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Salary rollbacks part of new owner offer to come Thursday

Nov 7, 2011, 2:01 PM EDT

Padlock Arena AP AP

UPDATE 2:01 pm: Over at the New York Times, Howard Beck has gotten a hold of a copy of the letter David Stern sent to the union about their “reset” proposal.

Here are the “highlights” (or lowlights, if you wanted to see NBA basketball this season):

The “reset” proposal features a flex-cap system that contains an absolute salary ceiling — to be set $5 million above the average team salary. In addition, the N.B.A. would roll back existing contracts “in proportion to system changes in order to ensure sufficient market for free agents.”

¶ Maximum salaries would be reduced.

¶ Contracts would be limited to four years for “Bird” free agents and three years for others, but each team could give a five-year deal to one designated player.

¶ Raises would be limited to 4.5 percent for “Bird” players and 3.5 percent for others….

In both deals are:

¶ Extend-and-trade deals, such as the one signed by Carmelo Anthony last season, will be prohibited.

¶ A 10 percent escrow tax will be withheld from player salaries, to ensure that player earnings do not exceed 50 percent of league revenues. An additional withholding will be applied in Year 1 “to account for business uncertainty” stemming from the lockout.

¶ Team and player contract options will be prohibited in new contracts, other than rookie deals. But a player can opt out of the final year of a contract if he agrees to zero salary protection (i.e., if it is nonguaranteed).

There is no way the players would accept those rollbacks. The union would file to decertify and this thing will get much, much uglier.

12:18 pm: When the NBA labor talks started, the owners had put out a number of ridiculous demands — salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap and other items the players would not accept — out on the table. As talks moved along, the owners made “concessions” of giving up things off their wish list (while the players gave up actual cash).

But if the players don’t accept David Stern’s and the owners ultimatum offer by Wednesday night, come Thursday morning it is all back on the table along with a smaller percentage of basketball related income, reports Ken Berger at

In addition to a 47 percent share of revenues for the players and a flex cap, those terms also would include a relinquishing of guaranteed contracts and a rollback of existing salaries, sources familiar with the hardline owners’ position said.

Part of that (and the reason it gets leaked) is to try and frighten the players into taking the deal on the table.

But make no mistake, that proposal would kill the NBA season if the owners stuck to it.

The players have given up money to keep a soft salary cap and guaranteed contracts (as well as keeping the salary cap tied to league revenues). Those are issues the union would be willing to lose a season over. Those issues would push them to decertify the union and try to take this thing to court. It would be a disaster.

The sides are not that far apart on a deal, with the players giving up more money wanting system issues concessions (they want more ease of player movement and for teams paying the tax to have exceptions). That’s a small olive branch for the owners to offer at this point so the union could save face, call it a win (even though the union lost big) and we could have a season.

But the hardline owners are driving the league bus right now and they want to crush the union and give no quarter. They are driving this. The owners are up by 40 points in the fourth quarter and are keeping the full court press on.

“I think, at the end of the day, this group (of hardline owners) said, ‘OK, we will let you do it your way up until Wednesday,'” a person in contact with ownership told Monday.

If the sides don’t talk, if come Thursday morning there is no deal in place, I fear for the season. At that point, if the sides reach a deal it will likely be after Christmas just in time to save a 50-game NBA season. And even that could be a long shot.

At that point, both sides will have hurt the sport so much they will have lost all extra revenue they were fighting over.

  1. stoutfiles - Nov 7, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Kurt, do you get let go if the season gets cancelled? You’ve been so pro-player it’s almost comical.

    The league is losing money. Half the teams have no shot of being good, because of they do win a star player in the lottery he will leave for a big market team even though the small market is allowed to pay him more.

    Let’s bring back the season for what? Heat and Lakers in the finals? Not everyone wants to see these damn stale matchups. I want a league where everyone has a chance to succeed.

    • stadix093 - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      I would say he was being more pro fan than pro player. He just wants to see basketball like the rest of us and you have to admit, the owners have gone the extra mile on their dicketry. Also, Lakers for life baby! I wouldnt mind seeing the Heat in June.

