Jeff Zillgitt: Dues for NBPA registered agents could rise from $1,500 to minimum of $5K, max of $15K if NBPA resolution is passed: Agents with 0-9 players: $5,000; Agents with 10-19 players: $10,000; Agents with 20 or more players: $15,000.
Maybe it was only some California dreamin’, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver agreed Thursday with the head of the NBA players union that the next league’s collective bargaining agreement might be negotiated without the usual rancor or threat of a lockout. “Yeah, I hope there is an opportunity for that,” Silver said during his traditional pre-Finals news conference held each year before Game 1. “Certainly we’ve had discussions [with] the players association about getting together as early as this summer to begin talking about how both sides the collective bargaining agreement is working [and] if there were to be changes, what changes we’d like to see made.”
Ken Berger: Adam Silver says he’s spoken with Michele Roberts about beginning to negotiate a new CBA as early as this summer. #getchyapizzaready
Dirk Nowitzki on max contracts in the NBA: “In a way, I understand what the owners want to do. They want to keep it fair for everybody so the big-market teams…like in soccer. Every year it’s the same big spenders spending hundreds of millions of Euros over there. It’s the same teams always winning the league. I think it’s a good approach to have the parity to let everybody have a chance, even though it still might be the same teams. You gotta work within some rules and I actually don’t mind it. It’s not like I think everyone made enough money, even the superstars. Now with the new CBA coming up in 2017 or whatever, they’re already talking about the max money going up to over $30 million. I mean we make more than enough to start complaining…I can see both sides of it. But I don’t want to get carried away here. I think the superstars make enough money in our league.”
That labor deal allows either side to opt out after the 2016-17 season, and new National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has strongly implied, more than once, that the players intend to do so. “And if they do, we’ll deal with that,” Silver said on NBA Sunday Tip. “There were a lot of things we left on the table [in 2011]. We went into collective bargaining seeking—I don’t want to get into it now—but a number of things that we didn’t accomplish. And we compromised. And they compromised as well. “If there’s a feeling that we should reopen the collective bargaining agreement…hopefully, just as we have in the past, we’ll work through all those issues and there won’t be any disruptions in the season.”
The NBA’s new TV deal will inject so much money into the salary cap that a $90 million cap for the 2016-17 season was realistic. What few saw coming: a $108 million salary cap with a luxury tax threshold of $127 million in 2017-18. But according to projections sent by the league to teams, that’s how dramatically the salary cap will increase over the next few seasons.
Knicks owner James Dolan has been dedicating more and more time to his band in recent years, but apparently has been using his music behind the scenes for years. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Dolan was asked about a rumor that during a negotiation he got out a guitar and played a song called ‘Lockout Blues.’ Dolan replied: “That was during the NBA lockout. I was on the negotiating committee.”
“Have you read the CBA?” she asked. “It is a ridiculously complicated and horribly written document. And a good lawyer, and I think I’m a great lawyer, and the first time that I read this thing, I said, ‘Who wrote this?’ Realistically, do I expect the players to read the CBA and understand the CBA? No. I don’t think most of the owners have read the CBA or understand the CBA. But what I do expect the players to understand are those portions of the CBA [that are important to them]. There are probably 10 or 15 issues that the players need to be aware of that’s contained in the CBA, and they are aware of those things. You’ve just got to be realistic. Most people haven’t read the [United States] Constitution but you want to them to understand what their basic rights are, and it’s the same with the CBA.”
Roberts said she understood that perhaps Hunter was not as available to players’ agents about some of their concerns, and she promised a change. But she reiterated that she believes agents are not controlling the players or the union. “While it is true that many of the players have a fabulous relationship with their agents, and they listen to whatever counsel their agents provide, what has been grossly overstated is that they lead the players around by the nose,” Roberts said. “Not at all. In fact, agents are fairly careful about overstepping for fear they will be replaced. If you can establish a dialogue with the players and the players know they can ask me and I will talk to them about anything, they can run what I say to them by their agents. I’ve probably spoken to their agents as well. “I don’t spend time fearful that the agents are going to take over the union. To be perfectly honest, the agents and the union, because we’re both looking out presumably for the players’ best interests, have more in common than not. The tension [previously] was just not being able to be in the room [during discussions].”
However, not once during Silver’s whirlwind tour — that also included a luncheon at the local rotary club — did the topic of a potential NBA work stoppage in 2017 arise in conversation. “Believe it or not — I can’t speak for the union or anything — but it’s not something I’m talking to teams about yet,” Silver said. “I think it’s premature.” Recently, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) made the expected decision to reject the league’s proposal to smooth out the rising salary cap. The NBA’s new media rights deals, worth more than $2.6 billion per year, are expected to take form in the 2016-17 season as well as increase the salary cap. By “smoothing,” the league intended to avoid a dramatic spike in the cap in 2016-17 and progressively spread the money over the first few years of the new TV deal.
