Free agent signings soon to follow

NEW YORK -- The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement
was finally completed and signed early Saturday, clearing the way
for free agent signings to begin Tuesday.
Lawyers for the league and the players' union had been working
nearly around the clock for the past several days on drafting the
documents for the six-year agreement, which was agreed to in
principle more than a month ago.
There already were two delays in the date for free agents to
begin signing.
League attorneys will spend the next few days reviewing the
agreement with teams, and signings will begin at noon EDT on
The salary cap will be set at $49.5 million, an increase of
$5.63 million from last season.
For the first time, teams will know before the season begins
what the luxury tax threshold will be -- $61.7 million. Teams with
payrolls over that will have to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on the
amount of their payroll that exceeds the $61.7 million.
Under the old luxury tax system, teams did not know until the
season ended whether the luxury tax would even kick in, or what the
threshold was. The new rules provide a level of cost certainty to
replace the cost mystery many owners complained about.
Free agents signing under the midlevel exception, which can
offered by teams who are over the salary cap, can sign contracts
beginning at $5 million annually.
Among the details:

  • Teams will have a one-time chance to waive a player under
    contract and be relieved of any luxury tax liability. Waiving
    Michael Finley could save Dallas at least $51 million; the Mavs
    would be barred from re-signing him until his contract expires
    after the 2007-08 season, and they still would have to pay his full

  • The minimum age for draft eligibility increases by one year.
    U.S. players must be at least one year removed from their high
    school class' graduation to be draft eligible. International
    players must turn 19 during the calendar year of that draft.

  • The minimum team salary is now $37.125 million.

  • The players will receive no less than 57 percent of
    basketball-related income, a percentage that will increase as
    revenues increase.

  • The maximum length of any contract drops from seven years to
    six. Free agents changing teams can sign for five years, down from

  • The maximum annual salary increase drops from 12.5 percent to
    10.5 percent.

  • Teams may assign players to the NBA Development League during
    their first two seasons.

  • Veterans are subject to four random drug tests. The old rules
    called for one test during training camp. Rules are different for

  • Players can now appeal suspensions longer than 12 games for
    on-court misconduct.

  • The second-year Charlotte Bobcats, as part of their expansion
    restrictions, have a salary cap of $37.125 million next season, and
    a minimum salary of $27.84 million.