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Celtics' Salary Cap Situation and FAQs: 2009 Edition

*** Updated Version Available Here (link)  ***

The time has come for our Third Annual Salary Cap Situation and FAQs.  Here, we look at the state of the Celtics' cap and try to answer everything you ever wanted to know about the collective bargaining agreement.  Without further adieu, here's our current salary table from now until 2013-2014.  Yes, I know it's not terribly helpful right now, but it will be filled in as we fill out our roster.

Player 2009-2010 2010-11 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014
Kevin Garnett $16,451,934 $18,866,934 $21,281,934 n/a n/a
Paul Pierce $19,795,712 $21,515,521 n/a n/a n/a
Ray Allen $19,766,860 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Kendrick Perkins $4,750,000 $4,890,208 n/a n/a n/a
Brian Scalabrine $3,413,793 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Eddie House $2,862,000 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Tony Allen $2,500,000 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Rajon Rondo $2,094,922 $3,018,783 n/a n/a n/a
J.R. Giddens
$1,028,880 $1,100,640 $1,986,655 $2,979,983 n/a
Gabe Pruitt $825,497 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Bill Walker $736,420 $854,389 $916,100 n/a n/a
Semih Erden
Unsigned n/a n/a n/a n/a
Glen Davis Free Agent (R)
n/a n/a n/a n/a
Leon Powe Free Agent (R)
n/a n/a n/a n/a
Mikki Moore Free Agent (U)
n/a n/a n/a n/a
Stephon Marbury Free Agent (U)
n/a n/a n/a n/a


Total Salary: $74,236,018  $50,244,475  $24,184,689  $2,979,983 $0
Totals w/o options:
$70,548,521 $23,757,142
$0 $0

* All salaries are via Shamsports.  In some instances, these may conflict with reported salaries on Hoopshype.  Additionally, certain salaries may be affected by the payout / subtraction of certain bonuses.  Team options are in red and qualifying offers are in green.  Salaries shown in purple represent non-guaranteed / partially guaranteed deals, while player options are listed in blue. Total salary assumes all options and qualifying offers are picked up; "Total without options" does not include team or player options, qualifying offers, or non-guaranteed salaries.

Some of the basics:

  • The Celtics are over the cap this year and will be luxury tax payers, which significantly limits their ability to sign free agents;
  • The team will have a maximum of roughly $7.5 million to spend on free agents, should they choose to do so.  They also can sign as many players to minimum contracts as they want;
  • The team may have as many as six free agents departing this off-season.  We will have the right to match the contracts offered to two of these free agents -- Glen Davis and Leon Powe -- if we extend them qualifying offers by June 30;
  • In order to complete a trade, salaries must "match" within 125% + $100,000 of one another;
  • It will be very difficult to include BBD in a sign-and-trade;
  • We have the right to extend Rajon Rondo's contract this off-season;
  • We have up to $30 million in expiring contracts.  These may be valuable in trades.  However, even if the team allows all of these contracts to expire, the team will not have significant cap room in the summer of 2010.

Below the fold, read more about everything you ever wanted to know about the Celtics' cap situation, the team's free agency options, and a whole lot more.

Frequently asked questions:

1) How much is the salary cap for the 2009-10 season?  How much is the luxury tax?  What is the difference between these two numbers?

In February, the NBA projected the salary cap for the coming season to be approximately $57.3 million, while the luxury tax was projected at approximately $69.4 million.  If accurate, this would reflect a decrease of $1.38 million in the salary cap and  $1.75 million in the luxury tax as compared to last year.  These amounts will be finalized no later than July 8, 2009.

A lot of people get these two numbers confused, so I'll do my best to explain.  However, the absolute best place to have these questions explained in detail in on Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ page.

Essentially, the salary cap is a "soft" number which serves the purposes of limiting a team's ability to offer free agents from other teams contracts.  A team can offer a free agent a starting salary below or equivalent to its amount of remaining cap room.  For instance, if a team is $7 million below the salary cap, it can offer a free agent from another team a deal starting at $7 million per season.  If a team is over the cap, the most it can offer is the mid-level exception (the "MLE"), explained in greater detail below.  Obviously, we are far above the salary cap, and as such, for purposes of the Celtics discussion of the salary cap is purely academic.

