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One thing the owners really want — to get out of bad deals

Aug 25, 2011, 10:16 AM EDT

Arenas_beardshot

Next season, Kobe Bryant will be the highest paid player in the NBA. That seems fair.

Rashard Lewis will be second at $22.1 million. Gilbert Arenas will be fifth at $19.2 million. Antawn Jamison will make $15 million.

There are some terrible deals in the NBA landscape and one of the real sticking points in the NBA labor negotiation is the issue of guaranteed contracts — the owners want to be able to get out of these stale deals. They look at the NFL — where even productive players can be let go because the team wants to pay another player — and drool. While NBA owners have backed off the demand for NFL-style non-guaranteed contracts, they want an out.

The players note that the owners agree to these contracts in the first place. If you don’t think Eddy Curry is worth all that money, don’t sign the deal. And for ever bad deal out there they can point to the good deals the owners get, like Serge Ibaka making $1.2 million in Oklahoma City, or the value the owners get out of star rookies who make way below their value to the franchise.

The Washington Post’s Mike Wise breaks that all down today in his column (including a great story of David Stern bringing up Eddy Curry during negotiations with the union).

Nowhere was the impetus for a long labor stoppage more obvious than here in Washington, where what was once thought to be a blockbuster deal — Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis this past December — was in reality one franchise’s lemon traded for another.

Only in the NBA can a town be excited by moving a player with three years and $60 million left (Arenas) for another with more than two years remaining on a $118 million deal. Why were the Wizards ecstatic? Because as bad as Lewis’s $19 million-plus deal per year was for a player with declining numbers the past three seasons, at least they only had to have his contract around for two years instead of three. That’s sadly called success before the trading deadline.

It’s not just owners who are frustrated with these deals, it is fans. Especially fans of rebuilding teams. It’s hard to tell some guy busting his but to sell cars or medical supplies or whatever — someone who makes his living on commission — that a player who can’t produce but has a massive guaranteed deal is getting paid fairly. For all of the rest of us, if you do not produce you are let go.

The players are going to have to give something to the owners here — most likely having buyout percentages built into the deal. They can argue over the percentage and how it changes over the life of the deal, but it should be a standardized rate. If the Knicks wanted to buy out Eddy Curry three years ago to start rebuilding earlier, is that so wrong? If the player can produce, he will get another deal.

But this is just another issue the two sides are nowhere close to finding a resolution for.

  1. The Ball Index - Aug 25, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Seems like that will give a huge advantage to big market teams. Owners like Dolan will always have cash to spend and will have no problem essentially treating these contracts as if they are non-guaranteed

  2. dysraw1 - Aug 25, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    The owners hire people to use their judgement to decide a players value. how can the player be at fault. Arenas, Lewis, were franchise type players until injury got in the way. so they should give the money back. yeah right

  3. marquisalexander - Aug 25, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    In all honesty no one FORCED James Dolan to pay Eddy Curry, or Abe Polin to pay Gilbert Arenas they CHOSE to. They could have allowed them to walk in free agency or even better, they could have allowed them to try to sell their services on the free market, fail, and then signed them to a better deal.

    The small market and less profitable teams shouldn’t be angry at the players, they should be angry at the large market owners. Player cost is a FIXED PERCENTAGE at 57% (which is what owners wanted from the last Lockout) The actual dollar amount keeps rising because teams like the Lakers make 3 Billion dollar Television deals but they don’t have to share those profits with the other teams. This is where it gets painful for the small market teams, the profit the Lakers make pushes the total amount of Basketball Related Revenue up making the smaller teams have to pay more even though they don’t share in any of the profits. Its like when you go to a restaurant with a bunch of people and you’re going to split the check evenly, but you ordered french fries while the others at the table order Steak and Shrimp and Lobster. You don’t get to eat their food, but you now share equally in the rising cost of the tab.

    Honestly, before there is talk about the Eddy Currys, Reshard Lewises, and Gilbert Arenas of the world, the owners have to figure out how to share a larger piece of their pie with each other so they all can all enjoy the meal. OR they can go to a baseball style system where contracts are negotiated pretty much between parties, there is no salary cap floor or ceiling and player contracts aren’t tied to any revenues. If the player negotiates a guaranteed contract, then its guaranteed, if the team negotiates buy outs in the later years then the team does that. And both sides can request insert Arbitration language in the deal so if they over or under perform the terms can be adjusted.

  4. mytthor - Aug 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    They shouldn’t have to give the money back, but it’s not crazy to suggest that they shouldn’t get all the money to not play that they would get to play, and that that percentage should be standardized. Do you have a job where if all of a sudden you’re nowhere near as good at it as you were when you get hired, they have to pay you 100% of your salary for the next few years? I don’t think limiting the millions you can receive while contributing nothing is that crazy. For injuries these guys can take out insurance policies.

    • marquisalexander - Aug 25, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      You may not like it, but a contract is a contract. Owners complain when players hold out for more money (which, admittedly, isn’t as much of an issue in the NBA. No one MADE the owners sign them to max deals. They decided to, foolishly.

  5. goforthanddie - Aug 25, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    I guess shorter contracts isn’t an option, since it makes sense.

  6. thetooloftools - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    If the owners want to play hardball, they will keep lowering the “hard cap” until players can’t get those long term huge money deals anymore. I’m quickly losing interest in the NBA. It really is turning into being all about the $.

  7. dysraw1 - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    You dont sign players like eddy currry long for fear of losing them.thats why there salary caps so u know your buget and are able to stay within confines.

  8. dysraw1 - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    You dont sign players like eddy currry long for fear of losing them.thats why there salary caps so u know your buget and are able to stay within confines.

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