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CBA negotiations gap not about the goals, just how to get there

Aug 13, 2010, 8:45 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Nba_logo.pngIn the NFL, teams go from the middle of the pack to Super Bowl contenders overnight seemingly every year. The league thrives in part because on any given Sunday any team can beat any other team.

We could all list five NBA teams (maybe three) and say, “The NBA champions will come out of this group” and know we will be right.

When the owners and Players Association sat down in New York for negotiations yesterday, both sides agreed that there needs to be more competitive balance in the league, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. In fact, there were a number of things the two sides did agree upon.

Now, how to fix those problems is where the differences are, that is where the gap starts to look like a gulf.

The players believe many of the owners’ woes can be solved through broader revenue sharing, for which they included a plan in their proposal. The owners continue to believe that how the owners divvy up hundreds of millions in annual losses doesn’t solve the problem that expenses are too high. According to sources, the owners seem to be hunkered down in their pursuit of shorter contracts with less guaranteed money – and they appear to be focusing on those issues even more than reducing the 57 percent share of basketball-related income (BRI) that the players receive. In the owners’ view, shorter contracts and the ability to restructure them midway through – a provision that exists in the NFL’s CBA – would help teams become more competitive faster.

Of course, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The owners have to do something about revenue sharing — and they say they are going to, but it is a separate issue from the CBA talks. It’s not. When the Lakers pull in nearly $2 million from each home game and the Memphis Grizzlies less than $400,000, the playing field is not level, not even close (and that doesn’t even discuss local television revenue). All of that impacts player salaries and player movement (two big issues for the owners).

On the flip side, why can’t there be a buyout after three seasons of any deal that goes five or six years? Or maybe after four seasons? Have the buyout at some percentage of the deal (50 percent, 33 percent, whatever) so that teams can restructure and rebuild more quickly.

One other real potential sticking point according to Berger is the owners are looking for ways to limit player movement in the wake of this past summer’s free agent market. You can bet that is one place the players will not move easily from.

Regardless of the amount of the payroll decline, one team executive said owners were rattled by the bold free-agent coup pulled off by star players this summer – with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami – and have become focused on limiting player movement as a result. Any efforts to curb players’ free-agent rights would be staunchly opposed by the union. But there is a real sense from the owners, according to this executive, that they’re determined to write provisions into the new CBA that would provide stronger disincentives for free agents to leave their teams.

The word lockout was used a lot less in Thursday’s negotiation than it had been in Dallas at the All-Star Weekend talks. But it doesn’t make the likelihood of it any less real.

  1. Chucky - Aug 13, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    “On the flip side, why can’t there be a buyout after three seasons of any deal that goes five or six years?”
    Gack. Why do some writers who sell their labor for a living just hate the idea of guaranteed contracts?
    If you want to undermine the idea of guaranteed contracts, check out how mid-level NFL players end up getting screwed. I like how mid-level NBA players get to keep their guaranteed money, even if they blow out a knee while toiling for their team.
    I’d stop buying League Pass if they ever did away with guaranteed contracts. I don’t like seeing labor unfairly exploited.

  2. Craig W. - Aug 13, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Since the players want to retain their share of the profits and the owners want to balance the playing field, as well as reduce costs, how about adding something to the CBA that adds a bit to the players’ pool of cash and encourages owners to be more balanced in their spending.
    How about tying things like the buyout to refunding the luxury tax to the players pool of cash, not the clubs? Not only would this increase the players’ share of things, but it would incentivize the owners to spend closer to the Luxury Tax because they no longer would get money back if they are below it.

  3. Zachariah Blott - Aug 13, 2010 at 7:18 PM

    Need some help understanding what exactly the CBA is and what this whole mess is about? Here’s a primer to break everything down.
    http://www.hoopskarma.com/hk/2010/8/13/nba-collective-bargaining-agreement-a-primer.html

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