    • rreducla1 - Nov 7, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      I want a league where everyone has a chance to succeed.


      Oklahoma City has one of the best teams in basketball and their young star has re-upped.

      Memphis has a fine young team.

      Cleveland had a huge payroll when James was there and was in the title mix. They missed their moment when their FO failed to trigger on JJ Hickson for Amare Stoudemire, and they settled for Antawn Jamison.

      Orlando had the second-highest payroll in the NBA last year and has been to the Finals.

      New York has not won a title in 38 years.

      Chicago never came close to winning anything–until they drafted Jordan and and acquired Pippen.

      The Clippers have never come close to winning anything other a playoff series or two, in spite of playing in LA. They have hope now because of Blake Griffin.

      San Antonio has been on of the best franchises in the league for a decade and a half. Their star staued rather than going to Orlado back in 2001.

      Minnesota had Kevin Garnett for 12 years and also had many high payrolls.

      Whatever small-market fans tell themselves, and whatever Stern sells, and whatever the CBA says, the league will always revolve around:

      a) Acquiring stars on draft night.
      b) Building intelligently around them.
      c) Building intelligently enough to attract and keep stars.

      • stoutfiles - Nov 7, 2011 at 3:41 PM

        Oklahoma got a star that has some loyalty. A diamond in the rough.

        Memphis will stay bad.

        Cleveland was never going to keep LeBron, let’s be real.

        Orlando will be losing Howard soon. Back to mediocrity.

        That will change in the new NBA. I’m talking about today, not the past.

        Same for Chicago. Today.

        Clippers will lose Griffin soon. Are you starting to get it?

        Both Duncan and Garnett were extremely loyal. The Spurs, like the Mavs, do spend a lot of money. Half the league competes.

        Don’t try and twist this, teams like the Lakers will always get players being in a big market and always maxing the cap. If the players have a choice, they will almost always choose big market unless they take the max deal with the small market. When a small market team offers a max deal and it’s ignored, by multiple superstars, then there’s a problem.

      • leearmon - Nov 7, 2011 at 4:06 PM

        I laugh when I hear fans cry about players’ “loyalty” If you believe Lebron was not loyal to the Cavaliers, then the Cavaliers were not “loyal” to Mo Williams when they traded him. If thats the argument you chose to use, you have to be consistent.

        Why is Durant a “diamond in the rough” when in the same post you say Duncan &Garnett are both loyal as well. I could add Paul Pierce, Dirk, Lamarcus Aldridge, Ginobili, Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, Jameer Nelson etc. to your list.

        And how exactly is Memphis “bad” You are aware that they went to a game 7 in the Conference semi-finals without arguably their best player.

        If you say the Clippers will “lose Blake Griffin soon” that would prove your argument and the owner’s logic wrong. L.A. is the second largest media market in the nation. So if he chose to leave when he becomes a free agent, he would be leaving in all probability to a smaller market. Are you saying you are against Free agency? Should players not have a choice in which teams they want to play for when their contract is up? That sounds socialist to me.

        The Bulls lost the greatest player of all time, were bad for a few years, then they decided to start drafting well. Their foundation is built off of the draft, Luol Deng- drafted. Joakim Noah-drafted. Taj Gibson-drafted. Derrick Rose-drafted. See a trend? The NBA owners and many fans have been fooled into thinking championships are won in free agency. Fact of the matter is 95% of championship teams have built their roster through the draft. Players who win championships rarely ever leave. Fact. Dirk was drafted not a free agent signing. Kobe was a draft day trade, not a free agent signing. Same with Duncan, Wade, Pierce, Jordan, Olajuwon, Magic, Bird etc. Yes there are a few exceptions, Garnett, Shaq, and Billups to name a few, but those are by in large oddities. Do the research. Look at the Finals MVPs and tell me how many of them were not drafted to that team.

        You need to go back and re-evaluate your stance because if you look at the situation from a logical standpoint the owner’s are completely ass backwards in their train of thought.

      • 140chrviolation - Nov 7, 2011 at 5:18 PM


        You have no idea that Memphis will be bad any time soon. They have some very good and fairly young players.

