Thursday, August 4, 2005

Behind The Scoreboard
By Claude Vinson

Sports variety

Is this an exciting time? Confusing, perhaps, but exciting.

We have the greatest season of the year (no, not for everyone, but for many of us) starting in just a matter of weeks and we still have vestiges of the third greatest season lingering to pique our interest (and confuse us). Top that off with the second greatest season still heading for its showdown dates in mid-autumn.

I am aware that some of you probably will question the ranking which I have assigned to these various activities and that is cool. Don’t worry. There won’t be any surreptitious visits in the middle of the night trying to persuade you to change your mind !

First let’s address the confusing part. The NBA certified, ratified and stratified, its agreements late last week. So the signing of free agents can go into “free-for-all” mode Tuesday. Teams will begin the scramble to grab all the blue chippers they can while skirting the salary cap and, at the same time, avoid the “luxury tax.” That tax has been changed Now, it is dollar for dollar. If a team steps over the $61.7 million threshold, it must pay the NBA a dollar match (the salary cap was increased during the collective bargaining agreement to $49.5 million).

The team just down the road has already declared intentions to wheel and deal. President Jerry West has been busy trying to shed some unwanted feathers while picking up new ones. If there is anything to be said about the former NBA star it is that he knows how to broker these deals. As a matter of fact, it is rumored that players’ agents sort of step aside when Jerry enters the picture.

The latest rumor has it that Jason Williams and Bonzi Wells will be heading out of town. Stromile Swift has already gone. And the fate of Lorenzen Wright has yet to be decided. Luke warm Grizzlie fans (such as moi), can’t but wonder if Mr. West is building or decimating.

While the NBA deal mill is just beginning to crank, the NFL combine is in full swing. With camps opening last Wednesday through Sunday, negotiations with premier players were still spinning. With only one rookie coach on board this season (Romeo Crennel at Cleveland), and a few second year mentors, trading and swapping wasn’t as furious, or costly, as it could have been.

The New Orleans Saints reached a deal with the man who didn’t win the Heisman when he was at Ole Miss. Deuce McAllister made a seven year extension pay off. If the deal was for $70 million as reported he would eclipse the payday of San Diego’s LaDanian Tomlinson who earns $60 million for eight years. The Deuce is supposed to get the Saints to the playoffs. If he does not, he still goes down as the biggest moneymaker in Saints franchise history.

I have voiced my opinion about the big money deals, wondering if these players (in any venue) are actually worth that much. But, hey, I am not hating. Like the well wisher whose friend was on his way to the electric chair – “More power to them!”

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