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NHL’s Bill Guerin tells NBA players “It’s not worth it”

Oct 21, 2011, 3:45 PM EDT

bill_guerin_88521290 Getty Images

Consider this a cautionary tale.

There are a lot of similarities between the current NBA lockout and the NHL lockout of 2004-05 that cost that league an entire season. Particularly in the rhetoric of the owners, talking about needing to radically change the system. “Competitive balance” has become the new “cost certainty” that NHL owners demanded.

On the players side, Bill Guerin was as vocal a union supporter as there was. He was a guy the media went to for the union’s side of the story.

So the Star-Telegram in Dallas asked him his advice to the NBA players currently in those same shoes (or skates). (Via the Orange County Register)

“It’s not worth it. Get a deal done,” former Dallas Stars forward Bill Guerin said during a phone call last week….

“It is not worth it to any of them to burn games or to burn an entire year. Burning a year was ridiculous,” Guerin said. “It wasn’t worth me giving up $9 million a year, or 82 games plus the playoffs, then having a crappy year and being bought out…. Guys in the NBA making $15 million or however much better think long and hard about this….”

“The only thing you can die in the battlefield for in something like this is guaranteed contracts; everything else is nickel-and-dime stuff and it’s not worth it,” Guerin said.

The players have already gotten that — the owners said they would back off demands on guaranteed contracts. The players have won one other battle — the salary cap will remain tied to league revenues. The early owner proposals decoupled salary and revenues, but that has changed. Now as the league takes in more money the players will see the salary cap increase.

Those may be the only real victories they get. Make no mistake, the NBA owners are playing hardball. They have made crazy demands and are asking the players to give up nearly $300 million a year in salary plus accept a new, much tougher cap system.

And they can do it because they have all the leverage. They are going to win this lockout, the only question is how big a route it’s going to be.

One veteran of the NHL’s battle says the last couple of percentage points are not worth the cost. It’s not pretty for the players, and it’s not fair. But they had better seriously consider it. Because the owners are dug in right now and not moving. And in the end, the owners are going to win.

  1. sasquash20 - Oct 21, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Guaranteed contracts are the one issue the owners shouldn’t back down on. It is the single biggest reason the NBA sucks right now and has sucked for the last decade. If they give up that then nothing will change for the fans at all. You will still have teams in major cities tied down to a complete dog of a player, that will only keep that team from competing for a title. Look at the Sixers the last decade. Completely had no shot at the title. Not even a sniff at a championship. Money tied up to stiffs that kept the team from making any real moves. You see half the league gets stuck with these big contracts and the players end up being garbage. The NBA is better served by not cutting the legs out of major cities like Philly for a decade at a time. The only way to compete is to dump a few seasons and hope you get lucky in the draft lotto during a draft were there are real studs available. When you do that you risk turning local fans off to the NBA game. To Philly’s credit they have not tanked it(as much as I wish they would have) and have kept integrity in how they have gone about it. When you get stuck in that average/below average stage you get stuck there more often then not. Give the teams flexibility, it will only help players salaries in the long run. Competitive basketball will get the ratings the NBA needs, then the league will make more money.

    • kinggw - Oct 21, 2011 at 8:39 PM

      Asinine post. Guaranteed contracts arent the problem. Never have been. I like guaranteed contracts because it forces teams to be good to be at something other than throwing money at players. Nobody told the Sixers to give an injury prone power forward big money. That is their irresponsibility and they shouldnt be bailed out because it didnt work out. They took a risk and they lost, owners simply want all the risks taken out of their business.

      I dont know if you’ve been watching but the NBA isnt in the state the NHL was in, people actuallly watch the games. Now cities with horrible teams like Washington, Sacramento and Minnesota arent attracting fans now, but three or four years ago when Arenas still had his knees, the Kings were still relevant and KG was still in town, these teams had no problem attracting fans. If the owners dont want to lose money stop putting a substandard product on the floor. You cant blame the players for that.

      • sasquash20 - Oct 22, 2011 at 2:03 AM

        I never said they should be bailed out. In fact, I think any contracts should be honored. But going foward, gauranteed contracts should disapear from the NBA forever. The league would benefit greatly from it. Also to pinpoint one contract the sixers made is asinine. They have been making some bad deals for awhile. The NBA is better when a team can turn around from a bad season quicker. When a team is locked into multiple bad deals they often get stuck with stiffs and can’t turn it around for 5-10 years. In a buisness that winning is almost everything, its dumb to restrict a teams ability to get better. Not guaranteeing deals has worked beautifully in the NFL for a long time now. It would absolutly make the NBA better, and if you don’t agree your a moron.

        Your also dead wrong about people watching/going to games. Attendance, and rating have been going down for several years now. In most major cities that have 4 major sports teams the NHL often has better attendance then the NBA team in the same city.

      • passerby23 - Oct 22, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        I think that a middle ground is required: guaranteed contracts for max 3 years with options to pick up after that. It is enough stability for players without teams being crippled with bad deals. If the player performs and lives up to his contract in those three years, a team can (and probably will) pick up his option. If he doesn’t and another team is interested, they will be more than happy to throw money at a player for 3 guaranteed years. This gives incentive to the player to perform, while giving the team some flexibility.

        I agree with Guerin that everything else is nickle-and-dime stuff. Who cares about the 50/50 revenue split? Let it go, players. Walk away with your 47.

  2. balleriq - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:36 PM

    Good post kinggw, but there is a line where the guaranteed contracts crosses, a players NBA life is so short it wouldn’t be fair to have them get theirs, especially if the player is a stud. However, when injury strikes, thats not the fault of the teams either and shouldn’t have to pay 3-4 years depending on the injury ala Grant Hill with the Magic. (much repect tho Grant) Now I know theres a clause teams can take if a player is expect to be injured for much of the season, but an amnesty clause would also do good here. Not totally cut a player from his contract but not have his contract count against the cap either.

    • craigw24 - Oct 22, 2011 at 7:36 AM

      Guaranteed contracts really only cross the line when they are too long. I can see limiting the length of contracts, but handling them like the NFL is extremely bad for that players. As it is, the NFL players’ average career is so short and dangerous that many die early and suffer dementia. These are the people the owners are able to simply cut one year, regardless/or because of the length of their contract. The only way the NFL players are able to exist is that they can have huge signing bonuses that are spread over the life of the contract signed and this goes against the club’s salary cap. Do you really think the NBA owners will approve things like $75M signing bonuses? I don’t think so. In that environment guaranteed contracts are a requirement for the players.

      • sasquash20 - Oct 22, 2011 at 7:56 PM

        Who has ever gotten 75 million signing bonus? Check your facts. Your clueless! The average player doesn’t get much in the way of a signing bonus. Your stars do, but average players do not. It would work fine in the NBA, and it would benefit the league.

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