Gary Tanguay’s Misguided "Plan"

By Chris

So I am sure many of you have heard the latest rumors being spread by everyone's favorite Celtic's pregame anchor, Gary Tanguay.  If you haven't yet, here is a bit from his article on CSNNE.com today, where he explains what he was discussing all day yesterday on the radio and on Sports Tonight.

"First of all, Ray stays here because I don't think Danny Ainge will find enough value to move him and still compete for a title this spring. At the end of the season his $20 million comes off the books. Next, Paul has to opt out of his $21 million dollar final season. Once he does this, Danny can then offer $18 million or so to a free agent like . . . say . . . Joe Johnson. Then Pierce would re-sign a team-friendly deal that would allow him to retire a Celtic while having a younger roster to work with en route to another possible title."

Unfortunately, everything he is proposing here is completely impossible under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), so let's take a look at why this won't work...

First of all, I am not sure where he comes up with the $18 million figure.  It seems to be pretty well accepted that the salary cap will be dropping next season.  Some are speculating that it will drop as low as $50 million, but lets say it drops to $55 million. 

The C's already have approximately $42 million in committed salaries next season to Garnett, Wallace, Davis, Rondo, and Perkins.  The C's could then renounce all of their free agents, which would allow them to have some cap space.  However, to determine how much space they have, you would also need to add in cap holds for minimum roster spots (you need to budget in money to pay the minimum salary for players until you have the minimum of 12 players), and Draft picks (you need to budget in the money to pay a first round draft pick).  So this would cut the cap space down significantly.  The C's would be very lucky to get close to $10 million in cap space.  I don't think that will entice Joe Johnson out of Atlanta.

The other issue comes from his theory that Pierce could opt out of his contract, allowing the C's to use that cap space, and then Pierce could resign after that.  While he is correct that this COULD happen, Pierce would have to agree to play for the veteran minimum, which not only means he gives back nearly $20 million, but also means he can't use Bird Rights the next year.

The reason for this is that if Pierce opts out of his contract, he would have a cap hold of about $19 million.  If the C's wanted to open up the cap space to sign someone else, they would need to "renounce" Pierce's rights.  This means that he would no longer have Bird Rights, and cannot be signed for anything above the veteran minimum once the C's are over the cap again. 

Tanguay tried to argue against this here:

"Now, there is NBA language that would prevent the Celtics from using the Larry Bird rule (which states a team can re-sign its existing player for more money than a new club).  The language states that if the team renounces Pierce's deal, it cannot use the Larry Bird rule. This would not be the case, as Pierce would agree to opt out of his deal and then re-sign a new contract after help arrives."

Again, he is completely wrong.  Pierce opting out of his contract does not change his cap hold.  The cap hold is put in place to prevent teams from doing exactly what Gary is proposing.

The other scenario that has come up is that the C's could do what Gary proposes, and then sign Pierce with the Mid-Level Exception.  Unfortunately, this also does not work, because teams under the cap (which the C's would be when they renounce Pierce and other FA's) do not get the MLE.

The moral of the story here is that just because a guy is on TV or the Radio, or even connected with the C's, does not mean he understands the CBA.  I would recommend that anyone who wants to know more about this (Gary, this means you!) check out Roy Hobbs' FAQ about the C's salary cap situation

For information about the CBA on a leaguewide level, check out Larry Coon's page here

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