NBPA director Michele Roberts on max salaries: “The premise offends me”

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In 2017, the NBA and the NBPA both have the option of opting out of the current collective bargaining agreement. There will be many issues to resolve when the league and players’ union get back to the negotiating table — the players will want more money now that the league has a lucrative new TV deal; Adam Silver has been adamant that he wants to raise the age restriction from one year to two.

Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com recently conducted an extensive interview with new NBPA executive director Michele Roberts that covered many of these issues and more, including her opinion of the NBA’s current max-contract system:

CS: “Your thoughts on the max salary?”

MR: “I have difficulty with rules that suggest that for some reason, in this space, we are not going to allow you to do what is ordinarily allowed in every other aspect of American life – you can work and get compensated at the level that someone thinks you’re worth being compensated at. And for all the reasons that it might be reasonable, it still – as a base – the premise offends me. So for me, there needs to be a justification that is substantial. And I’m told that in large part it’s because there’s an inability on the part of some owners to control their check-writing habits. So that’s where I am. Now, there’s a history that led up to max contracts, and I’m not going to pretend it’s not significant. But if you ask me off the cuff, that’s my response.”

Currently, the league limits the salaries of the highest-paid players to a certain percentage of the overall salary cap and limits the annual increases. For players with six or fewer years of experience, the most they can receive in the first year of a new max contract is 25 percent of the salary cap. Players with seven to nine years of experience can make 30 percent of the cap, and players with 10 or more years of experience can make 35 percent of the cap.

Many of the league’s highest-paid and most visible superstars have spoken out against this system, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested that players should give up guaranteed contracts if they want maximum salaries eliminated; Kevin Durant did not take kindly to that idea.

In the coming years, as 2017 approaches and the TV deal kicks in in 2016, there will be plenty more talk about this and other issues. Let’s hope this time the two sides can resolve their differences without losing any games.