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The 30-Day Waiver Rule: An NBA Loophole That Must Be Closed

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 21:  Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a free throw shot during the NBA game against of the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 21, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cavaliers defeated the Suns 109-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Patrick HarrelCorrespondent IIMarch 1, 2010

With news that Zydrunas Ilgauskas was bought out and will return to the Cavs  after waiting 30 days, the issue of the rule allowing players to return to their last teams after being waived came to the forefront.

While the NBA determined that there was no proof of a previous agreement between the Wizards and Cavaliers that the Wizards would waive Ilgauskas, it is likely that there was a wink and a nod that accompanied the deal that brought Antawn Jamison to the Cavaliers.

So why is this rule allowing Ilgauskas to go back to the Cavaliers unfair? If a trade works for both teams and one team thinks it is in their best interest to buy their player out, why not allow them to do so? 

The fact is that the rule contradicts the salary cap rules that attempt to stop completely unfair trades and "have" and "have-not" teams from appearing. All other rules in the CBA aim to level the playing field but this rule does quite the opposite.

Some would argue that all teams should have freedom to make any type of trade, but the fact is that without rules, teams like the Knicks, the Lakers, and the Celtics would be even more dominant than the best teams already are.

There are restrictions on the amount of cash allowed to be included in any transaction for this exact reason. Without that, the richest teams could pay a premium and buy top lottery picks to replenish their team. Why not allow the Lakers to buy Derrick Rose from the Bulls for say $20 million?

While the trade of Ilgauskas is not as one-sided as buying the top pick in the draft, trading the last pick of the first round for Antawn Jamison clearly is a completely unfair trade.

These rules are designed to protect predatory teams from preying on other desperate teams. The Wizards are the epitome of a desperate team. Their star point guard is going to spend more time in jail this offseason than playing basketball, their hopes for a deep playoff run were destroyed two weeks into the season, and they're in the middle of an ownership change.

The Cavaliers took advantage of this desperation, giving up basically nothing of any value except giving their backup center a month of vacation to rest his legs, and getting a potential All-Star forward in the process.

Finally, why should Ilgauskas be allowed to return to the Cavaliers when there is a rule preventing a team from reacquiring a player they traded away in another trade? Why should they be allowed to resign someone after they traded him away but not reacquire him in a trade?

The fact is that the Cavaliers did nothing wrong in their acquisition of Antawn Jamison and probable reacquisition of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, they merely used the rules to their advantage.

Still, it is frustrating to see the ridiculousness in some of the salary cap rules. The rules attempt to protect desperate teams from aggressive, financially well-off teams, yet contradict themselves with this rule.

From allowing a team to send a player along with cash to cover his salary to a team under the cap in order to get under the luxury tax to this absurd rule, it is clear that the salary cap rules are in need of reform. When the new collective bargaining agreement is reached, it will be important to rid the salary cap restrictions of these arbitrary rules to create a more fair balance of talent in the league.

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