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David Aldridge

Jeremy Lin
The Knicks' decision to let Jeremy Lin go portends a sea change in the way the league's "haves" do business.
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

New NBA economy putting squeeze on free agents


Posted Jul 23 2012 9:53AM - Updated Jul 30 2012 9:54AM

We are through the meat of the NBA Summer, with the Draft and most of free agency having come and gone. There could still be a momentum-shifting trade before everyone goes on vacation in August. We don't know where Dwight Howard will wind up, of course, and that will change everything when he is dealt. But the month since the Heat captured the championship has created any number of questions, some of which we can answer.

1) Is the new economic system of checks and balances, and increasing penalties for teams that exceed the luxury tax, doing what it was supposed to do?

The Knicks' decision to let Jeremy Lin go rather than match the three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet he got from the Rockets, could be a sea change in the way the league's "haves" do business going forward. If New York, of all teams, chokes on the implications of an additional $30 million in luxury tax payments, and lets someone with the potential of Lin walk, then the new tax penalites will do what the NBA hopes they would do: keep the teams that make the most money from being able to hoard players, no matter the cost.

During the lockout, big market owners decried what they feared would be a system that not only redistributed money through the enhanced revenue sharing proposals that were ultimately enacted, but redistributed players as well. But spreading the talent wealth was one of the central tenets of improving competitive balance, which was one of the pillars of changing the league's system.

The Bulls, another money-making team, are facing a similar issue with backup center Omer Asik, who got the same three-year sheet from the Rockets that they gave Lin. The New York Post reported early Sunday that the Bulls were going to sign veteran center Nazr Mohammed, opening the door to letting Asik go to Houston.

With Derrick Rose's extension kicking in, along with the deals the Bulls gave Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all in place, Chicago made next to no effort to retain Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver or C.J. Watson, all major contributors the last two seasons. Chicago traded Korver to Atlanta and Watson agreed to a deal with the Nets.

Dallas rebuilt a rotation, but did so without breaking the bank. The most the Mavericks spend on any of their incoming players was the $8 million they're giving Chris Kaman for one year. Otherwise, the Mavericks were in Filene's Basement, getting O.J. Mayo for two years and $8 million, claiming Elton Brand off of amnesty for $2.1 million, and trading backup center Ian Mahinmi to Indiana for Darren Collison ($2.3 million) and Dahntay Jones ($2.9 million). Everyone except Mayo, who has a player option for next season, is on a one-year deal.

Only the Nets did business the old way, spending money like it was going out of style. But Brooklyn has a billionaire owner in Mikhail Prokhorov and a new building to open in New York City, the very definition of extenuating circumstances.

The new system doesn't mean that good teams can't get good players; the Heat got Ray Allen. But Allen had to take a lot less money from Miami than he was being offered by Boston or Memphis. That's a choice, and there's no rule that can keep a guy from playing where he wants to play if he's willing to take a pay cut to do so. The early returns, though, point to a change in the way the Big Boys do business.

"Of course it is," one team executive e-mailed Sunday. "And this is just the beginning.. Wait till tax teams can't receive players in sign and trade deals starting next year. It will change even more."

2) Does Gregg Popovich rule the world?

If you were to tell me that, say, Mitt Romney was thinking of naming Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer as his running mate, and contemplating putting Spurs assistant general manager Dennis Lindsey in charge of Homeland Security, it would not surprise me. Not because of either gentleman's politics, which I do not know, but because ex-Spurs seem to be getting every available job in the NBA. San Antonio's assistant coach, Jacque Vaughn, is a finalist for the Magic's head coaching job, which is being selected by Orlando's new GM, Rob Hennigan, who worked in San Antonio for four years before moving on to Oklahoma City to apprentice under Sam Presti, another former Spurs' executive.

The Hawks gave Danny Ferry -- yup, another ex-Spur -- their GM job. That was after the Pacers promoted Kevin Pritchard to their GM job a month earlier. Guess where he cut his eyeteeth as a player and exec? Not sure how the Sixers were able to interview Tom Penn for their GM job; he has no direct ties to the Spurs. On the other hand, Pritchard hired him in Portland.

