The following question to Ira Winderman has piqued some interest from my shockingly tiny reader base:
“In all your posts, you are undermining and flat out discarding one very real possibility for the Heat to round out the roster. That is, for veterans like U.D., J.O. and Q, and even possibly Dorell, to sign a one-year minimum deal and keep their Bird Rights.”
It is easy to understand the connotation behind this question, though it is not explicitly stated. The concept would be for the Heat to sign any or all of the players mentioned to one-season minimum contracts. Doing so would allow the Heat to maximize cap space this summer and, with Bird rights intact, exceed next year’s salary cap to grant them significant raises for their troubles.
While this is quite a creative concept, the premise is inherently flawed.
This approach is illegal. Teams are not permitted to make direct agreements with a player that are not reported to the league. If they do, the penalties can be severe. Such a violation is considered by the league to be among the most serious a team can commit. A violation can result in a fine of up to $5.0 million, forfeiture of draft picks, voiding of the player’s contract, and/or the suspension for up to one year of any team personnel who were involved. In addition, the player himself can be fined up to $100,000, and prohibited from ever signing with that team.
You might be saying to yourself that the easier solution would be to report the agreement to the league in order to avoid any allegations of wrong-doing. Future contracts, however, are also illegal.
You might also be saying to yourself the league would never find out. This is very risky business – particularly for complementary players – with the penalties being so severe.
In the summer of 1999, the Minnesota Timberwolves tried this approach with Joe Smith. Smith left the Philadelphia 76ers to sign with the Timberwolves. The two sides made an under-the-table agreement that Smith would play under three consecutive one-year contracts at below market value ($1.75 million, $2.1 million and $3.6 million), and the Timberwolves would reward him by using their Bird rights to sign him to a much larger contract beginning with the 2001/02 season (reportedly worth between $40 and $86 million over seven years, dependent on performance clauses).
The league discovered the arrangement the following season, and responded by fining the team the maximum (at the time) $3.5 million, taking away their next five draft picks (two were later returned), and voiding Smith’s then-current contract. Owner Glen Taylor and GM Kevin McHale also agreed to leaves of absence (in lieu of suspensions). Most interestingly, the league also voided Smith’s two previous, already-completed contracts. This essentially stripped the Timberwolves of any Bird rights to Smith.
If Riley were to be found in violation, leniency would not be something that would be afforded. Pat has a history of violations of league rules. Read more…