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Winderman: Want to stop superstar defections? Toughen the new CBA.

Jul 28, 2010, 9:35 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for LeBron_Chris Paul.jpgWith the NBA’s issuance of its hands-off memorandum when it comes to teams attempting back-channels overtures to Chris Paul, it will be interesting to see how far the league goes to avoid the next in a list of superstar defections that began with Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

How much does the league want to keeps its stars in place?

The next collective-bargaining agreement could go a long way toward determining that.

This month, Bosh and James showed they would not be deterred by the current “home-team advantage” built into the CBA, the rules that limit teams to smaller raises and shorter contracts to outside free agents.

Under the soon-to-expire CBA, free agents are limited to 8 1/2-percent raises from outside teams and five-year free-agent contracts. By staying with current teams, the raises can top out at 10 1/2 percent, with a maximum contract length of six seasons.

Yet this month, that extra $25 million wasn’t enough to sway Bosh or James to stay in place.

But when Paul is eligible to become a free agent after two more seasons, what if, say, an outside team could only offer 6 1/2-percent raises or a maximum of four seasons? Would a player leave $40 million on the table?

If the current working rules remain in place, the Hornets would almost certainly have to move Paul by the 2012 midseason trading deadline, rather than losing him for nothing in exchange the following offseason.
    But if new, more-restrictive rules were in place, would there be as much concern in such a stare-down?

Free agency is here to stay. Curt Flood took care of that, and pro sports has moved well beyond that debate.

But the NBA long has prided itself on its home-team advantage it has built into free agency, an advantage that did little for the Cavaliers with James, the Raptors with Bosh or the Suns with Amare Stoudemire (and it hardly worked in the best interest of the Hawks, with the massive deal Atlanta had to offer Joe Johnson to retain the non-superstar guard).

But now the rules are about to change, with the current CBA to expire after the upcoming season.

How much does the NBA want to keep its stars in place?

We’re about to find out.

 Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  1. m.cason - Jul 28, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    the jury is still out on whether these guys can actually play together and dominate.2)they better have a real strong coach because a weak will bend to their aches pains i.e. coming off the bench.I beleive coaching still counts even with a talent laden team.If they can’t be coached they will self-destruct…

  2. Kenny - Jul 28, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    If a free agent is willing to take a potential 25 million pay cut for a chance at an NBA ring, is he really being selfish?

  3. Kenny - Jul 28, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    If a free agent is willing to take a potential 25 million pay cut for a chance at an NBA ring, is he really being selfish?

  4. Kenny - Jul 28, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    If a free agent is willing to take a potential 25 million pay cut for a chance at an NBA ring, is he really being selfish?

  5. Kenny - Jul 28, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    If a free agent is willing to take a potential 25 million pay cut for a chance at an NBA ring, is he really being selfish? Just a few years ago, we were complianing about players selling themselves to the highest bidder. No team is guaranteed a championship.

  6. Kenny - Jul 28, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    Sorry about the multiple postings. I keep getting messages to try again, because the ‘type the two words’ entry was not accepted. Probably including this entry.

  7. ed callaert - Jul 28, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    the league has been controlled by the players for quite some time…it it now coming to a head….a weak, ineffective commissioner, owners who are in awe of the athleticism of twenty year olds and hamstring their cap-addled franchises with stupid contracts have created a scene where arenas are routinely half-empty….it is a sport fading to irrelevancy outside its specific declining demographic…

  8. Moni - Jul 28, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Your post is very anti-american in its position. You want to limit the freedom of players? And like kenny said, how can you call them selfish for taking less money?
    Aside from what happened this off-season, using phrases like “restrict movement” make it seem like the owners have some sort of right over players to dictate where they go. I think the current system is fine. More money and an extra year. The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate player movement. I’d be more ok with leveling the playing field completely than i would be with making it harder to leave.

  9. Yosef - Jul 28, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    I like how your guys’ go to picture when talking about the “superstars” is Lebron taking CP3 from behind. I’ve seen it like 10 times now, and I think I like it a little more each viewing. Quick, more articles where you can post that picture!

  10. J. McCann - Jul 28, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Why not just offer minimum wage if they switch teams? Now that they have FREE agency, they are not going to give it up.
    They should go the other way, and they may well do this: Increase the max contract to half the cap. No more 3 superstars on one team, and 20 teams with no great player.
    Shorter contracts all around do seem to be the way this is going, however.

  11. edgar - Jul 28, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    the league has been controlled by the players for quite some time…it it now coming to a head….a weak, ineffective commissioner, owners who are in awe of the athleticism of twenty year olds and hamstring their cap-addled franchises with stupid contracts have created a scene where arenas are routinely half-empty….it is a sport fading to irrelevancy outside its specific declining demographic

  12. Lion Woods - Jul 28, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Let’s see Lebron plays out two contracts in its entirety and yet somehow he has defected, or turned his back on his team. It is called free agency. Regarding Chris Paul, he is a superstar guard who is requesting a trade from his existing contract. Two different situations and yet the media continues to paint the two situations as one in the same. NBA ballplayers are free to move throughout the league. Other sports franchises have similar free agency rules. Yet the NBA is somehow patently flawed. Fair? I think not.

  13. Nick - Jul 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    New Rule…no unrestricted free agents. Original team gets to match any offer.
    Or…signing team (e.g. Miami) loses next ten first round picks.
    Works for me.

