We’ve kind of known that NBA owners wanted to roll back existing NBA contracts across the board, even though that was never made official.
Now it’s official — Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed it to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
“It’s part of our proposal,” Silver said. “It included a reduction of existing contracts in addition to a reduction of the maximums going forward.”
A salary rollback. You can imagine how well that is going to go over with the Players Association — he everyone, let’s give back part of your salary.
Berger also says the owners first proposal — rejected out of hand by the players — had a “if you do this now it will not be as severe as what we will ask for later” proposal. Basically a Mafia kind of offer. Nice.
How much of a rollback the owners think they can get is just speculation. You hear some guesses at 20 to 30 percent, but remember the NHL got a 24 percent salary rollback at the cost of one entire season. The NBA will not get that much.
But can they get any rollback at all? Especially at a time when the players can argue that revenue is up, the Heat are creating levels of interest not seen since Jordan retired, and you’ve got the owners themselves going on spending sprees. How do you argue the league is hurting when the Memphis Grizzlies give $45 million over five years to Mike Conley?
Clearly the owners want a change in the business model, at a basic level. It’s not going to be a hard cap, but there will be smaller max deals and likely some kind of out on guaranteed deals so that teams are not stuck paying the Eddy Currys of the world the last few years of his deal.
David Stern and now Silver are taking the hard line. Pretty soon you can bet the Players Association will start pushing back publicly. We’ll be seeing a public debate, one that frankly will have little to do with the reality in the negotiating room.
The lockout is coming people. You can see it, off the record everyone expects it. But the question isn’t the July 1 deadline or the loss of Summer League (which will suck for us die hards but does not matter to the casual fan), the question is one year from right now.
If one year from today we’re writing about fights over salary rollbacks and the cap — if games are being missed — the league will have stepped on the golden egg that Miami has become. (Like them or not, they have spiked interest in the league.) It will take five years or more to get back. Players will lose money; the loss of casual fans will hurt the value of the franchises. Sponsors will flee, as will fans. Television ratings will fall. Everyone will lose. Big.
The players need to give back a little. The owners need to stop digging their own hole then expecting to be bailed out like a bank. Right now everyone is posturing, but we are counting on cooler heads. Some days you just wonder if those heads are out there.