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JUDGE LEAVES OPEN NBA'S RIGHT TO CHALLENGE OPT-OUT PACTS
Published September 13, 1994
Federal Judge Dickinson Debevoise ruled yesterday that the contracts of Toni Kukoc, A.C. Green and Chris Dudley did not violate the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, but withheld a ruling on the validity of Horace Grant's contract with the Magic. Debevoise stated that his original ruling on the Dudley contract last year governed all three "opt-out" contracts signed last year. The key difference with Grant is that he signed his contract, which contains the one-year "opt-out" clause, this year. The judge "left the door open to the league." But Grant is still expected to play for Orlando next season, regardless of the "disposition of the case, because he can always re-sign the same deal" with a 2-year out (Sam Smith, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/13). LEAGUE IS HOPEFUL: In rejecting a motion for summary judgment in favor of the Magic and Grant, Debevoise "set the stage for a reargument of the underlying issues" from last year's Dudley case. A trial is expected to take place before the start of the season (Robert Thomas, N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). The decision "buoyed the hopes" of NBA VP for Legal/ Business Affairs Jeffrey Mishkin: "By far the more important holding is that all new contracts can be challenged if they contain the one-year outs and appear to be designed to circumvent the cap." Mishkin said any free agents who sign contracts for less than market value that include one-year outs can expect them to be voided. A.C. Green: "What the NBA thinks is your market value, and what your team thinks may be completely different. This was a perfect example of that" (Bob Young, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/13). Deputy NBA Commissioner Russ Granik was "cheered" by the decision "simply because it established that the Dudley case was not the last word on the subject" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13). ORLANDO REAX: Magic VP John Gabriel: "The cap will seem to change each year as we try to find ways to get around the problems of the salary cap. It is something we have to be prepared for. We need to utilize the next few days to get together with these agents to find out what some of our options are" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/12). Gabriel "said the Magic are reluctant to pursue the issue further in court because training camp opens in just three weeks." Several agents said Grant "must decide between his professed love for Orlando and re-signing with the Bulls for more money" (Barry Cooper, ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/13). PLAYERS REAX: NBPA exec dir Charles Grantham: "We are pleased the Judge agreed with the players that this issue was decided last year, and that the players had every right to opt out and sign new contracts with their teams without regard to the salary cap" (DAILY sources, 9/12). Green's agent Marc Fleisher: "The judge made the right decision. ... We followed the NBA's instructions and did everything they asked. If we had known they would challenge it, we could have signed a contract with a two- year out. Once the judge ruled that one-year outs were acceptable, we chose to incorporate that in the contract" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/13).