NBA Rumor: CBA talks

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Small-market execs concerned about 'buyout market'

Bought-out players typically sign for a prorated portion of the minimum salary, allowing their new teams to add talent without regard for the salary cap. “It’s a definite concern,” says another team executive working in a small market. “Without a doubt, players that are entering the buyout market will only be looking at contending teams. And most of the time, historically, their preference has been to go to the teams in the bigger markets…. And it gives teams an opportunity to sit back and add players on minimum deals that they normally wouldn’t be able to acquire.”

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Aldridge (35) and Griffin (32) are both past their primes, but they are still solid players, and an incredible luxury for a Nets team already stocked with elite scorers. Aldridge’s contract with the Spurs paid $24 million this season (minus a reported $7.25 million buyout). Griffin’s contract was worth $36.8 million this season, and another $38.9 million next season (minus a reported $13.3 million buyout). The Nets just got them both for $2.1 million combined. “This is creating a competitive advantage for the large, destination markets,” says the first team exec. “And it’s another inequity for the small markets.”

When a player grows discontented, he pushes for a trade. When no trade materializes, he pushes to get released or bought out. Teams feel pressure to agree, out of fear of alienating agents or being perceived as indifferent to a player’s wishes. Those things can haunt a team, especially a small-market one, when free agency rolls around. “It’s very, very hard for the small markets or mid markets to say we’re not gonna buy you out,” said one small-market GM, “because you can’t get players there anyway. If you don’t do them favors, an agent will say, ‘I’m not gonna bring my guys to you.’”

But midseason buyouts used to be much rarer. The phrase buyout market was rarely used around the NBA until about 2016, according to a Nexis search, but it spiked two years later and has become a permanent part of the lexicon. Some team executives have pushed for reform, to no avail. One suggestion is to make buyout players ineligible for the playoffs unless they have been released at some date before the trade deadline—say, in early February—thus incentivizing teams to trade for the players. Another option would be to create a compensation system, in which the team signing the player has to send a draft pick (or possibly multiple picks, depending on the player) to the player’s former team.

A third proposal would be to give each team a cap exception specifically for buyout signings—and limit it to one per season, or even one every two years. A fourth option would be to have teams place a blind bid for bought-out players, using whatever cap room or cap exceptions they have available, with the player awarded to the highest bidder. The small-market execs hope the issue gets addressed in the next CBA, which would begin in 2024, after the current deal expires. But they are not particularly optimistic. As they see it, NBA officials are driven by marketing and money, and having marquee names congregate in glamor markets, or on title contenders, is good for ratings.

NBA players want equity in teams

Speaking at a SporticoLive event on Tuesday, Roberts said that while players share in the passion for the game, and in the responsibility of growing the NBA’s multi-billion-dollar enterprise, “what we don’t share is having an equity stake in the teams.” “We’ve got a collective bargaining agreement that says we can’t [own stakes], and hopefully down the road we’ll make some changes,” she said. “The players will be the last to suggest that we want to see the game’s value, or teams’ values, in any way diminish, but it sure would be nice to be able to go to the party.”

The league is also making changes to make it easier to attract minority investors. Last year it greenlit Dyal Homecourt to raise money for a fund that could invest in multiple teams. Now it’s discussing an expansion of that program, where other institutional investors could gain the same right. “If [private equity investment] happens,” Roberts said, “I will have players complain bitterly that, ‘Wow, we helped create this wealth, we helped create this value, and some private equity guy can come in and I can’t?’”

One suggestion: Instead of giving equity to players themselves, give it to the union. That wouldn’t necessarily result in checks to individual athletes, but it would give the NBPA more resources to support players and their communities. Another suggestion: a structure similar to employee stock options, which are common in other some businesses. “There’s a way, in other words, for players to enjoy equity in these teams that may be non-traditional,” Roberts said. “It may be a little different from the way we do it on the private side, but I still think there’s an opportunity for us to talk about, think about and ultimately resolve what I believe to be an inequity in the system.”

To Michele Roberts, though, it’s a clear sign of things to come. Far from a one-time event, she’s confident that “in the next CBA, maybe even next season,” the removal of random marijuana testing for NBA players will be permanent. She points to leagues like the NFL and MLB, which have already made similar moves despite having a much less progressive reputation than the NBA. “We’re not going to expose our players to unnecessary risks,” Roberts said, ostensibly referring to COVID precautions. Her follow-up applies to non-pandemic times, though: “And it is not necessary to know whether our players are positive for marijuana.”

Jared Dudley: Can’t play 50 games .. Thats a hard no for the players! Has to be a min of 72.. the real question is what change in a week? The league kept saying January January.. Everybody knew how big Christmas was and Olympics being late July months ago.. TV just mentioned it now??

