NBA

NBA AM: Rondo Rumors And The Trade Process

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Rondo Rumors, Denials And The Trade Process:  One of the fundamentals Basketball Insiders is built on is being on the bleeding edge. We try to be way out front on things as they are happening; that means from time to time we are going to be on the wrong side of something today, because it’s an evolving situation that changes tomorrow.

Yesterday, unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of something that ended up being far from credible. One of our newsline editors came across a blurb on Rotoworld and against his own better judgment opted to run it.

The story in question involved a Twitter report suggesting the Sacramento Kings had a deal “80%” complete that would land Rajon Rondo in Sacramento for a package of assets that included Ben McLemore and Derrick Williams among other things.

After this report ran, as you can imagine the world (especially from the Boston side) kind of blew up. To say there were people unhappy with the report, especially considering we sort of co-signed it, is a bit of an understatement.

As with most reporting, once it came out, sources on all sides of this reached out to squash this, and we have since reported that and removed the original post.

It was a bad call by one of our guys and we’ll own that. That’s life on the bleeding edge. The issue has been addressed and lessons were learned.

But the story, or at least the rumor, gives an opportunity to dig into how things happen in the NBA, especially as it pertains to trades and rumors.

Teams talk. Teams talk a lot. Teams look for opportunities and try to make moves all the time. Water is wet, news at 11.

In the conversations that take place, scenarios get kicked around, and for the most part 95 percent of what is talked about never comes to fruition.

A fun game I play with executives is “tell me the craziest trade you’ve heard recently” and the responses are often epically funny.

This is the course of business in the NBA. Some teams are more compartmentalized in their conversations, some teams leak details to drum up better offers, some teams simply talk because it’s fun to talk.

The one thing that rarely happens is that teams deny something they are actively working on. It’s been my experience that no response is more telling of activity than an active response.

Usually, and this is not an absolute, but usually when team sources take the time to respond to a text or to issue a text without prompting, it’s pretty clear they don’t want to be associated with the information out there.

When things go “radio silent,” that’s when there may be truth to the discussion.

The immediate response to a team denial from fans is ‘what else are they supposed to say?’ and there is truth to that on some levels. Teams have to live with the players they do not trade, and getting guys to buy into to the program while their names are floating around is tough.

As much as everyone publicly explains the NBA is a business, players do get annoyed when their names are mentioned in trades and rumors are disruptive both on the floor and off.

If you can, imagine the situation players find themselves when a rumor breaks. It’s endless questions from friends and family. Kids worry about being pulled away from friends. Players worry about all the things not related to basketball that change when you switch teams. It is stressful and teams, especially the good ones, are mindful of that.

So a denial serves many purposes, however it’s rare that all sides of something adamantly deny a trade they are working on.

In digging through this particular rumor, there are a couple of things worth noting.

The Kings are far from finished with this roster. They have engaged a number of teams on a number of fronts and are still very much open for business on the trade front. If they bring the existing roster to camp, that’s not an issue but if the ability to upgrade presents itself they are open to that.

That’s not necessarily news, as the Kings do have a number of log jams to sort through, but the sense yesterday was that Sacramento is more likely to have this group in camp and sort things out as the season goes.

On the Celtics side, there is also a sense that bringing the existing group to camp is the plan. They are obviously hearing from a number of teams on the Rajon Rondo front, but there was not a sense that Boston was ready to do anything with Rondo and that their first choice would be to keep him long-term. But given how the Collective Barging Agreement works on extensions, Rondo is financially motivated to hit free agency in July. The Celtics need to work through the risks of letting that happen versus trading Rondo at some point before the trade deadline.

The Celtics also seem to be interested in letting Marcus Smart come along a little slowly, and that Rondo in a worst-case scenario is training wheels for Smart, and is ultimately traded later in the season when Boston might be able to extract more from a team that needs Rondo for a postseason run.

As we have covered a few times, the situation in Boston seems like it’s inevitable that Rajon Rondo is going to be traded, but to peg anything involving him as “80%” done is simply not true.

That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s going to rain. It just may not happen today.

The Myth of The Minimum Team Salary:  The NBA Collective Barging Agreement requires all teams to spend at least 90 percent of the salary cap. This season the NBA salary cap was set at $63.065 million, with the luxury tax set at $76.829 million. The NBA minimum team salary is $56.759 million.

This becomes materially relevant to the Philadelphia 76ers ($39.988 million), Milwaukee Bucks ($56.357 million) and Phoenix Suns ($51.834 million).

As of today, all three franchise are under the so called “floor.” The Suns likely get above it when they sign Eric Bledsoe and the Bucks likely get above it at some point before the trade deadline.

The one that creates the most conversation is the 76ers because they are roughly $16.777 million under the “floor.”

In previous Collective Bargaining Agreements, teams had to really spend that amount of money. However, under the current agreement, team salary is calculated on what’s on the roster at the end of the year, meaning the 76ers can and likely will run on the lean side for as long as they can.

It is simple economics. Why pay out more cash than necessary to field the team? The plan is to keep the flexibility open for teams over the luxury tax that may want to dump a salary at the deadline, when Philadelphia can extract assets for having the space.

What happens if the 76ers don’t meet the minimum at the trade deadline? They would be required to pay their existing roster the shortfall on a schedule agreed to by the Players’ Association.

So if the 76ers don’t meet the minimum, their existing guys get bonuses and the team gets to defer paying it until the end of the season.

What’s far more likely is that the long rumored Amar’e Stoudemire to Philadelphia deal gets done at the deadline. The Sixers take on Stoudemire’s $23 million salary cap number, which pushes them way over the minimum. They would only owe him roughly 30 percent of his remaining contract, so they’d end up paying him $7 million in cash and likely extract a draft pick or a rookie scale player for their troubles.

Flexibility in the NBA is currency – both figuratively and literally. The 76ers will likely meet the floor; they just are not incentivized in any way to do it before the trade deadline.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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