More relevant is the luxury tax.  Basically, for teams that exceed the luxury tax, they pay a dollar for dollar penalty on amounts above the tax.  This money goes to the league, where it is divied up between the teams that stayed below the tax (again, this is overly simplistic, but you get the idea.) 

Last year, the luxury tax was $71.15 million million.  Our payroll at the end of the season, for luxury tax purposes, was roughly $79,188,973, meaning we paid a little over $8 million in luxury tax ($8,038,973, to be exact).  Coincidentally (or perhaps not) this was approximately the same amount of luxury tax we payed the year before.  We also missed out on a league subsidy that only goes to non-taxpayers, which has yet to be calculated.

2) What is an "exception"?

An exception is just that:  an "exception" to the salary cap that allows a team to go over the salary cap to sign, or in some cases trade for, a free agent.  For the Celtics, there are four relevant exceptions: the mid-level exception ("MLE"), the Bi-annual exception (also called the "LLE" or the "million dollar exception"), the minimum salary exception (also sometimes called the "veteran's minimum"), and the traded player exception.

The MLE: The MLE can be used to sign players to contracts for a maximum of five years, with annual raises equivalent to 8% of the contracts first year value each year.  This exception is available to teams above the salary cap (or to teams only slightly below the cap), and can be used annually.  For the 2009-10 season, the MLE can be used to give free agents contracts starting around $5.5 million (with the actual number to be determined no later than July 8 ).  The MLE can be used in its entirety on one player, or can be split amongst several players. 

The LLE: The LLE can be used to sign players to contracts for a maximum of two year, with up to an 8% annual raise in the second year.  This exception is available to teams above the salary cap, but can only be used every other year.  The LLE for this season is $1.99 million.  The LLE can be used in its entirety on one player, or can be split amongst multiple players.

Bird Rights:  For any of our own free agents who have played for three years without changing teams via free agency, we have what are known as "Bird rights".  This allows the team to sign the player for any amount up to a max contract.  Leon Powe is the only one of our free agents that we have Bird rights with.  (The exception is named after Larry Bird, who was the first player to be signed with the exception, in 1984-85.)

Early Bird Rights: For any of our own free agents who have played for two years without changing teams via free agency, we have what are known as "Early Bird rights".  This allows us to sign players for 175% of their previous salary (plus an annual raise equal to 10.5% of the value of the first year of the contract), or the amount of the MLE, whichever is greater.

Additionally, the Early Bird Exception can be used to match any contract given to any of our restricted free agents. (More on this below).

Non-Bird Rights:  For any of our own free agents who only have played for one year or less without changing teams via free agency, we can offer them a 20% raise over their 2008-09 salary, plus an annual raise equal to 8% of the value of the first year of the contract.

The Minimum Salary Exception:  This is an important one for the Celtics, for reasons that will be explained in greater detail below.  This exception allows a team to sign a player to the allocated minimum salary, which varies subject to the signing player's service time.  Contracts signed with the minimum can be up to two years in length.

3) How many players do we have under contract?  What is the maximum number of players we can have on our roster?  Is there a minimum to the players we can have under contract?

Currently, we have nine players that have guaranteed contracts for next season, with six players who could become free agents, as discussed below.   

During the off-season, a team can carry as many players on its roster as it wants to.  Once the season starts, a team can have a maximum of 15 players under contract, and a minimum of 13 players.  Rosters must be finalized on or before October 31, 2009. 

4) What free agents do the Celtics have?

The Celtics have as many as six free agents, as follows:

Glen Davis:  BBD will be a restricted free agent, assuming the team extends him a qualifying offer for $1,000,497 by June 30, which appears to be a no brainer.  We can match any offer he is given by other teams.  We have his "early Bird" rights, as described above.

Leon Powe:  If the team offers Powe a $1,030,189 qualifying offer by June 30, he will be a restricted free agent.  If we choose to make a qualifying offer, we can match any contract he is offered.  Otherwise, he will become unrestricted, meaning he can sign with any team without the Celtics having the right to match.  We have Powe's Bird rights, as mentioned above.

