Player A is just two seasons removed from scoring 21.6 points per game for an NBA playoff team. As recently as 2009, Player B made the All-Star team and led the league in field goal percentage. And last season, Player C played over 20 minutes per game for the NBA's best regular-season team.
What do these NBA vets have in common? Despite their recent successes, they each signed for the NBA veteran league minimum this summer. (And in case you haven't guessed them already, the three players are, in order, Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.)
In the case of McGrady, the precipitous deterioration of his health and skills led to his basement deal, which is nothing new in the NBA.
However, the minimum deals inked by O'Neal and Ilgauskas signal a significant ripple effect from the summer's realignment. That is, the NBA veteran minimum exception is no longer just reserved for old timers desperate for a handout. Instead, the exception now opens the door for quality veterans to join a team bound for all-time greatness, as long as they're willing to stomach the comparatively low salary -- and a hit to their ego. But what does that mean for the future?