Do You Understand the N.B.A. Salary Cap? Imagine Enforcing It.

To be even a casual N.B.A. fan in 2019 means having to become a quasi-accountant or a lawyer to decipher how the league’s salary cap works. It means understanding the difference between a soft cap and a hard cap, or the mid-level exception vs. the biannual exception. There’s the Gilbert Arenas Provision, which is not to be confused with the Derrick Rose Rule, and definitely not the Allan Houston Rule.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement is arguably the most complex in professional American sports, and it spurs the most movement of elite players between teams. So if you have trouble understanding how it all happens, imagine what it’s like being in the N.B.A.’s salary cap group, the division of roughly 10 staffers who make sure the teams follow the rules. (To that end, the N.B.A. began investigating whether teams broke rules this summer with perks offered to free agents.)

The lawyers, former consultants and data analysts who enforce the intricate system serve as a continual resource for teams looking at their own cap situation: Do we have the space to sign X player? Or trade for Y? How many picks are needed? Can we sign Z without trading X first? This pod does the front office equivalent of setting screens: their plays don’t show up on the stat sheets but are crucial to the league’s results.

“It’s a 650-page agreement, and you have 30 teams who are thinking about new and interesting ways to do things,” said Katelyn Cannella West, the senior director and associate counsel for player matters.

Some teams rely on the group more than others. Many used to relegate cap duties to their chief financial officer.

“I felt like I had a really good grasp of the cap back in 1996, when I was still coaching the Phoenix Suns,” said Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics. “Obviously, a lot of rules have changed so we consult with the league periodically.”

A big misconception, members of the league’s cap group said, is that when news of a trade breaks, the transaction is complete. For a trade to be official, there must be a trade call, a conference call between the involved teams and the cap group. Sometimes, the group learns about deals weeks ahead of time as they are consulted about possible structures.

“That’s unusual, but it happens,” said David Weiss, a vice president and assistant general counsel for the group.

The day of the trade deadline is “a higher stress day than most days,” said Andy Taub, who has helped lead the cap group for more than two decades.

Few league officials have been with the N.B.A. as long as Taub, who is unknown to many fans but crucial in shaping how they experience the game. Having an encyclopedic knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement is less important than attention to detail, Taub said. (He happens to have both.)

“If we gave the wrong advice to a team and a team acted on it, it would be on ESPN fast,” Taub said.

Much of the group’s tasks delve into minutiae. For example, Tony Leotti, a senior director and lawyer for the group, tracks days off for players, who are entitled to 18 during each regular season. Leotti helps teams decide what constitutes a day off: Can a player who sits out a practice show up to the facility to shoot around on his own? Can he sit with the team on the bench?

With great minutiae comes great responsibility. The cap group must police front offices trying to game the system, while at the same time making sure the league’s decisions don’t run afoul of the players’ union.

“They’ve done a very good job of it. But then people like me come along and start bunking with it because my job is different,” said Rafael Stone, the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Houston Rockets. “My job is to try and take advantage of the loopholes.” The league’s salary cap group prompted the Rockets to change how they maneuvered to bring star point guard Chris Paul to their team in 2017.

The team wanted to sign Paul as a free agent, but didn’t have the cap space. One option to get it was waiving the sharpshooting big man Ryan Anderson and spreading the impact of his contract over several years, called stretching or using the stretch provision.

But the Rockets wanted to keep Anderson. So the front office, primarily Stone and Eli Witus, an assistant general manager, found a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement. The Rockets could stretch Anderson immediately, sign Paul when free agency began and then re-sign Anderson. A new rule barred the move, but it wasn’t set to take effect for at least a couple days.

Stone said the league argued that the team’s plan violated the collective bargaining agreement in spirit. (A league spokesman said that even without the new rule, the N.B.A.’s position was that the maneuver would have violated other regulations .)

Ultimately, Houston traded for Paul instead of signing him as a free agent, and kept Anderson.

Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, said in an email that his disagreements with the cap group have been mostly limited to defining “likely” bonuses — payments to players based on thresholds that have a high probability of occurring. Likely bonuses count against the cap immediately, affecting how much teams can spend elsewhere.

If a player disagrees with how the cap group interprets the collective bargaining agreement, there is an arbitration process.

“We’ve had a fair amount of fights,” said Ron Klempner, the senior counsel for the players union, who also said the relationship between the two factions was cordial.

One dispute came during the 2011-12 season, when several prospective free agents, including Jeremy Lin and Chauncey Billups, were claimed off waivers. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams can go over the salary cap to re-sign and give raises to their own players if the player has been on the team for three years, a cap exception known as “Bird Rights,” named after Larry Bird. If a player gets traded, he keeps those rights. The union argued the exception extended to players claimed off waivers. The league disagreed. The union won in arbitration.

Player agents, who have quickly become a powerful force in shaping league dynamics, typically consult the players’ union and their own staffers rather than the cap group.

Perhaps the most ironic part of all this is that the stakeholders who pay the least attention to salary cap machinations, especially during the regular season, are the players themselves, according to Richard Jefferson, who played for eight teams and was traded six times. Teammates didn’t talk much about salaries, trades or free agent possibilities until the summer, and even then, he said, most of the details were left to agents. “It’s different now, but in general, players don’t pay attention to the cap,” Jefferson said.

Sopan Deb is a culture reporter, writing about the intersection of politics and culture, among other topics. He covered Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign for CBS News, and his work has appeared on NBC, Al Jazeera America and elsewhere. @sopandeb

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NFL’s bag policy in effect at upcoming Winnipeg exhibition game

Football fans headed to IG Field for the NFL exhibition game on Thursday will need to pay attention to a policy in place for all NFL games.

As per the NFL’s Clear Bag Policy, only very small clutch bags or see-through bags will be allowed inside the stadium.

Purses that are bigger than 4.5 by 6.5 inches, briefcases, backpacks or diaper bags are all no-nos under the policy.

In a release on Monday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers suggested fans should avoid bringing bags of any kind to the game.

Exceptions will be made for medically necessary items, but they’ll need to be inspected at the gate.

Fans should also be aware that their Bombers or Valour FC parking passes don’t qualify for this event. Cash parking will be available in lots surrounding the stadium, and the park and ride system will be in effect just as it is on Bombers game days.

The exhibition matchup, between the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, takes place Thursday with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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Man Utd starlet Daniel James blasted by furious fans as he’s booked for shocking dive against Wolves – The Sun

FURIOUS fans blasted Daniel James after he was booked for a shocking dive on his full Manchester United debut.

The winger, 21, was handed his first start for tonight's clash at Wolves.

But he did not endear himself to the home fans, going down early on with little contact.

From that point on, every one of his touches were greeted with a chorus of boos from the Molineux crowd.

And then with 24 minutes on the clock, James went down again with Joao Moutinho the closest man to him.

There was no contact, however, and the Welshman actually fell behind the Wolves midfielder.

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Alexis Sanchez to join Inter on FREE loan with transfer option of just £14m… and Man Utd will still pay flop £250k-a-week – The Sun

MANCHESTER UNITED will be forced to pay Alexis Sanchez £250,000-a-week if they want to offload him on loan to Inter Milan.

The Serie A side said they could not take him on his wages of £505,000-a-week so United agreed to go halves to get him out.

The deal is with a view to the move becoming permanent at the end of the season and United receiving a £14million transfer fee.

SunSport revealed last week that Sanchez was going to be exiled this season as Solskjaer did not see the 30-year-old fitting in to his exciting new young team.

He has not fancied the Chilean from the first day he took over in December.

Solskjaer said on Friday that Sanchez needed to do extra training and play in more behind closed doors at the Carrington training ground to get up to the fitness of the rest of the side.

Sanchez realised his days at Old Trafford were up and wanted out to join his friend Romelu Lukaku at Inter.

Belgian striker Lukaku left United for £73million last week to move to the San Siro.

