There are a lot of quirks behind NBA contracts that are, frankly, way over our head. Despite the pompadour. We can kind of understand why Jeremy Lin would potentially cost the New York Knicks in upwards of $40 million through a combination of salary and tax penalties in the 2014-15 season, but will instead only cost the Houston Rockets 8 1/2 million that particular season. We don't believe the clearly Jerry West-planted tale about him overpaying Brian Cardinal just to shut team owner Michael Heisley up, which is so wrong in so many ways, and we still don't understand why the Portland Trail Blazers decided to match Nicolas Batum's giant contract terms, as established by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What we do get, because longtime NBA salary analyst Mark Deeks explained it so well, is that Memphis Grizzlies big man Zach Randolph is going to get a nice little pay bump towards the end of his contract, just because the Grizz tried to skirt the difference between the quite similar "early termination option" and "player option" in 2011:
As I understand it - based solely upon a combination of supposition and analogous precedent - there exist two options. Firstly, the league can perhaps modify the contract in order to make it accord with its own rules - that is to say, adjusting the level of guaranteed compensation within the option year to equal that of the season before it. This solution, were it to happen (or to be even be possible) would mean $1.3 million more going to Zach, and $1.3 million less in future salary wiggle room for Memphis.
While the Grizzlies may have made a mistake in drafting the contract, it is not that big of a faux pas. It is not as embarrassing as it may seem. Put simply, errors happen all the time. Just because a team knows all the rules, it doesn't mean they consistently remember them all when it comes to applying them. The human element exists. Whilst usually addressed in the formative stages, mistakes do happen - see also, Matt Barnes to Toronto - and it is the prerogative and jurisdiction of the league office to catch them. In this instance, they did not, and so while the Grizzlies accidentally flouted the rule, teams unintentionally do that often. It is still the job of the league office to approve them. By doing so on a contract that does not adhere to the rules, the league may have denied itself any remedy.
As Mark mentioned, this isn't a killer for Memphis, and they're more than happy to contribute to the bank account of a go-to stud that has turned his game around with the Grizzlies. A game that, as Deeks mentioned earlier in his column, will age gracefully because of Randolph's considerable basketball smarts and no overreliance on athleticism to get his 20 and 10 on.
The Grizzlies do attempt to cut corners, though, as they should. They're a small-market team, and while Heisley has paid out big salaries and the resultant luxury tax before, he's also attempted minor machinations while paying rookies and keeping other forms of payroll tidy. A figure like $1.3 million may not mean much by itself, but in a 2014-15 season that will see the Grizzlies paying just under $60 million to Randolph, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Michael Conley Jr. alone? Suddenly that number turns into real people money, and not just what Zach probably spends on muscle cars.
Also, if you read all of this on an NBA blog in the middle of July, it's probably time to re-assess your aversion to other sports.
(But thank you for reading.)