Ah, Leap Day. Most years, we'd already have flipped the calendar to March by now, but 2012 gives us that extra day in February, which may be either a blessing and a curse for various NBA teams and players. March 1st represents an important date for the Association for a number of reasons, so let's run through them:
Offseason signees can be traded
One of this season's rules, under the league's new Collective Bargaining Agreement, permits teams to trade recently-signed free agents after two months or on March 1st, whichever date is later. So players who signed as unrestricted free agents before the season got underway will all become eligible to be traded starting on March 1st. If the Magic want to include Glen Davis or Jason Richardson in a Dwight Howard trade, they could do it tomorrow, but not today.
For some players, less than two months have passed since they signed their current contracts. In those cases, they won't be eligible to be traded quite yet. For instance, someone like Nate Robinson, who signed with the Warriors on January 4th, could be included in a trade as of March 4th. Players like Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, who signed as free agents in February, won't be eligible to be traded this season, since the March 15th deadline will have passed before they reach that two-month mark. Some restricted free agents also won't be eligible to be dealt until later in March because of certain CBA rules, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com outlined earlier this month.
With restrictions on dozens of players set to be lifted tomorrow, league executives are anticipating an increase in trade discussions over the next two weeks.
Restricted free agents can't sign offer sheets
We've discussed this point extensively when it comes to Wilson Chandler, the only big-name restricted free agent to return from overseas early enough to sign an offer sheet. Starting tomorrow, Chandler won't be eligible to sign an offer sheet with a team besides the Nuggets. If he isn't able to secure a rival offer, Chandler will only be able to play for the Nuggets this season. Since Denver has shown no interest in a rest-of-season deal, Chandler's options would be limited to either signing a multiyear deal (with little leverage), or sitting out the season and exploring restricted free agency again this summer.
Other players still playing overseas, such as Aaron Brooks, will also be affected by this rule. When Brooks returns, he'll only be eligible to rejoin the Suns. If Brooks' Chinese team makes a deep run in the CBA playoffs and Brooks isn't cleared to return to the NBA until late March, he may simply to decide to sit out the rest of the season and become a restricted free agent again this offseason.
The Sacramento deadline
The NBA had set a March 1st deadline for negotiations on Sacramento's arena proposal. Fortunately, it appears an agreement is in place to keep the Kings in Sacramento long-term.