Sanchez has proved to be the most expensive flop in United’s history since joining the club in January 2018.

He has cost the Red Devils £41million in wages which works out at £8.2million for each of his five goals that he has contributed since his switch from Arsenal.

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Newcastle hometown hero Carroll reveals he is staying at parents’ house after Toon return – The Sun

ANDY CARROLL is feeling right at home in Newcastle – in almost every single way.

The 30-year-old signed a one-year contract with Steve Bruce's side earlier this month despite having not played a single minute of competitive football since the end of February.

Carroll was not offered a contract renewal by West Ham, bringing to a close a spell in which he scored 34 goals in 142 appearances.

The target man has instead returned to the club where he started his career and is enjoying all the home comforts of being back in the North East.

Carroll said: “I’m waking up every morning at my mum and dad’s house, where it all began.

"I’m driving into training, the same drive we drove when I was seven.

"I had a walk around town the other day and it’s just like it is. It’s home.”

Carroll left Newcastle as a £35million signing for Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool back in 2011 but never returned to the heights that saw him score 11 times in 19 Premier League games on the Magpies' return to the top flight.

He was eventually loaned and then sold to West Ham but only once played more than 30 games in a single season for the Hammers due to his injury troubles.

The nine-time England striker has been dogged by injury and manager Bruce has said he will not rush Carroll back into football – he is still not able to make his second Newcastle debut due to an ankle injury.

Carroll added: "It’s not my fault. I don’t want to be sitting in the gym by myself doing rehab.

"I want to be outside doing what I love to do, playing football and being with the lads.

"I’ve been out of it for so long, and I don’t want to be like that.

“People think you’re getting paid so it doesn’t matter. No – that’s not the case.

"I haven’t come into this job to get paid. Yeah, it pays well, but I’ve come into it because I love it – there’s a difference.

"I don’t love being in the gym. Everyone that knows me knows I hate the gym, it’s the worst thing ever. I want to be outside.

"I’m working my b******s off to get fit and I was working my b******s off when I was injured as well. It’s non-stop.”

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Man Utd co-owners Avram and Joel Glazer ‘pulled plug on Marcos Rojo’s Everton transfer because they fear Toffees could take top-six spot off them’ – The Sun

MARCOS ROJO was denied a deadline day move to Everton due to Manchester United co-owners Joel and Avram Glazer pulling the plug on the deal at the last minute.

The 29-year-old was set to swap Old Trafford for Goodison Park on an initial loan deal with the Toffees having an obligation to permanently sign him next summer.

But his move collapsed, leaving the Argentinian centre-back fuming after he was told he was free to leave with the player not in the plans of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rojo started just once under the Norwegian last season.

According to the Times, the Glazers blocked Rojo from joining Everton because they see the Merseyside outfit as a direct rival to them competing for a Champions League spot this campaign.

They state that the ex-Sporting Lisbon ace's representatives had a agreed a deal with Marco Silva's side to join them.

But the Glazers vetoed the decision to let him leave.

Rojo is still expected to depart the Theatre of Dreams before the European transfer window closes on September 2, with Napoli, AC Milan, Monaco and Fenerbahce keen on the player.

Though no clubs are yet to meet United's £20million asking price.

SunSport reported how United are 'ready to pay the defender to leave' as talks have begun to end his £130,000-a-week deal two year early.

Solskjaer recently fuelled speculation that Rojo could seen be about to leave after he admitted that he has too many central defenders.

He said: "I do have too many centre-backs to keep everyone happy.

"But we need to win games, we need to perform, so we're going to pick the players that will give us the biggest chance to win games."

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reveals Mason Greenwood, 17, is the best finisher at the club – The Sun

MANCHESTER UNITED boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tipped Mason Greenwood to rise to the top after revealing he is the best finisher in the squad.

The 17-year-old is expected to enjoy a breakthrough season at Old Trafford after an impressive pre-season.

Greenwood was introduced as a late substitute in the 4-0 win over Chelsea and Solskjaer is ready to stay patient before thrusting him into the limelight.

