There is a growing optimistic camp around the NBA that a new CBA will get done without a lockout in 2017. At the very least without the loss of any games. The arguments as to why are a bit nuanced but boil down to this: There is so much money on the table now for players and owners nobody is going jeopardize it.
If you’re looking for another reason to be optimistic, there is the fact union executive director Michelle Roberts said the NBA and players’ union are already talking about the new CBA. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that, speaking with the Boston Globe, although he said these talks are in early stages.
“Since the day Michele took the job, we’ve been talking on a regular basis,” commissioner Adam Silver told the Globe. “I think we’ve both been clear that our jobs are to bring stability to the league and to continue and build on the success we’ve had. We’re looking forward to engaging with the union. We have a labor relations committee formed. She has her executive committee. We hope to get together this fall and continue the discussions we’ve been having on a staff level.”
These early groundwork talks are not something that has happened before, at least not this early and not this substantively, and that is a good reason for optimism. The sides are likely discussing a lot of potential issues in the CBA, from the age limit to the rookie salary scale.
However, ultimately only one issue matters — the split of basketball-related income (BRI). Under the previous CBA the players got 57 percent of it, under the current deal it’s more of a 50/50 split (it’s a sliding scale of 49-to-51 percent). If one side or the other were willing to give up a couple of percentage points of BRI, they could own every other issue. Money talks. If Silver could talk the owners into letting the players have 53 percent of the BRI, those owners could get the age limit up to 20, even shorter contracts with outs, increased drug testing, and nearly everything else their hearts desired.
Why I don’t have both feet in camp optimism — human greed. For some, enough is never enough (and that’s how a lot of owners got to be billionaires). There are still owners that want a couple more percentage points of the BRI and would like to stick it to the players in the process. There are players willing to dig in their heels — that may not be the majority, it’s not the middle class — and if they get their way this could get ugly.
But there’s real hope that will not be the path, that cooler and wiser heads will prevail. I’m knocking on wood.