“I think those are the two options,” Brogdon said. “We’re either going to start MLK Day, which I think a lot of the players are leaning towards, or we’re going to start the 22nd, Christmas time. But the huge difference is revenue. Revenue, and trying to get the season back on track to start in that September-October range. So I think calculations are being done on both sides on how much revenue would be lost for each potential date, and we’ll have to come to some type of agreement and go from there.”

“We have free agents that are losing their minds, as are teams that want to engage and negotiate. So that’s something we don’t have the luxury of delaying a decision on,” Roberts said. “As tough as this is, it’s not life or death. We want to do it right and not do it quickly if it sacrifices doing it right. In my view, we take as long as we need to take. But we can all agree we don’t want to drag this on unnecessarily. The players are probably the most anxious stakeholders in this business to get this done.”

Under current NBA rules, a player only receives a five-game suspension after their third positive test. “Honestly, I think pot becomes legal in the next collective bargaining agreement,” said Bill Simmons on the Zach Lowe podcast. “That was another lesson we learned from this bubble. They weren’t testing for pot. Could that have been one of the factors [why] quality of play was better? Maybe? Recovery?” “If you’re going to have players live in the bubble in Disneyworld for three-and-a-half money, you’ve got to make some allowances,” replied Lowe.

The NBA and NBPA are working on a resetting of the 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax numbers based upon those audits and financial projections for the next year. This allows for teams, agents and players to have more time to prepare for the financial realities of the pandemic’s impact on the league. As the NBA Draft approaches on Nov. 18 — and free agency expected to start soon after — teams are anxious for the league to reach an agreement with the union and deliver them more certainty on the cap and tax bills.

There are issues that need to be resolved fairly quickly after the Finals end, correct? Michele Roberts: Our players and the teams are on the same place here: We need to get a cap and we need to know what the tax is. I think the teams want to … as quickly as possible after the draft and before free agency … plan and prepare. I don’t blame them. The worst positions for teams to be in is having no certainty. One of the first orders of business will have to be to agree on the cap, agree on the tax, so teams can draft intelligently, trade intelligently and deal with free agency. And our players want to know too. It’s amazing what needs to be accomplished in the next six weeks, but it has to be done. I feel sooner rather than later.

At times, the fear of a lockout has also come up. Michele Roberts: Nobody wants that. When the players ask me now: Michele, do you think the owners are going to try to lock us out? I use the analysis: the revenue hit is not to be ignored. But do I think we’re not going to rebound and make money again and again soon … I do think we will. You don’t kill the golden goose. I would bet there is not a chance of a lockout. If it happens, it will be absolutely because they are unreasonable and folks without any foresight are driving the train. I happen to think that Adam is neither of those.

Michele Roberts: Adjustments are going to have to be made so we can all walk away with some pain but not unfairly distributed. We’re talking about doing this in a way that doesn’t do significant damage to the players or owners. Here’s the key: Not everyone enjoys the longevity that someone like LeBron (James) does. Most guys are not going to play 15 years, 16 years, 17 years. Our shelf life is less than five years. The good news about being a team owner is you can own that team for decades and that team’s value has, in recent years, increased year-over-year. I don’t think the virus is going to impact these teams moving forward long term.

How do you guys go about closing any gaps? Michele Roberts: It comes down to if it’s a $6 billion pie and our owners are entitled to 49 percent, and they’re already committed to $5 billion in player salaries and fixed costs for example, where’s the rest of their money? There’s ways to take that $6 billion and get to their 49 percent. One of the ways to do it is to slash player salaries. I got to deal with a constituency that, you slash their salaries, this may be for many of my guys on the last two or three years of their careers. Is there a way to deal with that? And we’ll never say to the owners: Y’all just going to have to eat the loss. Who’s going to do that? They’re not stupid. They’re not just going to say, OK, yeah you’re right, we’re just going to have to lose a couple billion dollars on our own. That’s not going to happen. Instead what you say is, can we figure out a way to manage that so there is no loss, but there isn’t an immediate pay day.

“We have to talk about money and what we’re going to do about this reduced revenue situation,” Roberts said. “It can be easily resolved if everyone agrees.” Her goal, for now, is to simply find a way to get into next season. Start there, and the rest could be easier to figure out. “If there’s an effort to do more than that, then it’s going to be more complicated,” Roberts said. “Then we’re back to full-blown CBA negotiations. And that’s not something that’s going to be resolved in a couple of weeks or a couple of months.”

