The Washington Wizards are about to buy out Zydrunas Ilgauskas by paying him a portion of what remains of his $11.5 million salary for this season, according to Ric Bucher at ESPN.com and David Aldridge at NBA.com. The move wipes Z-man off the Wiz’ salary cap bill for this season, but, more importantly, it means Ilgauskas is free to sign with whatever team he chooses. If he does so by March 1, he’ll be eligible for the playoffs.
This means that the Cavaliers can reacquire the only NBA player they traded to the Wizards in exchange for a power forward averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds per game. Which means the Cavs will have acquired said forward for a total package of: A player named Emir Preldzic, whom Cleveland drafted at the end of the second round last year, and their first-round draft pick this year.
Sounds fair! And in no way was this prearranged, by the way. Not a chance. If it were, the NBA would take some action against the Cavs, Bucher says.
In any case, the same cap rules apply to Z-man as they would to any free agent, meaning teams over the cap (such as Cleveland and other teams reportedly interested in Z—Dallas, Denver, Atlanta and Utah, according to Bucher) could only sign Z using a cap exception.
Update: A bit of clarification:
The rule works like this: Ilgauskas must negotiate a buyout from Washington before March 1. If he is still a Wizard on that date, he can only play in the playoffs for Washington. As long as he is not a member of the Wizards after March 1, he is free to sign with a team after that date and be eligible for the playoffs.
Z cannot sign with the Cavaliers before March 21, 30 days after the Cavs-Wiz-Clips trade was totally done (i.e. everyone passed physicals), according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. But all he has to do by March 1 to be eligible for the Cavs playoff roster is negotiate a buyout with Washington, which he has apparently done.
The 30-day waiting period applies only to Cleveland, and is meant to discourage teams from dealing players in hopes of acquiring them immediately after a buyout. The rule is supposed to work as incentive against such an arrangement by giving the league’s other 29 teams (some of whom have pieces of their mid-level exception available) first crack at Z-man and forcing him to sit around for 30 days if he really wants to sign with Cleveland.
So that’s the rule. And as I say in the comments, I don’t begrudge the Cavs for using it to their advantage. It’s legal—provided the league can’t prove collusion between parties before the trade—and the Cavs should do anything within the rules to win.
But I also think it’s silly to pretend there isn’t some sort of unofficial, wink-wink understanding in place when this stuff happens. It may not be provable or rise to the level of “collusion,” but if we all knew how this would likely play out, so did the parties involved.
Now watch Z sign with Utah.