Coon v Kahn

Over at Hoopsworld, they ask questions:

Alex in Minneapolis, MN:
What is the significance of May 31 as a deadline for the Timberwolves to sign Ricky Rubio for 2011-12? The local newspaper references it here: http://bit.ly/eCVOEt
Larry Coon:
They can't sign him now, nor does May 31 matter. Here's a rule directly from the CBA:

"No Team and player may enter into a Player Contract from the commencement of the Team's last game of the Regular Season through the following June 30."

April 13 (the date of their last regular season game) was the last day they could have signed Rubio, through June 30. They would ordinarily be eligible once again as soon as the July Moratorium is lifted, but this year they have that little labor problem to deal with. They won't be eligible to sign him until the new CBA is in place.


This is pretty much in direct opposition to what Jerry Zgoda wrote about the team's approach here (i.e. what the team is telling everybody about the May 31st date). 

They both cannot be right.  Who has the take that takes the day?  I think it's Kahn.  Here's a selection from Section 5, Article VII in the NBA CBA

From February 1 through May 31 of any Salary Cap Year, a First Round Pick may enter into a Rookie Scale Contract commencing with the following Season, provided that he as of or at any point following the first day of the then-current Regular Season (or the preceding Regular Season in the case of a Contract signed from the day following the last day of the Regular Season through May 31) the player was a party to a player contract with a professional basketball team not in the NBA covering such Regular Season. 


Now, keep in mind that yours truly is not a salary cap expert nor do I have any tips from the team on this particular issue.  I have the CBA in a pdf on my iPad, that's it.  Whatever the case, one CBA expert (Coon) or another (Kahn--that was supposed to be a big part of his expertise, remember) is going to be very, very wrong about one of the most public CBA-related issues in recent NBA history.  Who will it be?  I think Kahn is right on this one. I'll do what I can to dig around and get to the bottom of it. 

What's really interesting about Coon's quote is that it is in the same sub-section of the CBA as the quote about May 31.  They are literally on the same page (159).  Is there room for legitimate legal disagreement on this point?  I don't think so, as (4)(ii) of Section 5 pretty clearly refers to the ability of a player (Rubio) who plays pro ball not in the NBA (ACB) to sign a deal with an NBA team all the way up to May 31st.  I think Kahn > Coon on this one. 

Now, please keep in mind that should Kahn find himself in the right (and, again, I think he is), he now finds himself in the most stressful position of his short tenure: He has 10 days to sign Ricky Rubio.  A few things: 

  • Ricky Rubio is still playing under contract in Europe.  How can the Wolves sign a player still under contract and playing with another team?  Rubio's season could end if he loses the next two games (tonight and Monday), but that's kind of unlikely and the semifinal round extends past the May 31 deadline. 
  • There might be a catch to the contract pickle.  The CBA May 31 comment clearly refers to the contract commencing with the "following season".  In this case, the following season might not technically exist until sometime after Rubio's current ACB contract allows for a buyout.  Is this a valid loophole? I don't know but it seems to be the only way around the whole "he's still playing" issue.  Is this CBA provision only applicable to draft picks from the last draft?  Again, I don't know but there appears to be no indication that it is limited to only the most recent draft. 
  • The likelihood of David Kahn lasting the calendar year with Rubio still Wolves property but still in Europe are somewhere in the 0.1-5% range.  Again, Kahn has 10 days to either having his Rubio bluff be wrong, him being wildly incorrect about a CBA-related provision (which would probably be the most embarrassing outcome of all, considering this sort of expertise was probably his strongest credential for the job), Rubio signing; or, what I think is increasingly likely, that Rubio is traded in the next 10 days for someone who will be in a Wolves uni come hell or high water at the start of the 11/12 season.  FWIW, while it just might sign his death warrant, short of lucking into Kyrie Irving, I will actually have some respect for Kahn should he put the future of this franchise above and beyond saving his skin and not trade Rubio prior to May 31.  The only way Rubio doesn't need to be a Wolf is if Irving lands in their lap.  Even then, if someone like Enes Kanter turns out to be the real deal/equal prospect in their scouts' eyes, it's going to be hard to part ways with someone the fanbase has waited so long for and been told so many good things about.  The Rubio Bubble is still pretty big.  
David Kahn has to put a better product out on the court this year.  That being said, is it better that he ends up with something like Rubio/Kanter in 2 years than trading for Danny Granger this year?  He probably won't make it to see the Rubio/Kanter duo if May 31 comes and passes without a Rubio signing.  He probably will ensure the Wolves a Jefferson-level upside if he trades for Granger...but he will get there quicker than option A (keep Rubio and the #2 pick)  Which route is better for the future of the franchise?  Which route is better for Kahn's job security?  Increasingly, I find those two things at odds with one another and that's the really scary thing about the current Wolves-related environment.  

UPDATE: Thanks to the magic of the intertronz, Mr. Coon has revisited the question and updated his answer:
[Edit: It looks like I spoke too soon with the above answer. There's another rule in the CBA that conflicts with this one. It reads:

"From February 1 through May 31 of any Salary Cap Year, a First Round Pick may enter into a Rookie Scale Contract commencing with the following Season, provided that as of or at any point following the first day of the then-current Regular Season (or the preceding Regular Season in the case of a Contract signed from the day following the last day of the Regular Season through May 31) the player was a party to a player contract with a professional basketball team not in the NBA covering such Regular Season."

These two rules can't both be correct. One says no new contracts after the start of the last regular season game. The other says certain contracts are allowed through May 31. I did some checking, and it seems the May 31 rule trumps the "no new contracts" rule, so if the T-Wolves signed Rubio by May 31, it would be allowed. The "no new contracts" rule SHOULD have been written to say, "Except where allowed by Section 5(e)(4)(ii) below, ..." which is what they usually do when one rule is the exception to another. Sorry about any confusion.

The one thing I'm trying to figure out is if the 1998 Kings signing of Peja (prior to the lockout) is in anyway similar to this type of provision (albeit in the 1995 CBA, not the 2005 one).  Peja was signed from a team in Greece in early June.  I can't seem to find the 95 CBA anywhere.  Was there a May 31st clause and did the Kings sign him knowing that the "following season" wouldn't start right away in July?  Was the May 31st clause later in June?  I don't know.  This is something that could easily be figured out by someone who gets paid to look into things like this and who has many contacts throughout the industry they are paid to cover.  I wonder who that sort of person could be? 

BTW: I think it says a lot about the quality of Mr. Coon's work that he was able to roll with the punches and adjust his take according to new data/input.  As much as this seems like an easy thing to do, you simply do not see it in action all that often.  I cannot recommend his work enough and you should definitely check out his Twitter feed. 
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