Rarely used, the signing bonus can throw wrinkle into free agency
With baseball's Aug. 17 signing deadline fast approaching and the Nationals barely communicating with No. 1 draft pick
But the Trail Blazers make an offer to Jazz restricted free agent
Hardly business as usual. Try business unusual.
Signing bonuses simply aren't something that the NBA
To some, it might seem laughable, like the glutton who, after gorging on a restaurant's entire menu, refuses the maitre d' when offered a wafer-thin mint. But each sport draws its lines somewhere -- the NFL abhors actual contract guarantees, baseball avoids salary caps entirely -- and signing bonuses thus far has been the NBA's big ugly.
"We don't do them,'' one general manager said, as the clock on Millsap's offer sheet continued to tick (the Jazz have until Friday to match the Blazers' terms and keep the power forward). "And no team I've been with has ever really done them. Teams have been able to hold a hard line, because there's no benefit for a team other than in circumstances like this.''
In this case, the maximum allowable signing bonus is Portland's attempt to front-load Millsap's deal, forcing Utah either to scramble for instant cash or let him leave. Bundling it with the 80 percent of Millsap's first-year salary that can be paid in a lump sum, the Jazz immediately would have to come up with $10.3 million of his four-year, $32 million package. Plenty of NBA owners, even heirs of late Utah owner
"This is a good ploy and we've seen it before with restricted free agents,'' the team executive said. "Portland is trying to be creative. But at the end of the day, as poisonous as this deal is, Utah always has the potential to match.''
An Eastern Conference GM said: "The last 10 years, if you see a bonus and it's not for a superstar player, it's to 'defeat' the other team, making it real difficult for them to keep their guy.''
In 2004, the Nuggets reportedly dangled a signing bonus of $15 million for New Jersey forward
The league's collective bargaining agreement limits signing bonuses to 20 percent, 17.5 percent for restricted free agents. For salary-cap purposes, the bonus is allocated against the guaranteed years in the player's contract, so it's a cash-flow and timing mechanism rather than additional pay.
"Frankly, it's something I don't really want to know about because it usually only favors the player,'' the first GM said.
More common in the NBA than signing bonuses are advances -- typically used to get rookies up and running in their new cities and generally carved out of the first year's salary only.
"We don't even like to do that,'' the East team executive said. "With a veteran player, there's no reason to.''
The signals this week, with the deadline looming, indicate Utah will match and keep Millsap, while working to trade
The good news, for Utah at least, is that the CBA prevents rivals from front-loading offer sheets with perks that would be unmatchable. Like, say, the Clippers offering an ocean-front residence to a free agent from Indianapolis. In this case, the Jazz may just resort to tapping a credit line made available to all teams by the NBA.
The bad news is that Millsap might end up with bruised feelings, believing that Utah should have built up its offer without the Blazers' arm-twisting. He also might actually prefer to play for Portland. The Blazers' downside is that former lottery pick
Signing bonuses -- still fighting words around the NBA.