The Spurs' model -- don't call attention to yourselves, work under the radar, sign players who are willing to fit in and can accept hard coaching -- is obviously harder to pull off than it looks. San Antonio's one-two of Popovich and President of Sports Franchises R.C. Buford is unparalleled in its cohesion and reach. I know that Pop and R.C. have disagreed about things over the years. But as ever with the Spurs, you never -- ever -- hear about it.

3) How does Oklahoma City deal with the hangover of a Finals loss?

A lot of promising teams -- think the Sonics in '96, the Magic in '09 -- got to the Finals once, but never got back. OKC certainly looks poised for a long run, but nothing is guaranteed.

The Thunder, understandably, stood pat in the offseason. OKC took care of Scott Brooks, but needs to save whatever money it can to stay under the tax threshold to be able to pay either James Harden or Serge Ibaka -- or both. The main issue for the Thunder now is the mental game. Can Oklahoma City make that last step that all champions have to make -- learning how to deal with the pressure and expectations of a contender.

And the pain of losing takes a while to lag.

"I thought about it, for the week or so I was off," Kevin Durant said last week, before the Olympic team left for Europe. "But it's over with now. I'm just focused on this next phase of basketball, which is the Olympics, but I'm still going to work hard and try to improve on my season next year with the Thunder."

His OKC and Olympic teammate, Russell Westbrook, also took the long view.

"I'll think about that a little bit after this," Westbrook said. "Hopefully it's for the better."

Two years ago, Durant had to deal with similar playoff disappointment after the Lakers beat OKC in six games in the second round. That summer, he was thrown into the leadership role for the U.S. team at the World Championships in Turkey, and responded with incredible poise and skill in leading the Americans to the gold medal. And he used that performance as a springboard to an outstanding season with the Thunder, helping OKC get to the Western Conference finals.

This year may be a little different, with that '10 team melding with the 2008 gold medal winning team of the Olympics. At best, Durant will have to share the stage this time around with the likes of LeBron and Kobe and Carmelo. He's been coming off the bench in the early exhibition games. Can he get as much from this experience?

"That's a good question," he said. "I'm just all about winning right now, and focusing on what we're doing right now. During the season, I know I'm going to continue working hard on my individual game, and hopefully I grow. That's the plan for me. But right now I'm just focused on helping this team win, whatever Coach needs me to do, I'll do. Coming off the bench, playing the four and five, whatever. If you need me to do it I'm going to try to do it to the best of my abilities, and try to help the team win."

The Thunder should be happy to note that unlike last summer, when Durant barnstormed the country during the lockout looking for a game, he plans to take a month off after the Olympics to rest, and get ready.

4) Has Miami separated itself further from the pack?

Getting Allen and Rashard Lewis for peanuts to add to the rotation creates even more poisons from which Heat opponents can pick next season. One post (LeBron), one big (Chris Bosh), and three wings who can fire or drive at will (any of Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Allen and Lewis, depending on matchups; we assume for the moment that Mike Miller won't be back).

5) Have the Clippers turned the corner for good?

Getting Grant Hill to spurn the crosstown Lakers and his close friend Steve Nash is another good sign that these aren't the Same Old Clippers. That they did so without a traditional general manager in place after Neil Olshey left for Portland in June was another hurdle cleared. Coach Vinny del Negro, who was the assistant GM in Phoenix when Hill first came to the Suns, did much of the recruiting for the veteran. In the end, the Clippers offered Hill two years, while Phoenix offered just one.

The Clippers have used a three-headed combo of Del Negro, team president Andy Roeser and assistant GM Gary Sacks to coordinate the GM duties in Olshey's absence. They opted not to officially hire Kiki Vandeweghe, who interviewed for the job weeks ago. Some of the work was relatively easy Blake Griffin's max extension wasn't that hard to figure out. But they had to coordinate to get a deal done with free agent guard Jamal Crawford, who had a lot of suitors.

They also used another source who had great relationships with players.

"CP called me and we talked for awhile about how good we could be together," Crawford said via text, referring to Chris Paul. "Same thing with Chauncey (Billups), Blake and DeAndre (Jordan)...but I heard from CP and Vinny more."

Last December, the Clippers just had Griffin, and the hope that they could convince players to come play with him. Since then they've added Paul, and Billups, and Caron Butler, and signed Jordan to a long-term deal, and re-signed Billups, and extended Griffin, and added Hill. And there's no reason to suspect Paul won't take their $108 million when he becomes a free agent next summer (the Knicks don't have any way to make him an offer, although their fans keep hoping).