Eddie House:  Eddie has a player option for $2,862,000.  If he declines, he is an unrestricted free agent.  As an "early Bird" free agent, we could offer him a contract up to the amount of the MLE without having to actually use the MLE. 

Stephon Marbury: Starbury is an unrestricted, "non-Bird" free agent.  We can offer him a pay bump of 20% next season, or roughly up to $2.0 million, without having to use the MLE. For any amount greater than that, we'd have to dip into the MLE to sign him.

Mikki Moore:  Moore is also an unrestricted, "non-Bird" free agent.  We can offer him a pay bump to 20% more than the minimum next season, or roughly $1.57 million, without having to use the MLE.  As above, for any amount greater than that, we'd have to dip into the MLE to sign him.

Gabe Pruitt:  The team holds an option on Pruitt for $825,497 next season.  If we decline the option, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.  If the team declines his option, they still would retain his Early Bird rights.

5) What is a "restricted" free agent?  How does that differ from an unrestricted free agent?

Restricted free agency applies to first round picks following the fourth year of their rookie scale contracts, or for all other veteran players who have been in the league three years or fewer. 

To make a player "restricted", a team must extend that player a qualifying offer.  In the case of non-first rounders, the qualifying offer must be 125% of the player's previous salary, or the minimum salary for a player of that experience level plus $175,000, whichever is greater. 

Once a free agent is restricted, the player's original team retains the right to match any offer sheet the player is signed to.  This is different from the case of unrestricted free agents, where the original team has no right to match an offer sheet from another team.  For details on the Celtics' restricted free agents this year, see Questions 4 and 6. 

6) Are there any limits on our ability to match contracts given to our restricted free agents?  Would we have to use the MLE to sign them?  What types of contracts can other teams offer them?

No, there are no restrictions on our ability to match an offer sheet.  If we offer Powe and/or BBD qualifying offers, we can match any contract given to them without having to use part of the MLE.  If they signed an offer sheet with another team, we would have seven days to match.

Other teams must offer a restricted free agent a contract of two or more years.  For players with three or more years experience (such as Powe), another team can offer him a contract for any annual salary, assuming they can fit it under their cap. 

In the case of BBD, the other team can offer no more than the amount of the MLE (roughly $5.5 million, plus an 8% raise in the second season) for the first two years of the deal.  After that, the team could give BBD a huge raise -- up to the value of a max contract -- in his third, fourth, and fifth seasons.  Theoretically, then, it would be possible for BBD to get a contract in the 5 years, $50 - $55 million range, although it's extremely unlikely.

One interesting thing about matching an offer sheet:  if the Celts match an offer sheet for a player, they're not allowed to trade that player for a period of one year without the player's consent.  Under no circumstances can they trade that player to the team that tried to sign him for a one year period.

7) What is the deadline for Eddie House to decide on his player option?  When must the Celtics decide on Gabe Pruitt's team option?

House must decide no later than June 30, 2009 whether he will pick up his option or not; it is expected that he will.

Pruitt's situation is trickier.  If Pruitt's deal is a pure team option, then the deadline for invoking it is also June 30, 2009.  However, it has been reported that the team will evaluate Pruitt in summer league before deciding whether to pick up Pruitt's deal for next year.  Since summer league will begin after the June 30, 2009 deadline, it is likely that Pruitt's deal is not strictly a team option, but is rather partially guaranteed.  Under such a scenario, the team would have a certain time period to evaluate Pruitt, after which time they would have to decide whether to fully guarantee his deal or release him.  Any date by which Pruitt's contract must be picked up would be pursuant to the contract's terms, which are presently unknown.

8 ) What are the benefits to signing a player to a minimum deal?

There are several advantages to signing a player to a minimum deal.  First, there is no limit to the number of players a sign can sign to the minimum.  Second, any player signed to the minimum doesn't count against the MLE, meaning the MLE can be allocated towards other players.  Most importantly, though, the NBA actually subsidizes teams that sign players to the minimum.  The team is only responsible for the first $825,497 of player salary; the league pays any amount over this threshold.  Additionally, only $825,497 counts towards the luxury tax.

9) Where can I find a list of this year's free agents?  What about free agents in future years?