“There’s no doubt there are issues on the table that need to be negotiated,” Silver said during his annual press conference, prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals Wednesday night. “I think it’s — we’ve managed to work through every other issue so far. I think we have a constructive relationship with them. We share all information. We look at our various business models together. So I think while no doubt there will be issues and there will be some difficult negotiations ahead, I fully expect we’ll work them out, as we always have.”
5 years ago via ESPN

When reached for comment, the NBA indicated that wearables are prohibited for in-game use. In the NBA’s Operations Manual, all specialized equipment must be approved in advance by the Basketball Operations Department before a player can wear it during a game. The question becomes whether a WHOOP device under a sweatband on a wrist is classified any differently than a splint or padded cast — which are very much allowed. The players’ union, sources say, considers it an “open issue” until July 1, when the new CBA kicks in, as there is no language in the current CBA that outright bans wearables.
5 years ago via ESPN

Speaking at his annual state-of-the-NBA address on the eve of Sunday’s All-Star Game, Silver was asked about the age minimum and if it’s an issue that doesn’t need a collective bargaining agreement negotiation to revisit. “Well, first of all, we absolutely need the union in order to revisit the age,” Silver said. “The current age minimum of 19 years old, but something Michele and I discussed directly — and this is different than last time we negotiated a Collective Bargaining Agreement — is that rather than say to you that talk to us in seven years when we sit back down to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, I think she and I both agree that it’s the kind of issue that needs to be studied, in essence, outside of the bright lights of collective bargaining.”

Michele Roberts: It’s the same thing with any negotiation — you need to understand what the person on the other side of the V needs to get done, can’t do, probably will. And as long as that person on the other side of the V is a) relatively intelligent, b) honest, which I think is probably key, and c) is equally willing to appreciate what you have to be mindful of, then you can get things done. I found Adam to be honest, and that was, as I said, the key to me. I suggested, as we got to know each other, I made a promise to him that I would never lie to him, and if I did, he probably would know that I was lying to him. And I asked him to do the same. We were able to operate from a position of respect, and I think our teams did the same. Just don’t hide anything, don’t alter the truth, tell me what you really think, and I’ll tell you what I really think, and let’s see if we can find some common ground. They had a good team. They’re pretty sharp over there. And we’re pretty good, too.

MR: We had, internally, calls and memos with our guys to make sure we understood what they wanted and for them to make sure they understood the league’s position, and sort of the historical issues. There were insights that they brought to the discussions that, frankly, I couldn’t, because I’ve been a fan for the last 50 years. They’ve been playing for 10, 12. It would have been a different negotiation, I’m confident, if we hadn’t taken in what the players had to say, or taken advantage of the contributions they could make. They were fabulous, fabulous — up until the very last second when we said we have a deal, I was on the phone with Chris, [James Jones], ‘Melo, thank goodness, was in New York, LeBron was weighing in. I know every single member of the Executive Committee was involved — including Stevie Blake, until he left the game.

Me: Was it at all odd seeing Jordan sitting there, representing the owners’ position? MR: I thought it was fabulous. One of the things — it was clear — was that he was the one person in the room that could see both sides. And I think everybody was mindful of that. So when Michael spoke, everybody really listened. Because he just had the benefit of being both a player and now an owner. I was absolutely enamored with the fact that he was there. Because he brought with him a certain amount of credibility that I could both respect and the players could respect. I don’t know why he became a member of the Negotiating Committee, but it was a good move.

The 2017 CBA added a veteran-designated-player rule to further help teams retain their biggest stars, a particular benefit to the small-market teams that tend to lose those free agents to bigger markets. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports: Yet, privately, there are still small-market executives who will tell you that the NBA and players association didn’t go far enough in this agreement. Some smaller-market executives still believe they’ll struggle to keep stars, think the league should go as far as skewing salaries for players on teams in higher-tax-bracket states, eliminating the edge that places like Texas and Florida have with no state income tax.
5 years ago via ESPN

With Jordan, now the league’s most famous owner, working over his fellow co-owners to lend a very influential assist along with current stars like Chris Paul, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony voicing their desire to take care of the previous generations of NBA players, the NBA will become the first professional sports league to offer retired players medical benefits as part of a comprehensive and enhanced player retirement package. “That was kind of a big point for us to be able to give back to retired players,” Anthony told ESPN concerning the recent collective bargaining agreement negotiations. “Every league sees what happens to retired players after a certain period of time. But for us to be able to take care of those guys, I know how much it means to them.”

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of collective bargaining negotiations. Rockets officials would not comment about any part of the CBA, ratified by the NBA board of governors on Wednesday. But one individual, speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “We would probably give him a 100-year extension.” The Rockets could have preferred to wait on a new deal for Harden, since the extension he signed in July keeps him under contract through at least the 2017-18 season.