But he obviously has huge hopes for Greenwood after he was asked who was the best finisher in his squad.

Firing a warning shot at both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, the Norwegian responded: "They’ve [Martial and Rashford] still got a way to go because Mason’s more of a natural finisher than them two.

"I want both of them to be more scoring easy goals because you don’t have to work too hard to score them, just a little bit of movement.

"It was a great counter-attack (against Chelsea), great runs by Anthony and I think maybe he felt he should have got the first pass, it went a little bit wide out to Jesse (Lingard) and he stopped.

"But then he got himself back in a good position and even though he might have mishit it, it went in, so if you can get five extra goals like this every season, both of them, that’s 10."

Greenwood is expected to pen a bumper new deal – as SunSport revealed last month.

The teenager only earns a modest £800-a-week and United are now in talks to hand him a fresh contract following his impressive promotion to the first-team.

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Man City boss Pep Guardiola ‘angry’ with Bayern Munich transfer target Leroy Sane over surgeon decision – The Sun

LEROY SANE has reportedly “angered” Pep Guardiola by snubbing Manchester City’s medical team’s advice.

The 23-year-old German international tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the Community Shield victory over Liverpool a fortnight ago.

That scuppered the wantaway winger’s hopes of landing a move back to his homeland with Bayern Munich.

Now he could face the wrath of his City boss, according to The Mirror.

They claim Guardiola wanted Sane to undergo surgery with trusted doctor Ramon Cugat – the man who has operated on fellow Etihad stars Benjamin Mendy and Kevin De Bruyne in recent years.

However, the Spanish coach is unhappy after the former Schalke attacker choose Austrian specialist Professor Christian Fink to operate on his injury instead.

Fink is the go-to surgeon for the German national team.

And Sane appears to have opted for him in a determined attempt to prove to national team manager Joachim Low he will be fit and ready to take part in next summer’s Euro 2020.

The forward, who moved to City in 2016, was axed from Low’s World Cup squad just over 12 months ago.

Sane will be sidelined until at least March, leaving him with around just two months to impress before the end of the campaign.

But he could face a fight to get back into the City team as both Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez have been preferred by Guardiola in the past.

That led to rumours of Sane’s unrest, sparking Bayern’s summer-long pursuit.

Low has already spoken to the ace since his injury blow.

He said: “We were very sad and downcast when we heard about it.

“I had contact with Leroy. For him and his situation, of course, it was the worst possible time.

“We hope he will come back as soon as possible. He is a player of incredible quality and we wish him all the best.

“He will make it for the European Championship.”

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MCC member kicked out of Lord’s for booing Steve Smith after Australia star was concussed by fast ball – The Sun

AN unruly MCC member was booted out of the Lord’s pavilion on Saturday for abusing Steve Smith.

The egg-and-bacon blazered boo-boy is alleged to have shouted “cheat” and “disgrace” at the Aussie as he walked through the Long Room after being dismissed for 92.

It is the first time a member has ever been ejected in the Marylebone Cricket Club's 232-year history – and the yob could now face suspension or expulsion.

The Australian Cricketers’ Association slammed the “unwelcome and incorrect” booing of Smith, who returned to the crease after he was floored by Jofra Archer.

A statement read: “Cricket deserves much better than that – and Lord’s, the Home of Cricket, deserves much better than that also.

“When someone is hurt, yet the boos continue, it's time to call ‘enough’.”

Players have to walk through the Long Room, filled with MCC members, to reach the dressing rooms.

The new rule book stipulates: "MCC expects that Members respect and support each other, the club, Lord's and all who visit or work there.

"Any conduct demonstrating a failure to show respect, including abusive, discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour or language, will be considered a breach of the rules of the club and render a Member liable to expulsion or suspension."

