ORLANDO, Fla. -- This was taking too long. But all Anfernee Hardaway could do was wait, spending most of the day and night in an Orlando hotel room yesterday, playing video games and trying to sleep.
Then, the wake-up call.
"The phone rang. It was over. They said the deal was done," said Hardaway, the Orlando Magic's first-round draft pick (No. 3 overall). "I had been worried, because I thought something had gone wrong. I thought that after all that time, I wasn't going to sign. It was just taking too long."
It took the NBA seven hours to approve the contract. There has never been one quite like it. The Magic beat the salary cap again, and Hardaway's agents, Carl and Kevin Poston, used the system nTC to create a deal that gives the 6-foot-7 guard $45.175 million over 13 years, plus a $20 million line of credit and the option to escape his contract at any time.
It's a creative $65 million package no one thought possible, one that took the NBA lawyers time to digest.
"It'a a unique deal," said Bob Vander Weide, the Magic's vice president of basketball operations. "It took some time. I think that stamina, the effort to get this done in some way, was the real breakthrough. ... I don't think that at the beginning of the week anyone thought we'd be here tonight."
Negotiations had nearly broken off after the first face-to-face meetings Monday, with Hardaway's agents exiting the Orlando Arena at midnight, tired and irritated at the stalemate that put the two sides $30 million apart. The Postons were ready to take the next flight out of Orlando.
Magic player personnel director John Gabriel was said to have persuaded the Postons to stay. Most observers felt that if the two agents left, it was unlikely that they'd be seen or heard from again before training camp, which opens today in DeLand. Fla., with Hardaway in uniform.
"I really wanted to be in camp," Hardaway said. "Every one worked very hard to get me here. It has been a tough couple of weeks. The pressure was building. It's just a big relief now."
Playing basketball is what he does best. But he also is a personable 22-year-old, someone the public will get a chance to know now that the ugly side of being a lottery pick -- the negotiations -- has ended.
And the negotiations are over because the Magic -- who worked a salary cap coup last year to sign Shaquille O'Neal -- and the Postons pulled off an impressive deal. The Postons negotiated a contract few thought was possible: getting fair market value under a salary cap -- which prohibits teams from spending more than the league-determined amount to pay its players.
It took a lot of creative contract writing on both sides, with three elements leading to the agreement:
A $20 million line of credit will be extended to Hardaway by the Magic, which helps make up the difference between the $1.243 million slot the team had available to trade and the $2.8 million market value for Hardaway. The line of credit will be pro-rated over the life of the contract and whatever is borrowed will have to be paid back by Hardaway. However, the Magic will make up for whatever is borrowed by overcompensating Hardaway in his next contract.
An unusual escape clause allows Hardaway to pick the year he wants to get out of the contract and become a restricted free agent after any year. That allows the Magic to re-sign him under a league exception to the salary cap. The fact that Hardaway can pick his year to get out of the contract gives him leverage when re-signing. For example, if he should become the NBA Rookie of the Year, he'd want to take a one-year escape because he could almost name his price the next year.