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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. Clevelander - Jul 29, 2010 at 2:35 AM

    The NBA is in serious danger of becoming MLB. Four or five teams with the majority of the talent while the rest of the league operates as a de facto farm system (and hoping to literally win the lottery). For those who think this acceptable, they may want to consider how viable such a busniess model is in the long run. 18 months ago more than a handful of NBA teams had to borrow money from the NBA to meet payroll. How many mid-market teams can afford to have half-filled arenas going forward? What will the Neilson ratings look like if the fans in the mid-markets stop watching the nationally televised games?
    On a final note, please, please, please, stop making references about players as slaves or virtual slaves. Professional athletes are extraordinarily privileged. The vet minimum is $1.5 million. $1.5 million for playing basketball. The average fan would have to work for 20 years (or more) to make the vet minium at a job they might not even like. This is to say nothing of the perks that come along with being a professional athlete. There is a serious disconnect between the athletes, journalists who cover the athletes, and the fans who ultimately pay their salaries. I believe that a financial reckoning may soon be on the horizon.

  2. Chrmngblly - Jul 29, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    The danger here, of course, is that these players may be killing off the goose that laid the golden egg–the NBA itself. I don’t know what the solution is.
    About the Miami situation, I am amazed that there is no assertion of collusion between these three players and Miami management to pull this off. Everyone knows this is wrong and can only hurt the competitiveness and viability of the whole NBA. As a kid, the other kids would never let my brother and I play on the same team. If they did, we just wiped the field with all comers. This is what they want to happen in Miami. Not good.

  3. (Not Really) Jesse Jackson - Jul 29, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Your article espoused a slaveowner’s mentality. Athletes are independent contractors, not chattel. And I’m not interested in the argument about how they’re highly paid and should just be satisfied. Sports is the only industry where third parties think they should be able to dictate to the employee the amount of money they should be happy with. The majority of NBA players are people of color. But you folks say “please stop making references about players as slaves”. Really? Should Tom Cruise make $20 million a picture? Should Madonna have made $58 million last year? Fans could stop watching Tom’s movies. Fans could stop paying $80 bucks a pop for Madonna’s concerts. Sports fans could stop buying tickets, apparel, TV League Passes, etc. What if someone told you to take less money, even though the market would pay you more?
    The “average fan would have to work 20 years” argument should be banned from use. The “average fan” is just that. A fan. If they had the athletic talent and competitive drive to be on the court/field, they would want to be paid according to what the market provided.

  4. Clevelander - Jul 29, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Not the mentality of a slaveowner, the mentality of a consumer who no longer likes the quality of the good he is being asked to purchase. Your statement that “[s]ports is the only industry where third parties think they should be able to dictate to the employee the amount of money they should be happy with,” is incorrect. Look at very vocal criticism of Wall Street salaries and CEO compensation. Employees throughout the Country are required to sign non-compete agreements as a condition of their employment on a routine basis. This limits their ability to work where they want. You also noted that the majority of NBA players are people of color. While this is correct, the majority of ballplayers in MLB are not and I have the same feelings about that sport.
    Concepts like loyalty, accountability, and respect are either relevant in sports, or they are not. If you, and a few players, want to reduce sports to simply another form of entertainment industry, you are free to do so. However, the NBA will, in the long run, lose its brand loyalty and will cause the league as a whole to suffer financially. You will also find that these athletes, who were adored and served as role models, are held in the same regard as Wall Street bankers by the American people.

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