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Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal 'for the baddest mother-f—– in the game belt' is a bout Dana White wants, but it leaves Conor McGregor in the cold

  • Nate Diaz wants to fight Jorge Masvidal for the make believe “baddest mother-f—– in the game belt.”
  • The UFC boss Dana White supports the welterweight fight between two self-professed gangsters.
  • This further ostracizes Conor McGregor from a marquee opponent and a big fight, should he still wish to return to the sport.
  • McGregor could pursue a rematch against his former opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov, but the Russian wrestler has previously said McGregor should win a fight before they fight again.
  • The two divisions McGregor has most recently competed in have moved on without him. So if he does want to come back, he will likely have to do so from the bottom.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nate Diaz fought for the first time in three years, dominated a top-10 ranked opponent Saturday, then challenged Jorge Masvidal toa bout between two gangsters.

The beating Diaz gave Anthony Pettis, a former UFC lightweight champion coming off the back of a thumping victory over Stephen Thompson, was as raw as his personality.

Diaz, a walking expletive, beat Pettis by unanimous decision, dictating a gruelling pace that was beyond his opponent.

What was more extraordinary about the dominant nature of the Diaz win, was that he did so having competed for the first time since his two-fight rivalry with Conor McGregor in 2016.

Read more:Stipe Miocic forces Daniel Cormier to consider retirement after making him spit blood and reclaiming the UFC heavyweight with a knockout win

A trilogy bout against McGregor seemed an obvious path for Diaz to pursue. It is a fight McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh has previously hailed as “a beautiful fight” and a “great personality match-up.”

It is one of few fights that would, perhaps, represent an event capable of getting the Irish striker back into the Octagon.

The only problem is that Diaz doesn’t want it.

Diaz has beaten Conor McGregor once already.Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Earlier in the week,the New York Times reported that Diaz said: “I’m not going to take a fight just to make a name for someone else. I’ve been making names for other fighters my whole career.”

On Saturday, Diaz stayed true to his word.

He had the Honda Center crowd in Anaheim in the palm of his hand after a high-pressure victory over Pettis, and it was here where he revealed his post-event plan — he wanted Masvidal.

Masvidal, of course,went viral after he hit the welterweight wrestler Ben Askren with a flying knee, knocking the previously unbeaten American out in five seconds. He thenmercilessly mocked his opponent while Askren lay awkward, wooden, and concussed on the floor.

That was July, and Masvidal has since amped up a two-forked campaign. He wanted one of two things: a title fight against Kamaru Usman or a money fight against McGregor.

But when Diaz challenged him to a fight in the middle of the cage this weekend, saying, “he ain’t no West Coast gangster,” all Masvidal, who was cageside at the time, could do was stick his tongue out, shake his fist, and laugh.

This was because a third option had presented itself, and it was perhaps the most tempting of the lot.

Read more:Paulo Costa out-pummels Yoel Romero in an extraordinary, compelling, brutal battle between 2 fighters who looked like Greek Gods

A fight between Diaz and Masvidal, the Californian later said onMMA Fighting, would be “for the baddest mother-f—– in the game belt.” Yes, an imaginary title, but it is one fans would get behind.

It also moves the needle for the UFC with the company presidentDana White even saying at the press conference: “Who wouldn’t want to see that fight? I think everyone would want to see that fight.”

But it is a fight that further ostracizes McGregor from the big events he would have been chasing if and when he were to return to the sport.

Khabib Nurmagomedov has also beaten McGregor.Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

McGregor has not actually won a fight since he sought revenge against Diaz for an earlier defeat. In the three years that have passed, he has lost a boxing rules contest to Floyd Mayweather and a UFC title fight to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The Russian wrestler defends his title at UFC 242 in September, and McGregor may well be waiting to see how that fight plays out.

But if Nurmagomedov wins, he will unlikely entertain another fight so soon with McGregor, sayinghe is irrelevent until he actually wins again.

The best opponents and biggest fights in the UFC are now beyond McGregor and it is because he has been absent too long, and the division has moved on without him.

With Nurmagomedov, Diaz, and Masvidal moving on, it leaves McGregor with few options but to work from the bottom to the top — a position he has not been used to for years.

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