Perhaps NBA followers are supposed to be surprised. Or, at least, act surprised. But to the real shock of absolutely no one, Antonio McDyess informed everyone…..gasp, get ready for this….that he’s going back to the Detroit Pistons as soon as he is allowed to under NBA rules on December 3rd.
It’s one of the absolute worst rules in the NBA, and it should be changed in the next collective bargaining agreement. But alas, for right now, it’s perfectly legal, and so the Detroit Pistons have been allowed to conduct a trade that under normal circumstances would not be allowed by the CBA. You see, just trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson wouldn’t work, because their salaries don’t match. To take on so much salary in Iverson, Pistons GM Joe Dumars needed to circumvent the rules somehow. So he asked Antonio McDyess to play a pawn in his little game.
McDyess was included in the trade to Denver, but he made such a stink about not playing in Denver, that the Nuggets agreed to buy out his contract and once McDyess cleared waivers, he was free to sign wherever he pleased. The only stipulation was he has to wait 30 days to sign back with the Pistons. After toying around with a few teams, one of them being Cleveland, and pretending like he was actually considering signing somewhere other than Detroit (and it sure was convincing….by all accounts Danny Ferry never fooled himself into believing McDyess was ever going anywhere but Detroit), McDyess finally lived up to his end of the agreement with Dumars.
According to A. Sherrod Blakely for MLive.com,
“The Detroit Pistons were defeated 106-80 by a bad Minnesota Timberwolves team Sunday, but not everything was bad for Detroit.
They received a bit of good news from Antonio McDyess, who informed the Pistons that, as expected, he will re-sign with them next month.
McDyess was part of the four-player trade with Denver earlier this month that brought Allen Iverson to Detroit.
“We looked at two or three different scenarios besides Detroit,” McDyess’ agent, Andy Miller, said in a phone interview Sunday night. “Antonio felt he started something in Detroit, and felt an obligation to his teammates, the fans and the organization, to finish it.””
Nobody will ever know for sure if there was actually a handshake deal in place between Dumars and McDyess, but it’s hard to look at this objectively and not read between the lines. McDyess’ agent sure has been adamant in making sure everyone knows how much thought Antonio put into signing a couple different places, but in the end felt “obligated” to return to Detroit. Either way, it’s not legality of this that’s so frustrating, it’s that it makes such a huge impact on the balance of power, not just within the Central Division, but within the entire Eastern Conference.
Antonio McDyess is not a superstar, but he is a difference maker. There’s no denying the Pistons are a dramatically better team with him than without him. There’s no denying the depth he would have provided to Cleveland’s frontcourt would have made the Cavaliers a better team. This one loophole rule could be the difference ultimately between a 1st place and 2nd place finish in the Central Division for these two teams.
If anything, you might say that McDyess’ value to the Cavaliers was not so much in what he gave to the Cavs, but what him being in Cleveland would have taken away from the Pistons. When one singular move has the potential to make such a difference for two teams, it’s worth examining the spirit of this rule.
To be clear, nobody broke any rules here. Every team acted precisely in a manner that is well within their rights under the current CBA. The Nuggets had every right to buy out McDyess’ contract. Why would the Nuggets, a team already slashing payroll to get under the luxury tax level, want to keep paying a high salary to a player who has no intention of showing up and playing there? So the Nuggets did what was best for them, and worked out a buyout for McDyess. If McDyess wants to wait 30 days to play and if he wants to give up even more money beyond what he left behind in his buyout with Denver, it’s his right to do so and to sign with the Pistons.
But maybe, just maybe, the NBA needs to clean up this rule. It makes it entirely too easy for teams to get around certain rules that are in place for a reason. The rule requiring the salaries in a deal to matchup is in place as a form of safeguarding against uneven trades. A trade of Billups and McDyess for Iverson sounds somewhat fair, but a trade of Billups for Iverson straight up is in no way a fair or even trade. Yeah, the Nuggets got what they wanted in the form of a salary dump, but this affects other teams. The Cavaliers, Celtics, and Bobcats were all teams expected to have a shot at McDyess…..if he wasn’t already determined to go back to Detroit, of course.
Nobody gives up the amount of money of McDyess did out of just loyalty alone. While terms of his Denver buyout were not disclosed, league sources have indicated it was as much as $9 million. Then, factor in the fact that the most Detroit could offer him was $1.9 million, while Cleveland could offer him multiple years starting at around $5 million this year, and you’re looking at over $12 million left on the table by McDyess. It’s hard to imagine something like that happening without some kind of understanding with Joe Dumars already in place.
This isn’t meant be any kind of accusatory piece or anything like that. Dumars and McDyess did nothing wrong. But that’s the point. Shouldn’t it be wrong to pull off what they just did? Shouldn’t the NBA have a stronger interest in maintaining the integrity of the rules that are place? Regardless, the Cavaliers just missed out today on a piece that would have made them the hands down favorite to win the Central Division this year, and that’s really too bad.