The Miami Heat took another step toward maximizing its salary cap space on Tuesday, when it agreed to buy out the contract of forward James Jones.
The Heat had a June 30 deadline before the three remaining seasons on Jones’ partially-guaranteed contract became fully guaranteed. The contract was set to pay him $4,650,000, $4,970,000 and $5,290,000 over the next three seasons, for a total of $14,910,000.
Miami had been trying for weeks to trade him so that they could owe him nothing at all, but there were no takers.
Instead, the Heat did one better.
Rather than paying Jones his guaranteed $5,952,000, they have reportedly instead bought him out for only $4,952,000.
In a spectacular display of selflessness for the greater good, Jones agreed to give up a million dollars of what he was owed to a team that was simultaneously releasing him. He did it for reasons unknown, but perhaps including a genuine love for the Heat and the city of Miami and because the Heat agreed to pay his buyout in one lump sum. Rather than receive bi-monthly checks for the next three years, Jones will get all of his buyout money up front. Getting paid up front is still not worth sacrificing a million dollars, but it is something.
While a formal promise of a future contract is a violation of cap rules, Jones may have also received a hint from the Heat organization of its intention to offer a minimum salary contract to partially offset the losses after all of the team’s cap space is used up. The future contract promise is just speculation, but it seems to make a whole lot of sense.
While Jones will get paid his money up front, in accordance with cap rules, the Heat will get to spread the salary cap hit associated with Jones’ buyout over the remaining life of his now terminated contract, in proportion to the salaries he was guaranteed in each of those seasons. Jones’ cap hits become $1,544,172, $1,650,667 and $1,757,161 respectively, thereby opening up an additional $311,828 in cap room for this season for Miami.
This amount may seem rather small, but it is important.
Michael Beasley is all but certain to get moved, perhaps to the Raptors as part of a Bosh sign-and-trade but more likely to the Minnesota Timberwolves, in a trade that would clear his $4,962,240 salary off the books. However, even if the Heat were to also move Mario Chalmers, it would still have fallen $198,764 shy of being able to offer each member of a potential Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh trio a full, maximum contract. The $311,828 cap savings from Jones makes it officially possible. A potential Wade, James, Bosh trio – assuming the Heat can find a taker for Chalmers – would leave the Heat just shy of the projected $56.1 million cap, with only $113,064 to spare.
In accordance with buyout procedures, Jones will now be placed on waivers. “Waivers” is a temporary status for players who are released by their teams. During the waiver period, which lasts seven days, any other team may claim him. If a player on waivers is claimed, the new team acquires his existing contract in full and pays the remainder of his salary. In the case of Jones, however, this is highly unlikely.
If no team claims him, he is said to have “cleared waivers.” At this point, Jones would become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign a new contract with the team of his choice, including Miami. The Heat would then be responsible to pay the negotiated buyout amount.
The move adds further credence to the notion that Wade, James and Bosh may have an agreement in place to join the Heat in the off-season. While Pat Riley is restricted from speaking to either James or Bosh until free agency officially begins at 12:00 am on Thursday morning, no such restriction exists for Wade. The three reportedly held a small summit over the weekend, which was subsequently denied.
Jones originally signed a 3-year, $23.25 million contract with the Heat on July 9, 2008. He appeared in 76 regular season games, including seven starts, during his two years, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists in 14.9 minutes, while shooting .366 from the floor, .376 on 3-pointers and .831 from the foul line.