Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

NBA free-agent spending: $9,000 a second and zero logic

The math is staggering, as everyone knew it would be. In the first 96 hours of free agency, NBA teams committed about $3 billion toward contracts that can start becoming finalized later this week. That's almost $9,000 a second. Every second. For four days.

And for all the dominoes that fell between July 1 and July 4 — Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, Al Horford leaving Atlanta for Boston, Mike Conley staying in Memphis with what would be the richest contract in NBA history — there are still plenty of fireworks remaining, most notably what will LeBron James do with his next deal and if Dwyane Wade will stay in Miami or wear another uniform for the first time in his pro career.

The unexpected has reigned so far.

"The NBA and other businesses, they're not created equally," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday, a few hours after Durant announced that he was taking a two-year deal with the Warriors that would be worth $54 million if he plays it out

The league's about-to-kick-in $24 billion television contract sparked a jump in the salary cap from $70 million last season to just over $94.1 million for the coming year, and that enormous increase created a market that was unpredictable to say the least.

Conley's deal will be worth $153 million over five years. Joakim Noah is a two-time All-Star, a former All-NBA first-team player and a former defensive player of the year; he got four years and $72 million from the Knicks. That's basically the same deal that Kent Bazemore — a career 6.4-point-per-game scorer — got to stay with the Hawks.

If looking for rhyme and reason, good luck.

"Given the spike in the cap and given the amount of money that's in the system, free agency is going to move faster this year," Presti said.

It sure has.

Hassan Whiteside made about $980,000 last year in Miami; he'll sign a contract this week that will call for him to make $98 million over the next four seasons. And that might not even be the league's biggest right-place, right-time success story right now — with that distinction likely going to Whiteside's probably-soon-to-be-former teammate in Miami, guard Tyler Johnson.

A year ago at this time, Johnson went home from the Orlando summer league with a broken jaw and a partially guaranteed contract that left him with a most uncertain future. On Thursday, he'll sign an offer sheet with the Nets that will assure him of making $50 million over the next four years and finally allow his mother to retire.

Master Sgt. Jennifer Johnson of the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing has shed a few tears in the past couple days. So has her son, undrafted two years ago out of Fresno State and who went from the D-League to the Heat to $50 million. When he got the numbers, Tyler Johnson was actually overcome by nausea.

"It's so surreal to me," Jennifer Johnson said.

"I definitely thought he had the potential to increase his salary, but I never thought he would have multiple teams looking at him like they did."

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