Tag: NBA owners

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls - Game Two

The NBA owners and the myth of competitive balance


The owners got their money and it was not enough. The players offered to come far enough down on the split of revenue to cover all of the owners claimed losses of $300 million a year.

And it was not enough. The owners demanded changes to the system so that any team can compete for a title if well run. The Bobcats want to compete with the Lakers.

It’s all crap. First off, if you are defining competitive balance as parity like the NFL has, you will never have it in the NBA. If you define competitive balance as the chance for any franchise to win if well managed, it already exists.

Closer games and more teams able to compete for a playoff spot is not going to increase NBA popularity — the NBA is a star-driven league and its popularity will always ebb and flow with those stars, how they do and where they play.

There have been a couple great blog posts on this issue in recent days (by two of the best in the business).

One talks about the importance of the draft, as reported by Henry Abbott at TrueHoop.

Sources say the Bobcats, for instance, feel they lose so many games because they will never be able to afford the Lakers’ payroll. But basketball is not baseball. The Bobcats have not been forced to give up top young talent to basketball’s equivalent of the Yankees. ….

The problem the Bobcats — and most consistently bad teams — have is that they have made bad decisions, which is especially noticeable in the draft. From 2004 to 2008, Charlotte had a top 10 pick — the holy grail of NBA assets — every single year. They picked second, fifth, third, eighth and ninth. Picks like those are the way teams get superstars. They are the way small-market teams like the Thunder (thanks to Kevin Durant) and Spurs (Tim Duncan) have been able to compete with small payrolls.

And out of all that, the Bobcats got Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Adam Morrison, Brandan Wright and D.J. Augustin. Only one of those players even plays for the Bobcats anymore, and none are centerpieces of any franchise. For the same money they paid their picks, the Bobcats could have employed Rajon Rondo, Joakim Noah and Nicolas Batum. Instead, the Bobcats’ own decisions left better players to other teams.

Once you get that star player via the draft (or stripping your payroll down so far you can attract someone as a free agent), then you spend to win. Which is why you can say teams that spend win in the NBA, but you confuse causation and correlation, as Zach Lowe points out at Sports Illustrated.

The Mavericks, Lakers and Knicks are the prime examples of (big spenders) the last decade. These teams do have an advantage. They can use the mid-level exception every season and re-sign all their own guys via Bird Rights, though that, too, is a function of profitability. They can act as predators, sending unproductive guys on expiring contracts (i.e. Kwame Brown, Erick Dampier) to cheap teams in exchange for productive guys on big contracts (Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler)…

But I don’t see any of these rules tilting the balance in any significant way. Why? Because we’re talking about rules that might limit big spenders from signing expensive fringe starters (Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal, Trevor Ariza), so-so bench players (Steve Blake, Quentin Richardson, James Posey) and out-and-out busts. We are not discussing solutions that would change the distribution of star players….

Again, I’m open to the idea that putting more Artest-level cogs on the open market might help competitive balance a bit; the Mavericks are proof that if you keep spending to adjust your mix of such players, you might eventually find the right ingredients. But they are also proof that a top-20 Hall of Famer remains the most important cog of a champion.

The owners are fighting for a system that will help save them from bad general managers and poor basketball decisions. That doesn’t exist. The Clippers squandered great picks for years, but a few years back they started to get it right (Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, etc). And what do you know, the Clippers are on the verge of going from a low payroll to high payroll team. Because you spend when you have the cogs in the NBA.

Nothing in the new CBA is going to change that. This is not worth being still locked out over.

NBA owners going to sit back, wait out players

Mark Cuban, David Stern

The story today on NBA lockout moves is the same story we may be seeing for the next few weeks:

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

The NBPA filing a disclaimer of interest and walking away from the talks on Monday, followed by antitrust suits against the league, has not moved the owners one bit. Rather the opposite — the owners have retrenched. I have heard in the last few days that the owners are going to sit on their hands and wait for the players to come back to them. I’m not alone. This paragraph from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo pretty much sums up what everyone is hearing.

League officials aren’t rushing to meet again with the players prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and are waiting on former Players Association executive director Billy Hunter to contact commissioner David Stern about restarting talks again. The owners have little, to no interest, in negotiating a settlement with the players’ prominent new front man, antitrust attorney David Boies..

Exactly. The owners are done talking, the hardliners have won and they are looking to break the union. There will be talks again, my guess is that around the second week of December the two sides will sit down. Now who is talking — Billy Hunter or the union attorneys — and what the starting point of those negotiations are remain to be seen. But eventually there will be talks.

It’s all frustratingly stupid. The owners could have offered an olive branch to players at the end of the negotiations and we’d be talking free agents and trades right now, not lawsuits. The players could have read the owners better (maybe by decertifying July 1), or they could have counter-offered what Stern put forward rather than dissolving the union. Both sides could have acted like rational adults.

But for now it’s not good news, it’s no news. As it’s going to be for a while.

Former NBA union head no fan of decertification strategy


A couple months back when PBT spoke with Charles Grantham, former head of the National Basketball Players Association — the players union that is now the players trade association — he said that there were some hills worth dying on for players in these labor talks. Things like guaranteed contracts or the owners’ idea of decoupling revenue and the salary cap were issues the players could not give in on.

But there comes a time when it’s about playing basketball if you get those things.

Which is why Grantham told the USA Today he didn’t love the union’s move of dissolving (via a disclaimer of interest) and having the players sue the league on antitrust grounds. He thinks the union is missing the big picture.

“I certainly think the overall players should’ve had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to proceed. … I’m perplexed as to how we go from agreeing to 50% ready to move forward and not recognizing that you can’t get more than that no matter what the system says. When you start talking about missing the season, you have to consider a cost-benefit analysis. How much is it going to cost me as a player to get a system change? Is it worth me losing up to 25% of my salary?

“I’m not certain this move is good for the them. I can see where it’s good for the antitrust attorneys who might be charging as much as $1 million a week in fees or the agents who see that seven-point swing (from 57% to 50% BRI) as adding up over time as quite a bit of money. But it also is money that hasn’t been earned. Theoretically you’re losing that money, but at the same time the pie is bigger and the average salary is increasing.”

Grantham seems to believe — as do I and some agents, as well as the owners — that if David Stern’s last offer had been put to a vote of the players, it would have passed. Not overwhelmingly, but it would have passed. And in the long haul the players would be better off on the courts than in the courts.

Make no mistake, the owners think they can wait the players out, that the players will eventually cave. Stern tried to get a deal that he thought his owners would approve, but he didn’t give the players a way to save face in there. So the players rejected it and went to the courts. Now multiple sources are saying the owners are dug in and going to let the players miss another check or two (Dec. 1 is the day the players would have been paid). They are going to wait out the players.

When you stand back and look at the big picture, you wonder if Grantham isn’t right and the players shouldn’t have voted on the last deal.