Kawhi Leonard got his wish Wednesday, with the Spurs finally trading him away from San Antonio. Leonard was sent to the Toronto Raptors in a package deal centered on DeMar DeRozan being sent to Texas. There’s just one possible sticking point, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes:
Leonard, who has one season remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, doesn’t have much of a say in the matter, at least according to a reading of the league’s most recent collective bargaining agreement with its players and the NBA constitution and bylaws.
For one, he can’t simply retire for a while and then pop up on a new team of his choice, at least not easily. As laid down by the NBA constitution, any player who announces his retirement gets his name placed on his team’s voluntary retired list, and he’s not allowed to play again (or get paid) for one year following the day he’s put on the list, unless the NBA Board of Governors (the league’s 30 owners, in other words) votes unanimously to allow it. If the player wishes to return, the team he last played for gets first dibs on his services. If that team passes, the player would then go through the league’s waiver process, meaning Leonard could again see his reported plan to join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers foiled.
This came up previously in 2008, when guard Jason Williams signed with the Clippers in the offseason but decided to retire on the eve of training camp. He then changed his mind, applying for reinstatement in early 2009, but the Board of Governors voted, 24-6, against him. Williams would end up sitting out the calendar year and signing with the Orlando Magic in August 2009.
Leonard’s other stumbling block is delineated in Article XI, Section 3 of the CBA. It states that any player in the final year of his contract who withholds his services for more than 30 days after the start of the season will not accrue a year of NBA service and will be forbidden from signing with another team unless his current team releases him. The CBA also lays out a fine structure for healthy players who purposely skip practices and games, starting at $2,500 for the first missed practice and escalating to a vague promise of “reasonable” discipline for more than four missed practices. There’s a separate fine structure for missed games, starting at 1/145th of a player’s salary for each missed game up to 20 games, and 1/110th of a player’s salary for each missed game after that.
With Leonard set to make slightly more than $20 million this season, that translates to more than $138,000 for each missed game up to 20 games, and more than $182,000 for each missed game after that.
Leonard missed all but nine games last season because of a quadriceps injury, with the pace and method of Leonard’s rehabilitation reportedly becoming a source of tension between the team and the camp of its star player. A physical will determine whether Leonard is fit to be traded to the Raptors. If he is, he won’t have much choice to play for them for a season before leaving for his favored destination.
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