Anonymous NBA exec accuses Pistons, Andre Drummond of circumventing CBA

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons agreed to forgo a contract extension this fall, a move that will give Detroit about $13 million more in cap room next summer.

Even if Drummond signs a max contract equal to the max extension he could have received last offseason, the Pistons can still take advantage of Drummond’s low cap hold and the extra cap space. Because they have his Bird Rights, they can sign other free agents and then exceed the cap to re-sign him.

It’s a risk for Drummond, who’s guaranteed no money beyond this season and probably could’ve gotten about $120 million guaranteed if he pushed for it. But – barring major injury – Drummond will likely get the same amount, and he’s making it easier for Detroit to build a winner around him.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

“As much as Andre wants to be here, he desperately wants to win and wants to be part of a contender and wants us to have the flexibility to continue to add people to this team,” Van Gundy said. “He has a great relationship with Tom — a very open, honest, trusting relationship. They spend a lot of time talking about this.

“I think it shows Andre’s maturity and leadership that he would step forward and put the team ahead of himself.”

Drummond, via Ellis:

“It shows a sign of maturity on my side to really just take that leap and just give my team a chance to build on what we have here,” Drummond said. “Would it be nice to have it? Absolutely. But that’s not the point right now. I’m into winning and trying to make my team as good as possible.”

Unselfishness at its best?

Not everyone thinks so.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

That all sounds very altruistic, but to one rival executive, it smacked of cap circumvention. “It’s against the rules,” said the executive, who declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of the subject.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement states:

No Unauthorized Agreements.

(a) At no time shall there be any agreements or transactions of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate):

(i) concerning any future Renegotiation, Extension, or other amendment of an existing Player Contract, or entry into a new Player Contract; or

(ii) except as permitted by this Agreement or as set forth in a Uniform Player Contract (provided that the Team has not intentionally delayed submitting such Uniform Player Contract for approval by the NBA), involving compensation or consideration of any kind or anything else of value, to be paid, furnished or made available by, to, or for the benefit of the player, or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of the player; or

(iii) except as permitted by this Agreement, involving an investment or business opportunity to be furnished or made available by, to, or for the benefit of the player, or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of the player).

(b) In addition to the foregoing, it shall be a violation of this Section 2 for any Team (or Team Affiliate) or any player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) to attempt to enter into or to intentionally solicit any agreement, transaction, promise, undertaking, representation, commitment, inducement, assurance of intent or understanding that would be prohibited by Section 2(a) above.

(c) A violation of Section 2(a) or 2(b) above may be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence, including, but not limited to, evidence that a Player Contract or any term or provision thereof cannot rationally be explained in the absence of conduct violative of Section 2(a) or 2(b).

(d) In any proceeding brought before the System Arbitrator pursuant to this Section 2, no adverse inference shall be drawn against the party initiating such proceeding because that party, when it first suspected or believed that a violation of Section 2 may have occurred, deferred the initiation of such proceeding until it had further reason to believe that such a violation had occurred. 299

(e) A player will not be found to have committed a violation of Section 2(a)(ii) above if the violation is the Team’s intentional delay in submitting a Uniform Player Contract to the NBA and this was done without the player’s knowledge.

If the Pistons promised Drummond a max contract next summer, that’d probably cross the line.

But what if they said they planned to give him a max deal? What if they said they planned to give him the max if this season went smoothly? What if they explained to him the cap ramifications and let him decide while implying they’d give him the max?

Where exactly does the line fall?

We know the Timberwolves were stripped draft picks for putting their under-the-table deal with Joe Smith in writing. Few teams are that foolish, and I’d be shocked if Detroit repeated that mistake. That leaves a whole lot of gray area.

This isn’t an isolated case. The Wizards could be taking a similar strategy with Bradley Beal. The Spurs seemingly executed this plan with Kawhi Leonard last season. He didn’t sign a contract extension, but he maintained he planned to stay in San Antonio and reportedly had no interest in seeking offer sheets. Then, Leonard announced July 1 he’d re-sign, but didn’t officially do so until July 16 – a week after he officially could’ve and well after LaMarcus Aldridge signed using the created cap space.

If the Pistons are breaking a rule, it’s only by a matter of degree relative to other teams. Admittedly, Van Gundy and Drummond were more open about their plan than other teams. But as a key point, neither has ever said anything directly about an pre-negotiated arrangement for next summer.

Pistons owner Tom Gores called Drummond a “max player,” and that speaks loudly. Said or unsaid, everyone knows what contract is coming for Drummond next summer.

Is an implied deal enough to convict the Pistons and Drummond of violating the CBA?

I don’t think so in this case, but if this executive is concerned, he or she should ask the NBA to investigate. I doubt that’ll happen, though, because all teams want to operate this way when its advantageous to them.

If the league starts poking around Detroit, the next team under investigation could be Berger’s source’s.