The system isn’t supposed to allow high-revenue teams that can live off of their local TV deals and/or gate to pay their superstars. Talent is supposed to flow through all 30 teams, with the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunders of the world to be able to remain competitive with New York, L.A. and Chicago. In the interim, though, teams at least now have firm estimates for 2016 that they can use to decide how to attack free agency that year. “Teams will be more motivated to get quality players under contract as their salary on a percentage basis will decrease significantly in ’16,” one team executive said Friday.
There is the obvious issue of players who won’t be free agents in 2016 sitting on the sidelines while those fortunate enough to be free that summer line their pockets. And there are already murmurs of discontent that the jump in the cap will be primarily enjoyed by the game’s superstars, who’ll all get maximum slices of the pie if they are 2016 free agents — like LeBron James, the NBPA’s newly elected first vice president, who has made it clear he’ll sign a one-year deal with Cleveland this summer in order to be free again in ’16 — at the expense of the rank and file. “Either way, they were getting the short end of the stick,” texted one player, a prominent member of the NBPA, on Sunday. “I mean, you could say the same for ‘Melo (Carmelo Anthony, who signed a five-year deal to remain with the Knicks last summer).”
Arn Tellem With the business booming by all accounts, why would the NBA continue to ignore its own development league? It’s not like the league lacks innovative leadership right now. Commissioner Adam Silver and Players Association executive director Michele Roberts have proven to be progressive thinkers who are open to new ideas. They know the world of college sports has been upended by litigation — not just Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust suit against the NCAA, but the Northwestern University athlete unionization case as well. If the amateur landscape is being reshaped, then why wait to follow the NCAA’s lead? The NBA should act preemptively in what, down the line, will be in its own best interests. The NCAA would then be obliged to adapt some of its more draconian rules to the 21st-century game, making the system more balanced and player-friendly. At the moment, the NBA is abetting the NCAA. It should be the other way around.
So what would be the biggest benefit from my proposal? In my opinion, cap management should be independent of player development. Let’s say an NBA team could spend up to $2 million a year on D-League player pay (not counting the salaries of first-rounders); if that number didn’t count against the actual cap, the team would be more likely to take chances with development. Right now, the 18 current D-League franchises are said to be worth around $5 million each. If the NBA created 12 more teams, each parent franchise could have its own affiliate.
From a player agent’s perspective, Europe offers a bigger immediate payoff. Normally, agents don’t take commissions on D-League contracts and charge second-rounders 2 percent. In the European leagues, the standard 10 percent cut is generally split between the American and European agents. But the best agents help their clients get better in the hope that the improvement will result in a long-term NBA career. If your client is rewarded, you will be, too. To be one of the 60 annual draftees should be an honor, not a burden. Yet it can be downright traumatic for a prospect to get selected late in the final round and then realize his new “team” has no intention of giving him a guarantee (and that he likely must play professionally out of the country). It’s in both the player’s and the league’s interests for him to mature on his own home turf.
Tribune: You have proposed a harder salary cap. Why is that necessary? Silver: We proposed it during the last CBA round because we think it creates more parity around the league. No doubt, there’s a correlation between payroll and success on the floor. For us, the ultimate goal is to have a 30-team league in which teams win championships based on management and not on the the size of their market or the owner’s willingness to lose money in order to win. We look at the NFL system with a hard cap; they have the best parity in all sports, and an “Any Given Sunday” notion. Granted, we’re a very different sport, because a superstar player who plays virtually the entire game can have a far greater impact on a game than in the NFL. But with a harder cap, we can create more parity throughout the league. We’ve done that to an extent with provisions put into place in the new CBA, with a higher luxury tax and additional limitations on which players you can sign.
The new TV deal is going to flood teams with cash, but that doesn’t happen day one – many teams are not going to have the cash flow to meet a $75-$80 million salary without financing some of that. What they need is for tat first TV check to come through and then they have the cash to pay out bigger salaries. That’s why the NBA is pushing for smoothing to make it more seamless to the owners. So I spoke with someone involved in the last labor deal just to get a perspective is using this as leverage for a deal was possible and the stance the league takes in reaching a deal and how the players as a group approached the last two deals simply makes it unrealistic to think that just because NBPA leadership is changing that they will somehow gain the advantage in negotiation – being tougher simply means you lose more. I think there are things the NBA owners could concede to, given where things are financially, but to tip over the table as a negotiation stance seems foolish, but plays back to the concept of not knowing how much you don’t know.
