Eddy Curry made $11.2 million last season to do nothing. Gilbert Arenas made $17 million and as three more years on his deal left. Joe Johnson just got more money than LeBron James. And the list goes on and on — did Luke Walton earn $6 million last season?
It is easy to talk about economic dysfunction in the NBA and point to the horrific contracts that seem to be on every team’s roster and say “if the team had just not given out that contract we’d be fine and there wouldn’t need to be a lockout.”
Tim Donahue has been doing a great series of stories on the lockout details over at the Pacers blog Eight Points Nine Seconds. In the latest installment looks at the good and bad contracts around the league in fantastic detail — then reminds everyone that those contracts, while bad for the individual teams, do not change the overall picture.
The players get 57 percent of the basketball related income that comes in to the league. No matter what the owners do.
In 2010-2011, negotiated salaries totaled about $2.02 billion. If my lists above are reasonable, about 37% of that sum was tied up in bad or under-performing contracts. If you assume that only half of that 37% can be considered “wasted” money (because those players of course did offer some production), it means the owners threw away about $375 million in salaries.
Yet, they still had to write a check for $26 million to reach their 57% promise to the players. What this means is that if the owners had made none of their myriad mistakes, they would have realized a savings of … wait for it …
Zero dollars. Yep.
Had the owners been as smart and efficient as they possibly could have been when signing players it would not have provided any savings whatsoever. It merely would have resulted in a larger check being written to the players — even after the escrow payout — to fulfill the 57% of BRI that players are guaranteed under the system currently in place.
I don’t agree with everything Donahue says — he suggests this negates the idea the owners want to protect themselves from themselves with this new CBA. Actually, they do want that, but it is separate from the BRI argument. They want shorter contracts and non-guaranteed deals (or at least ones with buyouts on the back end of deals) so they can get out of terrible contracts they agree to. They want a “get out of jail free” card on those bad deals we all know about.
Also, the cost of players did not force owners to increase spending on non-player expenses at a rate that was faster than revenue growth.
Still, being smarter about contracts would not change the bottom line for a lot of teams. Whether they pay it out in bad contracts or a supplemental check at the end of the season, they’d be paying out 57 percent of the gross to the players either way. Which is why we keep saying to watch the BRI split numbers as the negotiations move forward. Everything else — hard cap, contract length, guaranteed deals — are a slave to the BRI (and how the BRI is defined, the players want to keep it gross revenue, the owners want some expenses removed from it). When that is solved, everything else falls into place fairly quickly.
They are a long way from agreeing on any of that. But at least they are going to talk in the next few weeks.