6) Can Denver move forward by standing pat?

The Nuggets have been quiet in free agency, other than re-signing their own guys, Andre Miller and JaVale McGee, who got a four-year deal worth $44 million last week. They and other teams like the Pacers and Grizzlies are betting on their own guys developing rather than trying to steal somebody's else's stars. It's the corollary to the Big Revenue Team way; get as many good players as you can control contractually for as long as possible before you hit the luxury tax, then trim when it gets a little tight, as the Pacers had to do in trading Collison and Jones, after they committed to matching Portland's $58 million offer sheet on Roy Hibbert.

7) Did you have any idea how close Deron Williams was to signing with the Mavs?

The weekend that free agency began, Williams says, he would not even consult with Nets president Billy King or other members of Brooklyn's brass on potential players to sign.

"They were asking for my input, and I said I couldn't give them any input, because I really didn't think that was fair," Williams said. "At the time, I really thought I was going to Dallas. I definitely didn't want to tell them to do this, because I just couldn't. But Joe (Johnson) got me over the hump, because then I knew we had Gerald (Wallace), and I knew we had Brook (Lopez) probably coming back, and we kept MarShon (Brooks) out of the deal. So we still had a good core to work with."

8) Where did Nicolas Batum actually want to play?

Who the hell knows? He told me Minnesota; he told the Portland writers Portland; he may have told another guy Paris Basket Racing. I think he did want to go to Minnesota; he seemed genuinely impressed by the show the Wolves made over him. But since the Blazers agreed to give him the $46 million by matching the Timberwolves' offer sheet, Mon Dieu, it was Portland after all! No hard feelings. Really, I don't have any problem with Batum and his agent using me the way they did; restricted free agents have almost no leverage other than the court of public opinion. The only card they have to play is the "I'm gonna hold my breath and turn blue if you match" card. But I do have a problem with any suggestion that Batum, somehow, didn't say what he said. His English is just fine and so is my hearing.

9) Does it seem like there are more quality veteran players available this summer than ever?

As of early Monday, the following guys were still on the market, with precious little money left for any of them: Delonte West, Randy Foye, Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer, Carl Landry, Leandro Barbosa, Carlos Delfino, Willie Green, Tracy McGrady, Kenyon Martin, Josh Howard, Roger Mason, Jr., C.J. Miles, Andray Blatche, Darko Milicic, Mickeal Pietrus, Michael Redd, Jermaine O'Neal, Craig Smith and Anthony Tolliver. This is not your normal offseason. There have been a lot of deals, but nothing approaching the free-for-all that has marked recent offseasons (see question #1).

Do you know, for example, what the biggest contract of a free agent moving to another team has been so far this summer (not counting offer sheets that were matched by the players' original teams)? Ryan Anderson's sign-and-trade deal from Orlando to New Orleans, which will net him somewhere between $8.5 and $9 million per year over four years from the Hornets.

If you don't think veteran players aren't getting squeezed in the New NBA Economy, you're not paying attention.

10) Is anything less predictive of regular season success than Summer League play and won-loss records?

No.

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1) The men's Olympic team certainly was impressive against Brazil, Great Britain and Argentina in exhibition victories last week. But against both Brazil and Argentina, each of whom has NBA big men on their teams, the U.S. team had worrisome moments. Still worry about the relative lack of size in a potential medal matchup with Spain, but so far, so good as the Olympics get set to begin on Saturday.

2) Rondo, Bradley, Terry and Lee is a pretty good guard quartet, Boston. Still think they need a veteran big to spell KG at center, unless they're counting on Fab Melo or Jared Sullinger to make major contributions as rookies.

3) The Suns took a punch to the gut when Steve Nash told them he wanted to be a Laker. But after trading him, Phoenix has come back with a solid set of transactions, signing Goran Dragic to a deal that falls in line with what other starting NBA point guards of his ilk are getting (between $7 and $8 million per season), taking a low-risk flier on talented but mercurial Michael Beasley, claiming Luis Scola off amnesty waivers and re-signing Shannon Brown to a short, fair deal (two years, $7 million). The Suns did everything they could to add a budding star in Eric Gordon with a $56 million offer sheet as well. But they didn't sacrifice future cap room with any of their moves, and with a lot of Draft picks the next few years, Phoenix should be a player next summer for the Next Disgruntled Superstar Who Wants Out.

