At the time the old Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed by NBA owners and players, it was perceived as a win for the owners — they had capped how much money the players would get each season.
Players would get 55 percent and eventually 57 percent of the gross Basketball Related Income the league pulls in (everything from ticket sales to television contracts to concessions in the arena). Not a penny more, not a penny less. The owners at least knew that expense.
For the past six years, the owners have got to keep a little bit of players salaries back because the players were set to make more than their 57 percent.
Not this year. Figures released Friday showed not only did the owners have to give back all the money in their escrow funds (the money kept back then returned in part to get to 57 percent), they had to write a supplemental check for $26 million to get to that percentage, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.
What does this mean? Well, to some degree, it means that owners became more judicious in the contracts they doled out. On another level, it means that many teams — like the Kings and Timberwolves, who hovered near the league-minimum salary, and the Pistons, who did not make a single roster transaction last season — simply folded up the tents in anticipation of the lockout, a looming ownership change, or both.
Neither league nor union officials would address the details behind the BRI numbers released Friday, but I can already tell you what the NBA’s point about this would be: 1) negotiated salaries are irrelevant when the BRI guarantee gives the money to the players anyway, and 2) the costs to generate that 4.8 percent increase in revenues are so steep that the league can’t do business anymore.
Or, you can look at it this way: What the owners are saying is that despite them all being multi-millionaire or billionaire business men, a bunch of players — most of whom did not finish college if they even went — got over on them at the negotiating table. And they don’t want it to happen again.
The other thing to remember going forward — watch the BRI split in the negotiations. And how they define BRI (the owners want to take out certain expenses, they want it to be more net than gross). BRI is what really matters. All the talk of hard caps and guaranteed contracts and the rest of it are all slaves to the BRI split. What matters is how much of the pie you get, not how you divide up your share.