With all the talk of NBA team owners playing hardball and the players doing their best Lee Corso “not so fast my friend” things have started to look like a lockout in the fall of 2011 is moving beyond possible to likely.
Early negotiations always sort of look like that — you ask for the moon in your first proposal, knowing you can give half of it back and still make progress. So the owners ask for 55% of Basketball Related Income (the players have been getting about 57% the last few years) knowing that if you meet at 50/50 you made progress.
But the talk has only been about the owners and players perspectives, and their first talks this weekend. The Heat’s Jermaine O’Neal has stepped forward and injected a little sanity into the discussion. (I know, we were as surprised as anybody.)
“Both parties have to understand this goes beyond the business of basketball to the sensitivity of our general public that supports how it looks,” O’Neal said of risking turning off the public with another lockout. “A lot of people live their lives through sports and that’s their outlet, and you want to continue to be the people’s outlet during the tough (economic) times.
”You don’t want to be bickering about issues and put that out to the general public making it look everybody is greedy and everybody wants more money when the rest of the world is struggling economically … You want to find the medium … It’s a billion-dollar industry and everybody wants to be successful and … share a piece of the pie. Hopefully, we can do that.”
All that money the owners want more of? That’s your money. My money. The fans money. There are basketball junkies who will be there no matter what after a strike, but ask baseball how easy it was to recover from their big strike (it took steroid-fueled home run binges). Ask the NHL how their lockout — which their owners largely won –has worked for revenue and television viewer ship.
How you split up Basketball Related Income is still dependent on their being Basketball Related Income. A strike, in the middle of a recession (or even just after it) will make that pie the players and owners are splitting up a lot smaller for years and years to come.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.