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Report: salary rollbacks, other strings attached to owners new offer

Sep 28, 2011, 10:27 AM EDT

To match Interview NBA/STERN Reuters

So the NBA owners are willing to come off their demand for a hard salary cap, sort of. Some are touting this as a potential breakthrough in these negotiations, but until they figure out the split of “basketball related income” — or even how to define BRI — it’s hard for me to get my hopes up.

But the soft cap is a concession, the issue is it came with a whole lot of other strings, according to a report from ESPN’s Ric Bucher.

Some of which the players union may find unacceptable — especially the part about salary rollbacks. Here is the list of other owner demands to go with the soft salary cap

•The “Larry Bird exception,” which allows teams to exceed the cap to retain their own free agents regardless of their other committed salaries, is limited to one player per team per season.

•The mid-level exception, which the league valued at $5.4 million last season and could be extended by as many as five years, is reduced in length and size.

•The current luxury tax, the $1-for-$1 penalty a team must pay to the league for the amount it exceeds the salary cap, is to be severely increased….

The owners also want a five-percent reduction on all existing salaries for this season, a 7.5 percent reduction of all 2012-13 salaries and 10 percent reduction of 2013-14 salaries, a source said.

Let’s take a look at these.

The first two alterations to salary cap exceptions had to be expected. The owners hate the mid-level exception and have been burned by some of the big mid-levels they have given out, so you knew they’d want that reduction. And limiting the Bird rights is something small markets want — they want to be able to keep their own stars but want to slow big spending teams like the Lakers from just getting and keeping everyone. (A one-a-year Bird exception rule could put a time clock on the big three with the Miami Heat.)

The steeper luxury tax also seemed a foregone conclusion before the lockout even started. If the tax becomes $3 to $1 or $4 to $1 — especially on a sliding scale the more you spend — it becomes more of a hard cap. Although teams like the Lakers and Knicks could still afford to pay more than most under this system.

Frankly, all that seems fair to me. The devil is in the details, but that seems like it could be worked out.

Salary rollbacks? That is going to be a harder sell than a hard salary cap. The median NBA salary last season was $2.3 million, and on that deal the player would be giving back $115,000 next season and that would double in two more years. Over three years that would be $517,500. That’s half a million dollars for an average player. That something the union will fight.

The bigger issue still remains BRI. The ESPN report still has the two sides six percentage points apart — the owners at 48 percent, the players at 54 percent — and that is a big gap to bridge. What’s more, previous owner offers tried to decouple league revenues from the split — meaning salaries would remain at a certain level regardless of increases in league revenues. For the players, that is another “blood issue,” they want the two things tied. As the league gets new television deals and the like, the players want a piece of that.

There are big issues, but we will see Wednesday if there can be real breakthroughs in these talks.

  1. goforthanddie - Sep 28, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Rollbacks are unacceptable. Be men and honor those tarded contracts you authorized. If teams need to get under the cap, throw in an amnesty clause.

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