The Rockets have verbally agreed to a three-year contract worth $24.5 million with restricted free agent Omer Asik, worth about $5 million each in years one and two, and climbing to a ridiculous $14 million in the final year. The Bulls, who have the opportunity to match the offer, would find themselves in luxury tax hell. Meanwhile, there's speculation that a team (the Raptors?) could offer a similarly backloaded deal to Jeremy Lin, which could pay him $15 million each in years three and four. The Knicks, like the Bulls, couldn't feasibly offer the same, not with the team as currently constructed.
This was not how owners pictured the Gilbert Arenas provision working.
To acquaint yourselves with yet another dimly lit junction of the NBA's labyrinthine salary structure, read Larry Coon's rundown of the Arenas rule, which was intended to allow teams to hang on to their own players. It was spurred by and named for Arenas's 2003 contract offer from Washington: $60 million over six years. Since Arenas wasn't a first-round pick, the Warriors had no exception to use on him, and couldn't match the Wizards' offer. So in the 2005 CBA, the owners made sure to include new language, which extended Bird and Early Bird rights to non-first-round picks, to make it possible for teams to re-sign homegrown stars saved from the scrap heap. It was named after Arenas, but it was for the future—out-of-nowhere guys like Jeremy Lin. (At issue last month was whether Bird and Early Bird rights could be extended to players who were picked up on waivers. An arbitrator ruled that they could.)