It was a big day off the court in the NBA Wednesday, and that’s where we learned the most.
1) There will be peace in our time — NBA owners, players tentatively agree to new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There will be no lockout this time around. With both the owners and players swimming in the flood of cash from the new television deal, nobody wanted to screw up a good thing, so the two sides agreed to a new NBA CBA far earlier than anyone can ever remember. Give some credit to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players’ Association director Michele Roberts for not letting the old scar tissue of their predecessors impact the new talks. While both the players and owners need to ratify the deal, that is seen as a formality.
This is a seven-year deal, and while we don’t know all the parameters here are the key things we do know.
• This is the big one — the roughly 50/50 split of revenue will remain (the players get between 49-51 percent of “basketball related income” depending on if the league meets revenue goals). This is always the ultimate stumbling block and everything else is secondary. The fact the two sides agreed on this split quickly — in part because the rising tide of the new national television contract has floated all boats — made the rest of this relatively straightforward.
• The college one-and-done rule will remain. For now. Both sides will continue to look at the issue. Nobody likes it much, but the players want the age limit gone, the owners want it bumped up to 20, and neither side apparently was willing to give up enough on other issues to move the needle. It’s a negotiation, if one side really wants the limit moved they are going to have to give something else up.
• We should just call this the Kevin Durant Rule: Teams can now choose a “designated veteran” and offer said veteran a much larger and longer extension (maybe up to six years) than could previously be done. That extension can be a full max deal (35 percent of the cap) even if the team does not have cap space. However, the player must meet certain criteria, for example having made an All-NBA team. This is not like the NFL’s designated player rule where the player is locked in once selected, this is simply a larger incentive for him to stay. The first test cases with this will likely be Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins (the question in both of those is would the player take it or is he willing to make a little less to get out of town).
• The NBA players’ union now will handle negotiations for player-likeness rights (such as those used in video games). This is something the union wanted and was that last-minute snag in negotiations the past couple of weeks. While the players agreed to the 50/50 revenue split, the player likeness licensing is a place the union can make more money, and this is a growing area of revenue.
• The preseason will be shortened by three or four games, allowing the regular season to start a week to 10 days earlier. That additional time will be used to reduce the number of back-to-backs (see item No. 1 above) and nearly eliminate four games in five nights situations.
• Under the old deal, some salary cap exceptions were locked in — for example, the rookie scale pay numbers — and did not change. Now all those exceptions (which also includes the veteran minimum, mid-level exception, and so on) will be tied to the salary cap. As it goes up or down, so will those numbers.
• The scaled salaries for rookies will increase.
• There will be some changes to cap holds that will make it harder to do what Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond did with their rookie deals, delaying signing an obvious max extension to allow the team to use that cap space to put a better team around them. In the short term, like this coming July, the cap hold increases could make it difficult for the Warriors to keep Andre Iguodala and other role players around Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (both of whom are up for massive new paydays).
• The NBA and players’ union will form a committee to study the use of wearable tracking devices — which monitor heart rate, physical fatigue, and much more — during games as well as practices. Teams want this data and cite health concerns — they say they can prevent more injuries if they know a player is more fatigued than he lets on. Players are concerned the data will be used against them in contract negotiations. The sides will try to find a middle ground.
• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it, particularly older ones that have been out of the league for some time.
• NBA teams can have up to three “two-way contracts” that will pay between $50,000 and $75,000. This is something the NBA borrowed from the NHL. These players will have two salaries on the books, their D-League salary and an NBA salary (the minimum, most likely) and will get pro-rated portions of said salaries depending on where they are playing. Teams will be able to move the player between the leagues much more freely.
• There will be changes to the NBA’s domestic violence policy which will clarify the disciplinary procedures in dealing with domestic violence incidents. This will include fines and suspensions, but also will go beyond that and include counseling and other steps to end the cycle.
2) To celebrate the new CBA, the league’s biggest stars were given the night off. Apparently. Wednesday night saw a large number of big stars being rested. And yes, it’s December 14th, we’re not a third of the way into the season yet, and rest is a big talking point. Which is not what Adam Silver wants.
The most discussed rest was Cleveland, where Tyronn Lue sat LeBron James Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving for the second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home with Memphis (Marc Gasol also sat out that game, due to injury). I get why Lue did this — studies show a player is three times more likely to be injured on the second night of a back-to-back and Lue isn’t playing for the regular season, he’s focused on having all his key guys healthy and rested when the playoffs start. He is looking at the schedule, his big picture goals, and choosing rest. From his perspective, it’s the smart play. But this was Cleveland’s one trip to Memphis this season, there were fans that bought tickets just to see LeBron James, and he did not suit up. The league did not put it’s best product on the floor. That is bad optics for the NBA.
Also on Wednesday night, the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins and the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge were rested. The new CBA will stretch the season out by a week to 10 days, which will reduce the number of back-to-backs and ideally reduce the number of nights stars are rested. But it will not eliminate the problem, and there is no easy answer here for a league trying to balance player safety and giving the fans what they are paying to see.
3) There were games Wednesday night, too, where John Wall, Hassan Whiteside had huge nights. There were some monster stat lines around the NBA Wednesday night. James Harden racked up a triple-double leading Houston to its eighth straight win. There were some monster stat lines on Wednesday night — Houston’s James Harden had a triple-double of 15 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 132-98 win over the Kings — that is eight straight wins for the red-hot Rockets, who hit 22 threes in that game.
Then there was John Wall, who had 25 points, 10 assists, and seven steals to get the Wizards a big win over the Hornets.
Also, Hassan Whiteside had 26 points and 22 rebounds leading Miami past Indiana at home.