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With Heat's Dion Waiters again suspended, could nuclear option of termination follow?

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

MIAMI -- In the wake of Dion Waiters' third suspension of the season by the Miami Heat the question is whether team president Pat Riley has reached his limit.

Or whether a nuclear option remains.

With the Heat for the third time this season withholding pay from Waiters, this time a six-game sanction for what the team termed in a statement, "for his failure to adhere to team policies, violation of team rules and continued insubordination," the penalties have come in $83,500 increments for each of the 17 games he now has been suspended.

The suspensions, however, provide no future salary-cap or luxury-tax relief, with Waiters still due the remainder of his $12.1 million salary this season and $12.7 million salary next season, on the final two years of the four-year, $52 million free-agency contract he signed with the Heat after a breakout 2016-17 season.

If the Heat were to waive Waiters, he would receive the full remaining balance on his contract, as would be the case if he were to be traded. While a buyout is a possibility, there is little incentive for Waiters, with no likelihood of a similar contract on the open market.

There is, however, an element of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that provides a team an avenue to extinguish a contract -- Paragraph 16 A1 of the National Basketball Association Uniform Player Contract.

 

The clause, included in Waiters' and all NBA contract, states, "The Team may terminate this Contract upon written notice to the Player if the Player shall: (i) at any time, fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship, to keep himself in first class physical condition, or to obey the Team's training rules."

Whether Waiters' transgressions rise to such a level assuredly would be contested by both Waiters' representation and the National Basketball Players Association, which already has appealed the cash penalties of Waiters' first two suspensions.

A person familiar with Waiters' transgression and Paragraph 16 implications noted Friday that the players' union was able to get Latrell Sprewell's termination overturned after he choked his coach, but also noted the uniqueness of the Waiters situation and the myriad elements involved.

Such a gambit comes with the risk of a team alienating potential future free agents and their representation.

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