NBA salary cap goes down

NEW YORK -- The NBA salary cap has been set for next season at $57.7 million, a decline from 2008-09, allowing teams to begin signing players.

The figure the league announced Tuesday night was about $1 million less than last season's cap of $58.68 million, even though league-wide revenue rose 2.5 percent. The number is expected to drop further next season when the full effect of the economic difficulties hits.

The new salary cap went into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Wednesday, ending the NBA's moratorium period and allowing free agents to sign deals with teams.

Teams and players were able to begin negotiating on July 1. Ron Artest agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Detroit Pistons reached agreements with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva during the moratorium.

The luxury tax level also dropped to $69.92 million. Any team whose salary exceeds that will have to pay $1 for every $1 it goes over. The tax level last season was $71.2 million.

The midlevel exception will be $5.85 million.