Bill Walton has never been an ordinary basketball player, so it shouldn't be surprising that he does not have an ordinary contract. His four-year contract with the Clippers might best be described as creative, with touches of the bizarre.
Terms of Walton's contract, which were not disclosed when he signed in late September, feature a wide range of incentive bonuses and other clauses, including an unusual request for 56 tickets to concerts given by rock singer Bruce Springsteen. The most important clause, though, allows Walton to become a free agent after this season if the Clippers fail to qualify for the NBA playoffs, which seems inevitable.
Carl Scheer, Clipper general manager, confirmed a report in Friday's Orange County Register that Walton has such a clause in his contract. But Scheer said it is club policy not to discuss specifics about player contracts.
"I haven't given any thought to next year," Walton said after Friday's practice. "I'm just thinking about this season and trying to do anything I can to help the team."
The free-agent option, The Times learned Friday, is only one of many special clauses in the contract.
For instance, Walton's base salary is only $200,000, but if the Clippers were to achieve the nearly impossible task of making it to the NBA championship series, with Walton playing regularly, he could earn as much has $1.3 million.
Walton has an extensive history of disabling injuries. Under terms of his contract, the more games he plays, the more money he will make. He has played in 57 of the Clippers' 71 games, and collected cash bonuses when he appeared in his 42nd and 52nd games.
He also will get bonuses if his minutes played exceed 1,600 and 2,000. Going into tonight's Clipper game at Portland, Walton has played 1,393 minutes.
Walton also will get incentive payments if he finishes among the NBA's top 10 in rebounding and top five in blocked shots, but he is not close in either category.
One reason Walton didn't sign until two days after training camp had begun was that the Bruce Springsteen clause had not been worked out. Before signing, Walton wanted the Clippers to get him eight tickets to each of Springsteen's seven sold-out concerts at the Sports Arena in late October. Walton said he would pay face value for the tickets if the Clippers could find the seats. Some fans were paying as much as $200 a ticket.
"It was at the closing stages of our long negotiations when Bill first mentioned that," Scheer said. "He wanted me to help get him tickets to Bruce Springsteen. He said he wanted 64 of them. I told him, 'Bruce who?' He gave me one of those (perplexed) Bill Walton looks. It turned out we had to call a lot of people to do this. I ended up getting it from Glen Mon (assistant general manager of the Sports Arena)."
Walton would not discuss any aspect of his contract except to correct one error about the Springsteen clause.
"It was only 56 tickets," Walton said. "The last time I checked, eight times seven equaled 56, not 64."
The Springsteen crisis was eventually resolved and Walton signed. But because the Clippers will most likely not qualify for the playoffs, Walton could test the free-agent market after the season. It is doubtful that he will choose free agency, though. The only offer Walton, 32, received last summer was from a team in Italy.
"I don't know what Bill wants to do," Scheer said. "All I will say is that we have a four-year contract with him and we aren't going to change the terms of it if he opts for free agency. It's a technicality in his contract, but he could make it more than a technicality if he wants to."
Walton's previous Clipper contract was for $1.3 million, but the Clippers did not want to go that high again with no guarantee that Walton would play a full season.
"The contract is geared toward production," Scheer said. "We would've been glad to pay Bill Walton every incentive in the contract if he reached it because it would mean that the team was benefiting from Bill's play. I don't look at it as the club saving money."
Said Walton of his contract: "This one is different than the others I've signed. But, as in my other two contracts, there was a provision based on my ability to play. I don't feel it's necessary to talk about it specifically."
Clipper Notes Guard Franklin Edwards, whose 10-day contract expired Wednesday, will not play in tonight's game against Portland because of a technicality in the new contract the Clippers offered him. The NBA said the Clippers could not sign Edwards, a free agent who played with the Philadelphia 76ers last season, to a 10-day contract and an offer sheet at the same time. Philadelphia says it still owns Edwards' right of first refusal and has offered to waive that right if the Clippers will give them two second-round draft choices. The Clippers have refused. An arbitrator will review the case either Monday or Tuesday.