4) Hope this turns out well for both father and son and provides some closure for Dennis Rodman.

5) Got some great submissions this week for the Fan Guest Tip that will run while I'm on vacation. I'm lining up some other great guest writers as well. There's still time for you to write me at daldridgetnt@gmail.com and tell me why you should write a Guest Tip. Why are you passionate about the NBA? Who's your favorite team, and why? When did you first fall in love with the game? The most compelling responder will get to write a Guest Tip. (Last week I said it would run in August; it might run one of the weeks in September as well. Haven't lined everything up just yet.)

6) Interesting what-if on what the U.S. men's Olympic team would look like if the under-23 age limit being discussed for future international competition were in place today.

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1) No offense, but if I'm a Bulls fan, Vladmir Radmonovic and Nazr Mohammed in, Ronnie Brewer, John Lucas III, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Omer Asik out is not how I expect to keep up with the Heat and Celtics until Derrick Rose gets back.

2) There isn't anyone in the NBA family who is a better storyteller or better judge of people than Kenny "Eggman" Williamson, the Grizzlies' assistant general manager. He is a lifer, a former assistant of Jim Valvano's at Iona and Lou Carnesseca's at St. John's, who went on to become a pro scout for several teams. He is one of the good guys. Unfortunately, as Peter Vescey Tweeted earlier in the week, Eggman is very ill, suffering from lung cancer. He is undergoing treatment and is hopeful the program will keep the disease from spreading further. Pray for him if you can.

3) Really happy for Ernie Els, who by all accounts is one of the genuine good guys in his sport, in winning the British Open. But, wow, what a collapse by Adam Scott.

4) It is just a matter of time before a pro athlete gets behind the wheel,drunk, and doesn't crash into a pole, or an empty car , or cross the median, but crashes into a car full of teenagers. Or a retired couple. Or hits a kid crossing the street. This is insane. You guys have friends, and you have money. Hire a damn limo before you kill someone.

5) It is going to be a bad, bad morning in State College, Pennsylvania. You feel for the people for whom Penn State Football has meant so much over the decades, because they had nothing to do with what the powers that be did -- or didn't do -- to deal with the evil that was inside their program. But while I'm not sure the NCAA should be in the law enforcement business, I have no problem with them being in the Lack of Institutional Control business. For what program, as we now know, was more out of control than Joe Paterno's program?

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Are we just going to live with mass murder in this country?

Every time we have some random, senseless act of violence as we did in Aurora, Colorado, last Thursday night/Friday morning, we say the same things. We offer prayers to the dead and wounded, and their families. We wonder how someone could do something so horrible. And then, we don't have anything left to say, other than there's nothing that can be done about a crazy person.

That is true, to a degree. But are we to just accept this as the new normal? We're just going to have a half-dozen mass murders every year in our country, so watch where you go, don't let your kids ever go anywhere by themselves, be strapped at all times? That's the answer? That can't be the answer. There is something missing in us if that's the answer. This has nothing to do with politics. This is something much deeper, something wrong with us as a nation, if we accept this carnage as business as usual.

We are increasingly anesthetized to this high level of death. In Chicago, there's been a spike in murders this year compared with the recent past, but because they haven't happened all at once, they've gone virtually unnoticed by the national media.

This is a violent country. It was created out of violence; let's not put our heads in the sand about that. But this isn't about our history. This is a new phenomenon, where deranged people find weapons of mass destruction and start firing.

Can you talk about these horrors without talking about guns? No. But that's not the only issue. This is also a health care issue. Our mental health system, like the rest of our health care system, is leaving far too many people untreated, fending for themselves. Our information society transmits events worldwide in seconds, giving copycat killers ideas and blueprints. Why do so many people feel so completely detached from the world? This guy in Aurora was going to some sort of medical school; he was, like so many of these killers lately, distinctly middle class. We certainly don't know all the details of his life yet, but something led him down this dark, dark path. Why does this seem like an increasingly viable option for so many disturbed people -- I will take out my anger and disillusionment with the world out on strangers, by killing as many of them as I can?

And, yes, we have developed weapons that are increasingly lethal, and available, as long as the buyer isn't, you know, crazy. Unfortunately, there's no blood test or credit rating for crazy.

