lose his Bird rights if they trade for him, which reduces George's chances of getting handily paid next season. [Let's pretend for a minute that such chances existed.] I don't really understand the purpose of the rule, but it exists, and it applies to Devean. As a result, players on one year contracts who will have early or full Bird rights at the season's end are given the right to veto any trades that they may be in, so that they aren't powerless to prevent having their Bird rights taken away from them. And that's the power George wields.

The rule wasn't really written for situations like this. I'm not really sure who it does apply to, really, but it definitely wasn't for this reason. Yet it applies anyway, and therefore, to a chorus of anger and giggles, George exercises his right to veto the trade and emphatically pisses on Mark Cuban's strawberries for at least 72 hours.

Vetoing the trade doesn't endear George to the Mavericks fans. They boo him lustily, already aggrieved by his crapness and his club's weird affection for him. It also doesn't help that he plays 33 minutes later that same night, and scores 0 points on 11 shots. But technically and morally, he did no wrong. He did what he had to do, and looked for himself. He merely made some people look bad while doing it.

(It also doesn't really hold up the Mavericks, who rework the trade later in the week anyway, substituting Stackhouse and George for Keith Van Horn and Trenton Hassell. With Antoine Wright also coming back in the reworked version, it's a better deal anyway. But I digress.)

Fast forward to this month.

George saw out the season with the Mavericks, sucked horribly, yet re-signed with the team for two more guaranteed years anyway. The inexplicable love that Donnie Nelson and Devean George feel for each other can never be topped, or properly understood. But it's about to change when Nelson tries to trade George again. And this time, he succeeds.

Two weeks ago, George was traded to the Raptors as a peripheral part of the Shawn Marion deal. Along with Antoine Wright, he went to Toronto as the afterthought backups to the also-acquired Hidayet Turkoglu, a move which showed the Raptors putting on a fine demonstration of creative financing, if not a good idea of how to build a team. (And if you don't think there's not an I-TOLD-YOU-SO post coming on that subject, then you're very much mistaken.) However, as far as Devean George was concerned, there was another caveat.

Now, it's possible that they are not vengeance-driven horrible bastards. It's possible that they just did this without considering the possible side effects down the road. But here's the thing; when re-signing George this past summer to a two year $3.2 million contract that paid $1.6 million in both seasons, Nelson and Cuban added a somewhat rare clause to the contract that called for George to get a $200,000 bonus if the Mavericks win a certain number of games this season. I don't know what the threshold was, but I'm guessing it was 50 wins, since that's what they won last season (such predictions are calculated during the moratorium using the team's record from the previous season as the basis). Since the Mavericks can be realistically expected to achieve that next year, George had himself a $200,000 bonus.

But then he was traded to the Raptors. They didn't win 50 games last year, and thus the CBA cannot consider them likely to do it this year either. As a result, George loses $200,000. And though he's subsequently been traded to the Golden State Warriors in a shameful deal for Marco Belinelli, the same applies; George has lost his bonus.


Of course, the fact that the Mavericks had given George a combined $5,943,370 to play with them over the last three seasons means the last laugh is still firmly on them. Their inability to realise that they were paying to retain a man with scoring the scoring efficiency of Willie Green, the rebounding of Jason Collins and the oft-misrepresented defense of Andres Nocioni means that they're the real victims here, the victims of their own silliness. But, still. Vengeance is sweet.

(EDIT: It's been brought to my attention that they above is too confusing. Fair enough. Here's the gist of it, reworded; based on last year's win total, the Mavericks were expected to win 50 games. As a result, George's cap number was raised to $1.8 million. Now that he's a Warriors, it's been knocked down to $1.6 million again. But George was only going to be paid $1.6 million UNTIL the 50 wins happened, at which point he'd get the bonus. The basic point remains, though; by not now being a Mav, George loses $200,000. That is all.)

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