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Chiwas
11-05-2004, 10:28 AM
Some deals are hard to swallow

Sean Deveney /

Just like that, the NBA season is under way. If you're a typical NBA fan, you're probably wondering why, exactly, your team was unable to scrape up anything more than bottom-dwelling free agents whose careers are so depleted that to say they are on the fritz is an offense to Fritzes the world over. The Hornets' big acquisition was Rodney Rogers? The Blazers wanted Nick Van Exel? The Kings' main addition was Greg "Egads" Ostertag?

The reason for the bargain-basement spending is the league's $43.9 million salary cap, which keeps most teams handcuffed during the offseason. Teams over the cap are limited to using cap exceptions and whatever creative trade proposals they can dream up.


"What?" you ask. "My team did not even get to the playoffs; how can we be over the salary cap?" Simple: Very stupid contracts, which are in ample supply in the NBA.


That brings us to the third annual Big Country Memorial Cap Chewers List the group of players that does the most damage to payrolls around the league, named for one of the league's all-time great chewers of both cap space and various tobacco products, Bryant "Big Country" Reeves.


The rules for the list are simple: A player must make a lot of money and be either unwilling or unable to live up to his contract. Players who are out because of injury (Jamal Mashburn, etc.) are not eligible.


Overpaid players | Underpaid players

1. The Knicks' wing men. It's impossible to choose the biggest cap killer from a group that includes Allan Houston ($17.5 million per year), Tim Thomas ($13 million), Penny Hardaway ($14.6 million), Shandon Anderson ($7.3 million) and Jamal Crawford ($5.6 million). That's $58 million, and Anderson is the only player among them who can defend his own lunchbox.


2. Damon Stoudamire, Trail Blazers. Last year was a renaissance for Stoudamire, who averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists. But credible numbers can't justify Stoudamire's payout. He is the final major mistake left on the payroll left by ex-team prez Bob Whitsitt, and what a mistake it has been: Stoudamire will pull in $15.7 million this year, the last of a seven-year, $81 million deal.


3. Austin Croshere, Pacers. One of the offshoots of Al Harrington's trade to Atlanta is that Croshere could get more minutes backing up Jermaine O'Neal. He's a good shooter who creates matchup problems and could be a valuable reserve. Unfortunately, the Pacers are paying him $8.3 million this season, far more than he is worth.


4. Michael Stewart, Celtics. Stewart will make $4.8 million this year, despite totals of 13 points, 29 rebounds and zero assists last season. That's $114,285 for each point, rebound and assist Stewart amassed last season. He is one of the finest examples of what happens when a center with a pulse presents himself to overeager general managers. Stewart was awarded a six-year, $24 million deal by the Raptors in 1999 after averaging 3.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in two seasons.


5. Eddie Robinson, Bulls. This was one of the more sinister gifts left to the current Bulls regime by former general manager Jerry Krause. Robinson, who averaged 7.2 points in two seasons with the Hornets, was given a five-year, $31 million contract by Krause and scarcely put in a full day's work thereafter. When Robinson wasn't injured, he only got on the court long enough to prove his shooting range is anything from a dunk in. But luckily, the Bulls were able to rid themselves of this burden earlier this week when they bought out Robinson's contract for $10 million, making him a free agent again and ultimately someone else's problem.


Sean Deveney is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at sdeveney@sportingnews.com.

Nash13
11-05-2004, 11:10 AM
How Webber is not on this list is beyond me.