From the NY Times.
Keith Van Horn earned $4.3 million on Tuesday, for nothing more than a signature and a flight to New Jersey. Aaron McKie earned $750,000 a few weeks ago for a few pen strokes and a trip to Memphis. Retirement from the N.B.A. has never been so profitable.
In a league with a salary cap, a luxury tax and a collective bargaining agreement as thick as a bank-vault door, general managers occasionally need extreme measures to make a trade. Two recent blockbuster deals illustrate the point.
The Dallas Mavericks could not have acquired Jason Kidd on Tuesday without Van Horn’s participation as a trading chip sent to the Nets to balance salaries, per N.B.A. rules. Van Horn last played in 2006. The Los Angeles Lakers could not have acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis on Feb. 1 without using McKie — who was working as a Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach — in a similar sign-and-trade arrangement.
McKie has yet to play a minute for the Grizzlies. It would be surprising if Van Horn plays for the Nets before his contract expires in June. They are virtual ghosts on their rosters, appearing in name only. (McKie’s official page on NBA.com still shows him in a Lakers jersey.)
To the general public, it looks like a shell game — a feat of economic gymnastics that has nothing to do with basketball or the wisdom of a particular trade. And that is essentially an accurate summation.
This is all made possible because of the N.B.A.’s arcane rules governing trades. Generally speaking, teams that are already over the salary cap have to balance salaries in a trade — taking back as much as they send away, give or take 25 percent.