This time last week, Aaron McKie was an unpaid assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers (although he is still making money from his last contract as a player).
Then McKie was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Even better, now he's going to get a chance to be that rarest of things, a player/assistant coach. And for his troubles, he'll reportedly make an additional $750,000 or so.
But how did that happen?
McKie was included in the deal to make the salary cap numbers work. The Lakers could have renounced McKie, but instead -- as teams often do -- held onto his rights. Sometimes the rights to retired players can come in handy, and the cost of keeping them is only some salary cap inflexibility.
A free agent like McKie stays on the books as a "cap hold" until he re-signs with his own team, signs with another team, or is renounced. UPDATE: These players are not under contract and are typically not paid (exception: McKie, and all those bought out under the one-time amnesty rule). But they have not been renounced either -- it's like the team has a right of first refusal to their playing services if they want to come back. And that right costs the team a little bit of space under the salary cap. Teams that are trying to maximize cap space to sign free agents typically will renounce these guys. But in the meantime, they hang around on the books.
This allows a team, like the Lakers with Aaron McKie, to use that player in a trade, instead of a player on their current roster.
Some of the names might surprise you -- like current Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell, who could in theory be traded by Minnesota. (Based on a conversation I just had with the league office, for the league to approve such a trade, the NBA would have to be satisfied that Mitchell's contract with the Raptors was completley resolved -- bought out, terminated etc. -- and that whichever team was acquiring Mitchell was doing so to get him to play basketball for them. They frown on retired players moving around on paper just to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement.)
Here is a list of some other "Aaron McKies" that are on the books and eligible to be traded, even though most have retired. Some have big cap holds, and could have big new contracts without becoming difficult-to-trade "base year compensation" players. That means they could become part of big trades.
Chicago P.J. Brown ($8,560,000)
Dallas Keith Van Horn ($15,694,250)
Indiana Rik Smits ($12,250,000)
Minnesota Latrell Sprewell ($14,625,000)
Boston Roshown McLeod
Chicago Michael Sweetney
Detroit Victor Alexander, Dale Davis, Don Reid
Golden State Calbert Cheaney
Houston Maciej Lampe, Jake Tsakalidis
Indiana Zan Tabak
LA Lakers Ron Harper, Karl Malone, Shammond Williams
New Orleans Marc Jackson
Philadelphia Rodney Rogers
Phoenix Jalen Rose
Portland Voshon Leonard, Detlef Schrempf
Sacramento Vitaly Potapenko, Brent Price, Corliss Williamson
Seattle Danny Fortson
Utah Greg Ostertag
Washington Anthony Peeler
Boston Dana Barros, Grant Long
Dallas Vernon Maxwell, Johnny Newman, Walt Williams, Kevin Willis
Denver Wesley Person
Detroit Tony Delk, Danny Manning
Indiana Tyus Edney, Tim Hardaway, Terry Mills, LaSalle Thompson
LA Lakers Horace Grant, Mitch Richmond, John Salley, Brian Shaw
Miami Shandon Anderson, Christian Laettner, Gary Payton, John Wallace, Zhi-zhi Wang
Minnesota Oliver Miller, Sam Mitchell
New Jersey Travis Best, Hubert Davis, Sherman Douglas, Gheorghe Muresan
New York Kelvin Cato, Andrew Lang, Felton Spencer, Bruno Sundov
Philadelphia Rick Mahorn, Derrick McKey
Portland Chris Dudley
San Antonio Glenn Robinson, Nick Van Exel
Washington Chris Whitney