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Salary cap 101: Thunder could be in the thick of things as trade deadline approaches

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Modified: February 13, 2009 at 4:44 am •  Published: February 13, 2009

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That silence you hear is the calm before the storm.

By the time the NBA emerges from All-Star Weekend, we could be in for a flood of player movement and see the Thunder in the thick of it all.

Oklahoma City is well-positioned to be a major player this week leading up to Thursday’s trading deadline. The Thunder might not be in a hurry to deal — and certainly doesn’t feel obligated to — but the team’s mix of attractive contracts, its stable of future draft picks, reliable veterans and salary cap flexibility might make things very interesting.

To this point, this season has been filled with trade speculation but short on trades. NBA teams are approaching this year’s deadline with much more calculated mindsets. Front office executives have become far less willing to make deals that will blow up their books unless it all but assures a deep playoff run.

The heightened concern stems from the country’s economic woes, a growing fear that the salary cap could be on the decline for only the second time since its introduction in 1984-85 and the highly anticipated summer of 2010, when LeBron James and other big names could be on the free agent market.

"Every situation’s different,” said Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. "All owners and general managers in this league want to win. Financial considerations are always something that’s taken into account. But basically, a GM and an owner are not going to do a deal unless it makes sense for the franchise and it puts them in a better position to win going forward.”

Oklahoma City will go into these final days making one last attempt to see what kind of return it can get for Joe Smith’s expiring $4.7 million contract and Chris Wilcox’s expiring $6.75 million deal.

Collective bargaining agreement key dates
→Jan. 5: Ten-day contracts can be signed.

→Jan. 10: Contracts are guaranteed for the rest of the season.

→Feb. 19: Trading deadline.

→June 25: Deadline to exercise player options for restricted free agents.

→June 30: Deadline for players to exercise options and early termination options to be exercised.

→July 1: Players become free agents/salary cap year begins.

→Oct. 31: Deadline to exercise options on rookie scale contracts.

→Dec. 15: Players who signed contracts before Sept. 16 can be traded.


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