It’s not likely that owners would go after the max-salaried guys. But the game’s stars have long been frustrated by what they believe is an artificial limitation placed on what they can earn, especially compared to players in baseball that make tens of millions more. That will be one of the issues about which James has to get up to speed. “It takes about a year,” Jones said. “You really have to go to the summer meetings to get a full grasp of what the union is about, and then have some time to look at the CBA, look at the issues, look at the areas for improvement and look beyond those things. Because as we see with this new CBA, every deadline, every two months something unfolds that is an unintended consequence of this deal being struck.”
“I’m my own guy,” he said. “I understand how important the business of basketball is. The National Basketball Association is the National Business Association. I understand that. For me, I want to make sure that I’m protected, and the players are protected, and the league. You know, both sides want to continue to build this beautiful league that we have. The All-Star Game was (televised) in more than 200 countries in the world, and we want to continue that. We want to continue the drive what we have. Hopefully both sides can come to an agreement that fits both sides.”
Silver is concerned with keeping the game relevant amid stiff competition from other sports. It’s vital to stay affordable and attractive to an aging population as well as the next generation of hoop fans. It’s entertainment, after all, and Silver wants to keep the NBA in the center of the spotlight. “I realize we have to earn the fans’ support every day,” he told The AP. “Over the course of my business career I’ve seen a lot of great businesses seemingly disappear. We don’t take anything for granted and we realize that especially when it comes to the changing world of television that we have to focus on what’s happening on tablets and smartphones and how young people are consuming media.”
Following the 2010-11 season, owners were able to negotiate a CBA that was more in their favor, cutting the players’ share of basketball-related income from 57 percent to roughly 50, costing them millions in annual salaries. That contract runs through 2021, but with the economic boost — $2.6 billion per year — coming from the TV contract, players will fight harder for a larger portion of the pie. “We want to negotiate a little better than we did last time,” said Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver. “We’re going to be well-equipped to stand toe-to-toe with the NBA and negotiate a fair deal. That’s what we want — just a fair deal.”
What if the Knicks suddenly had the opportunity to sign up two max-contract players? Or if the Lakers could sign three? Or if the already-stocked Bulls could add another All-Star? Where does that leave, say, Milwaukee or Minnesota or New Orleans? “It’s what our system is,” Silver said on Saturday. “The players receive, on a sliding scale, it ranges from 49 to 51 percent, and because of the revenue targets we hit, the players will receive 51 percent of the new television money. At the time we were negotiating the deal, we were not projecting that our television increases would be as large as they are. … (Smoothing) is something we presented to the union, ultimately it is up to them to decide what is in the interest of the players association. I have a feeling there will be additional discussions.”
The Roberts-Silver relationship has, of course, just gotten underway — Roberts was only hired over the summer, and Silver took over for Stern a year ago. They’ll keep talking about some mechanism that can reduce the shock to the NBA’s system as the new money comes in, but it’s difficult to see a compromise there. “I haven’t had a chance to negotiate with the unions directly since they had that meeting (Friday) night,” Silver said. “My sense is there will be additional discussions, but ultimately that is what our system is under the current collective bargaining agreement. It’s like a lot of things in business and in sports, you deal with the situation as it is presented to you. I don’t want to act like it is a terrible problem to have — we’re thrilled that based on the interest in the NBA, we are able to command these big increases in the television market.”
Regardless, players will still get 51% of basketball-related income (BRI). Under the CBA, when player salaries don’t reach 51%, the league cuts a check to players for the difference. The union is opposed to artificially suppressing the salary cap, but it appeared Roberts is willing to read other proposals.
The National Basketball Players Association on Saturday rejected the NBA’s proposal for “smoothing in” billions of dollars from the new TV/media deal into the salary cap. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said the union hired two forensic economic teams to evaluate the league’s proposal and both economic teams recommended the union not accept the league’s proposal.
Silver also touched on the potential for a labor issue in 2017. “I want to be a realist,” he said. “I understand that it’s become a part of sports. I don’t want to tell fans that they should disregard the things that the head of our Players Association is saying. I take her at her word. Having said that, I think that when we get into full-out negotiating — which won’t be for a long time — and we continue to share our financials as we have historically and everyone takes into account, meaning both the teams and the players, how well this league is operating … I’d like to think that calmer heads will prevail and we’ll all realize that we have a great system here and that we shouldn’t screw it up.”