Is it possible to have a discussion about guns without both sides screaming, their lobbyists demanding that they not give a single inch? We aren't going to have a zero gun society, and I don't think most people want one; I don't. I want people to be able to protect themselves, and I want people to be able to hunt and shoot at targets. I just don't want a psychopath to be able to buy an assault weapon with a 100-drum magazine. Isn't there a happy medium? You have to take a test to prove you can drive a car. You have to take a test to prove you're competent to be an attorney. You have to go to medical school for years, and have residency in a hospital, before you're allowed to be a doctor. All you have to do to buy a gun whose sole purpose is to kill other human beings is to wait a few days.

Here's the basic question: is every gun a litmus test for whether you believe in the Second Amendment? I believe in the Second Amendment, and I don't think we need our streets flooded with Uzis and Glocks. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas.

I didn't know anyone who was killed in Aurora, though the friend of a dear friend of mine lost his son. And this young girl , who was trying to break into the sports media in Denver, was killed as well. Why is this acceptable?

There are those who demand that I never, ever write about anything that doesn't involve basketball. They are annoyed when their fun and games mixes with the real world. To those people I say, sorry. You are free to click on something else if this offends you. I am offended by watching this sick scene play out over and over, in city after city, where people can't go to a restaurant, or to church, or to class, or to a movie, without fearing that someone they don't know will kill them and others in the blink of an eye.

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Talk about a pre-existing condition. From Thomas Garodkin:

I read recently that the Trailblazers are required, instead of some insurance company, to pay the wages from the contract Brandon Roy was under when he retired. Minnesota signed Roy under a contract that represents the fact that Roy might not be as healthy as hoped, even though it is a ridiculous amount of money for a guy who retired because of medical issues. Roy can take a smaller amount of money since he is guaranteed the remaining on his old contract, either from insurance or his former team.

And this leads me to my question: How is it at all fair that Portland has to pay Roy for coming out of retirement?

I understand that an insurance would have to pay Roy if he was never able to come back to the court, but I doubt that any insurance company would still pay any reimbursement to player that has decided he is not disabled anymore.

If I was forced to retire, because of health issues, and was paid some form of compensation, then I would imagine that if I chose to work again this compensation would be nullified -- if I am able to work then apparently I wasn't as disabled as was supposed.

If Roy is healthy enough (he feels healthy, and hopefully several doctors have given their ok) then by all means should he be allowed to play, and play in the league again. But why should this be at the expense of Portland? Why do they have to pay him?

Shouldn't Roy's coming out of retirement be a matter only between him and his new team?

One could image players retiring (maybe if they don't like their team), and when a new team comes along sign with them - and then the old team still has to honor an old contract. In this case, Roy was unfortunately unable because of health to fulfill his contract, and the retirement ensued. But now that he is back, why is this old contract still active?

Seems utterly confusing to me.

It is confusing. You ask a lot of good questions here, Thomas. But I don't think the Blazers are paying Roy to "come out of retirement," as you put it; they're paying him what they owed him, which they would have had to do anyway if he never played again. (By the way, the Blazers say that Roy never actually retired.) The deal he negotiated with Minnesota is separate from the deal he had with Portland. This is complicated, but I think this is what happened in his case.

Roy and the team mutually agreed in 2011 that the condition of his knees was such that he could no longer play. Under normal circumstances, Roy's salary could be removed from Portland's salary cap as of April 12, 2012, the one-year anniversary of his last game with the Blazers (he didn't play in any games of the lockout-shortened season). But the Blazers still owed him the balance of his $82 million contract, approximately $63 million.

But the Blazers used the amnesty provision on Roy last December, and under the new CBA rules that mean that Roy's salary came off of their salary cap immediately, and permanently. But the amnesty provision also compels a team to pay the player the remainder of his salary, the same as it would have to do with a player that was waived not using the amnesty provision. So Portland has to pay Roy his money. The issue you're talking about is whether the Blazers will receive some relief from insurance for part of Roy's contract.

Most NBA players are able -- obviously, given that they're among the fittest people in the world -- to get insured. Generally, the insurance policies most NBA teams get on their players pay out a maximum of 80 percent of the player's salary in case of career-ending injury. If Player Jones, who makes $1 million, suffers a catastrophic injury and can't play anymore, the insurance company would pay the player up to $800,000 of that $1 million, leaving the team to pay the player the remaining $200,000.

