Q: Will the players get a cut? Brian Windhorst: Absolutely. Sponsorships fall under basketball-related income (BRI), and the players get 50 percent of that money. Also, in the recent collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the union negotiated that income from gambling falls under BRI and will be shared with the players. This is the new vein of revenue for the league. Q: What impact will that have on the salary cap? And when? Brian Windhorst: After a modest increase in the cap this season, the NBA is projecting the salary cap to inflate by $7 million in 2019. The league hasn’t explained the reason, but some of that projection might include some anticipated new gambling-related revenue. It will probably take a year or two for states to get operations fully up and running before possible ancillary money flows to the NBA.
Q: What is the league doing to protect the integrity of the game? Brian Windhorst: The league already hires firms to monitor all legal betting across the globe. I’ve personally seen the operations at one of them — Sportradar, in London — and it’s impressive. It has busted match-fixing in many sports. Of course, these firms can’t monitor illegal betting, which is why moving this to a legal framework is better for everyone. But the league is pushing for regulations in all states, such as banning certain prop bets that could be easy to manipulate. For example, who gets called for the first foul in a game is somewhat ripe for exploitation, so the league wouldn’t want to allow bets like that. For other in-game wagers — like, say, who will score the next basket — the league has sought to keep relatively low limits on the size of those bets to fight the temptation for corruption. It’s hard to try to buy off a player making millions if the most anyone can spend on a prop bet is $100.
The mental wellness program — the product of almost a year of discussions between the league and union that began as the sides were working out the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams, if they want. Existing team physicians and other resources will still be available to them, too. The new director will have authority and a significant role for players who seek his help. But it is not clear if the director will have the ability to unilaterally decide if a player dealing with a mental wellness issue should not play in a given game or games to deal with those issues, regardless of what the player’s team medical staff may think.
Dooling will report to the new Director of Mental Health and Wellness, serving as liaison between players and the program resources. “I can respond and I’m still pretty relevant,” Dooling said. “I played against most of these guys. They see a safety net in me. I’ll be providing them with support and resources. We’ll be able to respond in real time, not only doing preventative stuff, but infrastructure that will outlive all of us … in 20 years, this program will be further advanced than it is now. It will be able to help not only ballplayers but society in general. If we start taking it seriously, society will follow that. We have the capacity to scale our model. The most important thing is to get that director in place so we can grow organically.”
The Indiana Pacers, for example, hired Dr. Chris Carr as their Team Performance Psychologist in 2011. He has an office at the team’s practice facility, and frequently travels with the team on the road. “I think he’s a tremendous resource for all our guys,” Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said Sunday. “At some level, everybody uses him for a sounding board, some deeper than others. We give our players full access. We talked about it early, and our players feel like it’s important, too. Not only do we give them the resource, but they have to use it.”
“Think of what Kevin Love said about his panic attack, and think of the pressure that it added that he couldn’t tell his teammates,” White said. “Think of the consequences of him not being able to tell his teammates. Those same consequences, you could map onto management as well, and the ownership. Ideally, and what we are seeing and continue to see, is the sort of optimal support and treatment plan for people with these conditions is that people with these conditions be afforded the opportunity to come forth with their struggles openly, and communicate them on an ongoing basis.
This year, two former NBA players — Acie Law and Cherokee Parks — and two former WNBA players — Lindsey Harding and Michele Van Gorp — moved to New York for full-time immersion in the NBA office, sitting with league lawyers and cap people to learn the CBA, learning how to break down data from Second Spectrum and Synergy from the league’s analytics people, doing scouting, learning how to write a business plan from the league’s marketing people. One of last year’s graduates, Allison Feaster, a 10-year WNBA player and Harvard grad, now has a full-time gig in the G League as Manager of Player Personnel & Coach Relations. (An aside: if Harding isn’t an NBA or WNBA GM/Director of Player Personnel within the next five years, something’s way wrong. She was a great player who has an incredible way with people. Just all aces across the board.)