Saturday, February 2, 2008

Interesting Webber Tidbits

All the rewinding folks are doing these days to Webber's departure from the Warriors in November 1994 should make teams feel grateful all over again that the NBA and the players' union agreed to implement a rookie salary scale starting with the 1995-96 season. Ever since that monumental change, rookies have been forced to wait four or five seasons before they can even think of forcing a trade like Webber did after his first season.

Before the salary scale, remember, rookies could hold out for h-u-g-e contracts that angered veterans and left the league's less glamorous teams in constant fear that they wouldn't be able to keep the young saviors bestowed upon them by the draft. In the draft after Webber's, for example, Milwaukee had legit fears that Glenn Robinson was going to hold out for $100 million before eventually signing Big Dog for $68 million over 10 seasons.

Webber's original contract from the Warriors was a stunning 15-year deal worth about $75 million ... so stunning that it also contained an opt-out clause after his rookie season. The system was such a mess in those days that teams still had to create salary-cap space to sign their rookies, which forced Golden State to trade away Tyrone Hill first and meant that Webber's rookie salary was a mere $1.6 million that first season, which led to a deal strung out over 15 years and included the opt-out clause to compensate. Even though he was a restricted free agent after opting out, Webber still had enough leverage to force his exit, leading to the trade to Washington for Tom Gugliotta and three first-year picks.

As if Clevelanders aren't edgy enough when someone even dares to suggest that LeBron James might leave his hometown Cavs someday, imagine what it would have been like if LeBron would have held the right to become a free agent after Year 1.

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