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Off the court tussle

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Anthony L. Cuaycong

Courtside

The Warriors and Cavaliers are going at it again, but this time off the court. The subject of their conflict: Patrick McCaw, who, in two full seasons with the defending champions, averaged a whopping four, one, and one in 16 minutes of exposure. Including even more anemic numbers in the playoffs, he proved as crucial to their title runs as just about any other player riding the pine for them. Still, they wanted him back, and offered him a two-year contract worth $5.2 million that he subsequently declined because the second year wasn’t guaranteed. Enter the 2018 runners-up, with whom he signed a deal that his previous employers couldn’t match, and for whom he then wound up playing only three games.

Given the circumstances, the Warriors are crying foul, and have asked the Commissioner’s Office to investigate the manner in which McCaw wound up first with the Cavaliers, and then on waivers after a single week. No doubt, the 38th overall pick in the 2016 draft was miffed that negotiations on his salary dragged on to December, especially coming after an injury that had him missing most of the 2018 playoffs. Even as he understood that the blue and yellow were angling to avoid a huge luxury tax bill in retaining him, he felt that he needed security, and, in light of his contributions to the cause, deserved the cap hit. And though it may well have been what led him and agent Bill Duffy to the doorstep of the wine and gold, the fact that he seemed to hitch his future on non-guaranteed terms (as opposed to partially guaranteed ones) and then promptly secured unrestricted free agency was unacceptable to the titleholders.

True, McCaw was well within his rights to do as he did. And, true, the Cavaliers were well within their rights to get him and then, after seeing him in limited action, to let him go right before his contract would have been guaranteed. Considering how things played out, however, the Warriors evidently believe they conspired to ensure the development from the outset, and they have thus triggered a review of the proceedings. And, yes, the National Basketball Association has broad powers to do so, and can act accordingly. The flipside, of course, is that, even if collusion did occur, its very nature makes it extremely difficult to prove. Moreover, it appears to be counterbalanced by the $300,000 they had to shell out for his short stint.

Interestingly, the Cavaliers have expressed willingness to sign McCaw anew, but to a lower salary in exchange for a longer guaranteed period. Meanwhile, the Warriors are resolved to push their complaint, never mind his meager role in their aspirations for the hardware; broken down to brass tacks, their bid for a threepeat will not be impacted either way by his presence or absence. Clearly, they’re bent on making a point, with their motivations buoyed by the familiar sight of their rivals on the other side. Whether or not the NBA will ultimately enable them to make it, though, is another matter altogether.

 

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.