The NBA's Board of Governors on Thursday voted to reimburse the Thunder for a portion of the contract extension it signed Kevin Durant to in 2010.
But the refund is nothing more than a gracious gesture, given three years too late and without the proper provisions to do any real good.
The reimbursement, The Oklahoman has learned, has no bearing on the Thunder's team salary. Durant's larger-than-expected extension will continue to count against both the cap and the team's tax computations.
Although the exact amount of the reimbursement is unclear, a league source with knowledge of the situation said it is not the full amount of the roughly $15 million in additional salary that Durant received.
Durant signed a five-year extension worth approximately $89 million in July 2010. But the league didn't ratify its collective bargaining agreement until December 2011, and Durant was grandfathered in. Oklahoma City in 2011 protested Durant's inclusion to no avail.
The rule that was written into the 2011 collective bargaining agreement allowed players entering their fifth seasons to receive a contract extension for up to 30 percent of the salary cap if they met certain criteria. The provision, widely known as the “Derrick Rose Rule,” was introduced to adequately compensate players like Durant and Rose who outperformed their budget-friendly rookie contracts. Under the old labor agreement, such players were eligible only for 25 percent of the salary cap.
To qualify, a player has to be named an All-Star starter twice, an All-NBA First, Second or Third Team member twice, or be named the league MVP once in his first four seasons. Durant earned First-Team All-NBA honors in his third and fourth seasons.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook eventually was eligible for the 5 percent bump in salary as well. But Westbrook chose to sign his contract before the end of the 2011-12 season, the year in which he earned his second straight All-NBA selection.
Oklahoma City couldn't afford to retain James Harden in part because of Durant's unexpected salary bump. Harden ultimately was traded to Houston for financial reasons in October 2012.
The Thunder now carries a $70 million payroll, putting the franchise less than $2 million from exceeding the punitive tax threshold. The limitations have forced the Thunder to remain quiet this offseason while many other teams have improved through free agency.
The website grantland.com first reported the reimbursement.