Real Culprit in Boozer Saga: Salary Cap

The Cavaliers needed to decide by June 30 if they would make Carlos Boozer a restricted free agent, or if they would exercise their option to extend him for one more year for peanuts. They thought they reached an agreement with Boozer that would pay him $40 million over six years. But neither Boozer nor Cleveland could sign such an agreement until July 15. In that intervening no-man's-land where verbal contracts can be easily broken, Boozer was wooed by Utah's front-loaded offer of $68 million for six years.

The tragedy in this case is that a mutual promise was not enforced, and the culprit is the two week negotiating period.

If Boozer and Cleveland agreed to a deal on June 30, why can't they express that understanding in a written form, submit it to the league offices, and have it stamped officially complete? Because they must wait until July 15. Them's the rules. It was agreed through collective bargaining, so it must be good for somebody, right?

Wrong. The two week negotiating period from July 1 to July 15 is NOT intended to maximize what free agents and restricted free agents can get. It is almost a hand-holding affair that assumes players and their agents are too stupid to do what's best for them.

The rule basically says, no matter what you agree to, another team can match or exceed that offer until July 15, and you can back out without any guilt. Or at least without any repercussions.


Why do we need such a stupid rule?

Teams certainly don't benefit from such a rule. Cleveland would have locked up Boozer immediately and we wouldn't be in this mess.

Players certainly don't benefit from such a rule. Sure, in this particular case, Boozer made more money. But he shouldn't have. The only reason he was able to do so was because the contract with Cleveland was not enforceable. In essence, it was like a contract to buy a house where he got the house and didn't have to pay and the judge said he didn't have to give back the house. Cleveland would never have let him walk if they weren't getting an extension on his contract. Let's also not forget that Utah can technically still decide to back out of the deal, giving Boozer a small taste of his own medicine. But they have a franchise value and they need to protect the value of their word; apparently Boozer doesn't.

Agents certainly don't benefit from such a rule. Any agent worth his salt can tell any team that makes even an exploding offer that they'll think about it and get back to them. No matter what they say, no offer really explodes. You shop it around, and if you don't get better, you agree to it, or perhaps a little worse. There are any number of negotiating methods, all ethical and all practiced in every other business situation, that does not require handcuffs when it comes to signing the contract.

A deal should be a deal, whether it is verbal or written. A handshake is magic. Your word should be gold. Doing the paperwork should be merely a formality for the league offices, if it's even needed, and a chance to celebrate, not a potential stumbling block.

None of this would have happened if the NBA treated its players as if they were adults. You like the deal, you agree to it. You don't like it, you walk. None of this business about waiting two weeks before anything is official.

Listen up, Commissioner. Listen up, Players' Association. It's not good for either of you and it treats the athletes like children. Grow up. Be mature. Let a deal be a deal.

It's time to scrap this insulting and harmful rule.