‘Substantial faction’ of NBA players reportedly want season to start in January, not December

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Welcome to the “public leaks looking to gain leverage” portion of the negotiation between the NBA players union and the league.

Less than a week after NBA team owners talked and decided to push for a Dec. 22 start to the season — putting games on Christmas Day and reportedly generating an extra $500 million in revenue — comes this report that a “substantial faction” of players wants the season to start on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.

This follows days after Danny Green said LeBron James might want the first month of the season off if the league started in December.

The reality is there is no consensus among players on the issue. As players’ union executive director Michelle Roberts noted recently, there are NBA players — some star players such as Stephen Curry and Trae Young — who have not played since March and are itching to get back on the court. The vast majority of players in the NBA restart bubble in Orlando were eliminated and have been off since before the end of August. Only a couple of teams went deep into October, but that includes the powerful voice of LeBron.

The star players in the “start in January” faction are also less impacted by the possible reduction in salary retained if the NBA does not hit its revenue goals. About half of that extra $500 million in revenue a December start would generate would go toward the players under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Star players with big contracts and role players making closer to the minimum are impacted very differently by the additional revenue.

This is a leverage play by the players. The expectation is the NBA salary cap will remain flat from last season at about $109 million, but of course the players would like that to be higher. They need leverage in the cap negotiations to get that higher number, and “we don’t want to start in December” is an effort in that direction.

There is an expectation that there will be more clarity on both the salary cap and the next season’s format by Friday, Oct. 30, the final day either side can opt-out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (which would throw next season into chaos). That’s not expected, but it does provide a kind of deadline to move negotiations along.