In a decision that could have a significant bearing on the future of A.C. Green, an arbitrator ruled against the NBA on Thursday, saying that one-year termination player contracts are acceptable.
Daniel Collins, a New York University law professor, disagreed with the league’s contention that such deals violate the collective bargaining agreement. And in disagreeing, Collins opened the door for free-agent contracts to contain long-term guarantees as well as an option for the player to again declare himself a free agent after the first year.
That opens doors all over for Green.
Because teams can re-sign their own free agents for any amount, the Lakers have offered $3.5 million a season for five years to retain his services. Phoenix, another team high on his list, previously would have been able to offer only $1.885 million for 1993-94 with increases of $565,500 each of the next four seasons.
But now, Green can sign that five-year deal with the Suns as security against injury and, with the one-year termination clause, plan to become a free agent again next summer. Then, Phoenix would have the unlimited budget, and Green could recoup over the next four seasons the money he would give up during his first season.
“I’m certainly not upset by it,” Marc Fleisher, Green’s agent, said after hearing of the decision.
Collins’ ruling appears to mirror a decision announced last week by the NBA’s special master, Merrill Clark, but is different in that the arbitration is binding. The NBA plans to file a court appeal today on Clark’s decision, hoping to win and set a legal precedent before training camps open next month.
Another difference is that the special master dealt with the matter of Portland’s signing free-agent center Chris Dudley and whether the agreement circumvented the salary cap by having an under-the-table understanding about a new deal after this season.
Collins interpreted the collective bargaining agreement as a whole and did not rule on the contracts of Dudley, or Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo or Chicago’s Toni Kukoc, who also have one-year termination clauses.
“Although we have not yet received Prof. Collins’ written opinion, we are, of course, disappointed in his decision that ‘opt-out’ provisions are allowable amendments to a player contract,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said. “However, we are filing an appeal in the Dudley case in the federal district court in New Jersey and hope the matter will be resolved . . . as quickly as possible.”