Raul Barrigon: Adam Silver on CBA deal talks with Michele Roberts: “We continue to talk all the time. I think Michele Roberts and I both have the same goal which is to avoid any sort of work stoppage. And we know one of the ways to avoid a work stoppage is to talk early and often. And we’re doing that.”
Q: How confident are you that the NBA will avoid another work stoppage when it comes time to negotiate a new CBA? Paul Allen: “That is so hard to predict and I’m sure if I did predict it, I’d get fined. So I’m not going to try to predict. Clearly the league and the players are doing very well financially with these new contracts. So there are ongoing discussions but I can’t comment any further than that.”
The league made so much money last season — and that’s (ital.)before(endital) the new TV money kicks in — it had to write the players a check for more than $57 million, which the players then split amongst themselves. That was what the league owed the players after giving them their 50 percent of BRI for last season. The players can receive up to 51 percent of BRI in a given year if revenues exceed projections. When that happened last season, the league was on the hook for that $57 million. And 1/30th of the shortfall paid to the players is also added to the following season’s salary cap, which is why there was an 11th-hour bump of almost $2 million to next season’s salary cap, raising it to $70 million. In addition, the players got back all of the escrow — 10 percent of their combined salaries — that they give annually to the owners in case revenues are less than expected. The huge increases in revenues came from spikes in the gate (around $100 million more in ticket sales than in 2013-14, according to a source), local television rights deals ($70 million more) and national TV increases ($20 million). The gate spikes were led by the Cavaliers, with James back in Cleveland, and the Hawks, whose surge to the top of the Eastern Conference standings led to a record number of Philips Arena sellouts.
Despite their league-leading outlay, the Lakers, I’m told, are in support of the current revenue sharing system. They understand the need for some level of revenue sharing in order to have competitive balance, and they aren’t seeking substantial changes in the current system “because it’s working,” according to a league source. They have seen how revenue sharing has helped Memphis compete far into the playoffs, and helped Milwaukee score a highly sought after free agent this summer (Greg Monroe).
The players can opt out of the current 10-year pact in 2017, but the NBPA would rather have a new collective bargaining agreement in place before opting out. Roberts told the Globe in June that the sides would begin negotiating in August. “Since the day Michele took the job, we’ve been talking on a regular basis,” commissioner Adam Silver told the Globe. “I think we’ve both been clear that our jobs are to bring stability to the league and to continue and build on the success we’ve had. We’re looking forward to engaging with the union. We have a labor relations committee formed. She has her executive committee. We hope to get together this fall and continue the discussions we’ve been having on a staff level.”
The league and the union have not held a formal bargaining session, per sources on both sides, though they are working to schedule one soon. Both sides have flip-flopped between apocalyptic rhetoric and nicey-nice talk, and we should always assume all public comments are negotiating tactics designed to nudge the scales of leverage. Perhaps Roberts recognizes the players are munching half of an ever-growing revenue pie and don’t have the resources to outlast hawkish owners who might want to hog more than half of that pie. Roberts may be pressuring Silver to massage those hawks so the money train can roll on.
Roberts confirmed via email that she and Silver have indeed talked about those specifics, but she added a cautionary note: “That is accurate,” Roberts says. “That is the goal. We did discuss that timeline, though it is not a deadline. It is more aptly described as an aspiration or goal.” Silver declined comment through a league spokesman.