        You don’t know what might have happened had Cleveland been run with more competence and less acquiescense to LeBron. Granted, he eventually left, so you have a point here.

        You have no idea that Howard will leave.

        You have no idea that Griffin with leave

        The argument regarding Chicago and New York are without dispute. They were big markets for decades (as are the Clippers) and have a long history of failure… until they draft great players.

        You bring up Durant as a diamond in the rough, and yet bring up Garnet and Duncan, indisputably in the top 5 of players in their era. Were they also diamonds in the rough? Perhaps loyalty is as rare as diamonds (DeBeers actually hold huge quantities of diamonds in vaults in order to keep from over-flooding an already flooded market in diamonds).

        Teams like the Lakers have more fans then if you were to combine the number of fans of bottom 15 teams in the league. In other words, more fans get joy from the Lakers success then other fans do in seeing Cleveland, Memphis, Minnesota win a championship. The Lakers serve a huge market and while much of their success is tied in to the size of the markets, you can’t say that being in a big-market brings success (Warriors, Clippers, Bulls, New York, New Jersey…) nor that a small market keeps you from long term success (OKC, San Antonio, Utah). You can even add Indiana having championship quality teams for a number of years with Miller (of all people) and later with a healthy O’Neal, Portland with Drexler, Sacramento when they had Webber. It is just demonstrably false, that market size is a major factor in success or that parity is actually beneficial for the league.

  2. nelle - Nov 7, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    Hmmm… the players dropped their share from 57% to 52%, with nothing to show in return. Sounds like quite a concession on their part. The owners should take that and institute football like sharing of television revenue equally – but they won’t. The owners are the culprits here, not the players. The players are the only ones negotiating in good faith.

    Given the ultimatum, the players should decertify – and threaten to form their own league. Perhaps threatened total loss of franchise value might be enough to scare the owners of the bigger market teams into asserting themselves against the small market owners.

  3. n2thaizzo - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Half the teams suck, that’s why they are losing money. Half the GMs / owners in basketball wouldn’t know how to put together a team if their lives depended on it. Regardless of the outcome, no high quality free agents are gonna want to play in places like Indiana, Denver, Cleveland, Minnesota, etc.

    If I were the players, I would accept the owners deal. Then play really crappy basketball for the next 6 years ( i mean like final scores 35 – 14 terrible), let the owners lose even more money and laugh because the players contracts are guaranteed and they’ll get their money anyhow.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      Half the teams suck because the players are calling the shots. Think Minnesota wanted to lose Kevin Garnett for almost nothing? They traded him, but at his demand. Think Cleveland wanted to lose LeBron for nothing? Chris Bosh/Toronto? This league can’t make money when jackasses like Latrell Spreewell can’t feed his family for 3 years at 30 million. He walks on that contract thinking he could get bigger. At least GMs on other teams wised up he never say another contract.

      • Kurt Helin - Nov 8, 2011 at 9:42 AM

        LeBron fulfilled his contract before looking to other teams. Are you suggesting that star players who get to the end of their contract should not be able to choose where they play?

      • n2thaizzo - Nov 8, 2011 at 10:38 AM

        The question you should ask is WHY did those players want to leave their teams? The answer: The owners/GM’s were unable to put quality pieces around them. You think Garnett wanted to go another 5-6 years winning 30 games? You think LeBron wanted to go another 5-6 years knowing he HAD to score 30-40 points in order for them to win?

        Also, free agency gives players the right to choose where they want to play, just like you have the right to choose where you want to work.

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    I am pro-owners in this debate for the most part, but salary rollbacks is where I draw the line. You signed a contract, you live with the contract. No rollbacks. That’s just ridiculous and I don’t even see how it is even legal in the “contract” sense.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:26 PM

      I’m with you. I’d like to see future contracts not be guaranteed and a hard salary cap but rollbacks of current salaries are a no go for me.

      • therealhtj - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:55 PM

        They did it in Hockey. If the “union” caves in after a year of not getting paychecks and agrees to salary rollbacks, it’s legal. It’s also legal for the owners to move to invalidate all existing contracts if the “union” decertifies.

