View Full Version : Some teams may need to put the dream of 2010 on hold

02-22-2009, 06:49 PM
CLEVELAND -- Last week at his annual state of the NBA address during All-Star Weekend, David Stern gave two pieces of information about the league's business. One seemed to get more attention than the other, but the depth of the overlooked statement could have dramatic impact on plenty of teams' plans for the future.
And if you are reading it here, of course it concerns the Cavaliers and LeBron James.
Stern said league revenues were roughly flat this season, which was received as good news given the current climate. Later, after some league meetings with the players union, union head Billy Hunter was projecting a drop in next year's salary cap and luxury tax line of about $1 million. It would be the first drop in the cap since the rules were re-written in 1999.
But now the other shoe.
Stern told the media, which was followed by a warning memo to each team, that the league-wide revenues that determine the salary cap are expected to drop sharply in the 2009-10 season. This is because this year's season tickets and suites were renewed and sponsorship agreements were signed before the economy had turned. So teams were not as exposed this season but could really feel it in 2009-10.
On the surface this truly is grim news. However, it actually may benefit the Cavs: It was devastating for the New York Knicks and any other brazen franchises hoping to make a pitch at the Cavs' prize player in 2010.
The Knicks' apparent premise is to make a multi-layered offer to James if he becomes an unrestricted free agent. They figure offering the City of New York plus a chance to play with one of his young superstar friends. To do it, they are in the process of not committing an extra dollar for the 2010-11 season to have enough room under the salary cap offer to maximum-level contracts.
Give new Knicks GM Donnie Walsh credit, it's a reasonable idea and he's stuck to it. He's also been able to make a series of trades to import a bunch of talent to make the team somewhat competitive until then, even if he's only been able to do it by accepting players banished from their teams.
Frank Franklin II/Associated PressOft-injured center Eddy Curry (being defended by LeBron James) has been targeted for a trade by the Knicks for over a season. But his bloated salary is more than any other team wants to absorb. If Curry remains on the New York roster, it will be likely impossible for the franchise to mount a max contract offer to 2010 free agents.
But Walsh could not have foreseen the change in the economy. Now, instead of the cap growing by $5-$8 million to allow him the needed space, it's likely going the other direction. Now, it appears it will be nearly impossible for the Knicks to clear enough cap space to execute the plan.
Without getting into too much salary-capese, teams cannot just keep one or two players under contract for any season and hope to have the whole cap at their disposal. Also, the Knicks have to draft players and sign them to deals because rules prevent teams trading away all their picks. Not to mention two of their best players, David Lee and Nate Robinson, are free agents next summer and letting them walk for nothing would be insanely counterproductive.
Their only chance is to somehow trade Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries and perhaps both because they have contracts that run past 2010. But very few teams -- if any -- will want to give up expiring contracts for underachievers. They'll want space in '10, too. In other words, it's perhaps time for a new plan or one that doesn't count on James.
The news affected the Cavs as well, though. One of their courses of action long-term was to preserve salary-cap room themselves in 2010 to offer one of the mega free agents to join James. But they were expecting the same amount of cap growth as the Knicks. Now, their dreams of having enough space for another max player are unlikely as they are currently constructed.