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How the proposed CBA affects the Celtics: The draft 11.30.11 at 8:20 pm ET
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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, Sports Illustrated obtained a copy and posted it here.

Part I: Free Agency

Part II: The Luxury Tax

There hasn’t been much to talk about regarding the Celtics recent draft history for the simple fact that Danny Ainge hasn’t been in position to select a difference-maker since the 2007 draft-day deal that sent the rights to the fifth pick to the then-Seattle Sonics for Ray Allen. (That pick of course was Jeff Green).

Since then Ainge has drafted J.R. Giddens, Avery Bradley and now JaJuan Johnson with his first round selections. Giddens never saw a third season in Boston, Bradley barely played in his first year and Johnson is a rookie. As such, the Celtics haven’t had to make a decision on whether to extend a rookie deal since signing Rajon Rondo to a five-year deal before the 2009-10 season.

The rookie scale will remain as is, with two years guaranteed for first round picks followed by two more years of team options before a player can hit restricted free agency like Green is now. The biggest change comes in the amount of the qualifying offer where rookie who outperform their draft position can earn a higher salary. Here’s the language:

  • Any first round pick who, over his prior two seasons, starts an average of 41 regular season games per season or averages 2000 or more minutes of playing time per season (the “starter criteria”) will receive the same Qualifying Offer amount as the player who was the 9th pick in the draft;
  • Any second round pick or undrafted player who meets the starter criteria will receive the same Qualifying Offer amount as the player who was the 21st pick in the draft; and any first round pick selected in the first 14 picks in the draft who fails to meet the starter criteria will receive the same Qualifying Offer amount as the 15th pick in the draft.

This won’t have an effect on Bradley who played just 30 games last season and it probably won’t affect Johnson either — if it did he’d either be much better than previously thought or something has gone horribly wrong — but it’s something to keep in mind.

There’s also the so-called Derrick Rose rule that would allow a player to earn a max payday if he meets the following criteria:

  • (i) named to the All-NBA first, second, or third team two times, (ii) voted in as an All-Star starter two times, or (iii) named NBA MVP one time. A 30% max contract cannot be signed as part of a sign-and-trade transaction.

Again, interesting, but doesn’t have much relevance to the Celtics at this point.

There is one other piece to the draft equation and it’s potentially a good one for Boston: The minimum-age requirement. This is one of the so-called “B-List” issues that has yet to be worked out but there are indications that the NBA will keep the one-and-done parameters for the time being.

Why is that important? The Celtics own a top-10 protected first round pick from the Clippers and under ordinary circumstances one might think it wise to wait for the Clips to inevitably screw up the Blake Griffin-era, wait until 2016 when it’s unprotected and swoop in with a prime pick, or simply keep it in their back pocket for a trade sweetener.

All of that may be true, but the 2012 draft will be loaded thanks to a number of underclassmen who stuck around for an extra year rather than wait for the lockout mess to be resolved and the Clippers may be good enough to get that pick next year.

While that wouldn’t put the C’s in the running for top prospects like Anthony Davis, Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger there should be a number of good players to be had in the middle part of the first round. Here’s the list of players ranked 11-15 on Draft Express Top 100 board:

  • 11. Jeremy Lamb, G UConn
  • 12. James McAdoo, F UNC
  • 13. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F Kentucky (an early-season Green Street favorite)
  • 14. Tyler Zeller, C UNC
  • 15. Patric Young, F Florida

Just for kicks, Duke guard Austin Rivers is No. 16 and while the prospect list will undoubtedly fluctuate, the point is that this is a draft where any team will want to have multiple picks.

Read More: CBA, NBA Draft,
How the proposed CBA affects the Celtics: Luxury tax 11.28.11 at 7:23 pm ET
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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.

NBA schedule details before the schedule 11.28.11 at 9:25 am ET
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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
Read More: Schedule,
How the proposed CBA affects the Celtics: Free agency 11.28.11 at 12:01 am ET
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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.

Read More: CBA proposal, Danny Ainge, Delonte West, Glen Davis
NBA union disbands and chaos reigns 11.15.11 at 12:01 am ET
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Attorney David Boies may now be the most important person in the NBA. (AP)

As of Monday, Nov. 14 there is no more National Basketball Players Association, no more late-night negotiations and quite possibly no more NBA for a long time.

How we got here will be debated for years, but the long and the short of it is the NBA offered a proposal that offered either a 50-50 split of basketball related income or a 49-51 percent band, along with several contentious system issues and gave the players a chance to either accept it or face a far more restrictive proposal. The players chose option C: The nuclear option.

The players sent a letter to commissioner David Stern declaiming interest, which effectively dissolves the union and makes it a trade association. They can no longer negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the league. They chose this option over the more formal process of decertification, which involves taking a petition to the National Labor Relations Board before a full vote can take place, a procedure that generally lasts between 45-60 days and allows for continuing negotiation during the period.

The players had previously authorized the union to take this step and no vote was needed, although Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter said the 40-plus players present, including Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant, were unanimous in supporting the move. No formal vote on the NBA offer was held.

This is now in the hands of union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies, a renowned attorney who has taken on Microsoft and George W. Bush and who was also on the side of the NFL in their antitrust suit with the players. It’s presumed that they will file an antitrust suit against the NBA, although Boies threw some caution on that talk in a brief chat with reporters in New York.

Stern, as you might expect, was not happy with this development. He went on ESPN to call the move a negotiating tactic, which is the basis of an earlier suit the league filed with the NLRB in August. In a statement issued by the league, Stern claimed this was part of Kessler’s plan since February of 2010. “The players have been badly misled,” Stern said on ESPN. “We were very close, and the players decided to blow it up.”