  14. Anonymous - Jul 28, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    The problem in this article is it ignores sign and trades. Thats how Lebron and Bosh came to Miami, ignoring the lower increases in salary

  15. Smarter than you - Jul 28, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    The solution is obvious. Duh…
    1) Hard Cap…period. This gives every team close to an equal amount to commit to their players. (Teams like Miami where there is no state tax still have a financial edge)
    2) Longer contracts, with limited guaranteed years to start. IE Sign CP3 to up to 10 years, but only the first 3 years are guaranteed. After the first 3 years, the team has the option of to guarantee the next 3 or release the player/renegotiate the contract.
    3) The worst team in the league get demoted to the D-league and the D-league champ gets promoted to the big leagues at the end of each season.
    a) I honestly don’t know how to work out the Draft with this plan
    4) Performance based incentives that are not cap restricted. Example: Average 20/10 and get a bonus $5,000,000 per year

  16. Smarter than you - Jul 28, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    Of course, the performance based incentives would have to have some basis in team wins/playoff success.

  17. Lance - Jul 28, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    The current free agent movement is the star players’ response to the lopsided Garnett/Gasol trades in 2007-2008. In 2007, the league’s talent was so spread out that a one-star team in a small market (Cleveland) could make the finals, coincidentally against another small market team (SA).
    League officials were understandably unhappy about the low TV ratings for this series, plus the sorry state of its big market teams. Boston was a lottery team, the Lakers were struggling with Kobe pouting for a trade (something LBJ, Wade, Bosh never did, by the way), and the Knicks just stunk.
    Then what happened? Three small market teams came to the rescue. Seattle held a fire sale and aided Boston (Ray Allen) and Orlando (R. Lewis), Minnesota handed Garnett to Boston (crony deal?), and Memphis donated Gasol to the Lakers. Popavich blasted this deal, but the other GMs/owners were mysteriously silent about these lopsided transactions. Go figure.
    This dubious player movement immediately re-shaped the league in favor of big market teams and left the remaining small market stars wondering when THEIR time would ever come (nobody was sending a 2nd star to Cleveland). Rather than demanding trades, the small market stars simply waited until they would have the power that their free agency would give them.
    One last point: player collusion is not comparable to owner collusion. When business owners collude, it’s usually to suppress wages and harm employees financially. If employees collude to essentially only determine WHERE they work and not for how much (in fact take less money), it’s laughably irrelevant from a business perspective. If owners can convince employees that there is something more valuable than money, then owners have won a significant battle.
    If anything, this free-agent player movement is beneficial to owners by keeping star wages down and creating star teams that drive interest and ratings.
    Superstar defections are the result of small market teams being unable (and unassisted???) to build champion caliber teams. Only SA has been able to do it and every time they’ve gotten to the finals, the TV ratings have tanked. I bet the NBA executives can’t wait for Duncan to retire. OKC is next up. Let’s see if Durant is still talking about staying there after 7+ years with no rings. I doubt it.

  18. Old Ironside - Jul 28, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    In the past, the NBA put restrictive salary caps on expansion teams that prevented them from being able to just come into the league and go out and burn up all their cap space by signing several free agents at once. In the next CBA, the owners may want to put similar threshhold levels in for all teams that prevents gutting a roster like Miami did this year? In other words, no matter how far below the cap you are on July 1st, you can only increase by some limited amount (e.g. $25 million) during the fiscal year.

  19. Old Ironside - Jul 28, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    In actuality I doubt that LBJ, Bosh and DWade left as much as $25 million on the table. I’d be willing to bet that they have opt-out clauses after three years that allow them to re-sign for the full maximum amounts (assuming the new CBA is similar to the one in place and the maximums are more than what they are making). In that case, they are leaving $6-7 million on the table but should make that up with longer term deals in three years.

  20. Old Ironside - Jul 28, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    Another thing that the league could do in the next CBA is a hybrid of the current CBA and the old CBA that expired in 1998. Institute “salary slots” along with maximum contracts. In other words, each team would be limited to two “max contracts”, two contracts between the MLE and the max (not two exceed 75% of the max), 2 MLE contracts, 2 bi-annual exception contracts and the rest at the league minimum for years of service or rookie contracts. It wouldn’t put a hard cap in place, but the cap would be pretty firm. There would have to be a grandfather clause for a few teams with contracts that don’t conform to the “slotted” system, but those teams could still be forced to pay a luxury tax.

  21. dunkapunk - Jul 28, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    new name for Wade,Bosh,and James…”The Thrillogy” based on this Wikipedia definition of trilogy.”A trilogy is a set of three works of art that are connected, and that can be seen either as a single work or as three individual works”. like it or not all three of these guys are stars in the NBA and Star Wars and The Godfather, two of the highest grossing movies in history were both trilogies. i used Thrillogy instead of the obvious Trilogy as a nod to Michael Jackson and his biggest hit of all time “Thriller” and these guys will be “thrilling” audiences all season long come October.

  22. josh - Jul 28, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    what kind of Commie BS is this? How can you possibly rationalize keeping players as virtual slaves, and denying them their freedom and rights to play for whoever wants to pay them. Is it to save the vital entertainment interests of NBA fans? Is that it? L-O-L

  23. bryan madrigal - Jul 28, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    if im james i dont care abt.the price but ill play the games with my heart……in basketball im still the best….no body but me…

  24. All knowing - Jul 29, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    Ira that was very anti-American of you. “Superstar Defections”. You should be ashamed of yourself. You gave up being a journalist for the money I see. Long-live-free agency!

  25. SoCal - Jul 29, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    Yeah, he’s the best ringless MVP… No ring, No King.

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