This year's and next year's free agents are listed  here.  You can also find a position-by-position listing of free agents here.

10) What's the max contract we could give to another team's free agent?

We can offer any free agent (assuming they're not named Gerald Green or Antoine Walker) the MLE, which as noted above will begin at approximately $5.5 million.  The max we can offer is a 5 year deal, with an annual raise in the amount of 8% of the first year's contract value.  Thus, using the estimated number, the breakdown is as follows:

Year 1: $5,500,000
Year 2: $5,940,000 (8% raise equal to $444,000)
Year 3: $6,384,000 ($444,000 raise)
Year 4: $6,828,000 ($444,000 raise)
Year 5: $7,272,000 ($444,000 raise)

Thus,based upon the estimated amount of the MLE, the max contracts we can give are:

One year deal:    $5,500,000
Two year deal:    $11,440,000
Three year deal: $17,824,000
Four year deal:   $24,652,000
Five year deal:    $31,924,000

We could also offer any player the LLE, which is $1.99 million this year and $2.08 million next season.

Lastly, we could try to work out a sign-and-trade with another team, in which that case would sign the player to a new contract (with the player's consent, of course) and trade him to the Celtics in return for players from our current roster.

11) Which teams are under the salary cap?  What is the luxury tax situation of other teams? made a great chart tracking the financial situation of the various teams, based upon the salary cap and luxury tax staying stable, which I've cut and pasted below:

Keep in mind, this chart isn't perfect.  First, it estimates salary cap and luxury tax room based upon the current cap staying level.  Additionally, it assumes certain players will not opt out of their contracts (notably, Turkoglu, Varejao,  Ilgauskas, etc.)  However, it's helpful as a rough guide.

As shown above, only six teams have a significant amount of cap space: Memphis, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Toronto, and Minnesota.  That list, however, assumes that teams allow their own free agents to walk away for nothing.  Certainly, Atlanta and Toronto are not likely to do so. 

It is likely that only Memphis, Detroit, and Oklahoma City will have the cap space to be significant players in free agency this season, with Minnesota potentially able to offer an amount to a free agent greater than the MLE.  Portland also may be able to get under the cap, depending upon what it does with Channing Frye, Travis Outlaw, and Steve Blake (none of whom have guaranteed deals for next season).

In terms of the luxury tax, almost all of the prime contenders for a title are at or nearing the luxury tax, including Boston, Cleveland (assuming Varejao and Ilgauskas are back), Orlando (assuming they resign Turkoglu), Denver, San Antonio, and Los Angeles (even before resigning Ariza and Odom)

12) What does it mean when people say salaries need to "match" in a trade?

Assuming both teams are over the salary cap, incoming and outgoing salaries must be within 125% + $100,000 of each other for the trade to go through.

13) So, we have Bird rights to Leon Powe.  Does that mean we could sign him to a huge one-year deal, and then trade him to another team as an "expiring contract"?

No.  If you give a player larger than a 20% raise, he's subject to something called "base year compensation".  Essentially, what this means is that for purposes of trades, you only count 50% of the player's actual salary as outgoing salary for trade purposes.  However, the team trading *for* the BYC player has to count 100% of his actual salary for incoming purposes.

I know that's confusing as heck, so let me use an example.  Let's say we want to trade Leon for a player making $7 million.  We thus intend to sign Leon to a one-year, $7 million contract.  Here's how that breaks down under BYC rules:

Boston trades:  Leon Powe ($7 million salary * 50% reduction = $3.5 million)
Boston receives: $7 million player

The trade cannot go through, because the $3.5 million and $7.0 million salaries don't "match" within 125% + $100k.

Couldn't we just sign Leon to a $14 million expiring contract to complete the trade, then?  No.  Here's why not:

Boston trades: Leon ($14 million salary * 50% reduction = $7.0 million)
Boston receives: $7 million player

So far so good, right?  However, the next step kills it:

Team X trades: $7 million player
Team X receives: Leon Powe ($14 million salary, with no reduction)

Thus, once again, the salaries don't "match".  Base year compensation makes it very difficult (although not impossible) for players to be traded in the first year of contracts where they saw a substantial raise.

