Deal with Derrick
Will the 76ers Keep Coleman?
You run the 76ers. You saw immensely talented yet perpetually underachieving power forward Derrick Coleman resurrect his career this season. He averaged 17.6 points and 9.9 rebounds, but, more important, sat out only 23 games after missing an average of 40 the previous three seasons. In March, your coach, Larry Brown, declared that the 30-year-old Coleman was his kind of player.
Here's your dilemma: Coleman is to make $13 million next season. You'd like to keep him but not at that price. You have an option to buy him out for $5.6 million, which will be counted against your salary cap. But if you buy him out and renounce his rights, you're likely to lose him. (You can't negotiate with him until late December; any other team can sign him right away.) Your other choice is to buy him out and not renounce—and try to strike a new deal. Until that deal is struck, however, he's counted on your books at a whopping $17.6 million: 150% of his 1997-98 salary, which was slightly more than $8 million, plus the $5.6 million buyout
So here's a guess at what Philadelphia vice president of basketball operations Billy King will do: Buy out Coleman by July 1, not renounce him and then try to re-sign him for, say, $5 million, so the Sixers can keep him at a cap cost of $10.6 million. Don't expect this, however, if the Sixers get lucky at the May 17 draft lottery and get a pick high enough to make Coleman expendable. "We'll know more after the lottery," says King, who's hoping for a choice in the top three.