Massive guaranteed contracts are one of the real touch points of this lockout.
Fans and owners can say it’s not fair their team has to pay Eddy Curry or Gilbert Arenas when they are not pulling their weight (or even playing at all).
Rashard Lewis has one of those contracts. The Sonics signed him to a massive deal and next year he’ll be the second-highest paid player in the NBA (behind Kobe Bryant). He was an All-Star but hasn’t been for three years now and is coming off knee surgery. While he still has some value as a stretch four, he’s not the same player he once was (and was never worth the money given).
But Lewis (talking with J.A. Adande of ESPN) wants you to answer a question:
“You sign me to a deal, you think I’m going to say, ‘No, I deserve $50 [million] instead of $80 [million]?’ I’m like, ‘Hell, yeah.’ I’m not going to turn it down. You can’t blame the players. If anything, we don’t negotiate the deal. We’ve got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y’all need to go talk to the teams and the agents.”
He’s right. To a point. Make no mistake, one of the things the owners want in this new Collective Bargaining Agreement is protection from themselves. They want a get out of jail free card on their mistakes, they want to be able to buy out deals they don’t like. Deals like Lewis got. Most fans want that, too — they want their team to be able to rebuild more quickly.
Also know that that Lewis’ contract does not change the underlying economics of the league — 57 percent of Basketball Related Income went to the players in the old CBA. Every year. If Lewis did not have this contract, that money would go to the players in another way (last season the owners had to write supplemental checks because league-wide salaries fell short of 57 percent).
Lewis’ contract is not why we have an NBA lockout. But it’s something the owners want to change. Just don’t blame Lewis for signing the deal.