In Roy's case, however, both of his knees have been problematic for him since he was in college. Many teams were leery of drafting him when he came out in 2006 precisely because their doctors didn't believe Roy's knees would hold up very long to the rigors of the NBA schedule. That made getting insurance for him much more difficult than it was for other players.

The Blazers knew all of this when they traded for him on Draft night 2006. They took the gamble that Roy would hold up. For the first three years of his career, it looked as if he would; he was the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2007, and in the next two seasons, he played in 74 and 78 games. So in 2009, the Blazers gave Roy that five-year, $82 million max deal -- which was guaranteed for four of the five years. Yet insuring that contract was a problem.

The fifth year was guaranteed only at 75 percent, or $14.6 million of the $19.5 million Roy was due that last year. But there were triggers put in the contract that would fully guarantee the final year. (These triggers were detailed by the invaluable Web site ShamSports, and they're accurate; I checked.)

Among the triggers were two that dealt with insurance. In one, the final year would become fully guaranteed if the team was able to obtain a permanent disability policy of at least $17 million from an insurance company that received a "financial strength rating" of A- or better from the credit rating agency A.M. Best. In another, the final year would become fully guaranteed if the team could get insurance through the NBA's Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Program. The TTD Program is a standard program used by most of the sports leagues that provides benefits if an injury keeps a player out for a significant period of time, but on a "temporary basis;" that is, not career-ending.

Portland was able to secure the $17 million policy. That was done, clearly, to protect the team from being on the hook for that final season. So if Roy were injured that year, the insurance would pay 80 percent of that $19.5 million--$15.6 million -- while the team paid the remaining 20 percent. But that was just for that fifth year. The other four years, or $63 million, was fully guaranteed. The team had to pay Roy all of it, unless he did something that would allow the team to void the contract. And injury is not something that voids a contract, unless you suffered the injury doing something you weren't allowed to do contractually. (Teams often put language in a contract that prohibits players from doing things like skydiving or drag racing, for example.)

So even after Roy's knees got to the point where the team's doctors recommended he retire, the Blazers were still obligated to pay him the $63 million. Portland used the amnesty provision to remove Roy's salary from its team cap and keep it away from luxury tax implications, but it still had to pay Roy what it owed him. And once Roy's condition was deemed career-ending, the $17 million insurance policy was voided (remember, it covered injuries that were considered temporary, not permanent). So the Blazers didn't get that 80 percent reimbursement on the $19.6 million, either.

As to your scenario of a player retiring, then coming out of retirement later to sign with another team, the league has a rule in place to prevent that. If a player wants to retire, but his current team doesn't want to let him out of his current contract, he has to go on what's called the Voluntary Retired List, give up the remaining salary on his contract, and can't play for anyone for one year. The player can ask for the league to reinstate him before the year is up, but all 30 teams have to approve before he can be reinstated. I hope this answers your question.

There has always been a Draft in this room. From Georges Bitar:

Supposing I am a player that is eligible for the draft. Therefore I am of a certain age or my high school graduates are 1 year removed from high school. Why do I declare for the draft?

Taking Anthony Davis for example. He's regarded by the NBA circle as a franchise-changing player. So why conform to the draft. Why not declare myself as a free agent and let the bidding begin. I would then be able to choose the location I want to play and for how much.

The same goes for second round picks. I believe their contracts are not guaranteed. So why let myself be drafted by a team that I may not enjoy, when another team picking later in the draft really want my services and would offer a guaranteed contract to me.

Now I understand the consequences of this: the creation of super teams and dynasties. Smaller market teams would have a hard time competing whether it be with dollars or by city appeal.

But strictly from a logistical standpoint, why don't these players become free agents? Is there a clause that I am not aware of that forces these prospects to declare in the draft?

There are agents who would love you for a client, Georges. What you're arguing for, of course, is a challenge to the legitimacy of the Draft. It has been done before, but always theoretically, because a) there aren't many teenage or twenty-something athletes who are much interested in being a test case, and b) the union, through the collective bargaining process with the league, gives its tacit approval of the Draft. That makes a legal challenge much more difficult, as the union is the duly recognized representative of the players' interests. So a player who challenged the Draft wouldn't have a lot of legal support.

