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Henry Liao

NBA Free Agency: Hayward Goes Celtics Green

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While National Basketball Association teams have been negotiating with veteran free agents and reaching trade agreements since the free-agency derby began last July 1, no contract signing can be consummated until noon of July 6 (or July 7, 12:00 a.m., Manila time) when the league-imposed moratorium ends and the league?s team salary cap for the 2017-18 season has been determined to be $99,093 million (up by nearly $5 million from the $94.143 million cap in 2016-17 when the NBA?s nine-year, $24-billion television contract started to take effect and around $30 million higher than the $70 million cap in 2015-16).

By the wee hours of July 7 (Manila time), expect a lot of fireworks as the signings and trades can be made official.

This early, the reigning NBA titlist Golden State Warriors, who last month shellacked the then-champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-1, in the Finals to corral their second title in three years, have already committed $328.3 million to re-sign five of their own free agents, namely, two-time league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry ($201 million over five years), 2017 Finals MVP Kevin Durant ($53 million over two years), 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala ($48 million over three years), Shaun Livingston ($24 million over three years), and David West ($2.3 million for one season).

The 6-3 Curry, an eight-year veteran guard, agreed to a super-maximum contract worth $201 million over five seasons to remain with the Warriors, the only team he has played for since breaking into the majors in 2009-10 out of the University of Davidson The 29-year-old long-range bomber has led the league in three-pointers made in each of the past five seasons (including an all-time NBA single-season record of 402 triples in 2015-16).

Curry, who only got a bargain-basement four-year, $44-million deal in his previous contract, a pittance by today?s standards but more of a huge gamble by Golden State in the summer of 2013 due to issues regarding his brittle ankles that, in fact, limited the son of former NBA three-point marksman Dell Curry to just 26 games in 2011-12, will soon own the richest contract in U.S. pro team sports history, surpassing along the way the erstwhile NBA record held by Memphis guard Mike Conley, who inked a five-year, $153-million maximum pact to remain with the Grizzlies in July 2016.

The first NBA player ever to reach the $200-million plateau, Curry is in line to become also the first player ever to bankroll $40 million in a single season, easily obliterating the current record of $33 million that His Airness Michael Jordan (now the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets) salaried with the Chicago Bulls during their second ?three-peating? title finish in 1997-98.

The sudden skyrocketing of player salaries can directly be attributed to the NBA?s humongous TV revenues.

Curry is eligible for the super-max contract, or the Designated Player Veteran Contract, from his incumbent team under a provision in the new seven-year collective bargaining agreement (with an early-termination option after six years) between the league and the players? union that takes effect starting with the forthcoming 2017-18 wars.

A player qualifies for the Designated Player Veteran Contract if he has been the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or made one of the three All-NBA teams the previous season, or been All-NBA/DPOY in two of the previous three seasons, or league MVP once in the previous season.

Such a player can receive a super-max deal only from a team that drafted him or traded for him during his first four seasons.

The maximum amount allowable for a DPVC also depends on the player?s years of service in the NBA. Each team can have a pair of DPVC players and their contracts can amount to as much as 35 percent of a team's salary cap.

Curry has qualified for the DPVC list because over a three-year period, he has been an NBA MVP twice (2015 and 2016, when he was the first and only unanimous MVP in league annals and the first player ever to pace the league in scoring while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line), and was an All-NBA First Team selection twice (2015 and 2016) and an All-NBA Second Team choice this past campaign.

Oklahoma City wunderkind Russell Westbrook also has qualified for the DPVC, having been this year?s MVP, a second-team All-NBA selection in 2014-15 and a first-team All-NBA pick in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

At $40.2 million a year on the average, Cleveland' LeBron James, the NBA union's lead vice president behind re-elected president Chris Paul (now of Houston), thinks Curry is underpaid and should be getting a contract worth $400 million or double his annual stipend.

James, touted as the best player in the league, is set to bankroll "only" $33,285,709 next season in the second year of his three-year pact either Cavs (he has an early-termination option after the 2017-18 wars (LA Lakers, are you listening?).

For the moment, The King is merely the third highest-paid player in the NBA in terms of average annual salary.

Meanwhile, much-coveted free agent Gordon Daniel Hayward is leaving the Utah Jazz for a four-year, $128 million agreement with the Boston Celtics. The maximum deal includes a player option for the final year (2020-21) that allows the 6-8 All-Star swingman to return to free agency with 10 years of NBA experience when he could secure another huge contract and command a starting pay at 35 percent of the salary cap.

Said to be the next Larry Bird (even if most people think there would never be another Bird), the 27-year-old Hayward surrendered more money (and an extra year) that was available in bolting the Jazz for the Celtics. The Jazz were in a position to give him a five-year deal as their erstwhile employee.

Boston beat out Utah (Hayward's original team since 2010-11) and Miami for his services.

Hayward is reunited with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, his college mentor at Butler.

Hayward is the first prominent West player to move to the East. Earlier, Jimmy Butler (Minnesota from Chicago), Paul George (Oklahoma City from Indiana) and Paul Millsap (Denver from Atlanta) left the East for the West in separate trades that will become official shortly.

Last month, Hayward exercised the early-termination clause in his previous contract and informed the Jazz that he was opting out of the final year (2017-1 worth $16.7 million.
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