Archive for November, 2011

Irish Coffee: Celtics Rumors 911 (Episode 2)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

It’s Episode 2 of a show we’ll call “Rumors 911″ from here on out, as the water cooler boils over with scuttlebutt (Ok, that doesn’t sound right …) and nobody’s name is off limits in Boston — if only because Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge likes it that way.

Today’s Celtics-related topics of conversation: Mavericks free agent center Tyson Chandler (yes please!), Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (God no!) and Knicks free agent guard Roger Mason Jr. (so what!).

First, the longshot: Discussing high-profile free agents on NBA TV, NBA.com’s David Aldridge rather calmly slipped in this gem: “Boston is a team that has very few players under contract right now and desperately needs a center. They’re looking very hard at Tyson Chandler” (h/t Red’s Army).

The first two parts of that comment are entirely true, considering Jermaine O’Neal is the lone center on a C’s roster with just six players under contract enter the Dec. 9 free agency period. The latter portion of Aldridge’s statement are curious, if only for the obvious question: How?

  • Option No. 1: A sign-and-trade deal with the Mavericks involving Chandler and Glen Davis. Of course, Mark Cuban would probably have to assume Jermaine O’Neal‘s $6.2 million expiring contract, Ainge would likely have to sweeten the deal with Avery Bradley and that still might not be the best offer Dallas receives.
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How the proposed CBA affects the Celtics: Luxury tax

Monday, November 28th, 2011

While we wait for the players and owners to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, we’€™ll be taking a look at how various parts of the proposal could affect the Celtics. If you’€™d like to check out the full proposal, SI’€™s Sam Amick obtained a copy and posted it here.

Part I: Free agency

Today’s topic: The Luxury Tax

Before your eyes glaze over, the luxury tax elements are perhaps the most important details of the proposed collective bargaining agreement. The new luxury tax proposal doesn’t quite function as a hard cap, but it’s not far off. This will likely have a profound effect on teams like the Celtics who have been over the tax line since they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2007 season for both basketball and financial reasons.

We covered the different rules on signing free agents via cap exceptions, but here’s a reminder:

  • Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $5M in years 1 and 2, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 4 years; can be used every year.
  • Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $3M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 3 years; can be used every year.
  • Bi-Annual Exception can only be used by non-taxpayers. Amount set at $1.9M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter. Exception cannot be used in 2 consecutive years and has maximum contract length of 2 years (same as under 2005 CBA)

In other words, teams that go over the luxury tax threshold will have fewer exceptions to utilize in free agency. While the cap and tax levels have yet to be set, they won’t go below what they were in the first two years of the deal — roughly $58 million for the cap and $70 million for the tax threshold.

In the first two years of the deal the tax will remain a dollar for dollar penalty, just as it was previously. But in the third year, things will get prohibitively more expensive:

  • Tax up to $5 million above the threshold: $1.50
  • $5-10 million: $1.75
  • $10-15 million: $2.50
  • $15-20 million: $3.25
  • Higher: An additional .50 per $5 million.

The Celtics were about $6 million over the tax threshold last season. Under the new rules, their bill would rise to more than $9 million. A more extreme example is the Lakers whose tax bill would rise from roughly $20-45 million under the new rules.

The upshot is that teams will have to think twice about spending beyond the tax level, but this may not be a bad thing for the Celtics. They have six players under contract for about $64 million and a qualifying offer of $5.9 million for restricted free agent Jeff Green. After first round pick JaJuan Johnson signs his rookie contract, they will be right up against the tax line but remember that the tax penalty stays the same for the next two years.

If the roster stays relatively unchanged this season with no more long-term contracts, the Celtics will only have about $30 million in committed salaries for 2012. That’s not only a lot of cap room, it’s also a chance for Danny Ainge to rebuild the roster with an eye on staying under the tax threshold in a more restrictive player market. There’s opportunity to rebuild without having to dump contracts for financial reasons.

Celtics free agent options at center redux

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Shortly after last season, we examined the free agent options that will be available to the Celtics at each position. The new (tentative) labor deal has changed the landscape a bit, and some previously available players either retired (Yao Ming), re-signed with their old teams (i.e., Nazr Mohammed and Greg Oden) or signed overseas (i.e., J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin), so it’s worthwhile to reexamine those options.

We’€™ll roll out one positional breakdown each day this week, starting with the C’€™s biggest need: Centers.

The Celtics started the 2010-11 season with four centers on the roster (Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O’€™Neal, Jermaine O’€™Neal and Semih Erden) along with sometimes center Glen Davis. Now, a year later, only JO remains from that list. While Big Baby remains an option depending on his value on the open market, the C’€™s still need at least one if not two more guys who can play the five.

The Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Kevin Garnett, $21.2; Paul Pierce, $15.33; Ray Allen, $10; Rajon Rondo, $10; Jermaine O’€™Neal, $6.23; Avery Bradley, $1.53), and Jeff Green is due at least another $5.91 million this offseason. That leaves little wiggle room for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

As a result, don’€™t expect any big-name free agents. So, let’€™s start by crossing Nene, Tyson Chandler, Greg Oden ($8.8 million qualifying offer) and Marc Gasol ($4.5 million Q.O.) off the list of potential targets. While any of those three would be a fantastic fit on the 2011-12 Celtics, they’€™re all out of their league.

Without further ado, let’€™s take another look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at center, separating the current free-agent players into four categories.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics hope to sign-and-trade Big Baby?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

With half the roster still to be filled, expect a whole lot of Celtics rumors to fly around the interwebs between now and Christmas Day — and here’s the first, courtesy of Sporting News NBA writer Sean Deveney’s Twitter account: “From what I’m told, the Celts are happy about the whole sign-and-trade issue for tax teams, because that’s the plan with Big Baby [Glen] Davis.”

At some point during the haze that was the NBA lockout, we discussed the realistic sign-and-trade options for Davis at length. Options included old friend Tony Allen, Warriors forward Dorell Wright, Kings center Jason Thompson and Bucks swingman Carlos Delfino, among others.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Davis said he’ll have “a pen and pad and two phones up to my ears” as he listens to offers elsewhere, preferably for a starting position. He also expressed his interest (once again) in returning to the Celtics.

“I’ve been in the playoffs every year on that team — twice in the Finals,’€ Davis told the Herald. “I think of the legacies that Kevin [Garnett] and Ray [Allen] have built here, and that’s the path you want to take. I’ll take a look at them first to see what we can do here, and then if I have to, I’ll look into where else I can go.”

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NBA schedule details before the schedule

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The revamped NBA schedule won’t be released until later this week, but the league released a breakdown for the 66-game slate that would begin Christmas Day and end April 26, about a week later than normal.

Each team will have at least one back-to-back-to-back and some will have as many as three. The playoffs will start on April 28 and there could be one set of back-to-backs in the second round.

Teams will play 48 conference games with the following breakdown:

  • Play 6 teams 4 times (2 home, 2 away)
  • Play 4 teams 3 times (2 home, 1 away)
  • Play 4 teams 3 times (1 home, 2 away)

They will play 18 out of conference as follows:

  • Play 3 teams 2 times (1 home, 1 away)
  • Play 6 teams 1 time at home
  • Play 6 teams 1 time away

How the proposed CBA affects the Celtics: Free agency

Monday, November 28th, 2011

While we wait for the players and owners to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, we’ll be taking a look at how various parts of the proposal could affect the Celtics. If you’d like to check out the full proposal, SI’s Sam Amick obtained a copy and posted it here.

First up: Free agency

I. CAP EXCEPTIONS

Let’s establish a couple of realities for the Celtics this season. 1. They will be over the cap. 2. They will be at or near the luxury tax.

This is important because there are new realities for tax teams in the proposed CBA, the biggest being the use of the mid-level exception. Under the old agreement any team could use the full MLE amount on one or more players. That’s how the Celtics were able to sign James Posey and Eddie House in 2007 and Rasheed Wallace (2009) and Jermaine O’Neal (2010) even though they were over the cap. They also used what’s known as the bi-annual exception to sign Marquis Daniels in 2009.

Here’s what’s different (quoted directly from the proposal).

  • Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $5M in years 1 and 2, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 4 years; can be used every year.
  • Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $3M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 3 years; can be used every year.
  • Bi-Annual Exception can only be used by non-taxpayers. Amount set at $1.9M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter. Exception cannot be used in 2 consecutive years and has maximum contract length of 2 years (same as under 2005 CBA).

Assuming the Celtics will be a tax team, they would have to use the smaller MLE and would lose the ability to use the bi-annual exception. There’s another wrinkle here as reported by SI’s Zach Lowe:

“Every team can use the full mid-level exception, provided doing so does not take the team more than $4 million over the tax line. If you use the full mid-level to get to or approach that barrier looming $4 million over the tax line, you cannot cross it by re-signing your own free agents via Larry Bird Rights.”

This gets a little complicated but the takeaway is the Celtics probably couldn’t use the full MLE and re-sign Jeff Green and/or Glen Davis.