It's been tried; Leon Wood -- ironically, now an NBA referee -- did it in 1987, arguing that the $75,000 he was offered by the team that drafted him, the 76ers, was far less than what he would get on the open market as a free agent, and that he would suffer financial irreparable harm if he were to suffer a career-ending injury. In addition, he argued that since he was not yet a pro when the union and the league negotiated the then-existing Collective Bargaining Agreement, its terms did not apply to him. And he also argued that because he was, in his view, a more skilled player than the normal newcomer, he should be allowed to negotiate a salary outside of the maximum negotiated by the union.

Those arguments were rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Carter.

"What plaintiff is contending is that since he was not an NBA player when the union and owners reached agreement on the issues in contention here, that agreement cannot bind him," Carter wrote in his decision. "He cites no authority for that proposition, and indeed none can be found. To adopt plaintiff's principle would turn federal labor policy on its head. ... At the time an agreement is signed between the owners and the players' exclusive bargaining representative, all players within the bargaining unit and those who enter the bargaining unit during the life of the agreement are bound by its terms."

Wood appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals' Second Circuit, but that court upheld Carter's decision. And that's where it stands, at least legally.

He has an order from The Waiter. From Wolfgang Hilbrich:

Really love your work and I'm sorry to disagree but i think you missed someone on your top 5 intenational player of all time list:

TONI KUKOC!!

And if anyone cares for nitpicking: Steve Nash

A whole lotta Love from rainy Germany.

I respect your opinion, Wolfgang, but Kukoc does not crack my all-time Top Five international players. He didn't have the historical impact of Divac or Petrovic; he hasn't had the individual success of Nowitzki, and while he has the same number of NBA championships as Ginobili, I would humbly argue that Ginobili had more to do with the Spurs' championships than Kukoc had with the Bulls' championships. Toni does have one more NBA title than Pau Gasol, so you can make an argument there. I just think Pau's work in Memphis was kind of ignored because the Grizzlies didn't win a playoff game while he was there. Love the Nasty One, too, but having two league MVP awards still doesn't trump multiple titles, to me.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and suggestions for things to watch besides the Olympics over the next three weeks to dlaldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!

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$100,000,000 -- Estimated annual potential league-wide revenue that the NBA believes can be produced by putting a 2x2 patch of advertising on jerseys beginning next season. The league's Board of Governors approved the addition of the ad patches on uniforms beginning next season at its meeting in Las Vegas last week.

41 -- Per ESPN.com, the remaining number of players in the league that are still eligible to be amnestied, starting in July, 2013. Fifteen of the league's 30 teams have already used the one-time amnesty provision and can't use it anymore for the duration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. And players who signed contracts after the new CBA was implemented last December are not eligible to be amnestied. The 14 teams that can still use the amnesty provision are Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, the Lakers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto and Utah. New Orleans has not used the provision, either, but since the Hornets no longer have a player on their roster that's eligible for amnesty, they can't use it going forward.

19,246 Career points for Antawn Jamison, who agreed to terms with the Lakers last week. Jamison is currently eighth among active players in points scored, just ahead of LeBron James (19,045). One or the other will likely become the 42nd player in league history to pass the 20,000-point plateau sometime next season.

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Jeremy linn I've never seen grown men hate on another mans money like this in my life .

-- Comedian and actor Chris Rock (@ChrisRock), Monday, 9:22 p.m., hoping against hope that the Knicks somehow matched the three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet Lin got from the Rockets. In case you haven't heard, they didn't.

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"I think the spotlight's important. We're gonna be on national TV now because of Jeremy and I think free agents want to be on teams that are in the national spotlight. So I think from a basketball standpoint we really improve our negotiations with many, many free agents."

-- Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, on the impact of acquiring Jeremy Lin.

"Hopefully, you all will see me back out there. My biggest concern is don't worry about me. I know I'm going to be all right. I know that I'm healthy. I know that I'm positive. I believe in God. So I should be back on the court soon."

-- Bulls guard Derrick Rose, in a video posted on YouTube on Friday, telling fans he is doing well in his rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"I didn't pay $450 million to sit up in the rafters."

-- Warriors owner Joe Lacob, to the Contra Costa Times, about whether he'll be courtside next season and in the future to watch his team play.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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