Skip to content

Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis likes NHL-style hard salary cap. Must like lockouts, too.

Sep 29, 2010, 7:31 PM EDT

Leonsis_Wizards.jpgUPDATE 7:31 pm: NBA Commissioner David Stern tried to contain any damage that came from Leonsis (plus hit Leonsis with a $100,000 fine for talking about the CBA, all done within a few hours, just so you know Stern is not messing around):

“We’re negotiating and that was one of our negotiating points,” Stern
told the Associated Press, “but collective bargaining is a negotiating
process, and that was not something that Ted was authorized to say and
he will be dealt with for that lapse in judgment.”

4:23 pm: Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis went through the ugliness of the NHL lockout that cost the league an entire season — and set the sport back considerably in public opinion. Check the television ratings.

But Leonsis seems to like what came out on the other side of that, enough that he thinks the NBA should go down the same road. He said as much meeting with a Virginia business group today, as reported by Fanhouse:

“In a salary cap era — and soon a hard salary cap in the NBA like it’s in the NHL — if everyone can pay the same amount to the same amount of players, its the small nuanced differences that matter,” Leonsis said.

Because Leonsis is not officially authorized to speak regarding the ongoing NBA labor negotiations, he refused to expound on his remarks when asked to clarify after his speech. But he did note that he is a huge fan of the NHL’s system, praising it and noting that it is a good one that works fairly.

“It’s working,” he said. “The teams are very, very competitive. There is no way that big markets teams can outspend small market teams. So when the season starts everyone thinks their team can compete for the Stanley Cup.”

Two thoughts here.

First, the NBA Players Association is not going to take a hard cap — not when the owners just sold $100 million more in season tickets than they did a season a go. After a year where the overall league revenue was up. If you want a hard cap you’re in for a long, drawn out, ugly fight.

Commissioner David Stern has countered that teams had more expenses to get that revenue up. They had to discount tickets and hire more sales staff, for example. My thought — welcome to the recession. At my favorite restaurant down the street from me, the owner is surviving and doing pretty well but he has to give away more meals now, market more and smarter, and generally work harder for a little less. The NBA is no different. Suck it up and don’t complain about it.

Secondly, the NHL salary cap is not the simple solution you may think.

As of this year, NHL players will have a salary cap set based on 57 percent of “hockey-related income.” Which is almost identical to the percentage of Basketball Related Income the NBA players get right now. It’s divided up differently (and the NBA’s pie is larger), but the percentage is the same. If the NBA used that model, the salary cap would likely be much closer to or higher than the luxury tax line now.

Also, some sites keep talking about the $40 million cap the NHL had when it came back from a strike. That was 2005-06 season. This year, the cap is $59.4 million with a salary floor of $43 million. As Joe Yerdon from our own ProHockeyTalk told me, a lot of teams are now complaining the must spend more than they could spend at all just a few years ago. Not all NHL teams are raking in money.

In the NBA’s case, whatever system is in place will need much better owner revenue sharing. And don’t for a second think all the owners are on the same page with that.

Also, if fans think you get a deal out of this, think again — NHL ticket prices now are higher than they have ever been.

One final note on all this — the NBA is having a renaissance of popularity. The Lakers/Celtics finals followed by what happened in Miami this summer vaulted the sport up the popularity ladder to Jordan era levels.

A lockout that costs games kills that. Fast. Dead. The NBA will lose the casual fan it is getting back now, and it will be 10 times harder to get them back. And then everybody’s revenue goes down.

  1. Mo - Sep 29, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    I can see why Leonsis wants it. Successful teams would be forced to cut their best players and crappy management would have downside protection for their mistakes. Hopefully, he doesn’t get his wish, I don’t want a work stoppage to hit.

  2. Mo - Sep 29, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    I can see why Leonsis wants it. Successful teams would be forced to cut their best players and crappy management would have downside protection for their mistakes. Hopefully, he doesn’t get his wish, I don’t want a work stoppage to hit.

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 29, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    Most pro-player post I have ever read. Thanks for at least picking a side I guess.

  4. sactownmack - Sep 29, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    It’s amazing to me that Tom Cruise commands 20 Million a Picture (I just don’t think he’s that talented)
    Yet I don’t perceive him as a Bad Guy or wish him ill will.
    Maybe it’s because I have a wife and family who love and respect me as well as a stable financially rewarding career.
    How bout you Chris? Can you say the same?
    UNDERSTAND THIS….. THE OWNERS WOULD NOT HAVE THE BUSINESS
    ( AKA.. INCOME) THEY CURRENTLY RECEIVE FROM THEIR BASKETBALL OWNERSHIP (NO MATTER HOW CLEAVER THEY MAY BE)
    WITHOUT QUALITY PLAYERS WHO CAN AS “CRIS” SAYS … DRIBBLE A BASKETBALL AND DRAW SPECTATORS BOTH ON T.V. AS WELL AS IN ARENAS!
    p.s. I’d be shocked if you know as much about Basketball as a freshman in high school Chris.

  5. LogicMan - Sep 29, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    You got that right. Their is nothing really that wrong with the current system other than a few of the owners are morons when it comes to the business of basketball. Cheers

  6. marj - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:48 AM

    Not again. What is this? NBA is a communist? You can only comment good things but not bad!

  7. Renato Afonso - Sep 30, 2010 at 4:35 AM

    Well said Logicman.
    Furthermore, I would just like to include a clause in my contract that allows me to make mistakes without being held accountable for them… Like the owners trying to protect themselves from their moronic hirings!

  8. Your Editor - Sep 30, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    The writer said:
    Also, if fans think you get a deal out of this, think again — NHL ticket prices now are higher than they have ever been.
    Wow. Really? Is there any sport where the tickets aren’t priced higher now than they ever have been? That is either very lazy writing or just stupidity at work.

  9. Randall - Sep 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Stern on Leonsis: “he will be dealt with”
    That doesn’t sound the least bit arrogant.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Will LeBron get booed Christmas Day in Miami?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3844)
  2. S. Marion (2215)
  3. L. James (2164)
  4. K. Bryant (2142)
  5. K. Love (2044)
  1. K. Irving (2033)
  2. A. Davis (1968)
  3. R. Allen (1862)
  4. D. Cousins (1833)
  5. E. Bledsoe (1794)