NBA players to vote soon on next season, Jared Dudley says expect Dec. 22 start

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In the end, it’s all about the money, and starting next NBA season on Dec. 22 means more of it for the players and owners to split, so it’s probably going to happen.

That according to Jared Dudley, the Lakers’ forward who is part of the National Basketball Players Association board. Dudley was on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Frank Isola and said just that.

“It’s just a dollars thing… [The players] will vote on it, but to be honest with you there’s no real vote. Nobody is playing 55 games. We’ve got to play 72, it’s the money thing, so we will most likely be on the 22nd.”

NBA players are expected to vote Thursday or Friday on starting a 72-game season on Dec. 22 or starting on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. day, but playing more like 52-55 games, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

For the NBA and the players union, the two major issues in discussions so far have revolved around the start date — Dec. 22 or around Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 18 — and the player payments withholding/escrow amount.

The NBPA has told players on calls, as The Athletic has reported, that the financial ramifications of a December start loom large due to the television networks and league partners wanting a Christmas Day start, the Christmas week generating hundreds of millions of dollars of additional revenue, and the schedule returning to the normal October-June timetable for 2021-22…

The union informed players that there have been fears that if the league does not begin on Christmas, the TV partners may want to renegotiate their deals with the NBA.

The players are getting a detailed update on the plan today, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The owners also are expected to have a conference call on Thursday about the state of the plan, which would have training camps opening in less than a month, on Dec. 1.

It’s the NBA’s television partners — ESPN/ABC and Turner Broadcasting (TNT) — driving the December start. Those networks took a financial bath on the ratings for the out-of-season bubble playoffs and Finals, and now they want games on Christmas Day and a return to the regular October-to-June schedule for 2021-22.

It sounds like they will get their way, to hear Dudley say it.

Some players pushed back on the quick turnaround, especially teams that went deep into the playoffs. Dudley talked about that too on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

“For the Lakers it’s a quick turnaround, but fortunately everyone on the team but me and LeBron are young.”

The real issue for players and the league is the escrow amount of players’ salaries, which Wojnarowski reported will settle at 18%.

Every season, a percentage of every players’ paychecks are held back in case league revenue falls short of projections. The CBA calls for a (roughly) 50/50 split of Basketball Related Income (BRI) between players and owners. In a traditional season, 10% of players’ salaries are held back in escrow. If the BRI projections fall short by, hypothetically, 3%, then the players would lose that much salary to balance the books but get the remaining 7% of their checks back. Most years, they get the entire 10% back. After the hiatus due to the coronavirus, 25% of player paychecks went into escrow, but the players will get most of that extra money back, Charania reports.

Next season, whenever it starts, is expected not to have fans in arenas — 40% of NBA revenue, according to Adam Silver — and combined other issues that has the league thinking it could lose up to $4 billion in revenue. With that, the owners reportedly first proposed a 40% escrow for players’ salaries next season (money the players likely would not get back), and where that number ultimately lands has been the hardest part of the negotiations. Once a player is paid money in a check, the league cannot ask for it back under CBA rules.

According to Charania’s report, the escrow will be increased for three years to smooth out the losses, but the league is proposing 25%, while the players are talking 15%. The sides appear to have settled on three years at 18% (although different reports say for two or three years).

It looks like we may have games on Dec. 22.