How close they actually were is open for debate as it was Stern who repeatedly told the union that they were done negotiating and this was their final offer. Nevertheless, he added ominously, “We’re about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA.”

If a season is lost, that would likely mean the end of the Celtics as we know them. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal would all become free agents and the last run of that era would have already taken place.

However, and it’s a big however, no one really knows for sure how this will play out. Stern himself stopped short of saying the season is over and as SI’s Zach Lowe pointed out, a lawsuit could be settled in weeks or even days and the union could reform to negotiate a new deal. The absolute drop-dead period for the 2011-12 season is probably January and that’s still a long way away. The last NBA lockout ended on Jan. 6, 1999.

But for now, chaos is the order of the day. In a letter sent to the players that was posted on USA Today’s website, Hunter wrote:

“With no labor union in place, it is our sincere hope that the NBA will immediately end its now illegal boycott and finally open the 2011-12 season. Individual teams are free to negotiate with free agents for your services. If the owners choose to continue their present course of action, it is our view that they subject themselves to significant antitrust liability.”

The repercussions are many, but again: No one really knows what will happen now.

Read More: NBA lockout,
NBA players face stark choices 11.11.11 at 10:50 am ET
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The NBA has made another final offer. Will it be one the players can accept? (AP)

The NBA lockout has come to down to this, apparently: The owners have made a revised proposal that offers a 50-50 split of the revenues and included minor adjustments from their previous offer, and the union will meet with player reps early next week to consider its options.

If the answer from the union is yes, then the NBA will go ahead with a 72-game schedule beginning on Dec. 15. The start of the playoffs would be pushed back a week, but considering the league would have already lost six weeks, a 72-game season in that time frame would be roughly similar to the 50-game sprint marathon of 1999. The Celtics, for example, would have played 20 games by Dec. 15.

If the answer from the union is no, then NBA commissioner David Stern indicated that the league will once again pull back the offer and revert back to a hard-line offer of a 47 percent split of the revenue and a structure the league calls a “flex cap” but is really hard a hard cap, and that’s a position the players won’t accept.

The key word is “apparently,” because throughout the process the NBA keeps issuing ultimatums and then backing off, but this time (really) feels different. “We have made our revised proposal, and we’re not planning to make another one,” Stern said.

It was clear Thursday night that the union wanted to keep negotiating because the owners’ offer is not an easy sell to its members. The details are important, and Ken Berger of CBS Sports outlined them here.

“I understand from the union’s standpoint it’s a difficult pill to swallow right now,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. “But that, once again, over time, we’ll be proven right and this will be a better league for the players, the teams and the fans.”

Silver continues to try to frame the issue as one of competitive balance, even though it has been proven time and time again, that there is little, if any, correlation between payroll and success on the court. What it really comes down to is power and control. The balance of power shifted in recent years to the players, and the owners want it back.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Billy Hunter, David Stern, NBA lockout,
A brief reminder of where the Celtics roster stands 10.28.11 at 1:01 am ET
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While we have been down this road many times before, it’s finally looking like there will be an NBA season. Maybe.

At the risk of jinxing what has been a process loaded with pitfalls, here’s a look at where the Celtics roster stands if/when the lockout ends and peace is at hand.

With only six players under contract before the lockout, team president Danny Ainge will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to build the Celtics roster this season, without cutting into the team’s anticipated cap space in 2012.

PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT

Rajon Rondo: The point guard is in the second-year of a five-year, $55 million contract and if Rondo can either continue to improve, or reach a level of consistent play, this will be one of the great bargains in the league. It could also make him a valuable trade piece down the line, but that’s getting too far ahead of the game.

Ray Allen: The 36-year-old picked up his $10 million option before the lockout. This may not be the end of the line for Allen in a Celtics uniform because his shooting ability has aged as well as he has.

Paul Pierce: The franchise cornerstone has another year left on his deal after this season with options for the following seasons. It’s hard to imagine him in any other uniform.

Kevin Garnett: This is the big decision for next season when Garnett’s $21 million contract comes off the books. Any guesses as to what the future holds for Garnett are premature, but his expiring deal is the key to the Celtics cap space in 2012.

Jermaine O’Neal: With one year and $6 million left on his contract, O’Neal represents great value at the center position. If, and it’s a big if, he can stay healthy.

Avery Bradley: The rookie season was a wash, but he and the team are expecting much bigger things in the future. Carving our a role in the rotation would be a positive development.

THE ROOKIES

JaJuan Johnson: The first-round pick provides height and youth, two areas the Celtics desperately need.

E’Twaun Moore: The other Purdue product will get his opportunity and the Celtics have not been shy about giving experienced second-round picks a chance to contribute, but he’ll have to earn it.

Gilbert Brown: The Celtics have no rights on Brown, but the undrafted free agent is clearly in their sights.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

Jeff Green: The best-case scenario for the Celtics is if Green signs his one-year tender offer and either shows that he can be a valuable part of the next generation or become cap space in 2012. A long-term deal at a reasonable rate is another possibility.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Glen Davis: There have been times when Davis has been a valuable member of the rotation and a quasi-starter. There have also been times when he hasn’t delivered. There’s a place for Davis on this team for the right deal, but both parties could seek a fresh start.

Delonte West: It’s not a foregone conclusion that West returns, but this is a great fit for him and his abilities.

Nenad Krstic: The veteran center signed a two-year deal with CSKA Moscow and the Celtics do not expect him to return.

Troy Murphy, Sasha Pavlovic, Carlos Arroyo: It’s anywhere on the scale from maybe to doubtful that any of the other three free agents return. That will depend entirely on the market and where Ainge chooses to direct his resources.

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