At 12:01 AM this morning, NBA free agents finally became eligible to put their John Hancock on the deals they agreed to over the last two weeks. While most of the press is focusing on where Kobe Bryant will land, local hoops fans are waiting with baited breath to find out what Kenyon Martin decides to do.

Kenyon Martin - Photo; By Winslow Townson, APBoth the Atlanta Hawks and the Denver Nuggets will present K-Mart with an offer sheet giving him the maximum contract allowed by the league, six years at a total of $82.3 million. However, the Nuggets are the front runners for Martin's services next year because they are also offering at least $15 million as a signing bonus, one of the biggest in NBA history. Basically they are front loading the deal and will pay Martin a large percentage of the signing bonus as well as his first year's salary (totaling between $20 and $30 million) as soon as he signs the contract. Miami used a similar tactic last year to land Lamar Odom from the Clippers.

Once Martin signs the offer sheet, the Nets will have a league mandated 15 days to decide if they want to match it and retain Martin's services. They will most likely use this time to explore trading Kerry Kittles and his $9.8 million dollar contract.

The two teams tried to work a sign and trade for Martin but could not come to an agreement. The Nets wanted Nene, but the Nuggets only wanted to part with draft picks. "We have not been able to make a deal," Nets CEO Rod Thorn said. "So we'll get the offer sheet and then determine what we're going to do."

In related news, according to, the salary cap for next year will be $43.87 million, only $30,000 above last year's cap. The luxury tax threshold will be approximately $54.6 million this year. Again, the figure is around a two million dollars lower than what teams had anticipated. Teams that had a payroll in 2003-04 over $54.6 million will have to pay the league a dollar for dollar tax on every penny spent over the threshold.

The total taxes paid by NBA teams this year totaled $157 million. The Knicks will have the highest tax bill, an estimated $39.8 million, while the Nets will cut a check for $7.3 million.