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Report: NBA still mulling Nene’s Rockets contract, could interpret it as a ‘violation of the spirit of the rules’

Nene, Rockets

The Houston Rockets agreed to sign Nene to a two-year, $20 million contract on Sept. 6, complete with numerous bonuses. Yet almost two weeks later, the league has yet to put its stamp of approval after seriously mulling the potential consequences of such an unprecedented deal.

It’s no secret that new owner Tilman Fertitta and newly extended general manager Daryl Morey have made Clutch City an incentive-laden heaven, but Nene’s contract could be easily deemed as a violation of the spirit of the rules, according to ESPN Insider Bobby Marks.

Nene’s contract has a whopping $7.4 million in bonuses, which were deemed as likely for cap purposes — the largest amount in NBA history. Yet the trickery falls in the criteria being both likely and unlikely, as the Rockets will look to stash him as a trade chip:

  • $2.4 million for playing at least 10 games and the team winning at least 52 games
  • $2.5 million for playing at least 25 games and the team winning at least 52 games
  • $2.5 million for playing at least 40 games and the team winning at least 52 games

While Nene could achieve these “likely” bonuses, it will likely be with another team, meaning none of that bonus money would be coming from the Houston Rockets.

Since Nene played in 42 games in 2018-19 and the Rockets won 53 games, the bonuses can be considered as likely and are allowed to reach $7 million. However if these bonuses were deemed unlikely, they would be capped at 15% of his base salary, according to Marks.

The Rockets could use Nene’s full $10 million cap as outgoing salary in a trade, while his contract would still count as $2.56 million as incoming salary if the team he’s traded to failed to win 52 games during the 2018-19 season and Nene hadn’t met any of the games played criteria.

The NBA could determine that this is a $2.6 million player and that only that amount should count as outgoing salary, though under the collective bargaining agreement, there’s no current pathway to justify that assertion.