14) If it looks like we're going to lose BBD as a free agent, could we sign and trade him to another team?

Nothing prevents us from signing and trading BBD using the Early Bird exception.  However, Base Year Compensation rules (as explained in Question 13) make it pretty tough to pull off such a trade.  For instance, if BBD signs for $4.0 million in his first year, there is *no* 1-for-1 trade that could be made for him under BYC rules.  There may be some wiggle room by including a minimum salary player, but there's not much.

By example:

Let's say BBD signs for $4 million in the first year, and we want to trade him to Team X.

For BYC purposes, BBD's salary counts as a $2 million salary outgoing from Boston.   To fit within trade rules, the most salary we can take back from another team (Team X) is 125% of that amount, plus $100k.  That amounts to $2.6 million.

Does that mean we can acquire a player making $2.6 million, then?  No.  The trade has to work from Team X's end, too, and from their end, they have to count BBD's entire $4 million salary.  The absolute least amount they could send out in a trade of a $4 million salary is $3.12 million.  As you see, that's still more than the $2.6 million Boston can take back.

Now, one way around this would be to include a minimum salary player in the team (going from Team X to Boston), because minimum salary players don't have to be counted as incoming salary in a trade.  For instance, let's say we want to trade BBD's $4 million salary for a player making $2.5 million and a minimum salary player, making around $800k.  Can we do that?  Yes.

As noted above, Boston can trade BBD's hypothetical $4 million salary for a player making up to $2.6 million.  In this case, the $2.5 million player fits under this restriction.  Because minimum salary players can be included in a trade at any time without counting against outgoing salary, from Team X's end, it is only sending out $2.5 million in salary (when, in actuality, the real number it is trading is $3.3 million).  On the other hand, remember that Boston has to take back at least $3.12 million in salary.  Does it meet this requirement?  Yes, because Boston can elect to include the actual amount of salaries it is taking back, or in this case, $3.3 million.

The lesson to learn here is that a sign-and-trade with BBD is possible, but it's not probable, due to the small margin of error with which the Celts have to work in terms of matching salaries.

15) How many expiring contracts do we have?  How could these be utilized in a trade?

We have as many as seven expiring contracts depending upon which options are picked up, with amounts as follows:

Player '09-'10 salary
Ray Allen $19,776,860
Brian Scalabrine $3,413,793
Eddie House $2,862,000
Tony Allen $2,500,000
J.R. Giddens $1,028,880
Gabe Pruitt $825,497
Bill Walker $736,420
Total: $31,343,450

These expiring contracts can be traded to take back up to 125% (plus $100,000) of their value.  Accordingly, the Celtics could take back up to $39,279,312.50 in salaries if they traded all of the above players ($31,343,450 x 125% + $100k).  Even without including Ray Allen and Eddie House, the Celtics could take back $10.73 million in salary by trading Scal, Tony, Pruitt, Walker, and Giddens in the same deal.

Expiring contracts are valuable because they allow a team to immediately clear salary space after this season.  The theory is that a team will be willing to trade a better player with a long term contract for a lesser player with an expiring contract.  This could prove to be particularly true with teams desperate to shed salary do to the current state of the economy, along with other teams in a rush to clear cap space before the "Summer of 2010", when players like Lebron, D. Wade, Bosh, and others can become free agents.  For more, see Jeff's writeup on this subject.

16) When can we extend Rondo's contract?  How much would a max deal be worth?

The Celtics have the right to negotiate to extend Rondo's contract between July 9 and October 31, 2009.  If they reach an agreement on an extension, Rondo's new salary would be in effect starting in the 2010-11 season; he would still be on our books in 2009-10 at the rookie scale amount of $2,094,922. 

Rondo is eligible to sign an extension for up to five years, for any amount up to a "max contract".  In Rondo's case, a max contract would include a starting salary of approximately $13.5 to $14 million, with annual raises of approximately $1.4 to $1.5 million.  Therefore, a max extension would be in the 5 year, $81.675 to $84.7 million range. 

17) What happens if the Celtics don't sign Rondo to an extension by October 31?

