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Carmelo Anthony drama has owners thinking franchise tag

Feb 15, 2011, 11:37 AM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

What do NBA owners want out of the collective bargaining agreement? More money. Remember, it is always about the money.

Who generates that money? Don’t say “the players” because it’s much more narrow than that. While there are 12 to 15 guys on an NBA roster, only a couple of those players directly generate more income than they take in. There are only a handful of players who can sell tickets, who people buy the jerseys of, who people turn on their televisions to watch and who sponsors line up to be next to be associated with. Balk at how much money Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire make if you want, they generate far more money for the franchise than they are paid.

What owners really want is to be able to keep those guys.

And they are worried about that moreso in the face of the trend we are seeing with Carmelo Anthony — a guy with a year left on his deal who has told the team he is not coming back and is forcing their hand to trade him (or risk the consequences).

This has owners thinking more about really pushing for a “franchise tag” in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Marc Stein. It makes a lot of sense. Owners see Anthony, hear rumblings about Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and they wonder about keeping their own stars.

The franchise tag would allow them to keep their best player and take the negotiations out of it. In the NFL system a franchise tag allows a team to tie an unrestricted free agent to them for a one-year deal worth 120 percent of what he made the year before or the average of the top five players at that position in the league, whichever is higher.

In the NBA, it would have allowed Cleveland to keep LeBron James for one more year. Same with Chris Bosh in Toronto. How long the team can keep slapping the tag on a guy depends on how the CBA is written.

The franchise tag is flat out un-American and the antithesis of an open capitalism — if you fulfill the terms of your contract to a team why should they be able to force you to stay? The NBA’s current system already gave teams advantages to sign their own players — they can offer larger raises and one more year than other teams. If a player is willing to take less money for better working conditions (or whatever his reason for leaving) why shouldn’t he be able to do what he wants?

The players’ union would fight a franchise tag. But this is a negotiation, they give in on the franchise tag and they get a concession — in this case a major concession — on something else.

A year ago the idea of a franchise tag seemed impossible in the NBA. With what has transpired around Carmelo Anthony, it seems much more likely now. But it’s not coming without a serious fight. Which is why this lockout could be a real mess.

  1. sknut - Feb 15, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    The tag makes more sense in the NBA than the NFL, with stars in the NBA wanting larger markets, it would give smaller markets more of a chance to compete. Also in the NFL contracts aren’t gauranteed so the tag gives players some gauranteed money.

  2. thestudiokida - Feb 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    This would be a travesty in the NBA. Teams rarely have a player worthy of paying that much money so say GOODBYE to superstar relocation. We will literally NEVER see another superstar change location. So what’s the point of free agency anymore? I’ll boycott the NBA if this happens.

  3. nicosamuelson2 - Feb 15, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    I agree with Kid A. This is bad news for the NBA. I’m a Wolves fan, so I realize that it would probably help out my team, but it just screams “unfair” and will likely lead to much more whining/drama than there already is. I can’t see how *forcing* a player to stay in one spot is going to lead to a harmonious and successful relationship. All it is going to do is cause animosity and frustration and that will likely manifest itself on the court.

  4. bigtrav425 - Feb 15, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    this would be a GREAT thing for the NBA….Kurt you said the franchise tag would be un american..But if you know the NBA you also know its Un American considering every team does NOT have the same chance to win the title.playoffs,get great players etc every year and isnt America all about Equality??..Iv always believed that all sports should be incentive laden (sp?) becasue of how many guys have 1 good yr get a huge contract then fall flat and that team is stuck with a crap ass contract for a poser either that or the NBA and MLB need to switch to the NFL rule of NO guaranteed contracts,which i think would be alot better altho in the NBA your still screwed becasue most of these stars are prima donna’s and want the big city

    • sixers25 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:20 PM

      The franchise tag is a stupid idea for the NBA. Not on the basis of being un American but because the premises for franchise tags in the NBA and NFL are completely different. In the NFL you franchise a player because you can not agree to a long term deal. You do not mind paying a high salary for that player’s position but you are not sure you want to do so for an extended period. In the NBA you know how good a player is, you would pay him a max contract, but that player just does not want to stay with the team. This would lead to the hold outs that fans hate in the NFL. Also in the NFL you know a player eventually has to sign because he has no place else to go. Basketball is a global league. While a player under contract can not play for another league if a player is franchised and does not sign a contract he can go anywhere he wants outside the NBA. If a team does not trade the franchised player after a certain number of games he could just go for a year in Europe which would significantly damage his trade value because every knows you have to trade him.
      This is just a reactionary move by the owners like the whole max contract thing. But because there are max contracts instead of market value contracts you can have teams like the Heat, Lakers, and Celtics. Hopefully the owners learn from past mistakes and avoid any hasty long term decisions

      • sixers25 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:31 PM

        Further the NFL also does not have a max contract system. Every off season you hear a guy is the highest paid “fill in the blank” ever. It would be very difficult restrict salary and player movement.