So, it seems likely that team president Danny Ainge will be looking for free agent help armed with only the $3 million exception and the veterans minimum to attract free agents. That’s not the worst thing in the world because Ainge would like to keep the books clean for next summer and the last thing he needs is a $5 million contract hanging out on their balance sheet. There will also be lots of veteran players looking for contracts on Dec. 9 who might be willing to sign on for one year with a contender.

II. CONTRACT LENGTHS AND BIRD RIGHTS

  • Maximum contract length of 5 years for Bird players and 4 years for other free agents.
  • Maximum annual increases of 7.5% for Bird and Early Bird players, and 4.5% for other players.
  • Period for a player’€™s prior team to match an Offer Sheet that a Restricted Free Agent receives from a new team shortened from 7 to 3 days. (NOTE: The last bullet point affects Green as a restricted free agent.)

As before, players can get the best return by re-signing with their teams when they hit free agency. Of the Celtics’ free agents, three have the most value: Green, Davis and Delonte West.

The question for Ainge is how much value do they represent to the Celtics, not just for this year but beyond? One of the late tweaks to the proposal was keeping the sign-and-trade option. Beyond that, teams can use the sign-and-trade mechanism for the next two years regardless of their cap and tax situation. Here’s the language:

  • Except during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, teams are prohibited from acquiring a free agent in a sign-and-trade if their team salary post-transaction would exceed the tax level by more than $4 million. The maximum contract length for a sign-and-trade is 4 years, and maximum annual increases are 4.5%.

Davis, in particular, could have value in a sign-and-trade.

III. AMNESTY CUTS

This is a big one to watch because there could be a handful of players hitting the open market who might be willing to go to a team like the Celtics — or the Lakers, Heat, etc.

Here’s the rule:

  • Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’€™s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.

The only Celtic who could potentially fit in this scenario would be Jermaine O’Neal who has one year and $6.2 million left on his deal. That could potentially allow them to use the full MLE, but seems unlikely considering the short time he has left under contract and the reality that cutting the only legitimate center on a team that needs at least one, if not two more centers would be a major risk.

Here’s the potentially crazy part:

  • A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’€™s remaining contract. If a player’€™s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the player’€™s salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.

In other words, teams that are under the cap would get first crack at Amnesty players via waivers. That adds a whole other layer of intrigue to the process, but if the player passes through waivers he’d become an unrestricted free agent and you can bet the Celtics will be watching this list intently for unexpected bargains.

Free agency is tentatively scheduled to begin on Dec. 9, the same date as training camps will open. It will make for a hectic period of player movement and with so many roster spots available, the Celtics will be scrambling to fill those vacancies. If form holds, it seems likely Ainge will be looking to fill the roster gaps with a mix of veterans on short-term contracts.

10 questions post-NBA lockout Celtics must answer

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Now that the NBA lockout is all but over, we can talk actual basketball again. No more exhibition games. No more Paul Pierce sightings at the World Series of Poker. No more overseas discussions. Should lawyers on both sides approve the tentative agreement as expected in the next three days to a week, both training camp and free agency are scheduled to begin on Dec. 9, leading up to a Celtics at Knicks season opener on Christmas Day.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, head coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the C’s brass face a ton of questions over the next month. Here are 10 of the biggest ones they’ll have to answer.

10. How will the Celtics fill out the remainder of the roster?

The C’s currently have just six players under contract: The Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as well as center Jermaine O’Neal and second-year guard Avery Bradley. That leaves nine open spots on the 15-man roster.

Jeff Green has received a $5.9 million qualifying offer that makes him a restricted free agent, and the remaining eight players from the team that lost a five-game Eastern Conference semifinal series to the Heat are free agents. Only Nenad Krstic, who signed a two-year deal with CSKA Moscow that did not include an NBA out clause for this season, is off limits.

First-round draft pick JaJuan Johnson is a lock to land one of those nine open slots, while second-round selection E’Twaun Moore is a strong candidate to make the roster. Johnson has been working out in his hometown of Indianapolis during the offseason, and Moore has averaged 9.5 points in six appearances for Italy’s Benetton Treviso over the past two months.

Prior to the lockout, undrafted Pitt swingman Gilbert Brown was on the team’s radar, so he has a chance to join the Purdue pair on the bench as well.

Assuming Green remains in Boston, Ainge will at the very least have to find veteran players capable of playing significant backup minutes at center, power forward and the two guard positions. Re-signing combo guard Delonte West would go a long way in cementing the latter, and we’ll be examining the free-agent options at each position throughout this week.

9. Is the annual mid-level exception still available to the Celtics? (more…)