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 drastic.
A veteran team with only one good young player decides on a plan to get older. 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 probably wrong, but they work hard at it anyway, determined to obtain a player that two years ago would have been a steal. But not so much 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. 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.
Things then get a bit weird. Through a hitherto little-known technicality, one of the lesser 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 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 after 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, and struggled, 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 Wright, he went to Toronto as the afterthought back-ups 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. However, as far as Devean George was concerned, there was another caveat.
Now, it’s possible that they are not vengeance-driven 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 his team wins 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 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 fact that they were paying to retain a man with the scoring efficiency of Willie Green, the rebounding of Jason Collins and the oft-misrepresented defence of Andres Nocioni means that they’re the real victims here, the victims of their own loyalty. 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 bonus was considered “likely”, and his cap number was raised to $1.8 million. Now that he’s a Warrior, who did not win 50 last season, it’s been reconsidered as “unlikely”, and his cap number knocked down to $1.6 million again. George was only going to be paid $1.6 million UNTIL the 50 wins happened, at which point he’d get the bonus; the immediate change is in the cap number only, which is reconsidered at the time of the trade. The basic point remains, though; by not now being a Mav, George loses $200,000. That is all.)