        It’ll all be up to a judge to decide I suppose. In any case, there’ll be no hoops for a while if the owners hold true to their demands and decertification happens.

        I put “union” in quotes because they’re clearly not looking out for the best interests of their constituents.

    • rreducla1 - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:59 PM


  5. 1historian - Nov 7, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    NBA players – for the most part you are marvelously gifted, your athletic feats are breathtaking, but – you are just entertainers.

    We can do without you if we must.

    Your call

  6. zidanevalor - Nov 7, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    After reading the 2 pm update, I honestly feel bad for the players. Not only are they making all the concessions in these negotiations with nothing to show for it other than “not losing things that were already in place”, but the players are also losing the PR war too with the general public. And the owners are still pressing for more. It’s quite sad actually.

  7. danielcp0303 - Nov 7, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    So let me get this straight…when a franchise player wanted to leave in the last cba, the team at least got helped out by the fact that he had to be traded in order for him to get the best deal. Now they are just going to let the player leave and the team gets no picks, no players, nothing to help them rebuild? All because a player wants to form his own big three?? Yeah, owners really know what they’re doing. They can’t get out of their own way.

  8. n2thaizzo - Nov 7, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I wanna see what everyone is gonna say when this new CBA goes through and teams are still annually horrible. In order to win in the NBA you need superstars, and there are only about 10 superstars capable of carrying a team at any given time. There will always be bad teams. They were there in the 60’s, 70’s 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and they are there now. The owners will continue to make the same dumb decisions, and we’ll be right back here in another decade or so.

  9. rreducla1 - Nov 7, 2011 at 6:40 PM


    Great post. Thanks.

    The funniest part of stoutflies’ post is that he says guys will “always choose big market teams like the Lakers” but he knows that “Blake Griffin will leave the Clippers.”

    As to the “new NBA” WRT Durant, James and Howard:

    Orlando jacked up their payroll to 110M with tax included and hasn’t gotten it done. Howard will be starting his 7th season there if it ever starts.
    Miami’s payroll was far less than Orlando’s last year.
    James stayed in Ohio seven years and the payroll was up over 90M–and Cleveland didn’t get it done.

    If you think those guys should have to stay where they were/are, then you should be mad at the owners for caving on the franchise tag, so they can instead line their own pockets. If it’s OK with you if these players leave their original teams, as long as they don’t play in Chicago, New York, Miami, or for the Lakers, then just say so.

    As to Durant: it isn’t “loyalty” per se IMO–it is that he believes that he can win a title there, and he likes the town.

    Past guys:

    Duncan had ALREADY won a title in SA, and he liked the coach.
    Garnett was given a gigantic, unprecedented deal in Minnesota.
    Kobe, loudly and obnoxiously, talked about wanting to LEAVE THE LAKERS when he didn’t see them as contenders.

    Part of this narrative, of course, is the fact that Paul apparently wants to play in New York after Anthony forced it to get there. But of course, New York had to trade Denver a lot of talent to get Anthony, and Paul is not there yet.

    I wonder if it would be OK with stoutflies et al if Howard and Paul team up in Orlando, or if Blake Griffin, an Oklahoman, decides to team up with Durant in 2014 or so to try to create a small-market dynasty in the Panhandle.

    Basically, I think people need to remember three things:

    The history of the league.
    There is only one LeBron James.
    There was only one summer of 2010.

    Those things will still be true no matter what happens with the CBA.

  10. Fred - Nov 7, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Here’s how I interpret this thread:

    stoutfiles — make strange, unsupported assertions stemming from your skewed worldview;

    rreducia1 — cite the factual history of the league, including recent conduct by players and management to effectively refute stoutfiles argument;

    @140chrviolation — delve into stoufiles’s aforementioned strange, unsupported assertions to further refute them;

    stoutfiles — stomp up and down, hold your breath and then scream your strange, unsupported assertions at the top of your lungs to magically make them true in a world with magenta grass and fuchsia skies.

    This is the real world in microcosm.

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