Players union draws line in the sand: no hard salary cap or rollbacks

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Right now, the negotiations between the owners and the NBA Players Association is a lot of posturing.

In any situation, there needs to be a deadline to spur real negotiations. Technically, for the NBA that deadline is July 1, when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires and a lockout would start. In reality, the real deadline is when camps open and then games would start — a loss of Summer League will be forgiven by fans, a loss of regular season games would be a much deeper wound.

So with the knowledge that we are still posturing, we bring you Billy Hunter, executive director of the Players Association, laying out the union’s position and counter offer to the owners in a podcast sent to players (via Howard Beck at the New York Times and Art Garcia at NBA.com).

The big issues were that the union would not accept a hard salary cap nor rollbacks on existing contracts, Hunter told the players.

The union is offering flexibility on the big number — the percentage of Basketball Related Income (BRI) that has to go to the players. Currently the players get 57 percent of that money. What Hunter proposes is that 57 percent is the ceiling but to create a new floor so players could make a smaller percentage of the pie.

The union also offered to loosen trade restrictions — currently teams making a trade have to match salaries within 125 percent, the union wants to double that number. It would make it easier for teams to unload contracts if they so wished.

The union has offered to reduce the maximum length of mid-level exception contract to four years (currently five) but they want a second one.

The players also want the age limit put back down to 18 and for owners to do more increased revenue sharing.

That is all radically different than the owners first offer last All-Star break, which called for a rollback of existing player salaries of more than one-third, a hard salary cap, an elimination of the mid-level and all cap exceptions, and a reduction in the length of guaranteed contracts.

The owners have not submitted a new proposal since then and a number are willing to take a more hardline stance to reverse what they see as a growing financial problem with the league.

Hunter says that with league revenues increasing year after year, there is no need for this kind of radical restructuring. Owners say revenue is not the issue, it’s expenses.

Lockout people. Learn to love it. Or at least tolerate it. Because it is coming.