Rondo would become a restricted free agent next season, meaning the Celtics would have the right to match any contract he received, assuming they extended him a qualifying offer of $3,018,783 (which would, of course, be a no brainer).  The Celtics would still have the right to sign him to a contract in free agency, which could be up to six years in length. 

If Rondo didn't sign with a new team, and he and the Celtics couldn't agree on a contract, Rondo could play for the qualifying offer, and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011-12.

18) Is J.R. Giddens a free agent next season?  If not, why is his salary in red on the chart?

The Celtics have an option on Giddens' contract for next season.  They must decide whether to invoke this option no later than October 31, 2009.  If they do invoke it, Giddens will be under contract next season; if they do not, Giddens will be an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team.

19) What about Bill Walker and his purple salary?

Walker's deal is non-guaranteed, meaning that the team is not on the hook for his salary in 2010-11 and 2011-12 unless certain preconditions included in his contract are met.  Often, these preconditions are as simple as "If you a on the roster on ____ date, you will receive ____% of your contract guaranteed".  In the past, the team has tied contractual guarantees to certain statistical goals.  For instance, Leon Powe's deal became guaranteed for the following year if he averaged a certain set number of points + rebounds + blocks in the prior season.  It's likely that under his contract, Walker could be cut before next season with very little, if any, financial penalty.

All contracts become fully guaranteed for the remainder of the season as of January 10 of each season.

20) What about Semih Erden?  Will he play this season?  Do we still have his draft rights?

Erden is under contract in the Turkish League through the end of next year, and isn't expected to seek a buyout to try to play for the Celtics.  He will not participate in summer league, either.

The Celtics retain Erden's draft rights for one year after the expiration of any non-NBA contract he plays under.  That means that if he extends his deal overseas, the Celtics will continue to retain his rights until one year after his last contract terminates.

21) Looking at the above chart, it looks like the Celtics only have around $50 million in salaries committed for 2010.  If the cap goes up to around $60 million, does that mean they can spend $10 million on free agents?  Could they then resign Ray Allen with their Bird rights?

No and no.  Surprising to many, free agents continue to count against a team's salary cap until they're either signed or renounced.  This is called a "cap hold".  Free agents essentially count against the cap at a figure greater than their previous salary. 

The amount of these cap holds varies significantly; for actual percentages, see here.  For purposes of the Celtics, Ray Allen would have a cap hold in excess of $20 million.  While the team could renounce Ray, if they did so they would only be able to pay him the minimum salary.

Of even more significance is the cap hold of Rajon Rondo.  Even assuming we don't sign Rondo to a large extension, as a restricted free agent, he would carry a cap hold of 300% of his previous salary, or approximately $6.3 million.  Thus, under the above scenario, the Celtics actual cap room would be approximately $6.5 million, rather than the $10 million anticipated.  Further, there would be additional salary slots or cap holds for any other players on the roster.  For instance, teams must have 12 players on their roster; for every player less than 12, the team is charged a "cap charge" equal to the rookie minimum salary ($457,588 in 2010).  Assuming we had only six players under contract, there would be cap charges equal to a minimum of $2,745,528.  That means our cap space is reduced to approximately $3.755 million, an amount significantly less than the mid-level exception (which we would have to renounce if we wanted to use our cap space).  That's assuming we renounce *all* of our free agents other than Giddens and Walker.  If we let Giddens and Walker go, that brings our available cap space to $4.85 million, or still less than the amount of the MLE.

In summary:  Assuming a salary cap of $60 million, a roster of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, and Rajon Rondo leaves us with less than $5 million in cap space in 2010, which is less than the amount if we utilized the MLE.  Even worse, reports are suggesting that the cap may be as low as $55 to $57 million in 2010, meaning we'd be right at the salary cap with only four players under contract.

22) Do we have any chance of signing Lebron or any other big free agents from the Class of 2010?

See above.  The only way we realistically could gain cap space is if Paul Pierce opted out of his contract, and immediately signed with the Celtics for a vastly reduced amount.  (An immediate signing is necessary to eliminate his cap hold).  Working under the overly generous projection of a $60 million cap in 2010, we could gain approximately $25 million in cap space if Pierce re-signed for a minimum salary.  That would be enough to sign Lebron to a max salary deal (which would have a starting salary of between $18 and $19 million per season).

