Michele Roberts says negotiations ‘closer’ on salary cap; season start still up in air

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

There has been talk around the league from sources, and report after report, that the league’s salary cap for next season will stay flat at about $109 million, and there is a push to start a 72-game season on Dec. 22. That is the conventional wisdom around the NBA right now.

It also all has to be negotiated with the National Basketball Players Association.

Those talks are taking place right now, and Michelle Roberts, executive director of the players’ union, spoke with Mark Medina of the USA Today about where that stands. She said things are moving more quickly on the salary cap (something that needs to be in place by the Nov 18 NBA draft to allow for draft-night trades).

“We’re probably closer toward resolving that issue,” Roberts said. “Frankly, that is something we can’t hold off for deciding too much longer.”

The start of the season, however, has a lot more questions. Roberts was honest that there are various opinions among the players she represents about when to start next season.

“I don’t know what I think yet,” Michele Roberts… told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “We are in the throes of discussing it and in the throes of evaluating what it means in terms of the revenue-related issues that have been raised. Frankly, we’re also spending some time trying to get information on what this means in respect to player health…

“The only thing that brings all of those different experiences the players had together is to have sufficient notice on when camp can open,” Roberts said. “There are guys that haven’t played since the suspension of play in March and they may have a different attitude or not. Frankly, I’ve spoken to players that did stop playing at or about that time, and they’re banging down the doors to get back to the practice facility.”

On the flip side of that, the Lakers’ Danny Green said LeBron James and others who played deep into the postseason might want the first month off if the NBA starts in December.

The driving force in all of this will be money — the owners have said a Dec. 22 start would bring $500 million more in revenue into the league next season. The players and owners split basketball related income essentially 50/50 — that’s $250 million to players. That’s a lot of motivation to get a deal done. For the record, Roberts is skeptical there will be fans in arenas for NBA games this season no matter when they start.

There is a Friday deadline for when the owners or players could opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (a date pushed back multiple times), forcing a renegotiation of that document and throwing plans for next season into chaos. No one expects that, but that date serves as a deadline, and we should have a better idea of both the salary cap and where negotiations stand by then.