CBA can help Raptors ... if they're smart

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

SAN ANTONIO -- Raptors fans were scrambling yesterday to get some last-minute clauses inserted into the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement.

Among them:

- All trades made on Dec. 17, 2004, are null and void.

That would wipe out the Vince Carter deal, in which he was shipped from the Raptors to the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two draft picks. We don't think many folks in Toronto want Carter back to stay. However, Raptors supporters would like the team to have another shot at trading him, in the hope of getting fair value.

- The 2004 NBA draft is null and void.

The Raptors taking Rafael Araujo with the eighth pick in the draft? Never happened. Not that any of this was Araujo's fault -- he just entered the draft and was hoping to get selected somewhere in the first round. But if we can start over, it might give Raptors general manager Rob Babcock another chance at players such as Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson and Josh Smith, all of whom were chosen after Araujo.

- The contracts of all players earning more than $15 million US per season are null and void.

The Raptors have only one guy like that ... let's see, who could it be ... Matt Bonner? Nope, it's Jalen Rose, veteran swingman and occasional television broadcaster. It's not that Jalen doesn't have skill -- he still can score, as opposed to a lot of other overpaid NBA players who don't contribute anything anymore. But on a team such as the Raptors that is trying to rebuild and needs help everywhere, Rose's contract is like an albatross hanging around Babcock's neck.

- In fact, let's make the past three seasons null and void, okay?

It will be tough for the Raptors faithful to give up the sweet memory of a combined 91-155 record. But be brave.

In all seriousness, the new six-year CBA will not save the Raptors from their past mistakes. It's not a time machine.

It is, however, a relief for the NBA and its players to agree to terms before the old CBA expired on June 30. It's a huge public-relations coup for the NBA to get this done before the NHL, which has lost an entire season -- and counting -- to a lockout.

At first glance, it appears as if the NBA players gave ground in most of the key areas, although not as much ground as the league initially wanted. The new age limit for players will rise to 19 from 18 (exceptions notwithstanding); guaranteed contracts for first-round picks will drop from three years to two years; the maximum lengths of veteran contracts will drop from seven years and six years, to six and five; the percentage of annual salary increases for players will drop; players will submit to drug-testing four times a year; and players with two years of experience or less will be eligible to be sent to the National Basketball Development League for up to two years (should Araujo start packing?).

Makes you wonder who is running this union. Is it Sid Dithers, the labour negotiator for the janitors at SCTV?

Then again, NBA players have been granted a number of financial guarantees, with one of the effects being a significant rise in the salary cap. Because of a change in how the "soft" cap is calculated, it could go up to as much as $50 million US per team next season. The cap was $43.87 million per team this season.

So how does that impact the Raptors?

Well, it's not like they suddenly are going to be flush with cap room. At present they have about $47 million in salaries committed for next season, but that's for only eight players. Remember, there's the likelihood that two first-round picks will join the club (barring a trade), not to mention the basic need to field a team of 14 or 15 plucky individuals.

Every club, including the Raptors, will have a little more flexibility. Maybe it makes it easier for another squad to take on Rose this summer, or at the trade deadline next February.

But ultimately, when people ask: "Will the Raptors benefit from any of this?" the blunt answer is: "Sure, there are some things in there that could help them -- if they're smart."

We could have said the same thing about the previous deal.


Videos

Photos