        Also the NHL tried to have a hard salary cap to create more balance. The result, Philly v Chicago in the Stanley Cup. After which Chicago had to gut its team to stay competitive. Philly just signs guys to long contracts with next to no money at the end of the deal. Teams trade for good players before they are free agents to shed salary and get the upper hand to sign them.

        As much as people want parity does the NBA really want to have a Minnesota v. Cleveland Finals because no one would watch. Do fans really want to see the Lakers, Celtics, and Heat broken apart Black Hawks style? The NBA should tread cautiously here.

      • rtheda - Feb 16, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        Franchise tags YES! Otherwise the league will always be the Globetrotters (Lakers Boston, Heat) against the Generals and the league will die. No fun when your team never has a chance to win the championship

        Need the tags for 4-7 year extensions.

  5. bigtrav425 - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    id rather see a mix of teams get a actual chance for a championship in any sport even if it wasnt my team then the same damn teams every damn year! it gets old and repetitive(For Example:Just like every football sunday you can guarandamntee that a Cowboys game will be on TV with Joe Buck announcing it)

    • sixers25 - Feb 16, 2011 at 1:08 AM

      The best case scenario for a small market team with a star looking to move on is a Carmelo Antony scenario where they can trade them. A franchise tag only keeps a player where they don’t want to be. Unless you eliminate max contracts for signing your own players there is not enough incentive for a guy to stay in a small market when he wants to be in a large market. Again the huge issue with a franchise tag is that you only control a player’s rights you can’t make a player play.

      • rtheda - Feb 16, 2011 at 12:20 PM

        They will stay in a small market NBA team, they arent going to Europe. $80 mill was enough to keep Garnett in Minnesota. Was great for Minn for 10 years

      • sixers25 - Feb 16, 2011 at 3:45 PM

        Actually what helped Garnett stay in Minnesota was the huge over 100 million dollar contract he signed. The NBA decided they didn’t like those contracts so they got rid of them the next collective bargaining session.
        Now the NBA wants to cut those salaries even more and restrict the ability to chose a team once you have paid your dues in the league. Again this isn’t a sob story of “O these poor millionaire athletes have to play in Minnesota instead of Boston”. This is more the reality of the situation:
        1. If Chris Paul (for example) is offered twice the salary for one year in Russia or China then the 1 year salary the Hornets offer him in a franchise tag, why would Chris Paul stay in the NBA that year? He would make more money that season and the team would have to trade him the next season.

        2. Even if they don’t go overseas look at the NFL. Revis held out until he got what he wanted. The lineman for the Patriots and Vincent Jackson were so pissed at their teams they literally only showed up for the season to count towards their year of service. Again if D Will doesn’t sign a contract until the first day of the regular season or worse sits out games until he is traded how would that help the team.

        3. Any new agreement would require revenue sharing with the owners. Are the Lakers, Knicks, and Celtics owners really going agree to a deal that gives money to teams they don’t even think should be in the league and make it nearly impossible to acquire elite players?

        Basically a hard cap system, with lower player salaries, and severe player movement restrictions only benefits small market teams with great players (and the Clippers). So what Utah, Cleveland, New Orleans, Orlando, and Donald Sterling are going to come out the heavy heavy winners in a huge labor negotiation when they are historically low revenue generating franchises?! Come on

  6. eazye76 - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    It would help small markets compete for one more year if there was a franchise tag, but it would do nothing to solve the problem. If there was a franchise tag in place it would only delay all this drama for one season. If Lebron James were being forced to play this season in Cleveland on a 1 year tender would it make it any easier on Cavs fans? Would one more year make Carmello decide he wants to stay in Denver?

    I don’t think is a horrible idea, but people act like a franchise tag can change the fact that some teams will have issues when it comes to superstars at the end of their deal.

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