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Buyouts likely for big money NBA players

The headlines in the new NBA labor agreement were the minimum age limit of 19, increased drug testing and the development of a full minor league. But a little-discussed clause could prove a boon to title-contending teams and even teams like the Bulls, which have limited financial flexibility.

The clause allows teams to waive high-salaried players on a one-time-only basis and escape serious consequences under the luxury tax imposed on high-salaried teams.

Already, the Dallas Mavericks are talking about terminating the contract of - and paying in full - Michael Finley. The New York Knicks are talking about a similar termination with Allan Houston. Both would receive the remaining amount of their contracts, annually more than $15 million.

Under the new agreement, the sides agreed to a dollar-for-dollar luxury-tax penalty for teams over a certain payroll amount, to be distributed to teams under that amount. For example, the Mavericks are well over the luxury-tax threshold. If they were to get Finley off the books, they would save more than $50 million over the next three years.

Numbers crunching

Yes, the TV ratings for the NBA Finals were down about 30 percent, to an 8.2 rating and 11.9 share for the Spurs’ Game 7 win. Yes, we’ve been hearing about the decline of the NBA. And watch out for NASCAR. And, of course, there was Tiger Woods’ late charge at the U.S. Open. But even with Woods contending, the final golf day drew a lowly 5.5 rating and the comparable auto race was 6.0. Even Sunday’s NBA game, with ABC doing far less promotion than NBC did in the previous contract, drew almost 60 percent better than the U.S. Open. Many around the NBA wonder if there is a subtle media racial bias with a predominantly black league getting far less coverage than, for example, golf, noting that most of the media decisions at major networks and newspapers are made by white editors.

Adelman on hot seat

It will be a little bit uneasy for Kings coach Rick Adelman in his final season after ownership courted Phil Jackson. The rumor is the Kings pledged to beat the Lakers’ best offer. Said Adelman: &uot;I never thought they were going to hire Phil Jackson, and I never thought he was going to come here. I don’t think Phil Jackson coming here is going to make a difference in this team winning a championship. But if that’s what they wanted to do, they certainly could have done it.&uot;

Sam Smith is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune.