NBA lockout: Tentative agreement will have immediate effect on Wizards

John Wall may have been “happy” to hear that representatives for NBA owners and players reached a tentative settlement that could mean the end of a nearly five-month long lockout. But if the Washington Wizards guard has had time to review the details of the agreement — which still needs approval from the majority of the players and owners before being ratified — he should truly be elated about at least one of the negotiated provisions.

Since they were established in 1995, rookie scale contracts have been some of the NBA’s best bargains, with superstar talents often exceeding their value in the first four years of their career. But players who prove to be elite talents before signing their first contract extensions now have the opportunity to reap financial rewards earlier.

If Wall is able to make the all-NBA team twice, get voted as an all-star starter twice, or win an MVP award over the next three seasons, he could receive the same maximum-salary extension as players with at least six years of service in the league — worth 30 percent of the salary cap instead of 25 percent.

Derrick Rose, who won the league’s MVP award in his third season with Chicago, will be among the first to take advantage of the provision and Kevin Durant may also be eligible to receive the extra five percent bump because the extension he signed in 2010 does not take effect until this season. Wall, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick and runner-up to Los Angeles Clippers all-star forward Blake Griffin for rookie of the year last season, faces a steep climb to reach elite status but certainly has considerably more incentive to get there.

Players benefitted from several compromises from the league over the weekend and several of the rules, according to a memo Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver distributed to team executives, will have an immediate effect on the Wizards.

The split of the revenues was an important part of the negotiations, and players will receive 51.2 percent of the basketball-related income in the first year of the 10-year deal (players and owners can each opt out of the deal after six years). But they will also have to absorb huge financial losses with a 66-game season beginning on Dec. 25.

Contracts will also be prorated, so players will receive about 80.5 percent of their salaries from an 82-game season. Based on an estimated $2 billion in player income, players have lost about $390 million because of the delayed start. While Wizards forward Rashard Lewis is slated to earn nearly $22 million in the upcoming season, he will now receive about $17.7 million.

The salary cap for next season isn’t expected to go below $58 million and the Wizards have about $52 million committed to salaries for next season. In the past, the teams with cap room, such as the Wizards, were limited to using only their available cap space, then signing minimum salary players to fill out their rosters. But they have now been granted a new exception allows them to sign one or more free agents to a salary up to $2.5 million and two years in length.

Center JaVale McGee may benefit from a new rule that would allow starters — players with at least 41 starts or 2000 minutes averaged over two seasons — to receive a higher qualifying offer from a team that hopes to retain first right of refusal in free agency.

McGee, the 18th pick of the 2008 draft, is set to receive a qualifying offer of $3.5 million at the end of the season. But as the Wizards’ primary starter at center for another season, McGee could potentially receive the same qualifying offer as the ninth pick in the draft — or an increase of about $900,000 at $4.4 million.

Second-round or undrafted players who meet the qualifications of a starter can get a qualifying offer equal to the 21st pick of the draft. And if a player selected in the first 14 picks fails to meet the starter criteria, he will get a qualifying offer equal to the 15th pick in the draft. The new wrinkle will be implemented before the 2012-13 season, so the current crop of restricted free agents — such as Nick Young — will not be affected.

Young, though, won’t have to wait as long to hear back from the Wizards if he elects to sign an offer sheet with another team when the free agent signing period begins on Dec. 9. Teams would only have three days to match instead of the seven allowed in the previous deal.

The NBA also plans to implement an “amnesty” provision that allows teams to waive one player currently under contract prior to any season of the agreement and have that salary removed from the cap. Though Lewis is owed nearly $46 million over the next two seasons — with $32 million guaranteed — but the Wizards are not expected to use the clause this season.

Teams have also been granted permission to waive players signed to new contracts and “stretching” the salaries by twice the number of remaining years of the deal plus one more year.

The salary scales for rookies such as Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack have been frozen at 2010-11 levels after the owners had sought a 12 percent reduction. The players’ union still needs to be reorganized and negotiate several other “B-list” issues, such as drug testing and the age minimum requirements, before the deal can be completed. But NBA basketball is almost near.

 
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