Work in Sports
Who won big and who crapped out in the first week of NBA free agency?
By Phil Taylor
The NBA free-agent market is a bit like a casino -- there are a few ways to strike it rich and many more ways to lose your shirt, and the whole experience can leave you full of fear and loathing. Here are some of the games of chance that NBA general managers and players engaged in after the free agency period opened on Aug. 1, along with some of the big winners and losers.
Salary Cap Craps
Lucky Seven: John Gabriel. The Magic general manager's plan to dump salaries and create cap room to restock his team with stars worked to near perfection. Signees Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady will make Orlando a contender, although being rejected by Tim Duncan, who re-signed with the Spurs, had to disappoint Gabriel more than he let on.
Snake Eyes: Jerry Krause. The Bulls' G.M. had laid the same salary cap groundwork as Gabriel, only to be spurned by his top five targets: Duncan, Hill, McGrady, Eddie Jones and Tim Thomas. Krause thought that if he waved a big enough check, free agents would forget about the Bulls' reputation for mistreating superstars. He was wrong.
Four Aces: Derek Anderson. The former Clippers shooting guard waited quietly until the big-name free agents had made their choices and then jumped ship to the Spurs, which is like trading in a Schwinn for a Ferrari. He'll get the $2.25 million salary-cap exception and a chance for big bucks next year.
Ace High: Maurice Taylor. Anderson's former Clippers teammate played the same game as Anderson, but as of Monday he was still waiting. No matter where he winds up -- and Taylor hopes it will be Orlando -- he almost certainly won't get the $7 million-a-year contract he had expected.
The Contract Extension Slot Machine
Three Cherries: Eddie Jones. A South Florida native, Jones rejected extension offers from the Hornets during the season and then saw his dream of playing close to home come true. Charlotte traded him to the Heat along with Anthony Mason for a quintet in which P.J. Brown and Jamal Mashburn were the key players. The sign-and-trade deal left Jones, who had threatened to go to Miami for the $2.25 million exception, with a seven-year, $86 million deal.
Three Lemons: Glen Rice. As a Hornet, he also rejected Charlotte's efforts to keep him and was traded to the Lakers, with whom he won a title but lost free-agent value because of his erratic play. His dreams of maxing out with a contract starting at $14 million are long gone.
Rice won't need any telethons, of course. In the NBA, free agency may be a gamble, but no one ever goes broke.
Issue date: August 14, 2000
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