Make no mistake, the lockout is all about the money. It’s about the split of basketball related income. And while the ownership side preaches “competitive balance” what that really is about is money — keeping big market teams from spending it and using the luxury tax to distribute more of that money to smaller markets.
But there are other issues.
One that has come up more and more is contract length. Chris Sheridan explains it well at Sheridanhoops.com (the whole post is a great breakdown of where things stand).
Under the old system, a player could sign for no longer than five years unless he was a free agent and signed under the Larry Bird exception (re-signing your own free agent), which allowed for a six-year deal. The owners want to reduce the maximum contract length to four years for Bird players and three years for others, while the union wants five-year deals for Bird free agents and four-year deals for other players. The owners have also proposed a “SuperBird exception” that would allow a team to designate one player worthy of receiving an extra year on his contract. The union has accepted the concept to a certain degree, but the sides differ on the length of the contract that SuperBird player would get.
Contract lengths for teams comes back to the ability to protect them from themselves — the owners want to get out of bad deals more quickly. They want to be freed from their mistakes. It makes sense why the players would want to guarantee deals that go longer, so their players are more secure.
Personally, I like shorter deals. For one, it makes the game more of a meritocracy — play well and you get paid, don’t and you don’t. It gives good players more ability to shop their wares around as well, it means more player movement.
But if the owners want this for veterans, it should apply to rookies, too. Right now the best deal in the NBA are guys like Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin still playing on their rookie deals (which they are locked into for at least four seasons) rather than getting market value. Those elite rookies should get paid more quickly.
Basically, the contract length sword needs to cut both ways.