Since the NBA has had a lockout for 120 days and counting, owners and players are negotiating around the clock trying to make a deal. NBA Commissioner David Stern announced last Tuesday that the league would cancel the first two weeks of the season, and more games would be cancelled if a deal wasn’t made soon. In other words, everybody on both sides should be pushing the panic button. Reminiscent of the 1998 lockout, the sides couldn’t come to an agreement and lost a large portion of the season. They eventually came to an agreement, but the NBA didn’t recover in terms of revenue and fan base for years. Stern was the commissioner for that lockout too, and he knows the consequences of not having a deal done soon.
“There is a portion of our population that does not care for the league because they believe many of the superstars are self-centered,” Los Angeles Lakers coach Jason Leone said. “The lockout does not help to change that perception.”
The stakes are high on both sides, but they can’t come to an agreement on most of the key issues, which is grave news for basketball fans.
“It is disappointing for everyone that both the players and owners have not been able to agree to this point. I think it puts the league in a fragile situation with its fan base,” Leone said. “The NBA makes its name through the promotion of individuals more than its teams in the first place.”
The issue at hand stems from a few different things. The NBA has a reputation for overpaying mediocre talent, such as Rashard Lewis of the Washington Wizards, whom is currently set to make $23 million next year. That is the second-most in the league behind Kobe Bryant. That number is millions more than established superstars like Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony and many other players.
Yet while all of the aforementioned players are household names, the casual basketball fan may not know who Lewis is. Many other non-superstar players are being paid superstar money as well. This is a problem because they essentially become leeches.
Players like Lewis, among other things, are the reason the NBA lost money last year, despite it being one of the most successful seasons in league history. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that only the owners themselves can take the blame for overpaying players.
The owners’ solution to the big problem is a hard salary cap, which means that teams can’t spend over a certain amount of money on players. Any team that is over that amount at the start of the season would have to cut players, or renegotiate a player’s current deal to get it under the cap. This is all a fancy way of saying that the players would be paid less money.
To go along with this, the owners want to lower the maximum amount of years a player can be signed to one team for. The current setup is that a free agent can be signed for five years to a new team, or six years to their current team.
The change the owners are suggesting would have the maximum contract be five years with your current team, and four with a new team.
The players and owners current respective proposals are so far apart that the owners recently refused to even come to the bargaining table to further negotiations. The main piece that is keeping the players and owners apart is the split of Basketball Related Income (BRI). In the current collective bargaining agreement, the split of BRI was 57-43, in favor of the players.
Now, with multiple teams supposedly “in the red” in terms of income, and the NBA itself down $300 million from last year, the owners are asking for a split more in their favor, Stern said. Recently, the players offered to drop this number as low as 53 percent, and the owners suggested an even 50/50 split. The number is very close but neither side is willing to budge. Essentially, both sides are playing an incredibly risky game of chicken, and are willing to lose games, hoping the other side will budge first on the issue.
There is already a lot of talk about players being greedy because they refused to take an even 50/50 split. In the public eye a 50/50 split seems incredibly fair.
Not many people who argue this realize that going from 57 percent to 50 percent of the BRI would amount to a loss of over $800 million in total salaries. That would be about $500,000 cut from every single NBA player’s salary next year.
The National Basketball Players Association argues that they shouldn’t have to pay that extreme of an amount of money to fix a problem that was caused by the owners, themselves.
“From all that I’ve heard I feel as though the owners are more at fault here.” Senior Jose Uribe said. “They make more money than any of the players and they make all of their money off the entertainment value of these players.”
The players and their agents feel the same way, and with a standpoint of not accepting under 53 percent of the BRI, this attitude might make for a long lockout.
The most recent developments have seen the negotiations going nowhere fast, and with time running out another two weeks of games may be cancelled If everything continues as it is the entire season could be in jeopardy.
Let’s hope for the sake of basketball fans, players, owners, and most importantly the stadium employees that make their living during the NBA season that it doesn’t come down to that.