I'll allow people to judge for themselves how likely all of the above is.

23) What's the deal with buyouts?  Is there a limit to how much of a player's contract he can agree to buy out?  What is the last date on which a player can be bought out and still be eligible for a team's playoff roster?

At any time, a team and a player can agree to a buyout of that team's remaining salary obligation to that player.  The Celtics did this with Vin Baker and Dino Radja in the past, and in recent years Chris Webber, Sam Cassell, Joe Smith, Drew Gooden, Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore (ugh) and others have all agreed to buyouts.  In a buyout situation, the team pays a player a reduced amount, and allows that player to become an unrestricted free agent (after they clear waivers).  The team executing the buyout is responsible for the agreed upon sum, with the cap hit being divided out equally among the remaining years of the contract (ie, in Vin Baker's deal, he had three years on his deal, and he agreed to a $16 million buyout.  Thus, the team carried a $5.33 million cap hit on its salary cap for three years.)  There is no limit to the amount of salary that can be bought out. 

In order for a bought-out player to be eligible to play on another team's playoff roster, he must be bought out no later than March 1, 2009.  You will inevitably read reports that state that the player must sign with a new team by March 1 to be playoff eligible; this is erroneous.  The only deadline for signing is the last day of the regular season.

24) At the trading deadline, we traded Sam Cassell and Patrick O'Bryant for basically nothing.  Why didn't we just cut them instead of the elaborate trades?

Basically, this was done to save money under the luxury tax.  Under luxury tax rules, you only pay tax on players who are still on your books at the end of the season.  If we'd cut POB and Sam, we would have had to pay luxury tax of approximately $1.6 million on their salaries, in addition to the remainder of their contracts (approximately $300k each).  Therefore, trading them saved a total of around $2.2 million, minus whatever cash considerations we paid.

25) What are the rules concerning the D-League?  Who is the Celtics' D-League affiliate?

During an NBA player’s first two seasons in the league (regardless of his age when he entered the league), his team will be permitted to assign him to a team in the NBA Development League. A player can be assigned to the NBADL up to three times per season. The player will continue to be paid his NBA salary and will continue to be included on his NBA team’s roster (on the inactive list) while playing in the NBADL.

The Celtics are affiliated with the D-League expansion team Maine Red Claws, playing in Portland, Maine.  The Red Claws will be affiliated with one additional NBA team, which has yet to be announced.

26) Will the Celtics participate in summer league this year?  When is it?  Will the games be televised?

The Celtics will participate in the Orlando summer league, from July 6 until July 10, 2009.  They will not participate in the Las Vegas summer league.  In the past, games have been closed to the public but have been available for viewing online for free; it is expected that a similar policy will be in effect this year.

27) Why are the salary numbers you listed not the same as on Hoopshype?  Does Pierce have an early termination option in his last year?

As noted above, all of the salary data above is from  From my experience, they've had much more accurate data than Hoopshype.  There are significant differences between the two sites in terms of certain player salaries, though. 

The most significant difference is that Shamsports reports that Paul Pierce has an option in his last year, and Hoopshype doesn't.  Hoopshype also has the Celtics total team salary as approximately $1 million less than Shamsports, due mostly to differences in Ray Allen's, Kevin Garnett's, and Gabe Pruitt's salaries.  (Hoopshype is definitely wrong on Pruitt's salary, as they have him earning less than the minimum salary for his number of years of experience.)  However, Shamsports is not infallible, either; they don't list Pruitt's contract next season as a team option / non-guaranteed. 

28 ) Where can I research these issues on my own?

Larry Coon's FAQ is an invaluable resource.  For those who want to go above and beyond Coon's efforts, you can find the actual text of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on the Player's Association website.

29) Where can I find past editions of this FAQ?

They may be a bit out of date, and in parts perhaps not entirely accurate,but they can be found here:  2007 | 2008

30)  Will this be updated during the year?

Yes.  We'll re-run this article as soon as the league announces the salary cap, luxury tax, and MLE numbers for next season (and potentially update it will any draft picks).  After that, it will be updated as necessary in the forums.  A duplicate of this article can be found stickied at the top of the Celtics Talk forum.

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