The NBA’s new labor deal, agreed upon last Wednesday, will create for the first time an independent medical panel to settle life-and-death cases, according to details obtained by Bleacher Report. When a player is declared medically “unfit” to play, his case can be referred to the panel by his team, by the league or by the players association. If the panel determines the player has a life-threatening condition, it could bar him from playing in the NBA again.
5 years ago via AP

A new labor deal in the NBA is on the verge of being finalized, after owners voted Wednesday to approve a proposed seven-year collective bargaining agreement that was tentatively agreed to last week. The owners’ vote was unanimous and players are expected to finish casting their ballots in the coming days, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the NBA nor the National Basketball Players Association has revealed specifics about the voting process publicly.

The National Basketball Association’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a special provision that grandfathers Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook into the windfall of super-max contract extensions available to several star players this summer, league sources told The Vertical. This summer, Westbrook could sign a five-year, $219 million contract extension that would begin in the 2018-19 season. He’ll make $28.5 million in 2017-18.

Because Durant would need to be signed with cap space, the large cap holds of both Shaun Livingston ($10.9 million) and Andre Iguodala ($16.7 million) would need to be renounced. Curry’s $18 million free-agent cap hold will now be replaced with a likely $36 million salary. The remainder of the roster would be filled using the room mid-level exception and minimum players, meaning the total committed salaries for next season will likely be $135 million. Golden State will likely be in the luxury tax with a $21.5 million penalty. A. Under contract Kevin Durant $36,050,000. Stephen Curry $36,050,000. Klay Thompson $17,826,150. Draymond Green $16,400,000.

On Wednesday, the NBA and NBPA agreed to a new labor deal, to be formalized and ratified by January 13. Basketball Insiders obtained a copy of the term sheet and detailed a number of rule adjustments (Understanding Terms of NBA, NBPA’s Agreement). One area of significant change in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) revolves around veteran extensions. A player on a contract of three or four years in length will now be eligible to sign an extension after the second anniversary of signing their current deal. The existing rules only permit extensions after the third anniversary of a four-year deal.

Rosters will increase from a minimum of 13 players to 14 but the number of empty roster charges (at $815,615 for the 2017-18 season) will remain at 12. If a team does not reach the minimum salary, they are obligated to compensate the players on their roster for the shortfall. The new agreement clarifies that the additional payment cannot push a players’ total salary over their individual maximum. The fines for suspensions will be reduced to 1/145th of a players’ base compensation, although it will remain at 1/110th for suspensions of 20 games or more.

Penalties for using a steroid, performance-enhancing drug will be 25 games for a first-time offender and 55 for a second. The NBA has also agreed to return half of the penalties for 24 flopping fines to the impacted players. In turn, the NBPA will drop its pending “Unfair Labor Practice charge.” Moving forward, both sides will collectively bargain over potential penalties for on-court conduct rules. While the moratorium will end on July 6, the NBA will determine the salary cap for each coming season before the moratorium begins – on July 1.

“Being able to meet people halfway is important during an agreement, during negotiations, but we’ve got to realize where we came from,” said McCollum. “We were getting 57 percent of the BRI, so technically (the owners) are still winning. But we’re all winning, at the end of the day, we all get to play a game we love for a living, but old times were 57 percent… Obviously we have lawyers and we have attorneys to kind of dig into the paperwork and show some things, because we get 49 percent (of BRI) after expenses. And you know how businessmen are, they know how to write off a lot of things to make it look like it’s not actually going into their pockets. Interesting to see how we deal with that.”

In January, Wall signed with agent Rich Paul, who under the old CBA had negotiated hefty deals for clients who have not reached Wall’s status, among them Eric Bledsoe (five years, $70 million with the Phoenix Suns) and Tristan Thompson (five years, $82 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers). When his time comes, Wall will merit a sizable contract — and if an NBA honor activates the option of a designated veteran extension, then all the better. “I just look past it and try to play the game,” Wall said. “Be the best I can and help my team and try to make the playoffs. If it happens, it happens. But it would be a great honor to be able to get a bigger extension with those things involved into it.”
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Rick Carlisle on Pacers veterans: They were disappointed with how things have gone

What’s the message the veterans are giving you about the last two years? Rick Carlisle: They were disappointed with how things have gone. We’ve got to work at developing a style of play so we can maximize what we have here. Exactly what that means as far as number of wins or the playoffs, I don’t know. I’m reluctant to get into that kind of stuff, because sometimes you can set goals that are too low.